Writer Tools for Success: Apps and Software
To be a freelance writer, it’s often said that all you need is a computer and an internet connection. While that’s technically true, I find that the true key to success lies in what’s on the computer.
Certain software programs can be a big help to your career. In this part of our series, we discuss some of the best software out and apps there for writers.
Word Processing Software
It’s only natural to start by discussing some of your options for word processing. After all, this is the tool that you’ll spend most of your time using. Microsoft Word is a good ol’ standby. Since it usually comes on every computer and it’s prevalent in offices around the globe, most people are familiar with how to use it. Unfortunately, it’s no longer free (though you might get a free trial), so it may be time to kick it to the curb.
Instead, Google Docs is completely free, and it offers a lot of the same functionality. Since it connects with your Google account, you can easily access your documents from other computers. If there’s a feature you miss, such as Word’s on-screen word count, you can usually install an add-on to get that feature back. If you’re offline, it will save your work until you can back online, but you may not be able to access all of your documents.
Of course, there are other options. OpenOffice is free and downloadable, making it easier to work without an internet connection. On the other hand, WordGraph might be the right choice for you if the services you provide include formatting and making things look “pretty.” It can also easily convert your documents to PDFs.
Speech to Text
How many times have you been frustrated by the way your hands are tied throughout the day? All of the time that you’re rocking a sick baby, driving a kid to gymnastics, or running errands around town starts feeling like a wasted opportunity.
Speech to text software programs might be the solution you’re looking for.
It takes a bit of time to get used to speaking clearly and verbally dictating punctuation marks, but once you get the hang of it, being able to speak your words instead of typing can be a big bonus. In fact, many writers find that they prefer this method.
Try it out with a free program, like Apple Dictation, Gboard, or Dictation.io. If you’re ready to get serious about dictation, then you’ll want to consider the Dragon suite of products. There are even industry-specific versions of the software. It can be pricey, but the programs generally make far fewer mistakes than you get with the free programs. This saves you time in the long run.
Text to Speech
On the flip side, programs that will read your text to you can help you catch grammar and spelling errors. Often, when we’re editing our own work, we miss the mistakes because our brains know what we want to say. Hearing the mistakes read aloud, though, sounds jarring. They’ll stand out and be easy to find.
Many programs like the TTSReader require you to copy your text onto their website to read out loud. Alternatively, programs like Speechify can act as a plugin to your browser, and they’ll read the text on your screen. These work well if you’re working in an online word processing program.
I’ve mentioned Grammarly in some of the other posts, so I won’t go into too many details here. However, Grammarly is a really fantastic tool. There’s a free version that will highlight some of the most common grammar mistakes, including passive voice. If you’re willing to pay, you will get even more input on how to clean up your writing.
The plugin offers instant feedback on everything you want — even things like your personal Facebook posts, where you don’t really need someone to tell you that you’ve written a sentence fragment. Still, we could all use the backup warning of a possible your/you’re typo.
Many Serious Writers enjoy Scrivener, which offers an all-in-one organization and word processing program. You start by creating notecards for your ideas — it looks like a traditional bulletin board — and then write using the ideas on the notecards. This arrangement allows you to easily move sections around.
Scrivener works best for those working on large projects, like books, white papers, and multi-page reports, but sometimes writers use it for things like organizing blog post ideas. Check it out to see if it’s for you. Note that it sometimes goes on sale, and you might be able to get a better deal. I got mine half-price when AppSumo was running a special.
Mind Mapping Software
A simple outline is probably all you need to get started writing a 1,000 word blog post, but those who are working on extensive projects, like a full website re-write or a series of marketing newsletters, could probably benefit from a good mind mapping tool. Laying things out visually is a great way to stay organized and generate ideas.
It’s totally normal to keep trudging on using the tools you usually use, but you might be surprised to find that there are better things out there. Just trying a few of these suggestions could significantly improve your productivity or skills. Check them out!
Shannon T has been writing professionally for over 10 years. In addition to the thousands of articles, blog posts, and web pages she’s ghostwritten, she has bylined work that’s been published on sites like Headspace.com, ModernMom.com, Chron.com, and Fool.com (The Motley Fool).