3 Essential Tools for Writing Content

By: Alexandra Kaste

A lot of writers and creatives moved on past Microsoft Word as soon as they could. Now, don’t get me wrong, as a basic word processor, it gets the job done, but only if the job is a high school essay.

If you’re looking for research organization and focus features, or if—heaven forbid—you want to add an image, you are straight out of luck. And if you’re blogging, writing a book, etc., frankly, you can do better.

Luckily, other programs have stepped up to provide features that more vanilla programs like Word do not.

3 Alternate Word Processors

One of the reasons these programs are so helpful is they were all created by smaller teams for a niche audience. So, they cater specifically to writers and bloggers.

All these programs can either be used for free or can be bought as a one-time purchase. (Subscriptions can easily stack up, especially when you’re trying to personalize your workflow.)

There still isn’t a holy grail of word processors, but these programs each have specific strengths to improve the writing process.

#1 For the Writer Who Wants It All: Scrivener by Literature & Latte ($49 One Time Purchase or $19.99 for iOS)

Starting off with my personal favorite (and what I’m writing this post on right now) is Scrivener by Literature and Latte. It’s an extremely versatile word processor that comes with templates for novels, essays, and screenplays, or create your own.

You can access different pages in the outline formatted side bar that lets you put pages in folders. Scrivener lets you compile your research in the program to reference in a side-by-side comparison.

It’s also an extremely customizable program, so you can change every aspect of the visuals, and enjoy a full screen, distraction free mode.

This barely scratches the surface of the program, and you’ll constantly be stumbling on new and useful features and options.

Unfortunately, all of this come with the cost of a steep learning curve. If you’re the type who gets overwhelmed by too many options and likes a more streamlined experience, Scrivener is not the program for you.

The one-time purchase is very nice in a market dominated by the subscription model. You can also try before you buy with a 14-day trial. I’d also recommend the iOS program in addition if you like to write on the go.

#2 For the Concision-Challenged Creator: Hemingway Editor/App by Adam & Ben Long (Free or $19.99)

Maybe you don’t need something with as many organization options, but you’re looking for a program that refines your writing. The Hemingway App takes its name from the famous 20th century writer who gave the writing advice “Be brief.”

The two versions of the program are almost identical, but Hemingway Editor is a free browser tool while Hemingway App is a desktop application that costs $19.99.

The functionality of the two programs is essentially the same. The App allows you to work offline, publish directly to Wordpress, Medium, and the rest of the web, export your work, and share your highlights with others.

The program (like the author) is very straightforward. It has two modes: writing and editing.

The writing mode is a bare bones word processor with minimal formatting options and no page breaks so you can really focus on getting what you want to say on the page.

The editing mode is where the features of the program really shine and when it begins to guide you stylistically. The program gives you a readability score and a word count. It highlights different parts of your text according to certain metrics. It will highlight different parts of your text and offer recommendations:

Hemingway’s style is distinctive and very well suited for content that need to be punchy but isn’t very helpful for other styles of writing. The program can end up cornering you in one particular style, so just use it with caution.

#3 For the Avoidant Author: Writer by Cold Turkey (Free or $9.00)

We get it. Focusing is hard. And focusing on writing is even harder. If you’re one of those people who finds themselves searching “How to focus on writing” when they should probably just be writing, this is the application for you. Writer is a bare-bones application that essentially turns your computer into a typewriter.

The program stops you from leaving the application until you’ve completed either a certain word count or stayed in the page for a certain amount of time.

The choice is nice since you can either work to a word count or for whatever block of time you have set aside. Once you reach your goal, you can decide to save and quit or snooze for ten minutes. There’s no installer for the program, so if you want to use it on say a library computer, you can just plug a USB in and go to town.

While the essentials of the program are the same for both the free and paid version, the paid includes some very nice quality of life features.

The free has absolutely zero formatting options down to the font, while paid gives you two choices and sizing. You can also disable certain keys to keep yourself from self-editing as you write, such as the backspace or copy/paste. If you like some ambiance with your no-frills word processor, the paid option lets you choose between rain sounds or a coffee shop soundtrack.

You can only export as a text file, so you’re going to need to use another word processor with it.

This program is simple and good at what it does—shackling you to the page until you hit word count—but with that comes some limitations. Sometimes other programs on your computer are not in fact distractions, but important for your work. However, the free program, as well as the paid are such great value and so effective for their purpose that it can be worth it.

The Tools of the Trade

Writing doesn’t require a lot of tools. Really, in the end it’s just you and the blank page. But there are so many ways to improve the process, whether through customization, style enhancement, or just taking away all the other things clamoring for your attention, so you actually write.

None of these tools is the end all be all, but each can be extremely helpful for different parts of the writing process (I used each of them for different parts of making this blog post). Mix and match and figure out how you can make your word processors work for you not against you.

This is a lot of legwork though, and if you want to skip all that, you can find people who have already figured it out to write for you. People First Content is here to help you out and create content, so you don’t have to. Contact us today!

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