[NOTE: This post was originally written in September 2016. Some features or functionalities of the reviewed program may have changed since then.]
Welcome to Part 1 of my “Free Writing Software Review” Series. This series provides in-depth reviews of free writing programs available for download or online use. I spent many hours testing out a variety of free software for writers, taking screenshots, and recording info.
I was not paid by any of the programs, and I do not have any affiliation with the companies. As a writer and a writing instructor, I simply wanted to get a better understanding of what’s available currently for writers, and to evaluate the pros and cons of each so that I could decide for myself which (if any) to use long-term, and share that knowledge with my students (and all of you) so that you can do the same!
(Note: These reviews are my opinion only, and are based on my personal experience trying out each of these software programs. The explanations of features are true to the best of my knowledge, as of the date this post was written.)
If you are a writer looking for software to use during your planning/writing process, I hope these posts are helpful to you.
This series is a complement to my post, “Free Scrivener Alternatives,” which provides a chart that compares the popular program Scrivener (which costs about $40 — still a great price!) to some of the free alternatives on the market. If you want a quick comparison of programs, that post is the place to go. But since that initial post gives only a basic overview of the features, these reviews give a more in-depth look (and screenshots) of each of the free programs I tested.
First up in the series: Bibisco!
Overall Reaction: Simple and easy to get started. Provides reminders of writing tips on character development, etc., as you start a new project.
Additional Info (with screenshots):
Bibisco provides guidance through a basic story structure: there are sections for basic story elements (premise, etc.), characters, locations, chapters, and analysis. Within each of these sections, there are bubble-boxes for certain key items (premise, fabula, and setting, for example, in the architecture tab), and these allow you to type content into them, and then check them off as done, “not yet complete” if in progress, or you can leave them as “to do,” which marks them with corresponding icons easily scene when you open that tab.
The characters tab allows you to add characters, and then walks you through the process of inputting info about each character’s appearance, behaviors/attitudes, psychology, conflict, etc. Again, you can select whether each of these are done, partially done, or “to do,” and it marks them respectively. It also splits the characters visually as main characters and secondary characters. You can also add images with your character descriptions.
The locations tab provides similar features, but with only a text box for description for each location you create, rather than a list of specific details to fill in.
The chapters section lets you create chapters and note the main purpose of each chapter in a box at the top, along with a box for notes. Then you create the chapter by creating individual scenes, which then opens a text box that allows you to type, as well as to notate which version this is (revision 1, new revision, etc.). On the main page for the Chapter tab, these all line up visually as bubbles that show you the chapter name and overall word count, and underneath it, bubbles with the scene names and word counts. All bubbles allow you to flag as done, in progress, or “to do.”
This program allows for easy split-screen viewing of all the basic info on characters, locations, etc. while you still have the scene/chapter window open for typing. You can easily drag-and-drop to rearrange narrative strand order, chapter orders, scene orders within a chapter, etc.
You can also tag scenes with names of characters, locations, etc. from your initial work in the earlier tabs, and use their nifty Analysis feature to see where and how often characters, locations, etc show up in your story and in exactly what scenes, all in a visual format. You can do the same with “narrative strands,” allowing you to tag and track certain plotlines, subplots, etc. throughout your story.
You can also easily tag what POV each scene is in, though this is limited to generic labels like “first person” or “third person limited”, etc.
These analysis options allow you to see exactly in what order characters appear, not only scene-wise, but also using time-and-date markers for within your story, down to the hour and minute each scene occurs or each character shows up.
Once finished, you can export in PDF or RTF format.
That’s pretty much it! I found it to be a very useful little program, limited in some features, but very easy to use, and I love the visual analysis charts.
And… it’s FREE! You can get it here: http://www.bibisco.com/en.
Their website also has additional screenshots you can browse through.
Coming up next, Part 2 of my Free Writing Software Review Series: FreeWriter!