15 Great Writing Apps

Writing is a pretty low-tech activity. All you really need to get started is a pen. Backs of envelopes, the palm of one's hand, those handy blank pages at the end of books - all of these are great resources. I've used them all. Some of my best work, in fact, is stuffed in the junk drawer of our kitchen on scraps of paper, often written in Sharpie.

Productivity Apps For Writers

{Tips for writers living with children: Tell them early that you are a writer. It will explain a lot, especially once they learn to read. "No, Mommy didn't want to kill the mail carrier. That's fiction." Also, please see Anne Tyler's essay in The Writer on Her Work for a hilarious example of trying to balance writing with children.}

So you don't need any of the following apps and tools. But if you're a busy writer, or one who would like to become busy and efficient, many of these will, in fact, become indispensable. Especially if you enjoy things like eating and electricity and you are not supported by a trust fund.

*Please note: I am at heart a fiction writer. Some of these apps aren't completely new. Forgive me.

№ 1: MyBlogU

This is where my post begins. Ann Smarty, that powerhouse tech genius, created a resource that is so good it is hard to believe. The idea is so simple that it took me a good few months to wrap my brain around. You sign up and ask fellow writers for help. And then you help other writers. 

The idea is that you are never alone with MyBlogU. As Ann notes,

 "It's not the type of a platform where you see results only if you commit regularly. At MyBlogU, you can really come when you need and post your request for help and connect to real people and experts who know your topic."

 And I have certainly found this to be true. Members notice more engagement with their content both because the people who are involved with the article are interested but also because of the "social proof" you tend to get when readers see others involved.

The feeling of solidarity members get from knowing they are not alone is also a benefit to MyBlog U. I highly recommend signing up but if you need to dip your toe in the water a bit, attend the weekly Twitter chats to get a feel for the vibe. Ann tends to attract very positive, energetic people around her, which is I believe in part how she ends up thriving in her various projects. 

MyBlogU is a content crowdsourcing platform and the only one out there right now. It's only a few months old but going strong and I definitely see a future for it. It allows authors to write much longer and more in-depth articles than we would be able to do on our own, and this article is certainly a testament to that truth.

This post is partly the result of a "brainstorm" I posted on MyBlogU. I'll note the apps and tools I specifically heard about from other MyBlogU members so you can get a feel for the depth and diversity of the help I received. 

Price: Free
Get: MyBlogU

№ 2: AtomicWriter

When I came across Atomic Writer, I knew I had to try it out. It packs a lot of promise into a compact app so I was very happy that Summer Luu gave me lots of advice about how to best use this app. 

The most exciting thing about AtomicWriter is that it begins to understand your audience as it gets to know your writing, eventually telling you who your audience really is (as opposed to who you think it is.)

The main concern for any writer will be the teachability of the app. All you have to do is press shift+click and new words will get dropped in your own custom dictionary so your score will become more and more accurate as you use it. I have to admit, you have to be ready to be a little irritated at AtomicWriter at first, but trust it and teach it :) Soon it will know you better than you know yourself.

Price: Freemium
Get: AtomicWriter

№ 3: Crystal

Speaking of knowing you better than you know yourself, there's now Crystal. Drew D'Agostino and his team have created an app that will tell you the personality of anyone who has an online presence.

I am not kidding. I am not making this up. Younger people seem totally unfazed by this, but anyone my age and older has reacted basically with unbelief. I have been musing about how incredibly insightful this app is for audience development since I started playing with it a few weeks ago and I am sold. Hook, line and sinker. 

Consider this: You learn about your audience through AtomicWriter. Okay. Great. But how, exactly do you connect with them? What really makes their {collective} heart sing? Crystal will tell you. 

Apparently, I am "very relationship-focused". For some reason, this shocked me. But recently, I was having a business conversation with someone and felt it was very important that he know, well, basically everything about my personal life in order to help him sell me this thing.

Yes, establishing a relationship with this person was important to me. It always is. Come to find out, through Crystal, he's very diligent and steady. Probably a little thrown off by my need to tell him about homeschooling 4 boys and that my husband brews beer. 

In any case, I think this is like a secret weapon. In fact, the combination of AtomicWriter + Crystal kind of makes me feel like I am starring in a James Bond or Austin Powers movie. Use these tools for good, not evil!

Price: Freemium
Get: Crystal

№ 4: BunkrApp

Okay, now for the fun. This app is so much fun. If you are like me at all and love to irritate designers like Ben Groulx :).

I mean, if you like to mess around with design principles and really get your hands (virtually) dirty you will love Bunkrapp. It lets you throw together a visually impressive and fun (!) presentation quickly and easily. The ease of use reminds me of Canva (which is awesome) but there is an almost whimsical flair to BunkrApp that honestly just makes the creative writer in me jump for joy. If you think PowerPoint is the be-all end-all of presentation software, you won't appreciate BunkrApp.

It simply makes creating a presentation joyful. Check out what copywriter Rachel Vanier did on Medium using BunkrApp.

Price: Free
Get: BunkrApp

№ 5: Dragon naturally speaking

This app was recommended to me by Sharon Hurley Hall through my request on MyBlogU. I've tried out Dragon Naturally Speaking and love it but also have to admit that I'm not very handy with speaking out loud what I want to write. 

What I think everyone needs to know about Dragon Naturally Speaking is that it is heads and tails better than any other voice recognition software out there. Or so people say. I definitely found this to be true. If you have ever tried out this kind of thing and been turned off by its clunkiness, try Dragon Speaking Naturally. You'll be surprised.

Sharon loves Dragon Naturally Speaking, though, and uses it regularly when she writes. 

Price: About $75 for home use
Get: Dragon Naturally Speaking

№ 6: Scrivener

This is the second app recommended by Sharon Hurley Hall and one I also regularly use. For me, the diversity is what is appealing. Choose your formatting pleasure and Scrivener does everything for you. For me, this really comes in handy for academic writing that has to conform to (seriously ridiculous) APA formatting guidelines. But script writing, novel writing, non-fiction book writing? Yep, all there. 

This app can be free if you are willing to subject yourself to Nanowrimo, the "50,000 words in one month extravaganza" that takes place each November. If you "win" Nanowrimo, Scrivener is one of the prizes. Or at least is has been in previous years.

Price: Free Trial, $45
Get: Scrivener

№ 7: Evernote

We all love Evernote. I learned to love Evernote through Ben. It is mentioned in every single Twitter chat on productivity that I attend. When I asked on MyBlogU for examples of productivity apps for writers, Evernote was one of the first to be mentioned, this time by Erica Martin

Price: Free with Premium Plans
Get: Evernote

№ 8: buzzsumo

BuzzSumo is indispensable. The insight into audience and influencers in your niche makes it almost feel like you're cheating. The difference between the free and paid plans are like the difference between Volkswagon and Porsche. Both solid working models, but, well...

I love BuzzSumo, but this one was actually recommended by a MyBlogU member, too. Thank you, Jackie Bourke, for the great recommendation!

Price: Free with Premium Plans
Get: BuzzSumo

№ 9: Audible

Another great app recommended from a MyBlogU user, Audible is an incredibly efficient way to get research done while you drive, do the dishes or go on your daily run. I had forgotten, frankly, how useful this one was until Dr. Elaine Nichols reminded me. 

Price: Free trial
Get: Audible

№ 10: Blinkist

This was also recommended by Dr. Elaine Nichols, and to be honest, when I tried it out I felt like I was cheating a little! Cliff Notes for professionals - Wow. I have never in my life used anything like this one, but I can definitely understand its value. Try it out and see what you think! There are so many books and so little time...

Price: Free Trial
Get: Blinkist

№ 11: If that then this (IF)

This is an app that not only writers but many, many people might find utterly useful. Actually, let me rephrase that. If you often find yourself thinking about your life as if it were a flow chart, this is the app for you. Again, Dr. Elaine Nichols recommended it, but I also love this one and use if for so many areas of my life.

Dr. Nichols uses it to file things from Feedly to Evernote or Pinterest. To me, this is a brilliant way to streamline your research. 

This app, though, can be used for so much more. Take a look at it and dive into a few of the recipes to see what it can do. Trust me a little on this. You may need to play around with it for awhile before you fully buy into it. 

Price: Free 

№ 12: iThoughts(X)

Mind Map extraordinaire. Now, I actually usually can't use mind maps because I find that by the time I set up the way I want to use it, I'm already distracted. My "mind maps"? Well, they look a lot like my mind. Let's not go there.

But Dr. Elaine Nichols uses iThoughts and so I checked it out for myself. I really really like it. I see the merits of this one. What I think I can safely say is that of all the mind map apps I have seen (including the old-fashioned draw-it-on-paper with coloured pens) this one gets out of your way so you can focus on throwing stuff out there in a way that makes sense. 

Price: Free trial
Get: iThoughtsX

№ 12: Feedly

Feedly is a standby. Everyone should be using this one. I actually now use the professional account and cannot imagine life without it. Unless you never read anything online, you need this app. And when you can quickly and easily go through your reading list and file things or schedule them onto social media, the time you save is invaluable.

Price: Free with Premium options
Get: Feedly

№ 13: Trello

I am now officially addicted to Trello. Ann Smarty originally clued me into this one, and at the time, I didn't think I needed a project management system. I do. It is so simple and efficient, I am not sure how I managed before. I am currently using the calendar function as an editorial calendar and cannot believe I did not do this sooner.

Price: Free
Get: Trello

№ 14: Viral Content Bee

Well, I have been using Viral Content Bee now for nearly one year and I cannot say enough good about it. Ann Smarty's brain child, this thing is genius and friendly. There are some similarities to Triberr, which I also use, and both are great. 

Viral Content Buzz takes some time to get used to, but once you do, you quickly find articles and authors that you feel excited to share and help promote...and they find you. It is a wonderful feeling to grow along with the people there, many of whom also are on Triberr.

Viral Content Buzz actually offers a Udemy course to better acquaint yourself with the app and its features. There are also weekly Twitter chats that really, more than anything else, give you a great sense of the community involved and the supportive nature of the people involved.

Price: Free with Premium options
Get: Viral Content Bee

№ 15: Baker Framework

Okay. I just discovered this one. I need to include it because I am so excited about it and want to shout out loud about it (man alive, what extraordinary assonance!) I have not used it yet, but it looks incredible. The idea is that you can use it to turn a pdf document into an Apple iOS app using HTML5 and CSS. Interesting!

Price: Free
Get: Baker Framework

15 Best New Writing Apps You've Never Heard of

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So, that is quite the list. I was inspired by Ben's post about productivity tools for designers so I fully recommend that you check his post out, too. I hope this list has helped you and given you some tools to be more efficient and productive in your writing. 

Are there any I've left out that should be in this list? Let me know!

Wendy Kelly
May 27, 2015
From the Custom Fit Online team

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