As a full-time professional writer, I’m always on the lookout for utilities that will improve my workflow and help provide a much needed boost in efficiency.
Today we’ll take a look at thirty of the best utilities around to help serious writers in their work. Whether you want a better way to work with Markdown or need something to help you plot out the scenes in your next novel, this roundup has just what you’re looking for.
Advanced Writing Tools
The writing market is quickly becoming over-saturated with extremely basic utilities that are easy on the eyes but so light on features that professional writers often miss the good old days when developers did all they could to provide you with the powerful tools that you need to get the job done. If this description matches you, check out the apps in this category, each of which is specifically tailored to give you power and flexibility, not eye candy.
Ulysses is truly an app for professional writing assignments. Based around the concept of non-linear, semantic text editing, Ulysses provides all the tools you need to get the job done effectively and efficiently: tabs, separation of presentation and content, multiple document and project notes, filters, groups and document collections and whole lot more. If you’re looking for a new tool to completely change your writing workflow, start here.
Mellel is a word processor specially designed to handle long and complicated documents, books, manuscripts, dissertations, etc. Most word processors get pretty cumbersome when you’re working with hundreds of pages but Mellel stays reliable and gives you plenty of professional tools to help you along the way.
Scrivener is a powerhouse of writing tools and is a popular favorite among Mac users. One of Scrivener’s strongpoints is that it gives you the freedom to compose the way you think, using various components and pieces that you can easily combine into a cohesive whole. Scrivener is perfect for anyone writing a novel, screenplay, essay, script or any other major project.
StoryMill is built specifically to help you develop complicated stories such as those for novels and plays. It has tons of special features that are geared toward helping you build and keep track of your characters, locations, timelines and all the other elements related to storytelling. It also lets you write in sections that you can combine and reorder instantly.
Script It! is specifically designed for stage and screen screen writing, but is flexible enough to tackle any writing project. With Script It! you can plan out and order each individual scene, develop and organize characters, and manage your various snippets and thoughts. There’s even a handy name generator for those long character lists!
Storyist is a powerful word processor with all of the features you need in addition to built-in templates for manuscripts and screenplays so you can get a jumpstart on your next writing project. Storyist lets you sketch out a story using index cards and photographs and then refine it with customizable plot, character, and setting sheets.
Nisus Writer Pro is another really powerful word processor with more features than you’ll know what to do with: styles, multilingual support, tables, comments, track changes, drawing tools, footnotes & endnotes, bookmarks, cross-references, table of contents, full screen mode, and more.
A decent alternative to Microsoft Word, Mariner Write is a word processor just powerful enough to do everything you need without overwhelming you with tons of features that you’ll never use. Write opens Word files and will save your document as an RTF-Word file, so you can still collaborate with the Word crowd.
Final Draft is specifically designed for writing movie scripts, television episodics, and stageplays. Its strength lies in its professional script formatting, which works in conjunction with all the word processing features you would expect.
Want a powerful, professional writing app but don’t like the high price tags attached to the options above? Worry not, Celtx is a completely free app that helps you organize, write and outline your film, video, documentary, theatre, novels, machinima, comics, advertising, video games, music video, and radio projects. It has tons of features and utilizes a non-linear workflow that conforms to the way you want to work.
Price: Free (Plus version: $14.99)
Basic Text Editors
If you don’t need all the power of the apps in the previous section but aren’t quite ready to go the featureless full-screen route, here’s the middle ground: a selection of basic but useful text editors for writers. Think of this section as a list of alternatives to TextEdit or perhaps even Pages and Word in some cases.
Pagehand is dedicated to staying simple and avoiding feature bloat while also providing a fast a nimble writing experience. Pagehand uses PDF as its file format; anyone can read your documents perfectly, fonts and all.
Almost everything MoApps creates has the same DNA: simple, useful and just powerful enough to be exactly the tool you’ve been looking for. This holds true of MoAppsWrite as well, which gives you basic but extremely effective rich text editing complete with styles, templates, page layout, headers and footers functionality and a variety of file formats.