The best software for writers (Mac/PC)
Take a look at the websites, screenshots and features, and then demo the ones you think would work for you. Writing software is a very personal thing, and software that suits one person well may just feel "off" to someone else. It's probably better to invest a little time now to see what suits the way YOU work best.
What I use:
I'm a HUGE fan of the Mac-only Scrivener. I prefer it to every other writing program I've ever tried, Mac or PC--and that says a lot. I was a happy beta tester during NaNoWriMo in 2005 and now rely on it for whole projects, not just my manuscripts. I adore Scrivener's structure and its many flexible features. An outline on the left side of the screen organizes your draft (and all your research, useful URLs, .pdf files...). In the right-hand pane you can do a split screen view (brilliant!) to look at your current scene plus a research document or two scenes at once. (Can’t remember what color the heroine’s dress was when she put it on four chapters ago? Go back and look, and the scene you’re working on is still visible!) Annotate/make comments, see your drafts in full screen mode, seamless exports to .rtf... I love, love, love Scrivener and recommend it to all my Mac-based coaching clients. It’s a beautifully thought-out program packed with useful features.
But different strokes for different folks; everyone has their own method of writing and their own preferences (not to mention computing platform), so I'm going to mention a few other apps worthy of a look. (And needless to say, there are many more good ones out there that aren't making it into this post.)
My PC-based clients are variously fond of:
- Liquid Story Binder, which (like Scrivener) can handle images in addition to text. In other words, if you find a great photo or image on the web, you can store that with your manuscript. (Great for research!) It seems to have a lot of other features handy for writers, too.
- PageFour, a newer program that seems to have a pleasant and uncluttered interface and a nifty Document Importer.
- WriteWay Pro. I liked WWP one a lot, and wrote some of my 2005 NaNoWriMo novel on it. (Yes, I was bilingual then.) WWP was created by the husband of a novelist, so it has a lot of smart features (character profiles, goals & productivity tracking, etc.) that novelists will like. Alas, the interface is pretty ugly (circa Win98), and there's no autosave, so you'd better save at regular intervals. (Which is always a good move, anyway.) The installation might seem a little tricky, since it requires an additional, free piece of software from Microsoft that you may or may not already have on your computer, so be sure to read the installation instructions.
- RoughDraft is free, has a good reputation and is well-liked by a lot of writers. It doesn't have the most modern interface, but it's been around for a few years--and being free, it's certainly practical.
Several others worth a mention: Writer's Blocks, WriteItNow, and
Have fun exploring and seeing what kind of interface feels good and intuitive to you. Here are some questions that might help as you look through these programs:
(1) Does it organize manuscripts in a way that will be easy for you to find scenes/sections, add to them, and move them around as needed?
(2) Will it let you name scenes/sections (or otherwise identify them) so you can find them quickly?
(3) Does the program make it easy to save your work and back it up?
(4) Does it feel fast (so you won't waste time when working with a big manuscript)?
(5) Are there any special/unique features of this program that would be particularly handy for you and the way you like to work?
(6) Do you enjoy the layout and feel of the program (since you'll be looking at it a LOT)?
I look forward to hearing what you prefer, so feel free to discuss your choice in the comments! Have fun and enjoy exploring.