For better or worse, I've been a Windows user for the last fifteen years or so.  I've used various flavors of Windows at work and at home, and I guess I am just comfortable with it. 

I use MS Word for word processing.  It is relatively cheap (we bought the three-user home version), it is stable, and there are tons of users out there who can give you tips.  With all that said, I don't like the spell checker or the grammar checker.  I needed more, but I wasn't sure what.

In June of 2010, I started using a document reading program called 'Text Aloud', by NextUp Technologies.  I paste some text into Text Aloud, and it reads it back to me or burns it to an MP3 file for later use.  Having your work read to you is a very different experience from reading silently or from reading it aloud yourself.  Don't get me wrong - reading your own work out loud is a VERY good technique, but your brain will still occasionally 'auto-correct'.  The document reader will read the text as-is, which is very helpful when proofreading.

As much as I like the document reader, I found that it was not quite enough for effective proofing.  I've found literally hundreds of missing words, incorrect verb forms, and lots of misspellings.  However, the document reader will not point out stuff like missing commas or very subtle misspellings (teaming versus teeming, for example).  I just recently purchased (rented, actually) a grammar-checking program called 'Whitesmoke'.  I've seen repeating words, those subtle misspellings that can be hard to catch, and it's also revealed some of my bad writing habits.  I was using the words 'try and' (as in, "We'll try and find out what happened.") over and over.  I've since removed and/or corrected at least five instances.  Like any grammar checker, it is not perfect.  There are typos and punctuation errors that will still slip by it.   

What are your favorite tools?  Text Aloud was about $60 from Amazon two years ago.  It came with AT&T Natural Voice software, which is definitely a step up from the robot-sounding 'Microsoft Mary' voice.  Not sure if there is a Mac flavor or not.  Whitesmoke is available for PC or Mac, and there are quite a few licensing options.  I chose the one-year license for $80.  I like it, and I will probably by the perpetual license (I think it is perpetual, anyway) for $140 next year.

 


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