What is your favorite software for writing?

Here is how my conversation went last night with an Apple representative:

Me: “My content in iCloud is gone.”
Apple: “Did you back it up?”
Me: “You mean, back up my back up?”
Apple: “Yes.”
Me: “No…”


I am not sure if it was iCloud or Scrivener, my current writing software of choice, that messed things up. My guess is each company will blame the other.

Fortunately, I had saved what I had written for my next book on digital student portfolios up to this point as a PDF, so it’s a matter of copying and pasting my text into writing software. The question is: What should that software be?

Before you start offering suggestions, please scratch off Microsoft Word. To me, this is a word processing application. Editors like MS Word because they are familiar with the format – it’s pretty universal – and are comfortable leaving comments in this platform.

What I like about Scrivener versus MS Word and similar applicaitons is that you can move sections around within the manuscript with ease. Visible hierarchies and icons can be personalized for each part of the text, identifying the level and completeness of each section. Scrivener allows you to play with your work, which is one of the most fun parts about writing. In addition, you can compile what you have written into many different formats, including ePub if creating a digital text.

However, I am open to the possibilities of other writing programs for authors. I’ve heard good things about Ulysses, but have never tried it. There are other applications available in the App Store. What works for you as you produce content in a longer format? Please share in the comments.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District (http://mineralpointschools.org/). Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD (www.ascd.org) and Lead Literacy (www.leadliteracy.com).

12 thoughts on “What is your favorite software for writing?”

    1. Hi Jim. I use Google Docs often for articles. However, I am looking for software that provides a larger view of the whole work, with sections within sections and seeing how the pieces can be moved around. Also, I don’t love all the distractions that come with writing while having to be online.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I suspect I’m one of the editors who gave you that idea about MS Word. You’re right – we’re used to working with it – it’s easy to make comments – it’s also easy to move things around and paste in content from other docs and sources and have that content match the document styles or be stripped of styles or keep its original character. It’s not a particularly great tool with documents much longer than 2000-3000 words. I’ve used Scrivner for personal book projects and love how you can tie text to images, music, any kind of file. Or you could the last time I used it. Lots of folks are writing books in Google Docs now. I believe you used GDocs for your first book? Why do you find that unsatisfactory at this stage in your writing career?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I see someone else asked the same Google Docs question while I was solving WP sign-in mysteries. I also meant to say that I never loved MS Word and its overloaded tool set, but I’ve not seen anything better as a general word processing app. Isn’t what you’re doing word-processing, first and foremost? Unless you’re self pubishing, your publisher doesn’t want you do to the layout of the book, right? Using a tool that people further down the production line don’t use, aren’t familiar with, or find counter-productive to their part of the work doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. That said, I certainly understand that authors like to use tools that make them feel creative and energized to do the hard work of writing. That’s how I learned about Scrivner.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Make that *Scrivener* everywhere it matters. I’ll be following along – I’d love to find the tool you’re looking for.


  2. Interesting post and comments. I look forward to hearing more comments and what you decide to use. I’ve used Google Docs only a little and haven’t found it easy to edit or format, so I’m interested to see it suggested. I mainly use Word, though have begun some work in Scrivener. However I haven’t looked at that work for a long time. Hopefully I’ll be returning to it soon.
    What appalled me most was your opening paragraph. #sheesh all right. You mean you have to back up what’s in the cloud? I use DropBox. I thought it was safe – maybe not as safe as I thought!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to wonder if the decline (and fall?) of MS Word is more about price than any other single factor. Free vs. $100-$200. Then there’s the learning curve. I laughed when I saw your comment, “(I) have begun some work in Scrivener. However I haven’t looked at that work for a long time. Hopefully I’ll be returning to it soon.” That describes me, too. If you wait too long, you have to learn it all over again.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s very true. It’s not always like riding a bicycle. Though I wouldn’t really know as I’ve never ridden a bicycle! 🙂


      2. Thanks John and Norah for the conversation. I should not reply to comments more often. 🙂

        I followed John’s recommendation from another communication and downloaded the updated One Day app. It’s a nice tool for organizing writing drafts. Maybe having multiple tools for different stages of our writing processes is what the doctor ordered. I’m finding the need for system to allow the words to flow better. MS Word still has a place in the writing/publishing world as it seems to be the standard for offering feedback from editors to authors.


      3. I like the title of the “One Day” app. I have lots of pieces of writing started and filed away for . . . one day. Perhaps an app might help organise them, as you say. Now I’ll have to check it out too! 🙂


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