The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Hold the presses. I may have found the online word processor I was looking for. After going through Ajaxwriter, Zoho, Google Documents, and Microsoft Office Online. All were interesting in their own way. All fell short. Lack of pagination, platform stability, program compatibility, lack of margins, funky RTF output...ow. Even the best of them (Google Documents is pretty cool, especially when you factor in the rest of the suite functionality. Calendar is excellent) but the maximum document length is about 25,000 words.

Well, after a massive amount of on-line research, I found BUZZWORD. Created by a company called Virtual Ubiquity, it seems to have been debuted last September, then acquired by their major investor, Adobe, in December. It's built on a Flash engine apparently, and therefore has excellent control of the presentation. It's "What You See Is What You Print " with only seven fonts, but imports and exports MSWord just fine, so you could easily export a finished file and use any damned font you want.

The most important things I wanted have been handled

1) Looks and feels like a desk-top program.

2) Faster than Word in most functions!

3) Available from any Internet connection.

4) The automatic back-up potential is obvious. Just output your files at Word or RTF at the end of every workday. Between Adobe's secure servers and my desktop and/or I think my needs are handled.

5) Collaboration is potentially a dream. We've only been playing with the concept a few weeks, and only had Buzzword a few days. But this thing seems to save every five minutes or so. If two people are working on it at the same time, it seems to rank them, and let one at a time actually make changes, until that person saves. Then the other person can edit. That's how it feels. But both people can add notes at the same time, So it is actually possible t create a Supermind. Cool, cool, cool! The "Mastermind" concept applied to writing, in real time, from opposite sides of the world.


I see a model for collaboration that is mind-blowing. You put the notes and outlines into a file. Process this stuff any way that is comfortable for either collaborator. Things are added and subtracted, and the material is manipulated variously. At some point scenes will begin to be written. They will be polished and added to.

In one mood, a collaborator can be linear...simply adding text. In others, one might go through the material tweaking and pruning to the heart's content. Every time you return to the file, there will be changes.

If the collaborators are really in sync, and trust each other, a book will simply appear, based on all of the "playing around."

My mind is blown. I ask readers who are technically savvy to peek at and let me know what you think. If there is any major problem you know of, PLEASE tell me now...Tananarive and I are starting to play.


Saw "Street Kings" with Keanu Reeves and Forest Whitaker yesterday. It's not "L.A. Confidential," but it's not bad, either. A role Clint Eastwood would have pulled off, back in the day. Reeves just doesn't scare me, and the role needs someone who can be convincing as an uber-lethal borderline sociopathic cop. It's one of those "he's a bad guy, but he's OUR bad guy" movies. It would get a bid fat "Sambo Alert" in the sense it's one of those Super-White Boy movies, but casting Forest Whitaker as the Chief and the general fantasy badassery of Reeves would make me feel petty. It doesn't portray race well because it doesn't represent HUMANITY well (this is similar to my answer to people who find Bond a misogynist. Nonsense. He's a misanthrope, if anything.) But I thought Reeves' performance was pretty good, given the fact I don't find him intimidating. Russel Crowe could have pulled it off. Oh, that's right. He already did.


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Mark Jones said...

Yeah, I'm using jungledisk to back up all the files on my home PC. It works with Linux, which is why I'm using it. It's not perfect, but it's very cheap and it saves my files on Amazon's servers, so I'm also pretty sure it's not gonna disappear overnight. (I could even encrypt the files if I wanted, for more security.)

Tad said...

Great Buzzword review - glad you're finding it useful. We on the Buzzword team would love to hear more about your experience as you get into it (, or drop a note directly.

LaVeda H. Mason said...

I'm playing with it now, and all I can say is "WOW"! Pretty snazzy, pretty smooth... and fast, to boot!

I'm definitely bookmarking this one... I've been looking to move my stuff 'into the cloud' for a while, and this looks like it will do a good job, especially for dialup users like me!

Thanks for the heads up on this one!!

Dan Moran said...

Buzzword looks great -- and it runs on Linux/Firefox now, which is nice.

I can't use it, and anyone with really bad eyesight probably won't be able to. I work on a 37" monitor (a TV, actually, with 1080P resolution) -- and even with that I have the fonts bumped up several sizes on everything I use.

If you've got good vision it looks pretty cool. If you need to collaborate with anyone with bad vision, I'd check with them and see how it plays out on their particular monitor/browser/OS combination.

Steve Perry said...

Bond is a sociopath -- at least he was up until the latest movie incarnation. In that, he started out caring, and they tried to explain how he became a sociopath by the end ...