Review Monday: PangurPad

I think this will become a regular feature on the blog. I'll review all sorts of stuff, but for now I think I'll start with writing programs. I got the idea a few weeks ago to use NaNo as a time to test drive some new ones I found, and see how they shape up to what I use now (Liquid Story Binder, which I'll also be reviewing). If you have any suggestions for future reviews, feel free to let me know in the comments. So this week, I'll start with PangurPad.

What is it?
PangurPad is web-based writing software created by Pangur Pty, Ltd., so you don't have to download anything to your computer. Built on open source software it's a writing program designed to be sleek and clean with functional tools and an uncluttered interface. But PangurPad isn't just writing software; there is also a large community where you can find writers who share your genre and it also acts as a self-publishing platform.

How It Works?
All your writing is done in the browser. PangurPad backs up all your work on their servers as you write, so you will always have the most current version of your work everytime you log in. There is a feature that allows you to go back through all the versions that have been saved, so if there was something you wrote three days ago, deleted but decided you wanted to bring it back, it's retrievable. There is a word count feature, a timeline feature and a notes feature. The notes have their own subsections for characters, places, things and general. You can also download your work to your computer, and there is an offline mode which allows you to continue writing if for whatever reason you're unable to connect to the internet and PangurPad's servers. At the top right of the interface is a button with an eye on it, and this button hides all the features so all you have is your writing space. Pressing it again brings up all your tools.

The Basics:
It should be noted that PangurPad ONLY works in Firefox or Chrome. It does not work in Internet Explorer whatsoever, so if you're stubborn like me and still use IE as your primary browser you will have to download either of the others. I personally like Firefox. When you sign up you're given a free trial account, with space for 1 work with a 10k word limit. All the features are avaliable to you including the secure online backup. Right now, if you are a NaNoWriMo participant you can sign up and get a trial account with a 1 work, 100k word limit by proving you're a participant. All that really involves is showing them the link to your NaNo profile. The third account is the paid account. This gives you unlimited works and unlimited word count. There are many features and details about Communities, Publishing etc, but that would be pretty lengthy to go through so please visit here to see the rest. The paid account has two options: $20.00AUD yearly subscription or a once off payment of $45.00AUD.

The Pros:
So far I'm really enjoying this site and program. The backup is pretty seamless, it doesn't give my computer any hiccups or issues while saving. I like that since it is online as opposed to a downloaded program I can bounce between computers and just pick up where I left off writing. The word count feature seems quite accurate, only a hundred or so words off from Microsoft Word. The interface is very clean, and I enjoy having the option of having the tools all easily displayed or hidden as I feel the need. It has a very small learning curve, if any, so if you're taking the plunge from Word you'll have little trouble getting accustomed to the format. Anyone who uses different writing programs should have no trouble at all with this. The site itself is very clean, very easy to nagivate and appealing. No crazy animations, nothing to slow the computer down, enough graphics to make it interesting but without the overkill. Nothing puts me off more than a website that looks like it was created in five minutes in a web editor.

The Cons:
There is no FAQ, which I would have liked to see. They're sort of a prerequisite in my books. There's also next to no information on the people behind PangurPad - not that that's a con per se, but it would be nice to at least know something, what brought about the idea. There does seem to be a few bugs, I can't seem to get the word count goals to stay when I log off, but it's unclear whether they're meant to only be present during your session or permanent until they're deleted. Again, a FAQ would have helped here, the small note they give you when you first start with PangurPad is not as informative as I would have liked it to be. I can't seem to get the section break or page break to work properly so I don't use them. With regard to the publishing, there's little info on that as well. You have to actually click on the publishing link beside your story to find anything out with that. It does bother me some that there is no information on the publishing experience of the people behind this format, and as of right now the epublishing option and the print publishing options are not avaliable. You can publish on the web, but it also kind of bothers me how they don't stipulate that should you choose to post most or all of your story this way, you lose your first publish rights. Though this only matters if you plan on going the regular publishing route, but if the idea is to be helpful to writers this info would help. At least those newer writers who may not know this, I know I sure didn't at first.

My Thoughts:
As a writing program, I really enjoy it. Despite the cons this is still a program worth checking out, at the very least. This year they're sponsoring NaNoWriMo and donating part of the proceeds from paid accounts to NaNo. I do like that they give you all of the program features and some of the access to the community, that for me gives me more incentive to want to buy a full account. It's a very fine line you got to walk to offer people enough of a preview to get their interest, but not so much that there's no incentive to upgrade to paid account. I feel PangurPad gives a nice even balance. Even being in beta it's pretty bug-free for the most part, and it's such a huge bonus that you can access your story anywhere you go, on any computer. For someone like me who bounces between two comps, this is fantastic for me.

As a publishing platform, I'm undecided. It could show lots of promise, depending on the experience of the folks behind it. It's not the first site I've seen that claims it'll be a place for authors to expose their work to a large scale audience, and as of right now the community is all writers. If the site is promoted well, it could in fact become a good platform. Simply making a website thinking that it'll expose you/its members to the global audience is not one that's panned out so far as I've seen, and I hope PangurPad doesn't fall into that pitfall. Though new it does have potential, only time will tell how it pans out for self-published writers, and it is still in its early development. I'll be watching it.



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