Writing Apps: What Works

When I downloaded Scrivener to evaluate, I also downloaded a bunch of apps directed at writers who want to organize their work. Before deciding that Scrivener is my favorite, I compared these apps with other solutions I’d been using (Google Docs and Dropbox). Just in case it’s helpful for anyone, here is the gist of my comparison, based on the criteria I’d created for what I want in the perfect writing app.

Google Docs is great for accessing your work from any location, but I feel it falls short in the organizing and planning domains. Dropbox can be used to pass your work back and forth, but is very limited when it comes to actually doing any work. These are definitely functional as I’ve been using them, but they don’t do everything I want to do. While I can get other apps to do those things, it’s so much easier if it’s all connected and in one place.

Werdsmith is very basic. It’s a text editor wrapped in an iOS app. But it’s cheap, so if you like to work on your iPad, it could work. It doesn’t have any additional features at all, though. Everywriter has a lovely interface and many of the features I was looking for (I particularly love the tree view with movable nodes), but not all of them. It also has a recurring cost, but it’s only $15 a year.

Scrivener has the highest cost, but it also has the most features that fit what I’m looking for as well as features I didn’t know I needed until I found them. The same company has also now made a desktop app called Scapple that creates a brainstorming cloud and lets you drop notes directly into Scrivener.  For me, it’s worth the cost because I’m definitely using it.

If you have any other apps that you think may be worth looking at, please let me know! And I’d love to hear about your workflow and how you organize your thoughts.

Requirement Scrivener Everywriter Werdsmith Google Docs Dropbox
I work on several projects at a time. I need a way to store all of these projects simultaneously. PASS: No limit on the number of projects PASS:

Basic – Limited to 2

Pro – Unlimited

PASS:

Basic – Limited, but it doesn’t say how many

Pro – Unlimited

PASS: Unlimited PASS: Unlimited
I do a lot of research. I need a way to store the results of that research in an organizable way. PASS: Research has a separate area and is organized with nesting files PASS: Organize within the book or as a separate book FAIL: Create separate documents for research, but no real organization FAIL: Create separate documents for research and keep in nested folders, but they are not connected logically FAIL: Create separate documents for research and keep in nested folders, but they are not connected logically
I want an app that formats my references properly. FAIL – Though it does format your manuscript or eBook. There may be a way with variables and meta-data, but its not inherent. FAIL FAIL FAIL FAIL
I need to be able to do my writing directly in the app. PASS PASS PASS PASS PASS
I need an app that lets me store my work in sections that can be reorganized as I work. PASS: Freely reorganize; Unlimited nesting PASS: Switch to tree mode and drag and drop; Nesting limited to Book > Chapter > Section FAIL: There’s always cut and paste… FAIL: There’s always cut and paste… FAIL: There’s always cut and paste…
I need to be able to nest sections visibly within folders or a file tree. PASS: Organize in a folder tree or in a corkboard view PASS: Organize in tree view FAIL FAIL FAIL
I want a storyboard on which I can arrange my work visually. PASS: Corkboard/ storyboard mode; drag and drop to arrange. Also integrates with the Scapple app for $14.99 PASS: Very cool tree view; drag and drop freely FAIL FAIL FAIL
I need to be able to create outlines. PASS: Use the outliner view. You can also add the Scapple app for $14.99 PASS: The tree view functions beautifully as an outline PARTIAL: Yes, but not as dynamic as desired PARTIAL: Yes, but not as dynamic as desired PARTIAL: Yes, but not as dynamic as desired
I need a place to store my ideas and any notes I have for them for later perusal. PASS: Create another project as an ideas folder PASS: Create another project as an ideas folder PASS: Is separated into ideas and projects PASS: In normal text files kept in a folder PASS: In normal text files kept in a folder
I want to be able to create a timeline from various sections or research notes. PARTIAL: Can create one using the folder structure, but it’s not separate from the book outline PARTIAL: Can create one using the tree view, but it’s not separate from the book outline FAIL FAIL FAIL
I need to be able to access my work on multiple devices without having to email or without having to transfer it. It’s important not to store it in multiple places. This means Windows and iOS. FAIL: Syncs with Dropbox, but you do have to actively sync; available for Windows, Mac, and iOS FAIL: Syncs via Dropbox or the Everywriter cloud; Required Pro version; Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Windows phone FAIL: You can export data via email; iOS only PASS: Any changes in Google Docs are updated automatically for access from any device PARTIAL: If you edit in Dropbox, those edits are available anywhere. If you download, which I usually do, you have to manually re-upload every time; any platform
I need a way to get my work into standard formats. PASS: Exports to Word and .pdf, as well as some ebook formats PASS: Exports to Word and .pdf, as well as some ebook formats and .txt PARTIAL: Have to export via email and deal with it from there PASS: Exports to Word and .pdf PARTIAL: If you save a Word file, you get a Word file. It doesn’t convert anything, though
I need this solution to be inexpensive. Free is even better. FAIL: $20 for iOS, $40 for Windows. $14.99 for optional Scapple app PASS:

Free for basic;

$14.99/year for pro

PASS: Free for basic; $2.99 for pro PASS: Free PASS: Free
Interface and Usability A little 2000s Windows, but pretty intuitive Very pretty, but it took me a little time to figure out how to drag and drop nodes on the tree view Nicely minimalist, but then, there isn’t much to clutter it up Pretty standard browser interface, works just like products you’re used to Looks good, not difficult to use
Privacy and Intellectual Property Protection Data is stored on your devices and in your Dropbox account only Data is stored on your devices and Dropbox, or via Everywhere’s cloud. The app encourages social media-style sharing, but you are not required to share your work. Data is stored only on your device. Data is stored in Google’s cloud, accessed by your Google account password Data is stored in Dropbox’s servers, accessed by your Dropbox account password
Extras Share your work and read work by others Set alarms to remind you to write
Link Scrivener site Everywriter site Werdsmith site docs.google.com Dropbox

 

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