Portability and accessibility are important for writers. You never know when inspiration will hit, and when it does you don’t want to be caught off guard. Professional software suites can be nice but often times are overkill, localized, and more hassle than they’re worth. Browser-based writing tools are available no matter where you go.
Whether you need help with organization, a way to kill distractions, or a clean slate on which to write your words, these tools will prove useful to all of you who write on a regular basis. Don’t miss out!
Organization is the key to effective writing. Without it, your words will jumble up and only serve to confuse readers. Or worse, you’ll lose those awesome ideas you had the other day simply by nature of forgetfulness. A little bit of organization can go a long way towards staving off frustration.
- Mindmappers. I wasn’t much of a believer in mindmaps but eventually the benefits grew too useful to ignore. A good mindmap isn’t just an organizational tool. It can be a great method for exploring, developing, and refining ideas — an essential for any writer. Get started with one of these web-based mindmapping tools.
- Wiki-style notebooks. Wikis are absolutely fantastic for recording and developing ideas, either by oneself or with collaborators. A personal wiki can work great as a notebook since various terms and pages can be interlinked for easy navigation. I highly recommend CherryTree (our CherryTree review) but if you don’t like it, you can always try these free personal wikis instead.
- Idea management. Try Wridea which describes itself as an “idea management service” and “collection of brainstorming tools.” In layman’s terms, it’s a quick and easy way to jot down ideas and organize them in the future. It’s great for those moments when inspiration strikes but you’re too busy to entertain it now, so you can save it for later.
Writing is not a high-maintenance activity. To start, all you really need is a pen and paper (or even a rock and chisel). Some people can type hundreds of pages on Microsoft Word, but others require a more streamlined alternative. Here are some tools to help you with the actual act of writing.
- Distraction-free editors. One of the most difficult aspects of writing is that distractions exist around every corner. Therefore, a text editor that’s simple, to the point, and free from clutter is highly valuable. We’ve covered some great ones in the past, including WriteApp, Quabel, and WriteSpace.
- Edit-lock editors. There are text editors out there that will prevent you from editing what you’ve written until you’ve reached a predetermined time limit or word count goal that you set for yourself. Common writing wisdom says that you should “write first, edit later.” An edit-lock editor helps with that. I recommend ilys for something simple, but if you’re willing to pay money, Write or Die is the de facto standard.
- Screenwriting editor. This is for those of you who want to write screenplays. Plotbot is an online editor that automatically formats your scripts according to industry standards, allowing you to write freely without worry of whether you’re doing it right. On top of that, you can collaborate with others on the same script.
It’s easy to write. It’s hard to keep writing. For people who write for a living (or as an obsessive hobby), productivity can be extremely difficult to keep up. Even the most motivated writer will suffer days when writing one word seems impossible. Thankfully, productivity tools exist to help curb that problem.
- Pomodoro Technique. I’m a big proponent of the Pomodoro Technique, which is a simple method of approaching work in a way that minimizes burnout. There’s a reason why it’s such a popular technique: it just works. Tomato.es is my recommendation for a web-based Pomodoro timer.
- Site blockers. Websites can suck your time away and leave you full of regret and disappointment. When your willpower just isn’t strong enough to stay away from those sites until an appropriate time, website blockers can prove tremendously useful. For Chrome I recommend StayFocusd (our StayFocusd review) and for Firefox I recommend LeechBlock (our LeechBlock review).
In addition to all of the above, there are a slew of writing-related tools on the web that are unique enough to warrant their own categories. These tools are more specialized in what they offer but they’re good at what they do.
- Wordcounter. Most office suites and text editors have a function for counting the words you’ve written and measuring related metrics, but if you ever find yourself without a way to measure word count, Wordcounter will get the job done.
- Writing prompts. Writer’s block can be a real demoralizing factor in any writer’s life. One way to get over that hump is to free write in response to a writing prompt. You can get started with our list of creative writing prompts that you can find online.
- Cliché Finder. Clichés have their place in language but overuse can lead to writing that sounds juvenile, full of filler, or just plain lazy. Thankfully, the Cliché Finder tool will mark every instance of cliché that it finds so you can cut them out. Unfortunately, it only supports the English language.
- oTranscribe. If you do a lot of writing that involves transcribing audio into words, oTranscribe can make your life a lot easier. It supports audio files (e.g., MP3, OGG, WAV) and video files (e.g., MP4, WEBM). Straightforward and no fuss.
- BibMe. Compiling a bibliography or works cited page can be a big drain of time, especially for publications that are hundreds of pages. BibMe automatically generates a bibliography for you according to whichever standard you choose (e.g., MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.) and it can handle media ranging from books to newspapers, websites to films, and more.
Did you find any of these web-based writing tools to be useful? What other tools are out there that you’d recommend? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!