Some Useful Reading and Writing Tools

In The Writing Meme, I had mentioned about using the right tools. Here are a few tools I’ve recently found.

Improve Readability

Readability is a bookmarklet you can add to your browser toolbar to make web pages easy to read. For example, here is Thomas Friedman, with all the clutter of the NYTimes site:

Friedman on NYT

Here is the same page with Readability:

Friedman with Readability

TidyRead is very similar to Readability, but offers an ‘Option Bar’ at the top, where you can change display settings at will – this makes it very convenient and easy to use:

Friedman with TidyRead

Practice Speed Reading

If you’re serious about improving your reading speed, check out Eyercize. Their Reading Pacer is essentially a tachistoscope, and will help improve your offline (book) reading speed as well.

Free Online PDF to Word Converter

PDFToWord is a really cool site, when you want to easily convert PDF documents to word for editing. It retains all the formatting, tables, graphics, links, etc. making it quite indispensable if you often use both PDF and Word file formats. Oh, and you should have the Save as PDF extension to Office 2007.

Text Analysis Tools

There are a few shareware programs for analyzing text in terms of word counts, word frequency, etc. It is not-so-easy to find truly free programs, so here are a couple of options:

Text Statistics Generator is a bare-bones tool, giving you quick analysis of number of word occurrences. Here is the CPI(M) manifesto for the 2009 elections analyzed:

Text Statistics

The excellent site has an Advanced Text Analyzer, which I think is more useful. The caveat: to use the advanced features, you have to be a registered member of their site (registration is free).

UsingEnglish CPIM Summary

Here’s the CPI(M) Manifesto word cloud:

UsingEnglish CPIM WordCloud

Why use text analyzers? Website designers using SEO techniques need to identify keywords that they can use to maximize site traffic and ad revenue. The SEO philosophy is use targeted keywords as frequently as you can to improve your search engine rankings.

As a writer, I find these tools useful the other way around. Often, I find myself overusing a word in an article. Word frequency analysis can help identify which words and phrases you’re overusing in your writing. Maybe that’s the time you need a thesaurus!

If you find any of these tools useful, or have other ones to share, please feel free to comment.

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  • That’s a pretty exhaustive list of tools! Thanks!
    I used readability once, but now that blogs are more consistent, its easy to ignore unwanted stuff:)

  • Good to see you on your blog Mahendra! And looks like you are doing some reading on the web! 🙂 Need to check out these tools.
    btw, I think your comment no. 2 is a spam comment.

  • It’s funny but that comment has now come last and though my comment was no 3 it’s gone to no 1 !

  • Mahendra, thanks for featuring our new PDF-to-Word conversion service on your site. Much appreciated! That ‘Readability’ bookmarklet is a great find too.

  • Regarding webpage readability, many sites offer a printable version of the page. That is one handy feature, one that i use a lot.

    Will try out these applications…these sound very helpful.

  • Pingback: Wordle US & Indian Constitution, Congress & CPI(M) Manifesto « An Unquiet Mind()

  • Very useful! I will surely see the archives sooner than later now! I love IT tips and you are in this field since quite some time! Adding you in my links page! 🙂