When it comes to writing your book, there are many more tools available to authors today than what our forefathers had. Writing software wasn’t even part of the vision for early inventors who worked on the typewriter. From mind mapping to voice-to-text systems, modern authors have a variety of solutions to help them write, format, and print their masterpieces.
A brief history of typing and computing:
- 1868 – Sholes patented the first practical modern typewriter with QWERTY layout
- Mid-1800s – Invention of the teletype machine
- 1907–1910 – Charles Krum makes teletype system available for everyday users
- 1930’s – New keyboards combined the input/printing technology of typewriters with the communications technology of the telegraph
- 1946 – Eniac computers were invented
- 1948 – Binac computers were invented
- 1964 – Multics, a multi-user system computer, was invented
- 1980s – all computers used electronic keyboards and video technology
- 1990s – handheld devices introduced mobile computing
Today’s authors have options galore, with a myriad of software programs to help them navigate the writing of their novel. Scrivener and Ulysses are the most popular among writing software reviewers, while Word and Google Docs remain heavily used by mainstream writers. Additionally, there are alternative apps that have more specific focuses to help avoid distractions, set writing goals, and even design/print your work.
Scrivener (for Mac or PC): $45 – one time fee
Scrivener is similar to Word, but acts as a project manager and formatting tool as well. It offers templates for fiction and non-fiction works, and can generate in multiple formats for both print and ebooks (.mobi, .epub, .docx, .pdf). The corkboard view and ability to move different chunks of your writing around is what appeals to me most when using Scrivener. It’s like having a virtual whiteboard, where I can write and rearrange easily without having to cut/paste large chunks of writing and getting lost within the script. There is room to store notes on characters, and various other helpful templates within the project binder.
Ulysses (Mac only): $40/year
Ulysses has a unique feature to help you be accountable to your writing goals. Your work syncs automatically between all of your Apple devices. It integrates with Dropbox, syncs with Evernote, and offers integration with various other external folders. They offer a free 14-day trial, voiceover commands, and customized themes/styles for your project.
Word and Google Docs
The two most used word processors are Microsoft Word ($70/year) and Google Docs (free). In Word, you can track changes with your editor, but what happens if you open an old file and begin working from the wrong document? Google Docs is the best solution for a free writing software that allows you to track changes, use voice typing, assists with grammar and spelling corrections, and allows collaborators to work in real-time.
In addition to Google Docs, there are other free writing software systems available on the market. For example, LibreOfficeWriter is a free alternative to Word. Here are a few more:
- FocusWriter helps block distractions so you can stay laser focused on your writing. You can use it to hide other apps and track your progress.
- WriteMonkey offers a unique outlining feature as well as file organization.
- Scribus helps you create beautiful layouts (an alternative to InDesign).
- FreeMind is an app that helps you with mind mapping.
Do you use writing software? Let us know your preferred one and why.