When we decided our next blog would attempt to narrow down the best writing apps, we didn’t really expect it to spark an office-wide debate.
But that’s exactly happened here at Writers’ Academy HQ, which probably says a lot about the ridiculous amount of apps and software aimed at helping writers do their thing.
Seriously, there are hundreds of writing apps out there. Have a look for yourself and you’ll find that there’s no real consensus on which are the best, either.
So in this post, we’ll look at 12 of the most popular paid and free writing apps, and help you decide which is the best fit for you (and settle/escalate a few arguments).
Special Mention: Brand New Writing App
Before we get into the main list, we’ve also got news about a writing app so brand, shiny new that we’re still learning our way around it. (There’s a good chance it ends up on this list once we’re done!)
Our good friend K.M. Weiland over at Helping Writers Become Authors has just launched her very own writing software – Outlining Your Novel – and we highly recommend checking it out.
We also just gave away a free copy to one of our lucky readers in our latest competition, so be sure to join the Writers’ Academy community to be kept up to date with our upcoming giveaways.
The 12 Best Writing Apps to Choose From
For those of you too busy (or lazy) to read our take on each, here’s our final list of the best apps for writers available today:
1. Zoho Writer
6. Fade In
10. AP Stylebook
11. Day One
If you’re still with us, let’s see if we can find you the perfect writing app to suit your particular needs…
1. Zoho Writer
Best easy-to-use word processor
Zoho Writer is a free online alternative to Microsoft Word, with a very sleek and easy-to-use interface. Sign-in either online or on mobile, and you’re off and running right away. It’s a versatile piece of kit, with a variety of formatting options. You’ll probably be most impressed by the hefty collaboration features though.
And if you’re worried you’re already too committed to Word, there’s even a handy plug-in that ties the two together!
Best proofreading and editing tool
Enter your written work into ProWritingAid and you’ll receive a level of feedback far beyond what you’d expect from an automated tool.
More than a simple grammar checker, the editing software provides thousands of style suggestions to help improve your writing. Plus there’s also the usual spellcheck features, and a great plagiarism checker with the Premium version.
(Available in free and premium versions, which can be accessed either online or via a desktop app.)
Best paid word-processing software
Fire-up Scrivener at the start of a writing project and you’ll find you can close pretty much everything else. It’s designed to take you through every step of the writing process – note-taking, research and editing as well as the actual writing itself.
There’s a reason Scrivener is so popular with writers: it’s a comprehensive tool that’s as much about project management as word processing. Take the time to get familiar with it, and you’ll be rewarded with an embarrassment of features at your fingertips.
(Available for purchase as a desktop program or as an IOS app.)
Best for note-taking in any format
It’s right there in the name. Evernote allows you to take ‘notes’ in a variety of forms – be it text, webpage, excerpts, pictures, voice memos or more. These are all instantly synced to your account so you can access them across all devices.
The 60MB of free monthly storage on offer is actually plenty if you’re just taking notes in plain text, but if you push the limit you can upgrade to the very reasonable premium version for some extra space and functionality.
Best for chopping and changing
Working on your latest novel? Type away into yWriter and see your work automatically broken up into chapters and scenes, letting you focus on just writing.
That may not sound like much, but it becomes VERY useful as your word count starts to climb higher and higher. It also tracks your changes by saving daily log files. When it comes to editing, simply drag and drop chapters, scenes, characters and locations to re-organise as you see fit!
If you find yWriter useful, consider supporting creator Simon Haynes at Patreon so he can continue to keep this software free!
6. Fade In
Best screenwriting software
Enter the latest draft of your script into Fade In and see it formatted into proper screenplay styling as you type. It’s the most feature-rich software of its kind, with a wealth of custom and layout options, real-time collaboration, bookmarks and much more.
It’s also the only professional screenwriting tool that lets you insert images straight into your document. The whole package.
Best free open-source office suite
Writers will be most interested in the great word-processor, with its support for older file formats and old-school layout. Downloading the LibreOffice package will also give you access to spreadsheet, presentation, drawing and math-formula software too!
The fact that it’s open-source will also appeal to the security conscious and programmers among you. A fantastic free alternative to Microsoft Office.
(Available for desktop download, but there’s also a ‘Viewer’ version for Android.)
Best for blogging, simplicity and all-round design
Open up Ulysses either on Mac or mobile and right away you’ll be struck by the lovely, minimal interface. Its simple, text-only editor is perfect for writers who’d rather focus on content over layout and formatting. If you’re writing material for a WordPress blog, you’ll be pleased to find you can publish work there (and to Medium) directly from within Ulysses!
Best for distraction-free writing
Simple name, simple function. This Android app strips away all the extra bells and whistles of other writing apps to avoid distractions. It’s a clean, no-fuss space to write, store it and view some simple stats like word count and estimated reading time.
Like Ulysses, it also has support for Markdown – so take the chance to get familiar with that very handy text format if you’re not already.
(Writer is available exclusively on Android.)
10. AP Stylebook
Best for journalists
Journalists can now have their Associated Press Stylebook in convenient digital form, online or on mobile. This means you’ve got the benefit of receiving ongoing updates, so you’ll be notified as entries are added or changed by AP editors. You can also submit questions directly, so you never have to worry about being out-of-date with the latest best practices again!
(You can pay to subscribe to the AP Stylebook Online via their site, and also download a free companion app for iOS.)
11. Day One
Best for journaling
You can combine all your various ‘log’ apps with a journal with the powerful Day One. This nifty app lets you supplement your journal entries with the pictures, weather, location and activity data stored elsewhere on your device.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg feature-wise too. Setting reminders, sharing and publishing, calendars, timelines, filter and search functions… pretty much any function you could possibly demand from a journal app is contained here.
Best for mind-mapping
This very cool app has a constantly expanding canvas, so you can brainstorm endlessly. You can adorn branches of your map with your own photos or the app’s own bank of stickers. If you’re using it for productivity, take advantage of the ability to sync any tasks with your other ‘to-do’ apps, or upload interactive versions of your document to the MyMindNode servers for collaboration!
More Writing Resources
This is by no means an exhaustive list of writing apps, but we’ve tried to bring you those we’ve found most useful here at The Writers’ Academy.
And if you’re interested in more resources like this, visit our Writing 101 page for lists of writing competitions, blogs and bags of creative writing advice.
We’d love to hear your thoughts too. What’s your own writing app of choice? Have you used any of those on our list? Let us know below.
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