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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Writing in FOSS

Gedit and Notepad++
As a college student, I write a lot of papers. In my current class, I research and write two 1500 word papers a week. This has been quite a challenge, but it has forced me to become very efficient. I have had to developed many techniques to write high quality content as quickly as possible. Luckily, my years in the Free Software/Open Source world came to the rescue.
For the last year or so, I would just write a paper by opening up LibreOffice, creating the sections, and then going to town. This method worked, but it was slow and inefficient. I recently had an idea that came from my computer programming experience: why not take advantage of the tabs in Gedit(GNU/Linux) and Notepad++(Windows)? When I write a complex computer program, I typically break it up into manageable sections. A large paper is really no different. Instead of writing a paper as a big monolithic event in LibreOffice, my idea was to break the paper into sections as tabs in Gedit or Notepad++.
Here is an example. All of the papers that I write are in APA format. APA format generally has an Abstract, Introduction, Body, Conclusion, and References. I made each of these sections a tab in Gedit/Notepad++, and I then wrote them separately. The system worked fantastically well. For example, if I was writing the body section of the paper, I could quickly switch to the References tab to get one of my references for citation in the body. The system does a very good job of compartmentalizing the sections of the paper. Once all of the sections were done, I would simply cut and paste them into the LibreOffice document. In LibreOffice, I could then apply all of the formatting and run the spell checker.

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