When I mention writing software or tools, what comes to mind?
Most people think of Microsoft Word. It’s like the Kleenex or Band-Aid of word processor software.
But there are a ton of other writing apps out there, and they’re not just carbon copies of Word with a different logo in the top-left corner.
They’re not even all word processors.
There are writing tools that can improve your grammar, increase your productivity, and keep you organized.
Keep reading for the top writing apps to give your entire writing process a tech boost — without spending a penny. We’ll cover:
- The best free word processors
- Free tools to improve the quality of your writing
- Software that can keep your writing process organized and productive
Get writing: The best free word processors
Here are some great alternatives to Microsoft Words for your word processing needs.
Google Docs has become the norm for my office. As a word processor, it’s not quite as robust as Microsoft Word, but it has all the basic functionality. Plus, Google Docs’s track changes and editing features are more intuitive than Word’s.
The entire G Suite offers a ton of document sharing and collaboration features. You can track comments and suggestions within a document, give different levels of access to different people, and much more.
Google Docs is a great free tool for writing and collaborating with teammates. Everything is saved through Google’s cloud services, so you can access (and edit) your documents from anywhere. All you need to get started is a Gmail account.
OpenOffice Writer is developed by Apache and has been around for quite a while now. Apache is essentially the open-source version of Microsoft Office. In addition to Writer, they have a spreadsheet tool similar to Excel, an alternative to PowerPoint, and more.
OpenOffice Writer is probably as close to Word as you can get without using Word. It has tons of style and formatting options, spellcheck, and even autocomplete. One of the best things about OpenOffice is that it can read .doc and .docx formats, so you import Word docs to OpenOffice. This is not something you get from every free word processor.
Not your typical word processor, Airstory’s creators decided to improve on the concept of word processing. This free tool has tons of simple-yet-brilliant features.
Airstory enables you to do things like keep your notes open in the window you’re using to write, so you can stay organized at all times. They also have versioning that makes it easy to view previous revisions. Writing is often iterative, and this feature sure makes iterating easier.
Airstory also has no shortage of integrations, so you can use it with other marketing and writing software in your tech stack.
Sometimes, software with all the bells and whistles can be a good thing. When writing, bells and whistles can be distracting. Writemonkey strips all the bells and whistles away so you can focus on your writing in a minimalist setting.
The program features a full-screen, distraction-free writing mode that helps you focus. The tool is customizable, so if complete emptiness isn’t what you’re looking for, you can add a toolbar with:
- The file name
- A progress bar
- The time
- And more!
Writemonkey also comes with features like a writing timer, bookmarks, and even some “hidden features” for Writemonkey donors. Two of them include “flow mode” and “tweet from Writemonkey.”
Does your work require long-form writing? I’m not talking about 1,000 words long — think more like 40,000 words. If so, FreeWriter might be the tool for you. Whether you want to write a novel or in-depth report, FreeWriter lets you switch your focus between a single sentence and the bigger picture.
What does that look like?
FreeWriter provides you with a “thought canvas” where you can quickly and easily take notes while writing. This keeps you organized — and lets you get right back to that sentence you were writing.
2 free tools to improve your writing
This grammar app should be in every writer’s toolbox. No matter how great a writer you are, you’re bound to make grammar errors.
In addition to their web-based interface, Grammarly also offers a free Chrome Extension. Whether you’re writing an email or a 50-page business analysis, this is a great tool to make sure you avoid any embarrassing grammar mistakes.
Grammarly does offer a Premium version, but the basic tool goes above and beyond your typical spelling and grammar check. It even tracks the syntax of your sentences for clarity.
If you write for the internet, you know how important it is to make your writing easy-to-read. Hemingway App helps you do just that. Just copy and paste your writing, and the app will highlight:
- Hard-to-read sentences
- Very hard-to-read sentences
- Adverbs (for the clearest writing, ditch ’em)
- Instances of passive voice
- Words or phrases with simpler alternatives
Hemingway App also gives you a word count and a reading grade level. We recommend aiming for Grade 8 at the highest. (With the help of this app, you’ll be there in no time.)
Software to keep your writing process organized
The writing process begins before you start drafting.
(Unless you’re one of those folks who doesn’t outline or plan and just goes.)
Freemind is essentially a brainstorming tool on steroids. You can create workflows for outlines, link to files and external sources of information, and keep miscellaneous notes on-hand.
If you have trouble organizing your thoughts, a mind-mapping and note-taking tool like FreeMind might just come in handy for you.
Bubbl.us is another mind-mapping tool that lets you create a visual representation of ideas and concepts. If you are trying to tell a complex story, it can be difficult to keep track of all the moving parts.
Bubbl.us makes it easier to map out your ideas. The app also makes it easy to collaborate on projects between users.
What’s your favorite free writing software? Let us know in the comments!