Sunday, 31 May 2009

FlashWRITER - Feature Requests

If there is anything specific that you would like to see in future versions of FlashWRITER (as opposed to stuff not working) then please record it in the comments section of this post. Be as specific as possible otherwise what I code may not be what you were after.

No promises but if it is possible and useful I will probably have a go.

Happy Writing.

FlashWRITER - Bug Reports

Please report any FlashWRITER bugs in the comment section of this post. In your comment let me know:
  • The FlashWRITER version that you are using;
  • Your OS
  • Description of the bug.
Alternatively you can email bugs to

FlashWRITER - Beta Version Released

FlashWRITER Beta Release Finished.

I finished the code and help files this morning. Then I spent all day trying to get the web published version to work properly. In the end I discovered that VISTA doesn't let you modify the Program Files folder.

This was a big problem because that is where I was storing all the template, log, history and configuration files.

So a quick rewrite later and v1.0.0.7 is ready for download. You can click on the box to the right to download the setup file directly or click on the FlashWRITER v1.0 (Beta Release) link to go to the download page.

I will set up two threads for bug reporting and future feature requests (no promises). I will collect a few and then publish an updated version. I'm expecting quite a few due to the fairly major last minute rewrite.

Note that when you open the program file for the first time it wont be able to open your configuration or history files (since they don't exist yet).

WARNING - This is beta software use with care.

FlashWRITER - 100% Success Rate

In an earlier post I mentioned that I wrote a microFlash (100 word) story on FlashWRITER to run through the work flow. Well it just got accepted for publication on Flashshot. That means FlashWRITER has currently got a 100% acceptance rate. 

I will have to stick that on the box!

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

FlashWRITER - Help Files

The Help Files are just about done - this has taken MUCH longer than I expected.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

FlashWRITER - Line Spacing

Line Spacing Sorted!

One thing that I have been having trouble with is setting the line spacing in a rich text box. 

All sorted now. You can select either single, 1.5 or double line spacing for either the entire document or just your selected text. This is also one of the publisher variables that you can save (see screenshot above).

I have also changed the website field of the publisher tab into a hyperlink. Clicking on this will launch the site in your default browser.

FlashWRITER - Writing History

Writing History Complete.

It took all day but I finally finished the code for reading, writing and recording your writing history while using FlashWRITER.

The frustrating thing is that there is an "undocumented feature" (i.e. bug)  in the XML Serializer method - which is why it took so long. For some reason timespan objects are saved as blank in XML files. The actual logic for the code involved is fairly simple which makes it doubly frustrating.

Word counts and writing times are accumulated by month, year and in total. When you open a file, the program will record the word count loaded and then calculate the additional words that you typed before saving the file. If you don't save the file then the new word count will not be added. Also if you use Save As... the word count won't be added - otherwise the program could double count the numbers of words written (e.g. if you save the same file as an RTF and TXT file).

For the next version I will probably look at extending this feature. It would be handy to have a day by day record of your writing but I'll need to think about the best way of displaying this.

The last major coding task is adding iterative autosave. This should be finished tomorrow. I will then stop adding new features and focus on cleaning up the code and fixing the bugs I know about.

At this stage on track for a Beta release at the end of May...

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

FlashWRITER - New Splash!

Splash Screens - what a nightmare!!

If you read the blog below you will see that I claim that Splash Intro Screens are easy!

Easy to do wrong it turns out.

I just spent four hours learning how to do threaded code because I discovered the proper way to do a flash screen is to let it run in a separate thread. This turns out to be a non-trivial exercise let me tell you. Anyway I have worked out how to do it. This is one subject that doesn't have a lot of good examples available on the web.

In the process I also updated the splash screen itself (see above). Let me know if you have a preference - I think the 2nd version is more professional.

Monday, 18 May 2009

FlashWRITER - Splash!

13 Days until Beta Launch ...

The FlashWRITER code is largely complete for v1. I did get distracted and added in some additional functionality that I was planning to do in the next version. In addition BT reminded me that any real program has a splash screen - so I had to figure out how do to that (it's not hard, you can even make them transparent if you wish).

The new additions are:
  • Numbered lists;
  • Subscript and superscript;
  • New bullet types; and
  • Custom title block by publisher.
I discovered the need for the last item when I used FlashWRITER for the first time in anger. I wrote a quick 100 words of microfiction and used FlashWRITER for the entire process, which went something like:
  1. Loaded the FLASHSHOT publisher template (which I had earlier created). The template sets up the target word length, preferred publisher fonts, email details etc. and then inserted a title block.
  2. Wrote the 100 words - using the word count feature to keep track; and
  3. Sent a submission email to the publisher with the story attached in the publisher preferred format (RTF in this case). Each publisher wants something special in the subject line and body - FlashWRITER remembers this and includes a simple email application to send your piece to publishers.
I have a default title block which is based on the "recommended" manuscript layout, however the first publisher I try this on requires something unique, so I stopped writing the story and whipped up the code to handle custom title blocks per publisher. I have a feeling that I will find more of this stuff as I try using it in the real world.

The title block for FLASHSHOT looks like this:

By David Such

BIO: <in third person, 2 or 3 brief sentences to publicise your other work, give your background, comment on the story, or whatever you wish>.

The two remaining features to write are iterative backups and writing history. Apart from that I will be fixing up some known bugs and writing a few short stories to alpha test it. Still looking good for an end of May Beta launch to selected testers. If you are interested stick your hand up or better still leave a comment. The people's free writing software needs you!

Friday, 15 May 2009

FlashWRITER - Publisher Templates

What Else??

I have completed the first cut of the publisher template code. You can see the option tab inserted into this post.

What else would you like included? You can also select an option to insert a title block at the top of your story which contains the usual (name, address, phone, email, word count, and title).

The template file is saved in xml format so they are easy for anyone to read, modify or use.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

FlashWRITER AutoSave

New and Improved Auto Save Functionality!

The attached picture shows the latest version of the FlashWRITER auto save functionality. 

You can now select whether you want the program to over write your existing file when it auto saves or creates another copy which is time and date stamped. The maximum number of copies option allows you to specify how many times to create a copy before it alerts you. This is to prevent users setting a frequent autosave period and then leaving the program on and winding up the next morning with a full disk.

At the moment the max copy alert current count is not remembered between sessions (ie if you shut the program down the counter resets).

Any other suggestions or comments welcome.

Remaining code to be cut:
  • Writing history
  • Title Block handling
  • manuscript templates
  • line spacing; and
  • remaining help files (about 2/3rd's to go)
I'm still on track for end of May launch.

22 days until beta launch ...

Wednesday, 6 May 2009


I just completed the auto save code for FlashWRITER.  The current autosave scenario is that the program over writes the current file (assuming it has already been saved at least once) at a user selectable duration. In addition, the program saves another copy of the latest file in an autosave directory. This extra copy will then get over written when the next file is loaded and eventually autosaved.

I'm happy to consider other alternatives if anyone has a better idea.

Monday, 4 May 2009


FlashWRITER on target for end of May Beta release ....

So get on board and join the intrepid team of Beta testers - just leave a comment here if you are interested. You will forever be immortalised in the acknowledgements page of the program, get free advertising for your Blog / Website and be one of the first to try out FlashWRITER. Help shape a tool tailored for writing and build up your frequent flyer Karma points.

Over the weekend (between blackouts) I managed to finish off:
  1. My rambling detour down HTML tagging land - FlashWRITER now handles a subset of HTML tags, in particular the ones I needed to create the Help files (Bold, Italic, Underline, Page Colour, Text justification and bullets) and will even highlight tags blue automatically. I will add other tags if required or requested. I also stuck in a button to preview your HTML files in the default browser. It will never replace a WYSIWYG editor but does the trick for simple pages. 
  2. The recent file list code. FlashWRITER will remember the names of the last 4 files that you have opened. You have the option to clear this manually or everytime the program closes. 
  3. Adding bullet and paragraph increase / decrease indent buttons to the tool bar. 
  4. Adding the option to quick open your story ideas file. You can also quick open the FlashWRITER log file (which is handy for debugging but I may delete this in the final release) and the configuration file (which stores program options).
I'm still chipping away at the Help files - I do one a night. It is easy but boring work. This is probably why most software has rubbish help files.

Major remaining program tasks are:
  • Title block coding (author name, address, etc);
  • Publisher Templates - I will do these in XML so anyone can edit, produce or read them. Who knows, publishers may even start distributing them so that they get pieces formatted the way they like it;
  • Complete the writing history code (cumulative word counts and elapsed time);
  • Autosave code; and
  • Finish off the option dialog code.
27 Days until Beta Launch...