Dissertation writing Software
The answers here are definitely a bit skewed and index the strong CS and hard science academic presence on Quora. For those in the social sciences and humanities, especially those that do more qualitative research and thus don't have things like equations and pretty limited amounts of tables, graphs and models, I can't recommend Scrivener enough.
Scrivener was developed for novelists, but has come to be adopted by many scholars. I've been using it to draft my dissertation, and found my productivity shoot up immediately after switching to it. I attribute that to the following features:
- Each project is a file system, instead of being a single document. This is the fundamental feature that everything else I point to relies on. Text files within the project can be named, organized into folders, re-arranged by dragging and dropping, etc. Selecting multiple of these files together will display them as a single document, but otherwise, you're often just looking at a specific section.
- Split screen editing. Hate switching back and forth between multiple documents, or scrolling up and down within the same one to different sections? The split screen feature of Scrivener allows you to view multiple documents, or different parts of the same section, simultaneously. I use this constantly in my diss writing.
- Importing of word docs, PDFs, images, etc. into a "research" section of the project file system. The file system on a project has a "research" section that allows you to bring in all sorts of things that aren't actually the thing you're writing itself, but stuff you're referencing or building off of. My dissertation is based on over 100 interviews, thousands of pages of documentation, and hundreds of hours of field notes - bringing those documents into an organized research section of the project streamlines my workflow in a big way, and combined with the splitscreen feature allows me to be reviewing and excerpting empirical data right into different sections I'm working on.
- Stability, stability, stability. No matter how fast and new the computer I'm using is, Word will consistently fail me in terms of stability when dealing with huge documents like the ones I'd require for my dissertation. It lags, it crashes, it corrupts files. This is terrible, it's unacceptable, and people just suffer through it. In Scrivener, I've never had a hiccup. And I'm talking about a project file that is currently over 83, 000 words in my dissertation itself and over 407, 000 words in my "research" section, and I've never had a crash, the project opens up and can be edited within seconds, there's never any lag. Think about that - this is a "document" that's almost a half a million words long. And it doesn't crash, corrupt, or lag. The efficiency savings here are massive, not to mention lack of tearing my hair out. Dissertations are hard enough, we don't need our software to torture us too!