Must-Have Software Tools for Writers

must-have tools for writers

Are you a writer? Well, I am, although I still haven’t written a fiction book. But I do have some tech-related eBooks published on Amazon so I know what it’s like to write a whole volume. And I can tell you that even when your head is buzzing with ideas, putting them down and structuring them isn’t at all easy. It’s a myth that writers simply get their notebook and a pen out of their bags (or an iPad) and write, write, write until lo and behold – a book is born.

Writing is hard work so it’s only sensible to use the right tools to make things work out faster and to be more productive. So, here’s my little list of software tools for writers that are hugely useful. I won’t list the obvious Google Drive, Word, etc. – you already know about them!

Ulysses (Mac and iOS)

After a long search, I’ve found the perfect Mac app for writers – Ulysses. This app has everything a need as a writer and as a blogger because it can post directly to WordPress. As a writer, I love the clean distraction-free interface, automatic sync with iCloud, and ease of use. But my absolutely favourite feature is goal setting – set the number of words to write every day and meet your daily target. That really lets you mobilize yourself and become a productive writer.

Ulysses is a subscription-based app but if you have Setapp, then you don’t have to pay for Ulysses separately as it’s part of the package. Also, there’s a free trial you should check.


I bet you’ve heard about Scrivener. After all, it’s by far the most popular program for writers. As Scrivener itself puts it, it’s the software to help you “see the forest or the trees” – it’s just so customizable and versatile. You can use it as:

  • a scrapbook to type in your ideas
  • a book outline tool to create the structure for your future book
  • a tool to develop your characters
  • a distraction-free typewriter
  • and much more

Basically, it’s a tool where you can write any section of your book at any time, then piece it all together, add references if you’re writing a research-based work, and then export the final result in a number of different formats. True, there is a certain learning curve (sure there is – there are just so many features!) but it’s worth it.

Scrivener comes with a free trial and the full version costs $45. It works on Windows, Mac, and iOS.


If you are not ready to invest in writing software just yet, check out Manuscript. It’s open source and free, and it has a lot of features that will help you with your book. Its key features are:

  • an outliner
  • a distraction-free mode
  • a novel assistant that helps you use the snowflake method to develop your story
  • a frequency analyzer
  • index cards
  • graphical display of your storyline
  • highlighter
  • and more

Manuscript works on Windows, Mac, and Linux.


Novlr claims to be software “built by writers for writers”. The most amazing thing about this app is that its development is feedback-based. This means that there is a feedback form on their website and that once enough people suggest a certain feature, it gets added to the next release of Novlr. It’s an online-based tool, so you don’t need to download anything.

With Novlr, you can write both online and offline, and be sure that your work gets saved automatically as you type. The app uses triple backups to prevent your work from being wiped out by a crash.

The main features of Novlr are as follows:

  • a focus mode
  • offline writing
  • Dropbox backups 
  • word count
  • organize chapters
  • multiple novels
  • outlining
  • goals and targets
  • publish to eBook
  • and lots more

Novlr comes with a free 14-day trial and the full version costs $10/mo. or $100/year.


If you want to write better stories faster, then you should check out StoryShop. This visually attractive app streamlines your writing efforts with the help of these features:

  • a story planner
  • a writer where all your references are at your fingertips
  • a character planner where you can fully craft your characters and develop them
  • a tool to help you keep everything in order when writing series
  • a place to keep your research and references
  • a bonus tool with story templates, character development questions and more

Like Novlr, StoryShop is a subscription-based app. You can try it for free for seven days and then it’s either $8.25/mo. if you pay annually, or $9.99 if you pay monthly.


Now, this is not like the apps I mentioned above. ProWritingAid is more like Grammarly for professional writers. The Editor tool analyzes your writing a lot like a human editor would and helps you make your writing better. It can help you with grammar, style, word overuse, cliches, repeats, transitions, and more. There is a built-in thesaurus and a plagiarism checker to make things even better. ProWritingAid works on Windows and Mac, and it integrates with popular software like MS Office, Chrome, OpenOffice, Google Docs, and even Scrivener.

ProWritingAid can be used for free but you can only edit a limited word count. The pro version costs $50/year and you can get a lifetime membership for $175. And if you have a Setapp subscription, then you have ProWritingAid included.


If you’re a children’s book author looking for an easy to use app for writing, illustrating, and printing your books, BookBildr is a life-saver. With this tool you can make a picture book without hiring an illustrator because there are hundreds of ready-made royalty-free illustrations for you to use. Think of BookBildr as of Canva for making books! The beauty of this tool is that it’s absolutely free to use – you only pay if you order printed copies or download a PDF. Printed copies start at $8 and a PDF costs $2. I call that super affordable!


My advice is to start with Manuscript, the free app, and see how you like it. After all, you want a tool to help you with your writing and not waste your money. Scrivener is also a very solid choice but it can be a bit difficult to learn, so it may not be for you if you want to keep things simple. And for children’s book authors, BookBildr is an amazing starting point. Anyway, I hope you found this post useful and I’ll cover mobile apps for writers in my next post. Stay tuned!

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3 years ago

Thank you, Eliza! Very helpful 😉

3 years ago

Most of these are new to me! What great info

3 years ago

What great info! I haven’t heard of most of these before now

3 years ago

Great list! I’ve never heard of most of these so I’ll definitely be trying them out!

3 years ago

These are all new to me but I’ll definitely check them out! My cousin is actually in the process of writing a book so I’ll definitely forward this info to her as well.

Lindsey | GreenMamaLife

As someone working on multiple books, I LOVE this list of resources! I honestly didn’t know about any of these, but they all sound like great resources to take my writing to the next level.

3 years ago

When I was working on my novel regularly, I was using Autocrit and it was AWESOME! These resources sound great! When I have time to dive back in, I’ll have to check them out!

Erin | Becoming Mamas Together Blog

This is great information. I love that you listed a free option. Can’t wait to try it out!

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