I’m sure it’s not that much of a coincidence that I’d come across this post at DeepGenre about software used for writing, since – as evidenced by the post itself, as well as in the comments – finding a system that works is something with which everyone struggles. I guess I find it coincidental since I went through this struggle (for at least the second or third time) at just about the time the post was made (unfortunately, I didn’t find it at the time). I wasted quite a bit of time installing and uninstalling different writing software programs before deciding that OpenOffice would do just fine.
A lot of people in the comments on the DeepGenre post mentioned using Word, and I consider OpenOffice Writer an equivalent, but perhaps more portable, version of that. It is free, and comes with a free “export to PDF” option, thereby saving you not only the cost of Microsoft Word (which does come free with a lot of new computers these days), but then also saves the cost of a full version of Adobe Acrobat. (I’m a fan of Acrobat’s PDFs and also Adobe’s Flash/Flex/ActionScript development stack, so I wouldn’t mind giving them the money, if I had it to spend) (And actually, my work gives me MS Word and Adobe Acrobat for free, so I could use that combo, but I don’t want to be dependent on software that might not always be available if circumstances change)
So, I’m sticking with OpenOffice for the actual writing. For my organizer, I use StikiPad, an online wiki. I can keep track of lots of ideas, and it’s nice to be able to link between characters and different settings and different items of interest. It does take a little while to get used to the Wiki syntax, but I think it’s worth it. I used WetPaint for a while, but they don’t let you have a private Wiki, and even though I don’t think anyone would actually come across it just by accident, I didn’t want to run the risk of someone finding my wiki with everything laid out there for them. Another option to consider if Backpack, but the free version only lets you have a limited number of pages, and I’m not willing to spend the money to raise the limit when there are viable free alternatives.