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30 essential digital tools, apps, & resources for every writer

From initial inspiration to final revisions, these tools will help you up your writing game this year.

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Note-taking & drafting


We all know about Word and Google Docs. But Draft is a handy alternative designed especially for writers, with an abundance of features too long to print. Instead of saving a file as “Manuscript V1,” Manuscript V2,” and so on, Draft allows users to save multiple drafts within the same document, making it easy to see what you changed in version six as opposed to version 12. A robust set of analytics reporting allows writers to see which post lengths, publication times, title lengths, and average Flesh reading levels perform better with audiences. Other handy elements include “Hemingway Mode,” which removes deletion capabilities so writers can’t re-edit the same sentence 20 times instead of moving forward with a first draft, and a daily word count tracker that shows your average word count per day over time.



On the off chance you haven’t heard of Scrivener, you should know it’s one of the most popular word processing tools for longform writers. While navigating sections of an 80,000-word novel in Word can get tiresome – so much scrolling! – Scrivener allows users to organize sections of prose and rearrange them as needed, the way you might rearrange analog notecards or manuscript pages to find the best fit. It also includes automatic screenplay formatting for screenwriters and exporting capabilities for Microsoft Word, RTF, Final Draft, and PDF.

$49 for standard users and $41.65 for students and academics


Final Draft 11

Final Draft is often billed as the software for screenwriters and is widely used by people in the industry. (“If one could marry a program – or even elope with one – I would choose Final Draft,” once praised Guillermo del Toro.) It automatically formats and paginates scripts, lets users collaborate in real time on drafts, and lets writers log “alternate dialogue” to store different versions of lines directly in the document.

$249.99 for new users, $99.99 to upgrade from Final Draft 10, $129.99 for students or teachers




Notability’s creators want users to “fall in love with note taking” again. Not only can users type or hand-write notes via the app, but they also can export notes as PDF documents – and annotate PDFs as well, meaning you can revise your novel draft (or suggest revisions to a friend’s) on the go. You can also record audio, work on multiple notes simultaneous, and export files via AirDrop, Dropbox, Google Drive, and more.




This tool starts with a simple question: What are your five most important items to work on today? Log them in, and every time you open a new tab, you’ll see your to-do list – a gentle reminder to complete them instead of going down yet another Google rabbit hole. You can also block distracting websites – Reddit, YouTube, Twitter, etc. – until your tasks are complete. Users can also elect to have Dayboard send a gentle pop-up reminder of your outstanding tasks when you spend time on non-work related sites.

Free for basic usage;
$5/month for pro



At first glance, the popular product management tool Trello might seem better suited to corporate life or group projects. But authors often use Trello, too, even without co-authors or collaborators. At its most basic level, Trello asks users to write tasks on drag-and-drop “cards” and sort them into columns based on completion: To Do, Doing, and Done, for example, or To Write, To Edit, To Submit. Authors can use this framework to manage deadlines, tackle novel revision, launch a website, or develop a marketing plan, but since the framework is so customizable, it can also be used to outline a book or organize nonfiction research.

Free for basic usage, $9.99/month for Business Class, $20.83/month for Enterprise.


NaNoWriMo Calculator

Although named after National Novel Writing Month, where participants attempt to write 50,000 words in one month, this handy calculator is helpful for writers of all stripes. Let’s say you have a 10,000-word article due in two weeks. You know you need to write at least 667 words per day to hit your deadline, but life gets in the way, and now you’re behind. How much time do you need to budget for this piece? This calculator will adjust itself based on how many days you have left and how many words you still need to write, and if you enter your estimated word-per-minute average, it’ll also tell you how many butt-in-chair hours you’ll need to spend in order to meet your goal.



If you find yourself complaining that you can’t “find time to write,” it might be helpful to see where you are spending your time. RescueTime automatically tracks how you’re spending time on your computer and offers simple one-click tracking for offline tasks, making it as simple as possible to see where your minutes and hours are going. Users can set productivity goals, track how their writing time has improved or lessened over time, and allow RescueTime to block distracting websites for a set amount of time.

Free 14-day trial; $18/month, $72/year



If your dinging, vibrating, notification-flashing phone is more of a distraction than the internet on your laptop, Forest is the app for you. Users set a timer on the app and get to work doing other things. Each timer represents one planted “tree.” If the user exits the Forest app or attempts to use another outside feature on the phone, the tree will die; if they successfully complete the timer without outside distractions, the tree will be added to their personal forest. The twist: Each adult tree earns virtual coins that can be saved and ultimately used to plant a real tree in Africa, thanks to a donation partnership with Trees for the Future. You can even hold your writing group accountable by agreeing to plant trees together at the same time, and if anyone uses their phone during the allotted time, all the group members’ trees will die. How’s that for motivation?




Some people can’t write without music. Some people need perfect silence. But for people who can’t write in a noise vacuum but also find music too distracting, ambient noise is the perfect solution, and myNoise has an abundance. Listen to rain on a tin roof, Gregorian chants, or the bubbling sounds of a fish tank. Each track comes with the ability to customize each element in the soundscape, so if you’d prefer more waterfall and windchimes and less birds and cicadas in your audio Japanese Garden, it’s a breeze to adjust it accordingly.



If you find yourself missing the ambient sounds of your local coffee shop under quarantine, Hipstersound is here to help. Free users can listen to the buzz of a busy Texas café, charming Parisian cafes, or the gentle hum of a quiet restaurant; premium members have even more options, such as restaurants in Denmark and Rio de Janeiro or the lively sounds of a cafeteria. 

Free for public tracks; $29/year for premium


  Originally Published