Like any creative art, the act of writing involves certain kinds of tools. As a culture, we’ve largely put handwriting to bed for writing more than quick notes and personal diaries. Instead, computers now top the “necessary gear” list in most cases.
Countless free and paid writing tools float around the digital landscape, helping us to receive, correct and shape the words we string together. We are fortunate to have so many options in our modern age. However, as is the case with any artist, it’s still necessary to carefully select the tools that will best enhance our trade.
The intent behind your writing endeavor can and should guide your hand in selecting the right tool for the job. In this article we’ve gathered just a few of the applications available, paired with reasons a writer might opt for each in a particular scenario. Many of these tools power our writing every day, so brush up on your pomodoro technique and get ready to make writer’s block a thing of the past with this landscape of tools for writers.
Business as usual: Microsoft Word & Google Docs
Honorable mention goes to Pages for iCloud; image courtesy of Apple
The O.G. of word processing software, good old Word still has its place. Many organizations still operate by sending documents as attachments, and it’s often a good option for writing a letter or other documents. It has all you need to format a killer cover letter, résumé, or some other official bit of correspondence. Sending something as an attachment rather than a link does have a certain gravitas—perhaps it’s the final vestige of treating digital files similarly to physical paperwork which needs filing, moving around and “attaching” to missives.
It has become more collaborative with the addition of Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud solution for all its Office products. Microsoft Word—with its advanced bespoke formatting capabilities—is perfect for those bits of writing that you still need to finalize and perfect before sharing them with someone else. In fact, PubLoft’s lead content strategist Patricia Howard says this about the software: “It’s simple, familiar, and I’m not going to accidentally share it with the entire company.”
True, Patty! Just remember to save.
Many instances of writing require several pairs of eyes. For a living document that might pass from outlines to writing to editing and beyond, it’s hard to beat Google Docs—free for personal use, updated in real-time, with Suggestion Mode and revision history and comments and a plethora of other features that can prove useful in the least expected of times!
Google Docs also has extensive formatting options, making it adaptable for many styles from blog posts to shared strategies. It isn’t a direct blogging platform, which means there is one more step in the publishing process. Still, it’s beneficial for anyone who needs to write their words down, and collaborate with a variety of people to format, edit, perfect and adjust. It also offers some great plug-ins like the SAS writing reviser to help with your writing.
For many writers, this is the word processor of choice—I’ve personally used it for many years both as an employee and a contractor, and write almost everything there. In fact, this very article was collaboratively crafted by our team in Google Docs.
Formatting made easy: Medium, Ghost, and more
If you’re writing something that’s primarily for you and won’t be handled by many others, it’s easy as pie to plug it straight into a fantastic blogging platform that manages the formatting.
Medium takes your thoughts as they come and makes them look nice with little effort—perfect for those times that you’re writing for expression rather than work.
On top of that, Medium’s real value proposition is in its distribution: a ready-made network eager to read your writing, should you choose to make it publicly available. It’s billed as “a place to read and write big ideas and important stories,” and that’s one of the many reasons bloggers and writers love it.
PubLoft’s lead technical coordinator Adam French uses Medium for blogging purposes: “It’s just simple, and allows me to write down essential ideas, and store links then build on them when I write.” Cofounder Mat Sherman also gravitates towards Medium whenever a blog-worthy idea strikes him, proving that its user experience has become the standard for over 60 million readers as of November 2016, the company’s last available numbers.
On the newer end of the spectrum we find Ghost: an open-source publishing platform and the one on which you’re currently reading these words! It’s a self-proclaimed “proud non-profit organization” based on the UK and “building technology for the future of journalism.”
For bloggers or companies seeking a new blogging experience with minimal time to deployment, Ghost boasts their Ghost(Pro) full-service hosting option, which can connect to a domain name like you see here (blog.publoft.com). While the core software’s SEO features lag behind a bit, the overall platform is extremely solid, bug-free, and powerful for managing a blog.
On top of this, and perhaps weighing in as its most unique offering, Ghost offers its software completely free for those who are technically savvy enough to deploy & host it themselves—along with limited documentation and support to get it up and running.
Image courtesy of HemingwayApp.com
If you’re the type of professional writer who likes to submit pieces as flawlessly as you can, apply to write for PubLoft—okay, but seriously, check out the Hemingway Editor, if you haven’t already. Designed with the sole purpose of making “your writing bold and clear,” the Hemingway app offers colorful hints to improve your writing in common ways, like avoiding passive voice and fluffy adverbs, and making sure the reading level is in sync with your audience.
Boasting integrations with Medium and Wordpress, as well as a powerful option to prepare articles for web publishing with HTML formatting, Hemingway is perhaps one of the best tools for writers that we’ve found throughout the course of writing this piece, and we’re excited to give it a try.
Notes to self, plans, and instructions: an array of tools
A lot of the writing that we do on a daily basis is not creating compelling blog posts or thought-provoking essays, but merely taking down notes, reminders, and instructions. For this, many writers use tools like Apple’s default Notes app, as well as Evernote, and Notion, which seek to improve on the note-taking experience by taking bits and pieces of ideas and making them easy to access and organize—all in the cloud, too.
Image courtesy of Notion.so
If you are writing with an intent to plan, there are many fantastic apps available to provide the framework. Find the one that works for you, and benefit from the tech that is designed to make your life a little more organized.
For some, however, jotting down a quick list or reminder is best done old school style. Patty uses a pencil and paper. “I’m boring,” she says—but there’s nothing wrong with taking the non-digital route when it works. In between “pen and paper” and “specialized app” comes the method that PubLoft COO and cofounder Jérémy uses: “When I need to just jot something personal down, I typically text myself.” Spoken like a true millennial. Jérémy (among many other digital natives) still values traditional methods, however, explaining that he often tries “spend time writing by hand simply to develop better writing habits.”
Writing tools for more serious authorship
For those of us striving to write well beyond a few hundred or thousand words, there are highly specialized tools with robust and unique feature sets. Scrivener, for one, offers downloadable macOS/Windows software designed for research, outlining, and long-form writing. Ulysses is another top choice in this field, operating on markdown and even allowing users to set writing goals in-app. Both have settings to put the focus on distraction-free writing, explored in detail on the Zapier blog, and are great if you want to improve your writing.
Overall, technology is an incredible tool, but ideas still come from humans (for now, at least). While many industry-leading tools like Google Docs and are cloud–based, collaborative, and beautiful, This arsenal of different apps and programs that facilitate writing should see any modern writer well equipped for any scenario—the trick lies in picking the one that best organizes the flow of words. With a combination of writing skills and the right technology, the world is your oyster.