Product Comparison

Top 7 Best Writing Apps in 2020: I paid & tested. The winner is...

Daniel Midson-Short
February 22, 2019

Writers, I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say:

MS Word is not for us. Period.

A word processor might be OK for a high school project. Maybe

But for writing a novel or series of blog posts or freelancing for multiple clients?

No way. There are much better apps and software out there for that.

A writing software should be something that makes the whole writing process easier, providing you with an interruption-free environment, and even helping you organize sections sequentially.

And a word processor like Microsoft Word is none of those things.

  • Are you looking for book writing apps to improve your writing?
  • Do you have tons of writing projects that need formatting options?
  • What are the best apps for writing available today? 
  • What’s the best text editor or book writing software for novelists?

That’s what we’re going to answer in this post. We purchased, trialed, and tested each of these writing apps. We downloaded the desktop app, we experimented with apps for Android, and we’ve boiled it all down to this top seven list.

So what are the best writing apps out there? Let’s dive in.

Accuracy
62%, 73%, 52% accuracy scores
Final Draft
Ulysses
iA Writer
Database
12+ writing templates
Final Draft
More than 300 writing templates
Ulysses
iA Writer
Price
$45.00/one-time payment
$240/license
$30.00/month
$24.95/one-time fee
Final Draft
$249.00/one-time fee
Ulysses
$4.99/month
iA Writer
$19.99/license

The 7 Best Writing Software Options (2020 Review)

First, we wanted to see how each writing tool organized your content, and if it was easy to use. Then, we wanted to make sure you had full ‘versioning’ or revision history so you’d never risk losing any of your work.

Next, we looked for distraction-free writing environments, if you could collaborate with others, and finally, how to export the work into other popular formats.

1. Scrivener – Best All-Around Writing App

Scrivener's homepage.

Scrivener is the top of our best writing apps list because it’s the most well-rounded.

It’s got a little bit of everything, so it’s perfect for writing anything from papers to blog posts to full-length novels. So it’s the perfect tool for almost all writers.

Here are some of the biggest pros we uncovered.

Scrivener Pros

#1. Scrivener features a drag-and-drop tool to organize (or re-organize) sections of writing within a much bigger project (think book or screenplay).

So it’s one of the best for organizing large volumes of content.

#2. It also comes fully-loaded with over a dozen prewritten ‘templates’ for everything from poetry to short stories, blog posts, and more.  This way, you aren’t forced to write from scratch.

#3. Scrivener also comes with a “full screen” mode that will take over your entire screen and allow you to zero-in on writing (without getting distracted by other tools, options, or notifications).

Scrivener's “full screen” mode

#4. Scrivener also comes with  “SnapShot” feature to help you jump back through older versions of a document or back to the latest version you were working on.

The Snapshot feature

#5. You can export almost any format with Scrivener, including Word, OpenOffice / LibreOffice writer documents, Final Draft, PDF, txt, or RTF. You can even select EPUB files for Kindles.

Scrivener export feature

#6. You can use Scrivener on both Mac and Windows devices, or iOS. There’s also no limit to the number of devices you register.

Scrivener device compatibility

Unfortunately, there is no Android option at this time. 

#7. Scapple, a paid companion to Scrivener, is like a brainstorming or storyboard tool to quickly jot down related ideas or concepts. It’s one of the best visual brainstorming tools we saw out of all the writing apps reviewed.

Scapple feature

Scrivener Cons

#1. Scrivener is perfect for writing by yourself. Otherwise, there are no real collaboration features to speak of. So getting feedback or working with others on edits could prove challenging.

If that’s a deal breaker, check out these other Scrivener alternatives.

#2. Unfortunately, Scrivener doesn’t support Android at this time.

Scrivener Pricing Plans

Scrivener has one-off prices of $49 for either a Mac or a Windows license. The iOS version will set you back $19.99.

Scrivener plans

The Mac and Windows versions also feature a 30-day trial for you to test drive the service before prepaying.

Students and teachers get a price break, bringing the cost down to $41.65 for each. (The iOS and Bundle packs don’t offer student discounts.)

Do I recommend Scrivener?

Yes, definitely!

Scrivener has something for everyone. The interface is great, it’s easy to organize chapters or sections, and it comes with a distraction-free environment.

Scrivener allows you to export your work to almost any format imaginable. Plus, the pricing is completely fair for what you’re getting. Just a tiny bit more than a word processor, but way more features to place it at the top of our best writing apps list.

Check Out Scrivener →

Read the full review

Scrivener Ranked #1 Best Writing App

$45 one-time payment
  • 12+ writing templates
  • Distraction-free writing
  • Version history
  • Export: Word, PDF, Final Draft, EPUB, and more
  • Available on Windows, Mac, and iOS
  • No collaboration features
  • No Android app

2. ProWritingAid – Best Style Coach for General Writers

ProWritingAid's homepage

This one might come off as a little surprise. ProWritingAid is billed as more of a grammar tool than a writing app. However, when you start looking around, you’ll discover that it’s actually much, much more. They have a few brilliant features that can act like a built-in writing coach. And its functional approach makes it perfect for non-fiction writers who won’t always need all the extra bells and whistles.

Check it out.

ProWritingAid Pros

#1. ProWritingAid has tool integrations on top of integrations on top of more integrations. In English, that means you can hook it up to pretty much any device or browser you use. Hell — it will even integrate with other writing software like #1 on our list (Scrivener), Google Docs, or Open Office.

#2. It’s true that ProWritingAid will catch all of your grammar and spelling issues. It’s one of the best grammar checkers based on our hands-on tests (ranked right after Grammarly — read our full Grammarly Review here).

But what you don’t probably know is that ProWritingAid will also give you feedback on style, the structure of your piece, and even readability. So all writers can benefit from the extra style advice.

ProWritingAid real-time feedback

In other words, it will give you feedback in real-time to help you spot those annoying little bad habits. Such as…

#3. ProWritingAid’s excellent software reporting will flag common writing issues like an over-reliance on adverbs, repeating phrases or words, and using passive voice.

Sample writing style report from ProWritingAid.

ProWritingAid Cons

#1. ProWritingAid’s editing tool is tailor-made for working on single pieces at a time. There’s no real organization or formatting system for sub-pages or chapters. And there is also no distraction-free writing option, either.

#2. Unfortunately, ProWritingAid only works on English (of all shapes and sizes). It doesn’t play nice with other foreign languages.

ProWritingAid Costs, Plans, & Payment Options

ProWritingAid’s annual pricing is $50 bucks, with a one-time lifetime option for $175.

ProWritingAid plans

Do I recommend ProWritingAid?

Yes, I do, depending on how you’re going to use the tool.

Working on single essays or blog posts? This will definitely do the trick.

But if you need a more fully-featured book organization, you might want to head back up to Scrivener.

Check Out ProWritingAid →

Read the full review

ProWritingAid Best Budget/Best Value

$240 Lifetime License
  • 62%, 73%, 52% accuracy scores
  • Millions in the database
  • Scrivener compatible
  • Plagiarism support included
  • $4.16/ month (best value)
  • Only English
  • 24+ hour support response
  • Inaccurate plagiarism checker

3. AutoCrit – Best Fiction-Specific App for Book Writing

AutoCrit is a fiction writing app that helps you spot issues with word choice, repetitive phrasing, and more. That makes it perfect for book writing and novelists.

This software goes beyond the basics of just a readability analysis and a spell checker. So it’s got a little bit for everyone.

Here are all the pros and cons.

AutoCrit Pros

#1. Get real-time feedback on writing quality & style.

The“Summary Report” inside AutoCrit will give you instant feedback on the ‘quality’ of your writing — starting with pacing, word choice, and more while ending with readability scores you might also find elsewhere.

Sample Autocrit summary score

#2. Genre-specific feedback for your writing.

Generic feedback doesn’t help you very much.

That’s why AutoCrit goes to painstaking efforts to provide tailored suggestions and benchmarks based on the type of writing you’re doing. For example, the ‘acceptable threshold’ of adverbs might be different for general fiction book writers vs. B2B, nonfiction stuff.

Sample genre comparison analysis from Autocrit.

You can even go deeper, comparing your writing to individual, bestselling authors (like J.K. Rowling):

#3. AutoCrit excels at picking up your bad habits, like repeated words or phrasing, and preparing suggested alternatives to swap out.

Autocrit can detect repeated words.

#4. Get chapter-by-chapter editing suggestions to tackle big projects.

Adding “Chapter” headers in your draft will automatically create a hierarchy inside AutoCrit, which then allows you to quickly jump through the tool to edit one chapter after another.

Autocrit can analyze chapter by chapter.

#5. Export your suggested feedback in both Word, Rich Text, and Text files.

You can export all of the recommended edits into different desktop-based formats to work later offline or send your book to a peer.

Autocrit's export file options

#6. Shine a spotlight on momentum-interrupting sentences.

AutoCrit might be the only writing tool to analyze your wording and flag pacing or momentum issues that could serve as speed bumps to readers.

Autocrit can also detect pacing and momentum.

#7. You’ll also find the same-old readability analysis and other basic editing features in tools like ProWritingAid.

Sample readability statistics from Autocrit.

#8. The “Unnecessary Filler Words” report inside AutoCrit should be required reading for every single writer on the face of the planet. It’ll help you find and fix all of those unnecessary words to make your prose as concise as possible.

Autocrit flags unnecessary filler words.

AutoCrit Cons

#1. AutoCrit exports to software like Microsoft Word don’t always place nice. For instance, feast your eyes on these extra spaces:

Autocrit tends to change formatting.
Autocrit tends to change formatting.

#2. Unfortunately, while AutoCrit does include a grammar checker, it ain’t that great.

So you probably can’t ditch a separate tool like Grammarly Premium — you’ll probably need to use them in tandem. (Or, go for something like ProWritingAid that provides better grammar checking with some, but not all, of the writing style feedback.)

#3. AutoCrit only supports English at this time. No foreign languages.

Do I recommend AutoCrit?

Yes! Depending on what you’re looking for…

If you want a writing tool that provides feedback and flags issues that almost all writers make, this software is probably your best bet for book writing.

But if you’re looking for an all-in-one writing tool or something with distraction-free writing? This isn’t the best bet.

Check Out AutoCrit →

Read the full review

AutoCrit

$30.00 Monthly
  • In-depth writing analysis
  • Chapter-by-chapter editing
  • Pacing and momentum reports
  • Readability analysis
  • Grammar checker isn’t the best
  • No mobile app
  • Only supports English

4. Write! App – Best Distraction Free Writing App with Cloud Sync

Write! App is like a slimmed-down version of Scrivener.

It has a beautiful interface, awesome distraction-free writing, while also stripping away a lot of the ‘extra’ tool functionality that might get in your way if you usually work on single documents at a time.

Here are the best (and worst) aspects of the tool.

Write! App Pros

#1. Two distraction-free writing options. (Better than any old word processor.)

Write! App centers everything around its distraction-free writing. You can either use “Full-Screen Mode” which blocks out everything except your outline and document interface:

Or, you can use the “Focus Mode” that de-emphasizes everything else on your screen except the sentence or paragraph that you’re currently working on.

If you want you can tag-team both the attributes for better writing as well as editing experience.

#2. Cloud synchronization

Nothing is more infuriating than saving a Word Doc on your work computer… only to need it later on your home device.

Write! App's Cloud Sync feature

Write! App provides its own built-in cloud sync, so you can get access to the same shared library from any device you use.

Best of all, there are zero limits on the numbers of files you can save. The only downside is that the price jumps a little with this extra cloud sync feature ($4.95/year).

#3. Built-in collaboration features

One of the biggest downsides with Scrivener is that there are no collaboration features available.

Write! App, on the other hand, allows you to publish documents to the interwebs and get a shareable link. Pretty handy!

#4. Multilingual options (35 languages)

Write! App will spell check as you write in up to different 35 languages.

Write! App's Spell Check feature.

#5. You can also take fast, simple notes. So it’s perfect for simple to-do lists and other ideas that pop up throughout the day.

Write! App isn’t just for long, detailed writing. It can also be used for note-taking, with a few built-in keyboard shortcuts to instantly add bulleted lists or indentations.

Write! App's note-taking feature

(Image Source)

Write! App Cons

#1. Only desktop apps available

Write! App doesn’t currently support any mobile devices. So their software is only available on a Windows, Mac, or Linux device.

#2. Export options are limited

Write! App doesn’t have the export options that something like Scrivener has. You can export documents into PDF, Plain Text, or Markdown. But that leaves out a ton of other options, like Word, EPUB, or Final Draft.

#3. No version history

Write! App syncs the document you’re working on to always save the latest version. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that there’s no real way to travel back in time to older versions of your document.

#4. No free trial available, either

Write! App isn’t super expensive (more on that below), however, no free trial is available. So you’re either in or out.

Thankfully, there is a seven-day money-back guarantee.

Write! App Pricing Plans

Write! App has a single price of only $24.95 – not bad! Students can even save up to 60%, bringing the cost down to only $9.95.

Write! App comes in only one plan.

If you’re using their cloud sync, you might have some ongoing costs of $4.95/year.

They also accept anything from debit to credit, Amazon Pay, PayPal or even wire transfers. They also accept anything from debit to credit, Amazon Pay, PayPal or even wire transfers.

Sample payment confirmation from Write! App.

Do I recommend Write! App?

Yes, 100%.

Write! App offers an ideal minimal writing experience.

That means not one, but two, distraction-free writing options. The latest versions of your document are automatically saved to the cloud. And some lightweight organization make it easy to quickly build out simple chapters or sections of a project.

There are no mobile options, though. And export options are limited.

But the price is among the best, so it’s highly recommended if you don’t need a lot of extra bells and whistles.

Check Out Write! App →

Or read the full review

Write! App Best Budget

$24.95 one-time fee
  • Two distraction-free modes
  • Mac, Windows, Linux
  • Cloud-sync
  • Fast, easy organization
  • Multilingual spell check (35)
  • Auto-complete
  • Document statistics
  • Publishable URL
  • Lifetime access
  • No free trial or version
  • No revision history
  • No mobile or web editor

5. Final Draft – Best Screenwriting App By a Distance

Final Draft homepage

Final Draft is the screenwriting software of choice. It’s squarely aimed at television and film industry professionals. Which is also why it’s one of the most expensive writing apps out there.

But does it justify its high price and cater to the needs of other writers? Let’s find out.

Final Draft Pros

#1. Final Draft comes fully-loaded with over 300 different templates! That’s by far the most out of any other apps for writers we’ve reviewed, making it deal for writing a book, play, or episode.

Sample templates from Final Draft

#2. I also loved their “Beat Board” that works like a corkboard to dump different ideas and organize them to eventually build out storyboards or plot lines.

Final Draft's Beatboard feature

#3. Final Draft is also one of the best writing apps for real-time collaboration, no matter where those other people are located.

Final Draft also allows you to collaborate.

#4. You can lock older versions of documents to save and retrieve them at any point in time. So you can collaborate but not risk someone accidentally typing over your latest work.

#5. Scripts can also be exported into a variety of different formats, including .fdx, RTF, PDF, or HTML.

However, there are no .docx or EPUB export options available.

#6. Final Draft works on Mac, Windows, and iOS devices. No Android software support at this time.

Keep in mind that you’re only allowed to install it on two devices under each license. But on mobile, you can combine it with something like the Grammarly Keyboard to get real-time editing as you type.

#7. Final Draft has excellent backup options that will run automatically behind the scenes.

Final Draft's backup feature

Final Draft Cons

#1. Final Draft doesn’t really offer a true distraction-free writing tool like Scrivener or Write! App.

Their site mentions a “Night Mode,” but their support team kinda threw cold water on this as a viable alternative:

Final Draft's customer support

#2. I tried contacting Final Draft’s email support with a few simple questions, but it has taken days for them to respond.

#3. Final Draft is a serious writing app for professional writers.

In short, that means it’s expensive. Like, really really really expensive software. The $249 price tag is nearly ten times the price of Write! App.

Final Draft Pricing Plans

A new license of Final Draft 11 will set you back $249 for either a Mac or Windows version.

If you’re upgrading from an old version, it’ll be $99, while teachers and students can get the new version for only $129.99.

These Mac and Windows options come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Final Draft for Mac and Windows plans

Do I recommend Final Draft?

I do and I don’t.

If you’re screenwriting professionally and money isn’t a concern, go for it. It’s the industry standard for a reason. Book authors will also find some of the features handy.

However, for pretty much all other writers, it’s probably overkill and too expensive.

Check Out Final Draft

Read the full review

Final Draft

$249 one-time fee
  • Offers a broad range of templates
  • “Beat Board” feature
  • Collaboration tool
  • Revision mode
  • You can export your scripts
  • No device limitation
  • Automatic Backup
  • No way to clog up online interruptions
  • Needs better email support

6. Ulysses App – Best Mac Writing App (for Mac OS and iOS Only)

Ulysses" homepage

Ulysses is a Mac-focused writing tool available in the Mac OS and iOS app store.

It also automatically syncs files to Apple’s iCloud, so it’s heavily embedded in this entire ecosystem.

If you’re in the Mac-obsessed writers crowd, this app is ideal.

Ulysses App Pros

#1. Ulysses has a single Library that houses all of your documents. No complex hierarchy or folder system to worry about.

#2. Ulysses also has full version history, meaning it’ll save old revisions of past work so you can jump around and pull from older stuff if needed.

Ulysses has a full version history option to pull up older content.

#3. Inside Ulysses, you can strip away all extra menu or buttons options to write completely distraction-free.

#4. You can also export Ulysses documents into almost anything, including Rich Text, Plain Text, PDF, HTML, Markdown, DOCX, or EPub.

The best part, though, is that you can also publish directly to WordPress (to take advantage of WordPress plugins) or Medium.

#5. There’s no direct collaboration feature. You can, however, save the document files to iCloud or Dropbox and then use something like Dropbox Paper or Zoho Writer.

#6 Ulysses’ customer service was probably the best we saw.

They first responded within 24 hours or so, and then all subsequent follow-ups were within minutes. Each response was friendly and thorough, too.

Sample response from customer support.

Ulysses App Cons

#1. Ulysses does not come with pre-made templates. You can create your own, but it’s nothing like Final Draft’s 300+ samples to get you started. It might also be tough to organize a huge project like a book, too.

#2. Ulysses is great for Mac users, but it’s not available for other users. So no Windows or Linux. No writing apps for Android at this time, either. So only a sliver of the market will be able to use it at all.

Ulysses App Pricing Plans

Ulysses uses a subscription model of $4.99/month or $39.99/year if you pay annually (which breaks down to $3.33/month). So the price could add up over the course of a few years.

They do also have a 14-day free trial so you can try out their software for nothing.

Ulysses' pricing and plans

Students and teachers are also in luck with some pretty hefty discounts on six-month plans (only $1.83/month).

Ulysses plans offered to students

Do I recommend Ulysses App?

Yes and no.

Mac writers will love that this tool works across all of their devices and works natively with other Apple products like iCloud.

I also loved that you could send files directly to WordPress or Medium.

However, not being available across Windows or Android devices cuts out a large segment of potential customers. There are no pre-designed templates. The organization is a little lacking for a book or novel. And the subscription model can get pricey if you use it over the course of a few years.

Check Out Ulysses

Read the full review

Ulysses

$4.99 Monthly
  • Stores writing in one place
  • Keep older versions of images
  • Distraction-free interface
  • Exporting options
  • Add third-party apps
  • The best Customer Service
  • No pre-designed template
  • Only available in MacOS and iOS
  • Works only with sheets
  • Citation Machine Cost

7. iA Writer – Best Bare Bones, Desktop Word Processor

iA Writer's homepage

iA Writer is another simple writing app that prides itself on minimizing distractions so you can focus on what’s most important: putting words on a page.

It’s by far one of the easiest apps we’ve used. But does it deliver enough power to make it worth it? Here’s the answer… 

iA Writer Pros

#1. iA Writer has a squeaky-clean interface. Your options outside of actually writing are pretty limited, so distractions shouldn’t be a problem.

iA Writer's distraction-free writing interface

#2. iA Writer is also available across a wide variety of apps, including Mac, Windows, Android, iPhone, and iPad.

iA Wrtier's device compatibility.

#3. Their “Focus Mode” allows you to have either the current paragraph or sentence highlighted, while everything else fades in the background. This keeps you laser-focused on just one section at a time.

iA Writer has a focus mode.

#4. iA Writer also has pre-loaded templates to help jump start your work. Or, you can create and save your own.

iA Writer sample template

#5. iA Writer seamlessly integrates with both iCloud and Dropbox.

#6 You can also publish directly from iA Writer to WordPress and Medium or as an HTML page.

iA Writer Cons

#1. Unfortunately, the only two export options you get (outside of WordPress or Dropbox) are PDF and DOCX. So no EPUB or Final Draft options.

#2. iA Writer also isn’t great for quick brainstorming or storyboarding or anything like that. You’re basically just writing notes on a blank page, without any real way to visualize connections between the information.

#3. There is no live chat support from iA Writer. I tried submitting an email request, but that also took them days to respond. So hopefully you don’t run into any urgent issues when using them.

iA Writer Pricing Plans

iA Writer has an Android version that’s always free, while the iOS option is $8.99.

The Mac license is $28.99, while the Windows license is less expensive at $19.99. Both versions offer a 30-day trial.

iA Writer plans and prices

Do I recommend iA Writer?

Yes and no. iA Writer is a good, simple writing app.

It’s fine for jotting notes or working on quick, one-off pieces of content (like blog posts) that you’re going to publish directly to WordPress or Medium.

However, outside of that, it’s a pretty limited tool. You can’t really organize larger projects. It also lacks some key features and export options that don’t make it a well-rounded writing app like Scrivener or even Write! App.

Check Out iA Writer →

Read the full review

iA Writer

$19.99 per license
  • Clean interface
  • Compatible with all operating platforms
  • “Focus Mode” feature
  • Pre-designed templates
  • Integrate with iCloud and Dropbox
  • Publish draft directly to WordPress and Medium
  • Preview your content as HTML page
  • Only 2 exporting options – PDF and Docx
  • No way to quickly write rough ideas
  • No online chat support, only email

And the Best Apps for Writers are…

Writing is one of those activities an average adult does every day.

Whether it’s writing stories, blog posts, letters, social media posts or as simple as writing an email to your boss.

And a writing software makes this whole process of jotting down words easier and brings more fun. Ditch Microsoft Word once and for all to write better, faster, longer.

After analyzing all the seven apps, I found Scrivener to be the overall tool champ. It’s an all-around typing app any writer can use. On top of that, its price is also well under budget.

ProWritingAid is also good for simple projects, giving you the one-two punch of writing coach + part-time editor.

Write! App is a nice happy medium between Scrivener and more robust options like Final Draft. It provides a little of both, but for a fraction of the price.

Final Draft would be an excellent pick for professional screenwriters and novelists. Though it’s a bit pricey compared to the other tools, the features cover the cost.

Other options, like Ulysses or iA Writer, are good in one area or another. But they usually lack a few key features or options to really make them a strong all-around software option.