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First Look: Storymill, plot writing companion

updated 11:10 am EST, Fri January 25, 2008

First Look at Storymill

Word processors give users the illusion of an endless scroll of paper; this simplifies the writing process by letting you type as much as you want, but can also make organization difficult, much like trying to find a favorite scene in a movie by continually fast forwarding or rewinding a videotape. Just as DVDs break movies into skippable, on-demand chapters, so does Mariner Software's StoryMill 3.0 make writing easier by dividing text into parts within a single file. StoryMill combines an outliner with a word processor to keep track of characters, locations, and ideas for writing stories.

StoryMill's user interface displays a writing pane for typing, a Source List on the left pane that lists different ways to view your writing, an Item List in the middle pane that shows the parts of each view, and a Metadata Pane that tracks word counts and additional notes to keep visible while you write.

StoryMill's user interface

A common problem with story writing is losing track of the details. To solve this problem, the Source List provides different outline views, which are as follows: Chapters, Actors, Scenes, Locations, Tasks, Research, and Current Tasks. The Actors view displays the names of all your story characters along with their traits or appearance. Clicking on the Actors view displays information about a particular character.

The other Source List views (Scenes, Locations, Tasks, etc.) organize different information about your story. Scenes organizes different parts of your story, while Locations manages where your story takes place. Double-clicking on any Source List view displays that information in a separate window so it stays visible as you type. Besides writing text to describe a location or character, Source List views can also include pictures to further aid you in visualizing and describing a person, place, or object used in your story. The different Source List views provide a centralized place for storing and organizing information necessary for helping you write your story.

StoryMill can store text and pictures

Writers often set goals for themselves, such as writing a certain number of words a day. To motivate you and show how much has been written, StoryMill offers a Progress Meter window that provides a visual guide with which to gauge your progress.


The Progress Meter monitors your word count

Two additional writing tools include a cliché finder, which highlights clichés in your story, and a word frequency counter that shows if you're relying too much on certain words. To help you focus on writing, StoryMill offers a full screen mode that displays your text without any distractions of windows, menus, or icons. For maximum file compatibility, StoryMill can save files in various formats including Microsoft Word (both the new .docx and the older .doc format), rich text format (RTF), and plain text.

StoryMill is a niche word processor for saving and referencing large amounts of information while writing. Its $49.95 price makes StoryMill an affordable alternative to traditional word processors, especially for anyone interested in writing fiction.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Yokohama

    Joined: Dec 1969


    More info please

    Could the reviewer please add a little more information to make the review more useful? When I tried out SM in an earlier edition I found the tutorial too brief to be helpful. Has this improved? Also, I found the User Interface to be somewhat complex and non-intuitive--perhaps because I've used MS Windows for many years. Has the UI improved/become more intuitive?

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