Are you still searching for the ultimate writing app that will kick-start an awe-inspiring writing career? Are you unhappy with your current word processor because it’s distracting or confusing? Well, this post will help you discover some of the best writing tools out there. Oh, and I’ve actually tested all of them and I’m honestly reviewing them without trying to promote any specific writing software – this post contains 0 (ZERO) affiliate links.
For Neil Gaiman and Stephen King, the best writing tool out there is a fountain pen. Gaiman actually owns over 60 of them. George R. R. Martin’s favorite writing software is WordStar 4.0, which dates back to the 1980s. J. K. Rowling was seen using Microsoft Word, though she is said to move to a MacBook Air by now. Neil Patel swears by Google Docs while Joanna Wiebe most probably uses Airstory, the writing software created by her company Copyhackers.
In short: there’s no single tool that appeals to everyone. But you’ll still have to choose at least one. No matter if you’re writing web copy, a book manuscript, or an academic paper – you’ll need some kind of software for word processing unless you insist on submitting handwritten or typewritten manuscripts. Some of these writing tools are geared towards copywriters or book authors while others aim to be universal.
Google Docs: simple, free, impressive
Google Docs is free and available for all platforms, including smartphones. This means you can quickly jot down ideas or use your phone’s voice recognition function to dictate text easily. This is a tremendous benefit if you ever develop carpal tunnel syndrome, RSI or any other health condition that affects your hands and wrists.
While Google Docs itself is pretty basic, you can enhance it with a wide variety of add-ons and browser plugins. For example, I like to have the Surfer SEO sidebar open when writing blog posts, and it only works with Google Docs.
Collaboration is another reason to use Google Docs. Since almost everyone has a Google account, sharing documents and collaborating on them is easier than ever. This is why, when I write for clients, I always submit my work as a Google Doc. The client can then add comments and suggestions as they please. When they do, I get an email and a phone notification so I can respond to the client’s suggestions as soon as possible.
While Google Docs won’t provide you with ultra-fancy formatting options that you may need for a professional-looking book, it’s perfect for any kind of web writing. It also integrates well with Grammarly, SEO add-ons and other tools you may need.
Microsoft Word: the software that everyone knows
There’s probably no need to introduce Microsoft Word. It has been around for decades, so it’s the default writing software for many people. You can use it for crafting pretty much anything from a 1000-word blog post to an entire book.
Recent versions of Word also have Grammarly-like functionality (i. e. they aim to correct more than spelling mistakes) which is a nice addition to its powerful word processing functions.
Word isn’t free, but you can get the entire Microsoft 365 suite for $6.99 a month if you want to. To be honest, I don’t find Word easy to use, so I never bothered about buying it.
LibreOffice Writer: like Word, but free
LibreOffice Writer is a free alternative to Microsoft Word. It’s a part of the LibreOffice suite that also includes a spreadsheet app, a database editor and a bunch of other useful tools – all for free.
LibreOffice Writer looks like an older version of Microsoft Word. If you’ve never used pre-2007 versions of Word, LibreOffice might feel a bit weird. However, it becomes incredibly convenient once you get used to it.
For a free word processor, LibreOffice Writer is very powerful and has more than enough functions for most writers. It’s also one of the best writing tools available to Linux users (because not all writers use Macs, you know).
Scrivener: the ultimate tool for book writing
Scrivener is an extraordinary writing tool that you’ll absolutely want to use when working on a big writing project such as a book, an academic paper, or a screenplay.
With Scrivener, you can keep your manuscript, notes, references, synopses and other files (including images) in a single project and access them with ease. The corkboard mode and the powerful outliner help you organize your entire writing process in a way that conventional word processors can’t. And if one day you get a bad case of writer’s block, you can browse your gallery of inspiring images or character sketches to get you back on track. While Scrivener can look a bit overwhelming at first sight, it’s very easy to use.
Scrivener also comes with formatting templates for fiction and non-fiction books, as well as screenplays. It lets you export ebooks in a variety of formats, including PDF and Kindle, so it’s a must-have if you’re a self publishing enthusiast.
If you’re not sure if you’re going to like Scrivener, there’s a free trial version that will stop working after 30 days of use. If you use it daily, the trial version will expire in a month. If you use it, say, three times a week, it will last 10 weeks.
Airstory: note-taking and copywriting, combined
I made my first $10,000 as a writer using nothing but Google Docs and Airstory.
Airstory is Copyblogger’s very own writing app, made primarily with copywriters in mind. It has excellent outlining functionality (dragging and dropping sections is a breeze compared, say, to Google Docs). You can also store quotes, stats, notes, and other research in the app so you can easily paste extra info into your work.
In addition, it comes with an inspiring library of professional copy and content templates for any occasion. Wondering how to write a cold email? Trying to structure a blog post? Crafting a landing page? Take a dive into Airstory’s impressive collection of tried and tested templates.
If you’re still not impressed… well, let me tell you that Airstory also has kanban-style boards. And a dedicated Chrome plugin. And WordPress integration. For $25/month. It’s a very modest price for a powerful all-in-one software created specifically to boost writers’ productivity and work quality.
Ghostwriter: distraction-free writing for zero bucks
Ghostwriter is a free, open source text editor with a wonderfully clean interface, customizable color themes and cool features such as Focus Mode (where you can only see a few lines above and below the cursor) and Hemingway Mode (where you can’t use Backspace or Delete so you can’t edit what you’re writing).
You can use Markdown to format your text, but you don’t have to. In fact, Ghostwriter is an excellent app for writers who get too distracted by formatting and editing. It’s a writing app where you write, period. When you’re done, just export your draft to your favorite format, open it in your favorite word processor, and go ahead with editing and formatting.
And it’s also available for Linux, in case you wanted to know.
Trello: your ultimate productivity tool
While Trello is not specifically a writing tool like Google Docs or Scrivener, it’s pretty much a must-have if you want to organize information – any kind of information – in a practical and intuitive way.
Trello lets you manage projects and workflows, collaborate on ideas, and keep your entire life organized so you can achieve your writing goals as quickly as humanly possible. Content calendar? Check. Book outline? Check. Weekly meal plan? Check. By the way, Trello also integrates with pretty much everything from Google Drive to Mailchimp.
Canva: because every writer needs a graphic design app
Ever wanted to design the cover of your new book? Or an infographic that condenses the main insights of a 3,000-word post into a shareable work of art? Or a Facebook ad that converts like crazy?
Canva is an awesome app that lets you create professional-looking graphics even if you’re entirely new to graphic design. Just pick a template, replace the text with your own, add some images out of Canva’s extensive library, and export your masterpiece in any format.
Canva is perfect for creating infographics, ebook covers, images for blogs and social media, documents such as CVs, and even entire ebooks. It comes with mind-blowing templates for every occasion, easy access to stock photos and vectors, and a very intuitive interface overall. And it’s free – unless you choose to upgrade to Canva Pro, which is actually quite affordable ($12,99/month)..
Some features of Canva Pro include a social media scheduling tool (somewhat like Hootsuite), access to an even bigger library of stock images, and a unified style for your brand.
While it may be tempting to buy all the fancy paid writing tools you come across, remember that great writing doesn’t require any of them. Pick one or two writing apps and, well, start writing.
Personally, I use Ghostwriter for rough drafts and free writing, while Google Docs is my favorite tool for SEO writing. But if you swear by Microsoft Word or Scrivener or some other writing tool not listed here… well, that’s great! The best writing tools are the tools that work for you.