The 16 Best Writing Apps to Boost Your Writing in 2020
Whether you’re writing an email, a blog post, or a full-on novel, you’ll likely find the task impossible without the right tools. Which raises the question: what are the best writing apps to help you with everything from basic composition to firing-on-all-cylinders productivity?
This blog post sets out to answer that question. Here we’ve divided our favorite writing apps of 2020 into three categories and provided brief reviews of each, so you can decide which ones you can’t live without! Let’s start with apps that fulfill the most essential need every writer has: getting words down on the page.
Writing apps for creative writing
While Google Docs and Microsoft Word are more-or-less fine, a dedicated writer like yourself deserves something more substantial. Here are seven writing apps designed specifically for creative writing, with various organizational tools to take your work to the next level.
1. Reedsy Book Editor
Runs on: Web
Best for: Authors seeking a distraction-free, elegant writing interface that typesets your work into a professional-grade book
With its sleek interface and easily navigable formatting options, the Reedsy Book Editor is a first-rate choice for modern authors. You can drag and drop chapters, insert images, and even track changes to look at past versions of your work — a function that most paid creative writing apps don’t offer.
The Reedsy Book Editor's advanced typesetting features will also save you hours of work when you get to formatting your book for publication. You can create intricate front and back matter and export it as a clean, professional file that can be instantly uploaded to any ebook retailer or print-on-demand supplier. If you’re looking for an all-in-one writing, formatting, and typesetting tool, look no further than the Reedsy Book Editor. Start using it for free right now.
Price: Free trial for 30 days, $45 license fee
Runs on: Mac, iOS, and Window
Best for: Novelists and other long-form writers who want an elaborate, organized interface
You’d be hard-pressed to find a list of writing apps that omits Scrivener, and for good reason: it manages to be both streamlined and incredibly sophisticated at the same time. With Scrivener, you can choose a template for your project (novel, essay, screenplay, etc.) and get organizing right away. The left-hand sidebar includes sections and virtual notecards for every element you could think of, and you’re able to arrange these elements however you like.
More advanced features allow you to track your research, create specialized materials like front/back matter, and even analyze the content of the text itself. Needless to say, Scrivener is an excellent program for authors, journalists, and any writer for whom attention to detail is paramount. You can read our full review of Scrivener 3 right here.
Price: $4.99/month or $39.99/year subscription
Runs on: Mac and iOS devices
Best for: Writers who want to productivity-hack their formatting
At first glance, Ulysses looks a lot like Scrivener, but closer inspection reveals that they cater to different experience levels and interests. While Scrivener is known for its steep learning curve, Ulysses offers several tutorials alongside its features. This is especially useful because Ulysses uses “Markdown” rather than manual formatting — for instance, in Ulysses, you’d type # to create a header, or > to create a blockquote.
While it may seem inconsequential now, writers who familiarize themselves with Markdown will likely find that it helps them keep their “flow” during a writing session, and it also makes editing much easier. Other than this, Ulysses is a fairly standard writing app; it’s not as outline-friendly as Scrivener, but you’ll have no trouble staying organized with keyword labels, split view capability, progress tracking, and all your projects lined up neatly in the sidebar.
4. iA Writer
Price: Free trial for 14 days, $29.99 for Mac, $19.99 for Windows
Runs on: Mac, iOS, and Windows (free trial available for Android)
Best for: Writers who prefer simplicity over style
Reviews often compare iA Writer to Ulysses because it, too, employs Markdown for formatting. However, the interface is much simpler and more naturally integrated into your screen. This minimalist design fits perfectly with the mission of iA writer, which is “to keep you focused on just writing.”
In the upper-hand toolbar, you can still access features like dark mode (shown above) and syntax highlighting for different parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, and so on). But the purpose of iA Writer is to facilitate writing, and its setup clearly reflects that — a definite boon for distraction-prone and clutter-averse writers.
Runs on: Windows
Best for: Authors who like to break their stories into bite-sized pieces
Pivoting to the non-Apple side of things, we have yWriter, an app designed for Windows in a similar vein to Scrivener. yWriter boasts a well-organized interface that divides your story into scenes rather than chapters, which is less stressful for easily intimidated writers. This app is also great for tracking your progress, with features like a storyboard to review your narrative arc, and reports you can generate about your daily word count, the state of your draft, etc.
But perhaps the best thing about yWriter is that it’s a free writing app — astounding in light of all it provides. The only “missing” feature is story templates, which experienced writers can disregard anyway. However, we’d caution users not to disregard yWriter’s intended platform, as the Mac trial is pretty glitchy and unreliable.
Price: Free trial for 15 days, $59.99 license fee
Runs on: Mac and iOS devices
Best for: Screenwriters who are just getting started
Now let’s talk about screenplay writing apps. Though Storyist provides a solid foundation for novel writing, screenplay and stage play projects are where the app really shines. Upon creating a new project, you’ll work from a highly intuitive script template where each new line prompts you to choose action, character, dialogue, etc. This ensures proper formatting and keeps you conscious of which elements you’re using, so you don’t overdo it on dialogue or forget to transition between scenes.
You can also organize your characters, settings, and images via the sidebar tabs, which may be useful for screenwriters who like strong visuals to supplement their work. But Storyist is feature-minimal for a reason: it’s supposed to be basic and affordable for beginners, with just enough formatting flair to make you feel like an up-and-coming Hollywood darling.
7. Final Draft
Price: Free trial for 30 days, $249.99 license fee
Runs on: Mac, iOS, and Windows
Best for: Professional screenwriters who are ready to level up
Speaking of Hollywood, if you’re already such an advanced screenwriter that you’re frustrated by the limitations of “beginner” apps, Final Draft is the program for you. In addition to line-by-line formatting and other standard scriptwriting features, Final Draft offers countless options for comments, collaborations, content analysis, and more!
You can track story elements and measure your character’s traits using the inclusivity analysis feature. You can tweak your “beat board” until you find the arrangement that works perfectly for you. When you’re ready to bring in editors, you can all work simultaneously in real time. And if you want to shop your script around, Final Draft will export the file flawlessly.
The only drawback of Final Draft is the price tag — a struggling screenwriter may not have $250 to spare, no matter how stellar the software. If this sounds like you, stick to Storyist or a similar app for the time being, but keep Final Draft in mind for when you’re able to upgrade.
And what about when you’re ready to upgrade not just your tools, but your entire text? Well, that’s what this next section is for…
Writing apps for editing
All writing is rewriting, as they say. If you’re ready to take on the “rewriting” stage of your project — or if you prefer to edit as you write, either because you’re a perfectionist or you just want to save yourself the work later — these five apps will let you revise to your heart’s content.
Runs on: Web, including browser extension
Best for: Writers who want to carefully check short pieces, such as articles and emails
Grammarly is the writing world’s go-to spelling and grammar checker outside of standard word processors. Like any good editor, it underlines the errors and weak phrases in your writing — but Grammarly also goes above and beyond by providing a label and detailed reason for each correction, so you’ll actually learn from your mistakes
On top of these notes, Grammarly has a number of nuanced features to ensure your writing accomplishes exactly what you want it to do. You can “set goals” in terms of your audience, formality level, and tone (happy, confident, urgent, etc.) and analyze your text for factors like clarity, engagement, and delivery.
All this makes for a very well-rounded writing experience. However, we will say that Grammarly, with its goal-oriented interface and meticulous suggestions, is better for short-form copywriting than long-form storytelling.
So if you write a ton of emails, Grammarly could be perfect for you! But if you write books, you might benefit more from the tools to follow.
Price: Free trial with limited features, $70/year subscription
Runs on: Web, Mac, and Windows
Best for: Long-form writers hoping to hone their personal style
ProWritingAid often draws comparisons to Grammarly, but this app’s approach to editing is a bit more holistic. Though it still points out significant errors, ProWritingAid’s suggestions tend more toward enhancing the flow of your prose — for example, reducing passive voice and filler words — than nitpicking for grammatical technicalities.
You’ll also find more methods of analysis with ProWritingAid, including auto-generated stats regarding your vocabulary, sentence structure, and more. ProWritingAid will let you know which words you’re overusing, which areas are inconsistent, and how you might connect your ideas more smoothly. Overall, it’s a great tool that will undoubtedly help you polish your writing (though keep in mind that you’ll have to pay to access the full range of features).
Price: Free online, $19.99 license fee
Runs on: Web, Mac, and Windows
Best for: Authors who value crisp, clean prose above all
Both a useful tool and clever homage to one of the twentieth century’s greatest authors, Hemingway is a must-have app for writers who like to keep things short and sweet. The purely prose-based editor gives feedback on sentence length, word usage, passive voice, and adverbs — simple elements that can nonetheless make or break a piece.
The app employs different-colored highlights to help you trim the fat in each area, and also identifies the text's reading level to ensure you’re targeting the right audience. But that’s pretty much it! Just as simplicity was a trademark of Hemingway’s prose, so it is of this app’s design.
Price: Free online, $4/month for Readable Pro account
Runs on: Web (no browser extension yet)
Best for: Short-form writers who need their work to be easily digestible
Readable’s core mission is similar to Hemingway’s: to make your prose more, well, readable. But Readable has a few more bells and whistles to it, which may be helpful for writers who want really thorough textual analysis. Besides pointing out run-on sentences and other indicators of purple prose, this app collects tons of relevant statistics, from text composition to reading time. You’ll also receive scores on multiple readability scales — Flesch-Kincaid, Gunning Fog, etc.
As with ProWritingAid, you’ll have to upgrade for full access to features like keyword density and quality control. This may be worth looking into if you create content for a living, but for writers whose work doesn’t depend on SEO, the free version of Readable should serve you well.
Runs on: Web, Mac, and Windows
Best for: Writers who need fresh eyes — or rather, ears — for editing
Reading one’s work aloud is a great way to catch awkward phrasing and typos. But what if you’re already so accustomed to your own prose that, when reading to yourself, you skim right over these issues?
That’s when you can turn to NaturalReaders, the best text-to-speech reader we’ve found this side of an actual person. To use it, simply copy/paste your writing into the text box, choose a voice and reading speed, and follow along with the magnified text at the bottom. You can pause, rewind, fast-forward, and change the other settings at any time; it’s all incredibly easy and conducive to comprehension. (Just make sure you’re actually listening, not zoning out.)
We’d recommend NaturalReaders for anyone with a short piece to proofread, as it may not be practical to feed your entire book through the app. Then again, if you’ve got the time, have at it!
Writing apps for focus and organization
Buckling down and getting started is often the hardest part of the writing process. These four apps will help you cut out distractions, organize your thoughts, and regain inspiration when writer’s block rears its ugly head.
Runs on: Mac and Windows
Best for: Overstimulated writers who want to get back to basics
Thought Ulysses and Hemingway were minimalist? You ain’t seen nothing yet. FocusWriter is exactly what it says on the tin: it compels you to focus on writing and nothing else. The interface takes on the appearance of a sheet of paper, and lacking any elaborate formatting options or research notes to mess around with, you have no choice but to write.
You can still adjust the font, track your progress, and even set a timer for writing sprints using the toolbar at the top — but it safely tucks these features away from view. If in-app distractions are your kryptonite, FocusWriter might be the solution you need.
Price: Free trial for 7 sessions, $6.99/month or $30/year
Runs on: Mac, iOS, Windows, and Android
Best for: Internet-addicted writers who can admit they have a problem
Of course, even a super-basic interface can’t protect you from distractions that lurk outside that interface. That’s why you need Freedom: app- and website-blocking software to curb your Internet and social media procrastination (which, let’s be honest, is an issue for all of us).
Freedom allows you to set timed blocks, schedule blocks in advance, and even “pause” before visiting distracting sites. It certainly covers all the bases in terms of potential diversions; users can customize a list of distracting websites and desktop apps, plus connect Freedom to their phones to block distractions on there as well.
But perhaps the nicest thing about Freedom is that it feels truly freeing — between the gentle branding and the ultimately self-imposed limits, you’ll come away feeling not restricted, but relieved that you can get some writing done at last.
Price: Free basic plan, $4.99/month for premium
Runs on: Mac, iOS, Windows, and Android
Best for: Multitalented writers who want a single space to collect all their thoughts
Another one of the best free writing apps out there, Evernote takes written organization to a whole new level. With dozens of templates for everything from classroom note-taking to personal planning to structuring a novel, Evernote makes admin not only easy, but fun!
Besides abundant organizational templates — again, all for free with the basic plan — Evernote also lets you tag everything in specific categories, share your notes with collaborators, and even chat with them in-app. One of its coolest features is the Web Clipper, which you can use to save any excerpt of web content that appeals to you. More than anything, Evernote is a work-saving app designed to be adaptable and accessible for all kinds of writers and their projects.
16. Reedsy Prompts
Runs on: Web
Best for: Writers who just need a spark of an idea to get started
Okay, this one’s not exactly an app, at least not yet. But after comparing Reedsy Prompts to similar writing inspiration apps like Writing Challenge and The Brainstormer, we can honestly say it has much more to offer. For one thing, you’ll get five new prompts every single week — and not just on the Reedsy Prompts page, but sent straight to your email inbox. And if you write a short story based on one of those prompts, you could win $50 in our weekly contest!
That said, if you’re not inspired by the prompts of a particular week, you can explore the infinite possibilities of the 700+ prompts that already live on the Reedsy Prompts page. Though you’ll only be able to enter the competition with one of the five featured prompts for that week, we’re always excited to see what our users create… so if you write a story based on any of the available prompts, make sure to let us know.
At the end of the day, that’s what writing is all about: creating something wonderful and unique to share with others, whether it’s an informative article, a personal essay, or a 300-page book. Whatever your writing project, we hope these apps can be of use to you — and indeed, of service to everyone who gets to enjoy your work.