StorYBook Review

very good
key review info
application features
  • StorYBook has two views: the chronological view and the book view. The chronological shows the chapters sorted by date. The book view in contrast shows the chapters sorted by chapter numbers, as you would read it in the final book. Of course in both views the chapters and there related informations can be edited any time.
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As there are a lot of creative persons in this world, like playwrights, novelists, etc., who might want to move from the traditional way of penning down their works and ease the writing of a possible masterpiece, I thought I should find an application that brings them just the features they might need. This way I came across StorYBook, a Java-based, open source story writing application, tailored for "novelists, authors and creative writers."

What does StorYBook actually do? It helps you keep your storylines clear and have a general overview of your story as you're writing. It manages all your data, like summaries, locations and characters, and helps you assign them to the chapters you create. The application can be run in multiple languages, including English, German, Spanish, Danish and Brazilian Portuguese. If you want to use StorYBook, you will only need the Java Runtime Environment 6 (it doesn't work with older versions).

To install StorYBook on your system, you will have to download the archive, decompress it somewhere convenient and then run the Bash script install.sh. The installation takes only a few seconds and does not require you have administrative rights. After the installation, you can run StorYBook through the storybook.sh script.

When you launch StorYBook, you will be greeted by a window that allows you to open an existing project or to create a new one. I suggest you start with the Demo project, because it will help you learn some things about StorYBook; this is also very funny as it tells the story of a semi-normal day in the lives of the Simpsons. If you are not satisfied with the default look (called Cross-Platform because it's... cross-platform), you can switch to System, which integrates much better within your current system theme. There are a couple of other themes as well, like Tiny LaF and Tonic LaF, which do not differ one from the other too much (there's a slight difference when it comes to scrollbars, as in, they are much bigger on the latter). Also, if you are somewhat nostalgic, you can try the Motif theme.

After the welcome screen, you will see the interface, made up of three areas: one where all the defined locations, characters and strands are shown; the main area where you can add, replace and modify chapters or strands; and a small window with some quick info. The developers did a great job, as they kept the interface very simple and clean, but there are some glitches here and there. I found a possible bug in the characters/locations/strands area, where I could right click on an empty list and have two options, "edit" and "delete", although there was nothing to change in there. I tried the "delete" function to see what happened: StorYBook asked if I wanted to delete "null" from the list. So I clicked on "yes" and nothing happened. No crash, no error message, and everything kept on going just fine.

Through the menus, you can add new characters with a view over their life, their birth date, occupation and description. If you want to "kill" a character at one time or another in your story, there's an option that allows you to select his/her death date. Characters can be linked to certain locations and strands and, after a while, you can use the reports to find out how many times a character has appeared, where he/she went and what he/she did, etc. This can be done through the "Reports" menu, where you have two sub-menus: Part Related Reports (with "Appearance of Characters by Chapter") and Overall Reports. When you generate a report, it can be exported as a PNG image that you can use in different projects. Speaking of which, the entire story can be exported as a PDF document, which is an awesome feature if you want to have a document with your entire story without having to open StorYBook. This is also nice when you want to share the story with someone else that doesn't have StorYBook installed. If you select Reports -> Overall Reports -> Occurrence of Locations, StorYBook will generate a report with the occurrences of the locations from your document. It is interesting to see how many times the home of a character, or a restaurant has appeared during the plot of your story.

The Good:

StorYBook is created in Java, which makes it an excellent cross-platform story writing software. You don't have to worry if you have library_x or application_y on your system to use StorYBook. It has a simple and easy to use interface and you don't have to be a computer geek to use it.

The Bad:

It needs some polishing here and there, and an offline help file for the users that don't want to go to a website to watch a tutorial. Some of the menus need to be clarified, like the Reports menu that's somewhat ambiguous.

The Truth:

StorYBook is fast and doesn't gulp computer resources, although it is made in Java - most of the Java applications I used took a lot of resources from my system. There's room for improvements in StorYBook, especially on the assistance and appearance parts.

Here are some screenshots with StorYBook in action:
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user interface 4
features 4
ease of use 4
pricing / value 5


final rating 4
Editor's review
very good
 
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