On installing Writer's Café, you arrive at the program's home space, newly integrated and smartened up for version 2. Here you'll find links to tools such as a digital scrapbook for your ideas and notes, a journal where you can keep track of your progress and set deadlines, and a dictionary.

Other improvements to Writer's Café 2 include OpenDocument support, tweaked formatting facilities and support for multi-level story structures, as well as the Pinboard and Name-generator tools mentioned below.

Despite installing locally on your computer, Writer's Café 2 feels like a web app or even a browser. Writer's Cafe will run on just about any computer, including Linux-based netbooks.

There's an option to integrate that cross-platform productivity favourite, OpenOffice.org, by including a clickable link to its word processor Writer, conveniently accessible from the app's workspace. Note that you will need to install OpenOffice separately though.

Writer's Café certainly provides a comfortable, supportive workspace for authors. Suffering from writer's bock? The Writing Prompt will set you a simple timed task to get your juices flowing. An interesting little widget helps you generate character names. Perhaps an inspirational quote from the Cookies tool might help? Or simply click through to the Yahoo usergroup to discuss your blank-page issues with fellow scribes.

If you wake in the night with a blinding idea, you can jot notes down on your Pinboard, and then arrange them into coherent strategies. The Writer's Café Storyline tool helps gather your thoughts as you map out a tale, and the Scrapbook is a repository for all your random digital detritus, be it web link, text or image. It's all beautifully laid out and blindingly intuitive.

OUR VERDICT

Let's get one thing clear: Writer's Café 2 won't make a JG Ballard out of a Jordan. And for some, its toolset won't make a jot of difference. But if you have the talent and inclination to write, this software could provide the structure and access to resources that you need to set your muse free.