Many people who write for a living or even just for fun, find they can write just fine using a word processing software like Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, Open Office, or Google Docs. Writing needs will be different if you’re writing a novel, writing a biography, a blog post, or a screenplay. Others may struggle with the additional formatting functionality of word processing software that quite simply isn’t needed and can freeze up or just not work.
Even if you’re content with your current word processing software, you may find another app with features that complement it. There will be times you will need to dictate notes, save images, capture dialogue, journal, or track the word count.
So here are some other useful software tools you may find helpful in addition to your favorite word processing software:
Outliners & Notetaking Tools for Writers
The focus of writing software in this category is note taking or brainstorming or even outlining your story before you start writing. Software tools for writers in this group have limited if any word processing capability. It’s designed for short notes or for just digitally capturing all your notes and ideas in one location.
- SimpleNote for The Web, iOS, Android, or Mac OS X. It doesn’t do multimedia or web pages.
- EverNote is available for The Web, iOS, Android, Windows, Mac OS X. No ties to any specific software or device. Free and Subscription plans available.
- OneNote is available for iOS, Android, and Windows. Microsoft account required
Trello is available On-Premise or Web-based. Similar to Pinterest and uses index cards.
- WorkFlowy (iOS, Android, The Web) Stripped down notetaking in list form only
Google Keep (iOS, Web, Android) (new free notetaking app from Google stores to Google Drive. Has audio transcription feature, records your thoughts and transcribes it).
- Scapple (for Windows or Mac OS X) mind mapping type notetaking.
- Scribble Web-based and free. Build an entire wiki.
- Sticky Notes 8 (color code post it Notes-clear your desk and go digital).
- ColorNote (Android).
- Apple Notes (iOS, Mac) for Apple devices. It’s free and stores in the cloud; works with Siri and comes on every Apple device.
Scriptwriting/ScreenWriting Software Tools
Screenplays and scripts, as well as teleplays, have their own requirements. Software tools for writers in this category are designed to help your script or screenplay meet Hollywood Industry standards and to ensure you cover all the crucial elements.
- Celtx is free online scriptwriting software. It lacks all the collaborative tools of paid products, but you can’t beat the price.
- Final Draft is designed for professional screenwriting. Beginners may want to start out with Trelby or Celtx before making this investment.
- Trelby is available for Linux and Windows. The free version is good to try before investing in Final Draft for screenwriting.
- Contour is available for Windows at the low-cost of $19.00. Guides you in defining elements of a good screenplay such as scenes, action, plot points, and characters.
App Only Software Tools for Writers
If you’re one of those writers who can be struck by inspiration no matter where you are or what you’re doing, then this category of software tools for writers is for you. If you’re anything like me, you’ve lost more ideas on the back of envelopes, napkins, or on sticky notes than you care to admit. I once used a clean diaper to jot ideas down because inspiration struck while I was waiting for clothes to dry at the laundry mat!
The apps in this category are designed for use with any device, on your phone or tablet. Most of the ones we’ve listed here are free or easy on the budget too, so it’s a win-win for writing productivity.
- Novel in 30. This is only for iPad and costs $4.99. Meet goals, get support, backup files, so you don’t lose your work.
- My Writing Spot is developers of Novel in 30 to satisfy Android users. Cost runs about $2.99, and it does have the capability to sync with a free Web version.
- Drafts for iOS costs just $9.99. Use it for making quick notes on the go with your mobile device. It offers more options for saving data to services such as Dropbox or Evernote. Drafts also makes it easy to post to social media like Facebook and Twitter.
- Write for Android is $1.99 for your tablet. It comes with some of the same great features as Drafts (for iOS above) with an emphasis on tracking word count.
- WriteChain is for iOS devices. Use your phone to track your NaNoWriMo word count with the spreadsheet. It’s free and easy to use, just enter your word count each day and watch the links in your chain total up.
- Writing Journal is also available for iOS. It’s free too which makes it ideal for the budget conscious writer. It works more like a writing stopwatch. Writing Journal can help you to monitor word count and track the amount of time it takes to get the words down on the page. Use dictation on your iPhone or iPad for almost full voice dictation using Siri commands.
- MindNode for iOS is a great app to have on your phone so that you can brainstorm ideas for a story, an article, blog post, or other content. It will run you $9.99, but many writers use it as a substitute for social media distractions.
- Pomodoros Timer is available for Android and iOS and will cost you $1.99. Very helpful app for anyone that struggles with productivity and needs help with time management and staying focused. The timer is setup in 25-5-25 increments. You write for 25 minutes, then take a break for five minutes. For every four 25-minute sessions you complete, you get a slightly longer break.
Keep in mind that the list of software tools for writers above is by no means exhaustive. There are hundreds of different apps available on the market today. I recommend that you always do your due diligence before downloading anything onto your computer. Check reviews for the app you’re interested in using and ask friends and colleagues for their recommendations. Writing is tough, it’s hard, and sometimes your muse can be sneaky about the timing of his/her visits.