There are so many choices when it comes to writing software. Depending on your type of writing projects, you can often find many free options that will do the job very well.
For bloggers, article writers, students and short story writers, there are a lot of free solutions.
But if you want to write a book, a premium app might be better suited to your longer writing process.
When you are choosing your primary writing tools, make sure they will help you improve your writing and productivity.
How to choose your software
Writers are truly spoilt for choice. But in the end, you will probably use only two or three writing tools every day.
You want these few essential programs to be reliable and work for you in the long term. There are a lot of free writing solutions for all forms of creative writing.
But in some situations, a premium tool might offer you more value for your particular needs.
When you are in the process of deciding what apps and software are best for you, make sure each one can do what you need.
When you start writing, you don’t want distractions such as compatibility or set up issues. Choose programs and software that are easy for you to use. Not everyone is a computer wizard.
But check that you can get all the tools you need, such as sharing options, export formats like docx or epub and auto-saving.
If you are writing articles or essays, your needs will be different to an author writing a book.
Do you need basic error correction tools, or do you need in-depth grammar and style analysis of your writing?
Make a quick list of your essentials, and it will help you make the best decisions.
Now let’s look at some of the best options for today’s writers.
Word processors (Free)
The days of paying out a lot of money for Microsoft Word are well and truly over.
There is no need at all to pay for word processing programs. There are now lots of free choices that will do the job for you.
If you are writing blog posts, articles, essays or short stories, a word processor will be all you need. But if you are writing a book, using a word processor is not the best solution.
For documents and files with a word count of over 15-20,000 words, word processors can be cumbersome and sometimes unreliable.
But if you are writing short-form content, they will do a fine job.
Here are some of the best and most popular choices.
Google Docs is one of the best free word processors.
If you are familiar with Word, you will have no trouble at all using Google Docs. The user interface and all of the formatting options are very similar.
A lot of writers, particularly content writers, use Google Docs because of the simplicity of collaborating and sharing documents online via Google Drive.
The one small drawback is that you need to be online to use it. However, there is an easy way to use Google Docs offline by using a Chrome extension.
Apple Pages is the ideal free solution for Mac users.
The page layout document view is easy to work with, and all the formatting, fonts and writing tools are easy to find.
There is a basic spelling and grammar checker, word count and track change with an add comments option.
It autosaves directly to your hard drive, or your iCloud drive when you are online.
Another plus is that Pages works superbly with images. You can drag and drop images anywhere in your document.
It is difficult to think of a standard feature or function in Word that is not available in Pages.
WPS Office is a great free office suite for PC users.
WPS stands for Writer, Presentation, Spreadsheets. So as a bonus, you get all three programs for free.
Writer is very similar to other word processors, and it has all the standard features you would expect. It works with most common file types.
One of its key features is that it lets you drag and drop paragraphs. It can be very practical at times.
Another simple yet time-saving feature of WPS is tabbed documents.
Grammar and spelling checkers (Free and Premium)
You have probably seen similar recommendations to mine below.
There are a lot of online checkers, but only a few that are really worth considering.
If you only need basic checking, a free version of a premium app will be fine for you. However, if you need more in-depth analysis, you might be better considering a premium version.
Grammarly (Free and premium)
It is one of the most popular grammar apps available for writers. It is ideal for checking short-form writing, and it really shines when you are writing online. It can even catch little errors you might make in social media posts.
Grammarly is compatible with a lot of other writing programs. In my case, I use it every single day with WordPress.
The free version is ideal for students and article writers who want to find basic and critical errors quickly. But if you want to use all the features of Grammarly, you might have to consider the premium version.
Prowritingaid (Free and premium)
There is a free version that works very well in a browser extension.
But where Prowritingaid stands out is that it comes with over twenty different reports to analyse your writing in minute detail.
The full version is particularly useful for authors because it can work on very long documents such as a manuscript. It can help you find repeated words and phrases, incorrect or inconsistent punctuation and sentence stickiness.
If you use the reports step by step, you can improve your writing enormously.
Hemingway App (Free)
The free Hemingway editor is a favourite for thousands of writers.
Its most famous feature is that it quickly finds the passive voice for you. We all know that passive writing is poor writing.
All you need to do is paste in your text, and the app will highlight any passive structure in green. Then you can re-write your sentences in the active form.
Book writing programs (Free and premium)
Writing a book is a very long and complex process. It can take months of work to write a book.
There are so many aspects and tools that you will need. This is why a word processor is not suitable at all for the job.
You should look for a book editor program that comes with all the extra tools and components that you will need.
These might include research pinning, event tracking, timelines, character building and index cards. You should check to see if there is a spell checker or compatibility with a premium grammar checker.
Here are a few of the most popular choices for authors.
Scrivener (Premium with a free trial)
Scrivener is the number one choice for authors and screenwriters.
Scrivener comes with an outliner for chapters and scenes, a corkboard and index cards, side by side viewing, word count targets and a full-screen editor. It also has print, export and publishing tools. It comes with every tool a writer could ever need.
There is a generous 30 day free trial period offered by Scrivener.
It is counted by the days that you use the software. If you use it every second day, your trial period will last you for 60 days.
If you only write at the weekend, it could last you for months.
It is available for both Windows and Mac. Plus, there are iOS apps for iPhone and iPad.
Wordcradle is a free online novel writing app that is ideal for first-time authors.
You can set up your projects with word count goals. There are time management tools to allocate how much time you want to set for your writing aims. These are terrific tools if you’re going to practice writing on a schedule.
There are character cards that let you build a profile for each character during your first draft.
Index cards are a must when writing a novel. Wordcradle is equipped to handle all your ideas and to track changes you might make to your storyline.
Shaxpir (Free and premium)
For a free dedicated book writing app, Shaxpir comes with all the essential tools you will need.
The Manuscript Builder gives you drag-and-drop tools to rearrange your manuscript. You can change the order and hierarchy of chapters and scenes.
You get a world-building notebook, margin comments, concept art, spellcheck & linguistics and you can set goals & track your progress.
You can export to HTML or Microsoft Word.
With the premium version, you get Prosecraft which is linguistics for literature. Other features include emotional story arc, automatic popup thesaurus, multi-device sync and export to EPUB.
It is available for Mac and PC.
Note-taking apps (Free and premium)
Lastly, all writers need to take notes. You might be away from your computer when a brilliant idea hits.
You can carry a notebook and pen around. But today, it is your phone that is always with you.
Here are the best free apps for taking notes.
Evernote (Free and premium)
Evernote is the favourite for lots of writers. It is one of the most popular note-taking apps, but it offers you much more.
Never let an idea escape when you are not at your keyboard. You can organise your ideas, create checklists and to-do lists.
There is also a handy web clipper that lets you save parts of web pages to help you with your writing research.
The free version comes with more than enough storage memory to suit most writers.
Trello (Free and premium)
There is so much you can do to organise your writing projects, notes and to-do lists. You can collaborate and assign tasks, start discussions, and so much more.
Trello is a beautiful as well as highly functional app. It is available for Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer, iOS and Android.
You don’t need a lot of programs and apps to write well. Think about your needs and choose programs that can do a lot more for you.
If you can narrow down your selection to only two or three, it will save you a lot of time and effort. A lot of times, free writing software will work perfectly well for you.
But you do have to be selective.
For bloggers and article writers, Google Docs and Grammarly might be all you need.
If you an author, perhaps Scrivener and Prowritingaid will be the only two for you.
Whichever way you go, enjoy what you do and have fun writing.