Writing is a big part of your life. Even if you’re not a professional writer, chances are you’ll spend thousands of hours in your life writing documents, proposals, memos, contracts, and other important documents.
The more efficient you are with your writing, the better results you’ll get, and the more time you can spend with family, friends, or on other work.
We all have just 24 hours in a day, and it just makes sense to learn how to maximize your time. To do that, you need the right tools.
Luckily, these days there are many options for writing software to help you write more efficiently. Writing well is quite a challenge, and we can all benefit from tools that make writing more manageable and productive.
The last thing you need is painfully awkward tools that take up your valuable time with unnecessary navigation and awkward interface.
Best Writing Software
So here we present some of the best writing software for writers so that you can write effectively, efficiently, and happily.
Microsoft Word is one of the oldest word processors out there, and it is still widely used for writing books.
It’s pretty much the gold standard of writing software because it works well, and it’s the most commonly used Word processor—that means collaborating with co-authors, editors, and other writers is far easier.
Although newer software is available to provide distraction-free writing, you will find that Word can pack quite a punch when it comes to writing your next book.
Word has a lot of features to offer, and with a new suite of productivity features added regularly, this software makes writing more accessible to the average writer.
Furthermore, Word has been around for so long that most people are already familiar with using it. If that’s you, it’ll probably be a lot easier and better to keep using Word than switching to another program, because it takes time to learn new software.
Word is trusty, reliable, and offers a great writing experience (although it certainly wasn’t always that way). It provides a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) kind of formatting which is easy on the eye and works seamlessly.
You can use headers to organize your chapters, use the navigation pane to navigate through them, and create templates which you can use repeatedly.
You can collaborate with co-authors and editors, reorganize your draft in outline view, use it as a brainstorming tool, and even go distraction-free when you want to. You can even format and publish an eBook using a Microsoft Word template for free.
Most editors still prefer Word documents for manuscripts, so it’s a great tool to use for writing because it makes tracking and reviewing changes and comments really easy.
This advanced writing software was created keeping writers in mind. And that is why a lot of writers love working on Scrivener’s distraction-free platform.
It is not only a tool to write but is also an all-in-one formatting and project management software.
Both Mac and PC users can use Scrivener.
You can export your book easily to other digital platforms like Kindle, Kobo, and iBooks, which is handy.
Scrivener also has a collection of templates for both fiction and nonfiction writing.
You can tell that this software is made for writers, as it is easy to create outlines and scenes, drag and drop sections, and you can even develop sub-files so that your manuscript is organized.
It is also super easy to keep track of all your research and notes with a project binder.
For more complicated work you can split the screen, work in outliner views or use the corkboard view and move index cards to plot your storylines.
3. Google Docs
Another strong contender is Google Docs.
Essentially Google Docs is a simpler version of Microsoft Word, but it is becoming quite popular as it offers easy collaboration with others such as your editors and other team members.
You can share files and content and communicate via comments too.
However, Google Docs is a simple word processor and does not offer much regarding formatting and outlining.
The best part is that you don’t have to install Google Docs on your computer and everything you do—from writing to making changes—is automatically saved on the servers. This means you can easily access your files from wherever you are. And you don’t have to worry about losing your work.
You can even access previous versions of your work to review all the changes that have been made to your book file.
While Google Docs is simple, it is quite a capable word processor for those writers looking for a free writing software.
However, if you want to use Google Docs as your main writing software, you’ll want to make sure you enable Google Docs use offline so you can still write without internet access.
Another favorite word processor is yWriter, a free software designed mainly for novelists.
One of the cool features of this software is that it breaks down your novel into chapters and scenes.
This is handy as you can see the word count of your entire novel by chapters and you can rearrange scenes to construct your book.
Most writers love that the book can be broken down into scenes which are usually fun sections of the book to work on.
Another cool feature is that yWriter enables you to organize your project by giving you the space to make notes on all sorts stuff you may need to write a book.
yWriter is free, but it also comes with a few negative aspects. For one, it works only on Windows, although there is a beta version available for iOS.
It also doesn’t come with any templates, and you’ll find that you can’t create eBooks on it.
This simple text editor is great for writers who want to concentrate on nothing but writing.
If content is more important to you than formatting or layout, then this customizable app is for you.
While it has a minimalistic and straightforward interface, this app is quite compelling.
You can sync your work amongst all your devices, or you can store your work locally.
Ulysses is best for blogging. If you’re producing work for your WordPress blog, then you can directly publish your work from within Ulysses. This works for Medium too.
Zoho Writer is a free online alternative to Microsoft Word.
You’ll be impressed by its sleek, user-friendly interface which provides you a clean white page to write on without any distractions.
Menus are minimalist, and tools are only available when you need them. This way you can write away and not be diverted from your thought processes.
Zoho Writer offers various formatting options, and you can collaborate with your teammates in real time.
You can even work with your existing Microsoft Word documents as you can import them straight into Zoho Writer with a handy plug-in.
LibreOffice is a convenient alternative to Microsoft Office. It is a free and an open-source office suite.
So when you sign up for LibreOffice, you get a great word processor and also access to spreadsheet, presentation, drawing and math-formula software.
LibreOffice supports older file formats and a typical old-school layout which is great for writers.
Fast Pencil is an all-in-one solution for creating, distributing and selling your book.
Fast Pencil is a great platform with many tools. The Writing tool looks like a typical word processor and lets you break down your book into chapters.
You can collaborate and assign it to other writers and editors, and easily connect with your friends and followers on Twitter and Facebook.
It provides you with many templates to work with, and you can create PDF previews to see what your final book will look like.
Fast Pencil allows you to publish in multiple formats and you can quickly promote your books, track sales and calculate royalties.
Fast Pencil is free, although you have to pay for more extensive features.
Another free word processor, Focus Writer emphasizes distraction-free writing with a simple interface that cuts away all unnecessary toolbars or windows.
However, it is customizable. You can set a writing background to inspire you, set writing goals and use tools like spellcheck, tabbed documents, and themes.
Focus Writer is free, lightweight, and portable and works on most operating systems.
Pages is Apple’s alternative to Microsoft Word.
It offers a variety of beautiful templates to choose from, and like Word, you can customize fonts and text styles, and add graphics.
It has a simple design and syncs with all devices within iCloud.
Pages also offer built-in tools to collaborate with others.
It’s excellent for creating eBooks, and when you are done, you can easily share your work in iBooks.
Pages comes free for Mac users, and it’s only available for Mac users, which is its main downside. Unless your editor happens to also use a Mac, you’re going to need to use different software to collaborate.
Writer is only available on Android and offers a simple distraction-free writing experience.
It has a clean, modest interface to write on and you can view simple stats like word count and estimated reading time. It also supports Markdown like Ulysses.
Tips for Minimizing Software and File Problems
Here are some tips to minimize costly mistakes and problems while writing your book using a word processor:
Save your file often. Getting up to pee? Save! Going to take a phone call? Save! Gonna check your email? Save! Wait, on second thought, don’t even check your email. Go back to writing.
Always back up your manuscripts. Trust me, always back up. If you lose a manuscript, that’s not just months or years of work you’ve lost – it’s potentially a whole lot of money as well.
I recommend at least two backups for all your completed manuscripts and works in progress. My favorite backups are a portable USB flash drive (you can get a 64GB one for about $30 on Amazon which should be big enough to hold every book you can write in your lifetime) and Dropbox (you get at least 10GB of storage for free and you can pay for an extra 100GB).
I especially like having both a physical and a digital cloud-based backup so that just in case one fails, you always have the other.
Master Your Writing Software
The best writing software for you is the one that you have mastered. Regardless of which software you choose to use, make sure you take the time to learn how the software works, what it can do, and what it can’t do.
If you’re ever stuck on how to do something, use Google to find tips on using your software better. For example, I’ve seen writers replace extra spaces throughout an entire book one at a time, when it would be so much faster to simply use the Find and Replace feature.
You shouldn’t waste your time doing manual writing or editing tasks that your software can easily and quickly do for you, but that means you have to put in the effort to learn your software well.
The best writing software in the world won’t help much if you don’t know how to use it!
If you’re not sure how to use your software as efficiently as possible, join our Facebook group for writers and ask the community for help. You’ll be amazed how much you can learn when you ask the right people.
Keep on writing!
Which tools or software help you to be a more productive writer? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
If you enjoyed this post, then you might also like:
Tom Corson-Knowles is the founder of TCK Publishing, and the bestselling author of 27 books including Secrets of the Six-Figure author. He is also the host of the Publishing Profits Podcast show where we interview successful authors and publishing industry experts to share their tips for creating a successful writing career.