A few months back, Gizmodo published an article asking why people are still using Microsoft Word.
There are tons of word processing programs out there now, everything from bare bones to feature rich.
So what program do you use to write, and why?
Microsoft Word? Google Docs? Apple Pages? Scrivener?
Oh, uh… Pen and paper?
Personally I use Apple Pages because it’s easy to sync across devices, and works relatively well going both on and offline. But I’ve heard great things about Scrivener and have been considering taking it for a test drive.
What about you?
I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.
Art: A seated man sharpening a quill pen by C. Guttenberg after F. van Mieris
Anma Natsu says
First draft and major revisions in Scrivener, then I switch to Word for editing and final work.
Scrivener because I like how I can organize chapters and scenes, as well as any notes or other research in one "file", and with it in Dropbox, it all syncs nicely between my Windows desktop, Windows laptop, and my iPad. 🙂
When the big stuff is done, though, I export to Word and work in that from then on. One for tracked changes, a necessity when working with editors. 🙂 Two, because I also use Word for formatting, particularly my paperback edition.
Scrivener from beginning to end… Well, Aeon Timeline for what some people might consider outlining. When I work with PC folk, for editing and the like, I use Pages and LibreOffice.
Pages does a nice job with track changes in Word docs.
But I can go direct to Amazon with Scrivener's mobi file, and to CreateSpace with the pdf, though that does take some hand-carving to look as I wish.
Word, of course. When all is said and done, and for all its faults and annoyances, it's still the best tool.
K.E. Skedgell says
LibreOffice. Paper and pen for odds and ends research stuff.
I do outlines by hand, notes usually emailed to myself from my phone, and then exclusively Scrivener for actually writing. I really like the interface for organizing information in Scrivener.
Art Kavanagh says
I do the first draft or thereabouts in TextEdit or (more recently) Apple Notes. I started to use Notes on the iPad when my MacBook Air had to go in to have its logic board replaced. I like the way Notes syncs between the notebook and the iPad, though now that the notebook is back I don't write very much on iPad. I have Pages on both devices but I don't like its feature-poor incarnation on the iPad (so I use an app with even fewer features!)
Once the draft is complete, I bring it into Pages, fiddle about with it interminably and eventually export an ePub. Next time, I'm probably going to try Nisus Writer Pro instead of Pages.
Stephanie Cain says
I'm still using Word, and I don't foresee switching away from Word because it does everything I want it to and I know how to make it behave. On the rare occasions I can't figure out how to do something, I can easily find someone else who's already solved the problem.
Scrivener is a nice program, and I finally got conversant with it after several tries, but it's too easy to accidentally move things where I don't want them in Scrivener. I published my last novel with a chapter in the wrong place and then discovered I'd accidentally moved that chapter's folder.
Dan Stout says
For longer stuff I use a combination of Scrivener and 2' x 3' sheets of paper that I paste on my office walls. The big sheets are for brainstorming, charting out timelines & character relationships, drawing maps, etc. Scrivener is where it all gets organized.
I still use Word for short stories and articles, but I've really fallen in love with Scrivener for long form works.
I do agree with Stephanie that it can be frustratingly easy to move scenes and chapters, especially with a touch screen.
Word, primarily, on my PC, and sometimes pen and paper. I don't need to do anything beyond string words into sentences, paragraphs and pages, and sometimes drag and drop those words, sentences and paragraphs around. I don't need bells and whistles.
Peter Dudley says
Apple Pages on iPad, transferring to MS Word for final complex formatting. I've found Calibre good for creating ebook files.
I tried Scrivener for structure and things like character and scene notes, and I like it more now they have an iPad app, but… haven't totally warmed to it yet.
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Roger Floyd says
I still use Microsoft Word for everything. I've heard a lot of good things about Scrivener, but I've had such good luck with Word, I can't see having to go through a rather steep learning curve just to get to know a different program. I can keep track of everything I need and do in my head, so the formatting advantages of Scrivener don't attract me. Besides, when I started writing, I started on PC-Write. It was shareware. Remember shareware? It used DOS. I switched to MS Word when the writers of PC Write said they couldn't support the program any more.
JOHN T. SHEA says
Doc files in Open Office Writer on a Macbook. Free but not perfect. I may try Pages. Let us know how you get on with Scrivener if you do try it.
D. Robert Pease says
Scrivener (on Mac, synced with iPad and iPhone.) But edit with Word because that's what all the editors use. I could never write without Scrivener now!
Maya Prasad says
Scrivener for the past year. It had a bit of a learning curve, so it took me about 3 months before I decided I liked it.
Usually Scrivener nowadays for writing my book and keeping track of canonical notes. For keeping track of character information and the timeline, I use Excel. For brainstorming it's pen and paper and for random ideas that come to me, it's Notes on my phone.
Jeremy Myers says
People talk about the features of these other programs, and I always think, "Word can do that too…" Like easily moving chapters and sections around … Easily formatting for html (to create ePub).
One thing Word won't do (which boggles my mind) is output directly to ePub. With the way self-publishing is going, this is the one thing any writing tool should do today.
Adam Heine says
I have not tried Scrivener myself, but every feature people have raved to me about are things I already do in Word. Plus everybody who pays me money and/or collaborates on documents with me wants their docs in Word format, and the last thing I need are conversion errors caused by moving from not-Word to Word.
Chris Eboch says
I use Dragon voice recognition software and it does not work properly with Scrivner. I use Microsoft Word, because I'm used to it and it does everything I need. Dragon also crashes Word if the documents get too long or with too many footnotes, but I can get around that by having a working document and then pasting each chapter into the main manuscript.
Ann Shannon says
I love Scrivener for all of my writing projects. I not only use it for novels, I use it for my blog posts too. I have one project for each year and inside it is all the posts I wrote and published that year. I also use Open Office because I'm too cheap to pay for Microsoft.
Andrew Friday says
Scrivener for over a year. I love it and I wish I had started using it sooner. At the least, it's worth the free trial period to see its potential.
Tina OReilly says
Scrivener…I love it. I like the ability to keep scenes, chapters, etc separate.
John Levins says
I use Apple's Pages. It syncs well between my Mac Book, iPhone and iPad. Also it does a good job of exporting docs to Word when submitting to those who want Word format.
Bryan Russell says
As an editor, I use Word a zillion hours a week professionally, including problem solving for other editors having issues with the program. Its familiarity is a plus, and I don't have a lot of free time to spare to learn a new system. I like some aspects of Scrivener, but things still needed to eventually be imported into and exported from Word, which for some reason I found terribly annoying.
I wasn't aware of all of these options. Because I am used to it, I use Microsoft Word for involved writing and Google Docs for less involved. I still journal with pen and paper every morning and love it! My first Apple product arrives in the mail tomorrow and I will check out Apple Pages.
Personally I dislike Scrivener. I use LibreOffice, but I've added about 30 keyboard shortcuts so I can do all my writing, editing, etc from the home keys a la Wordstar…
Like your very first respondent I use Scrivener for everything up to pre-beta reading, and then export to Word and continue from there. I would heartily recommend Scrivener. I've been using it for the first time for the sequel to my second novel and I really appreciate having everything in one place – especially character profiles, world building notes, scene descriptions, etc – which I'd previously had all over the place in various Word docs and spreadsheets. It's saved me loads of time. I've also invested in a copy of Aeon Timeline for timelining – essential for me because there's a lot of travelling and multiple POVs: it's a great way to make sure everyone is, or can be, where they need to be and when.
But exporting to Word for the final draft is also important for me because I've invested a lot of time in writing macros that highlight stop words, passive phrasing, and using the same word multiple times in quick succession (which happens to me A LOT when drafting).
Dan Strychalski says
I started with CP/M WordStar, picked up some basic computer knowledge, and became a technical writer for a scanner maker. There, I saw the first Macs and Windows 1.0 through 3.0.
The first Macs had no Ctrl key. Ctrl-A through Ctrl-Z were all dead as a doornail in Windows 1.0 through 3.0 and all the bundled programs.
I use JOE (Joe’s Own Editor) in Linux and will not touch anything from Apple or Microsoft.