in Mac apps, review, tip, writing

Novel uses for VoodooPad

I’ve been off the grid for the past several days getting ready for a job interview. Now that it’s over, I want to share a tip about a tool I used to help me prepare.

First, I’ll define the problem. I typically prepare for an interview by writing out potential questions that may be asked. I then add some ‘answers’ after each question in a bulleted list. I then sit in front of my Mac and practice answering my fictitous questions. This works fairly well — and I own several programs that handle simple bulleted lists with flair (Pages, Tinderbox, and OmniOutliner, for instance).

But I wanted something a little different this time around. Instead of viewing my questions and answers all on one page, I wanted the ability to view my questions separately from my answers. In other words, I wanted to see the questions without the ‘answer’ bullet points. Then, after I practiced responding to the question, I wanted to compare what I said with the bullet points. It dawned on me that what I was looking for was a simple ‘flash card’ system.

Enter VoodooPad. If you’ve never used this tool, it’s worth trying out (especially considering that the developers offer a free Lite version that is surprisingly capable and feature-rich). What is it? Essentially, it’s a tool for taking freeform notes that gives you the power to quickly and easily create links to new pages of information. It’s like having a little stand-alone I’ve previously noted that VoodooPad is a nice tool for fiction. Create a character sketch for a person named ‘Tim,’ for example, then link this character information to a sub-page named ‘Tim.’ Once you create this sub-page, every time you type the name ‘Tim,’ VoodooPad automatically links this character name to the character sketch sub-page. It’s a handy way to track and develop people, places, and things when writing a story.

It’s also a handy way to create hypertext fiction. It’s certainly not as robust as Eastgate’s StorySpace, but it’s a heck of a lot cheaper. StorySpace is $295 (to be fair, StorySpace is a very specialized writing tool designed for very long and complicated hypertext stories). My point is that VoodooPad Lite is free and does a fine job if you’re looking for a simple tool to try out non-linear writing.

VoodooPad works very well as a ‘flash card’ system, too. It was the perfect tool, in fact, to help me practice for my interview. All I had to do was type out a question, create a new link to it and paste my bullet points for that question in my newly created sub-page. I listed all of my practice interview questions on my main ‘index’ page and linked to sub-pages for each answer. I also created some links to hold background information about the job for quick reference. My interview ‘prep package’ was easy to set up. It was convenient to have all my interview notes contained within one little stand-alone VoodooPad file.

VoodooPad comes in three different flavors depending on your needs. I’m currently getting by with the free Lite version, but I’m getting ready to upgrade. Why? I’ve come to depend on it. And I keep finding new ways to use it. This is not to say that I find the Lite version of this app lacking for my simple needs — it’s more about supporting Flying Meat (the developers).

I could have written that last sentence differently, but I may never get the chance to use the phrase “supporting Flying Meat” again…

  1. There is one feature of VoodooPad that I rely on a lot: you can have a small palette that tells you all the backlinks of the current page, that is all the pages that link to the current page. I have found many simple uses for this, one of them by inputting every date I use in the same format (2008.03.02 for instance) and using backlinks to a date to find out every mention of this date, which is very probably related to my doing something on that day.

    Other features I use a lot include SpotLight integration, very easy to search within a pad (and editing the pages directly from the search results), possibility to create links to a page in a pad for any application that supports “application links”, inputting scribbles or adding many types of documents in a pad… It’s my tool of choice for keeping text-based references. A great tool indeed!

  2. Great tips as always – thanks. I’ll be integrating your ideas once I upgrade. The application linkback concept is new to me, by the way: I don’t recall ever seeing this announced or advertised anywhere, but it’s a really amazing trend.

  3. Have you had any luck with the Quicksilver plugin for VP?

    When I do a search for something in VP it comes up, but with the big “?” meaning it’s not really there.

    OT, yes, but what the heck. Thanks!

  4. Hi Marc, I use LaunchBar, not QuickSilver, so I can’t really answer this. LaunchBar will show the most-recently accessed VDPad files for quick launch, but won’t drill down into the contents of the VDPad files. Apple’s Spotlight, however, does. I bet the QuickSilver plugin does, too. I used to use it and thought it was great. Maybe you need to manually refresh the QS catalog?

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