Unless you’re the fastidious type of person who jots down all their prose by hand with paper and ink, or the pretentious, artsy type of person who owns a vintage typewriter and uses it regularly (guilty as charged!), then it’s probably been awhile since you’ve thought about just how easy the modern computer has made it for you to type up, format, and share your writing with others, even if you aren’t trying to publish it! In fact, most of my friends who’ve all grown up with word processing programs often complain that they have a hard time organizing their thoughts when they aren’t typing them out on a laptop.
However, as ubiquitous as writing on a computer has become, when you’re looking for something specific for your particular writing process, it’s still tough to find a program that will do just the trick. Here’s a few that we love in no particular order — some have better services while others have better prices, but it’s worth shopping around until you find the one that’s perfect for you! (And if these don’t suit your fancy, we’ll have some other options to tell you about next week)
Microsoft Word is pretty much the standard in the traditional business world, and for good reason – it’s fairly easy to use, compatible across a wide range of platforms (there’s even an iphone app currently in the works!), and great customer service. One of the best features on Word is “track changes,” which shows you all the revisions made in a particular document. All in all it’s a great program, albeit a little expensive (though some stores will pre-install it on your PC or Mac and include that in their selling price). Still, a lot of computer users already have a lot of experience with this program, so you might want to try this out first.
Cost: Anywhere from $70 to $350, depending on where you go. We recommend the student version, which goes for $119 on the Microsoft website and offers Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Onenote.
If getting Word’s not going to be very friendly on your wallet, then this totally free program by Apache that uses open-source software to do all the same things that Microsoft does — you can create and edit documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and so much more. I’ve encountered some small bugs in transferring documents from OpenOffice to Microsoft Office, so it’s obviously not a perfect system, but you can’t beat that price!
3. Google Drive
Another free to use Microsoft-esque processor, this system operates totally in “the cloud” (which is just a fancy way of saying that it lives in the internet) and can by synced up with your Google Account, so you can access your files anywhere. If the thought of your writing floating around the web makes you a wee bit uncomfortable, though, you can also download the files to your hard drive, and Google is attempting to put together a dropbox-like system where you can use their program to access files already on your computer. Neat, huh?
4. iWork Pages
While it might not be the most sophisticated or “professional” of word processors, Mac users will love this simple, intuitive application that seamlessly blends designing with writing. It’s incredibly easy to use, and there are a number of great apps for your iphone, ipad, and any other Apple product you could possibly want to write with – and you can use outlines to organize your work neatly. The best thing is, it’s got such an easy learning curve! Definitely a great find for Macbook enthusiasts everywhere.
This is my personal favorite, and it’s especially great for novelists, researchers, and people who are working with a large amount of text that they want to be able to easily sift through — I even use it to archive all the BookWorks blog articles that I write! With Scrivener you can create different color-coded folders for all your scenes and chapters; it also gives you an easy place to put relevant research and offers different templates for screenplays, character sketches, outline, and so much more. It even autosaves for you! The learning curve on this one is a little bit steeper just because there’s so many great organizational tools, but the tutorial is very thorough so
Cost: $45 after a 30 day free trial
This week the focus was on basic processing, but what if you’ve got writer’s block? Next week we’ll have some more writing apps and programs for you that are based on getting you moving and being productive, so be sure to check back next Monday!