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Writing is difficult enough as it is. Stop making it more so by wrestling with an unfriendly writing application.

Given that we live in the Digital Age, it’s very likely that you do all of your writing on a computer or some other digital device. It can be a little more complex than simply using a pen and a notebook, because of the wide variety of options available to you.

From word counters to idea generators, from fancy timers to writing metrics, there’s plenty to draw your attention away from your writing. Even the choice of distraction-free writing tools is so mind-boggling that choosing one becomes a distraction in itself.

What you need is a writing app that is ideal for you, an app that will stay out of your way and put your focus back where it belongs–on your writing. Choosing such an app requires some serious experimentation.

My own search for the perfect editor was long drawn and haphazard, but in the end, I was able to see where I had gone wrong. To make your search easier and shorter, I have reworked and distilled my whole process as it follows here.

List Your Preferences

As a writer or blogger, you’re sure to have a writing process that is all your own. Your definition of the perfect writing environment is also different from that of others. Naturally, when you’re looking for the ideal tool for writing, you must take factors like these into consideration, because even the most highly praised apps can’t help you if they don’t go well with your workflow.



Make a list of your preferences by asking yourself a few questions about them. Here are some you can begin with:

Identify The Must-Haves

Once you have the list of desirable features ready, highlight the must-haves. If you prefer a desktop app, maybe you’d consider a cloud sync feature important. If you’re looking to write collaboratively, you’ll need easy access to highlighting and commenting options.


For example, I’m not comfortable writing on dark backgrounds or using “code editor” fonts, which is why I consider a skin customization feature a must-have. On the other hand, cloud sync and dictionary features are not as important for me, because I’m partial toward web-based editors and already have a browser plugin for the dictionary.

Explore. Extract. Experiment.

Now that you know what you’re looking for in a writing application, it’s time to scout for a few candidates that fit the bill. Do a web search for reviews of online writing tools. MakeUseOf has many of them right here. Saikat’s post on distraction-free editors Write In Peace With These Distraction-Free Editors Write In Peace With These Distraction-Free Editors I have felt it. Visual clutter – thanks to menus and other markup features – have often cemented my writer’s block. So, I have tried out quite a few distraction-free text editors in a grand... Read More is a good place to start.

See which of the apps you come across provide features for most, if not all, of the preferences in your list. Linux users can check out these four great writing tools For Literary Penguins: 4 Great Writing Tools [Linux] For Literary Penguins: 4 Great Writing Tools [Linux] A great amount of productivity comes from writing tasks, whether it be for school assignments, articles for your blog, or much more. While full-featured office applications tend to be the norm for such tasks, it... Read More . If you’re a novelist, Scrivener is good writing program to have. We have even released a guide to Scrivener. Yarny, OmmWriter, Writer, Byword for Mac, and iA Writer for the iPad are some other options worth checking out.

Narrow down your choices to 3-5 of the best ones. Ensure that the editors you have picked come with the features you listed as must-haves.

Now experiment with these apps for a week. Test every single feature and setting available in each of them. Try writing short snippets, creating lists, changing themes, exporting files, asking for feedback, etc. In short, figure out everything each app lets you accomplish. See how comfortable you are using it and ask yourself whether it feels like something you’d like to stick to in future.



At the end of the week, it will be clear to you that among all the editors you chose, one or two stand out as being well-suited to your writing process. Decide on the one that you think is optimal for you and tweak that one to perfection.

After I decided that Writer was the best solution for me, I registered for an online account with them. Then I changed the font type, size, color, background color, and line spacing. I also turned off the typewriting sounds, enabled keyboard shortcuts, created a document to use as a scratch pad, and pinned the application’s tab to the browser. With all that out of the way, now when I have to write something, I just hit New, switch to full screen mode, and start typing. No fiddling with this feature and that anymore!


The Takeaway

As a writer, there are bound to be several important things on your mind such as improving your creativity 6 Great Apps To Improve a Writer's Creativity 6 Great Apps To Improve a Writer's Creativity Creativity is fickle. Sometimes you're on a roll, with new ideas spawning left and right, while other times you're stuffing your face into a pillow, screaming because your brain has been wrung dry. It may... Read More and overcoming writer’s block So, You Think You Can't Write? Let's Get You Back On Track So, You Think You Can't Write? Let's Get You Back On Track Stumped? Lost for words? Are you often in the position of being unable to get yourself to write anything, even though the deadline is fast approaching? Yeah, writer's block sucks – and it happens to... Read More . Worrying about your writing instrument should not be one of them. Find a reliable one that you can use in the long term and pair it with these Zen habits for writers Zen for Writers: Finding a Calm, Peaceful State For Your PC That Would Inspire Productivity Zen for Writers: Finding a Calm, Peaceful State For Your PC That Would Inspire Productivity Writing is one of the toughest jobs in the world. It's lonely and you have to focus and think at the same time. Our brain, however, is constantly looking for new stimuli. It loves nothing... Read More to keep those words flowing.

Which editor do you use for writing? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credits: Looking For Minifig Monday? (License) by Kenny LouieThat One, Please (License) by Ryan, 47:365 – On the Menus by Nomadic Lass, IMG_1362 (License) by Sasquatch I

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  1. David M. D
    December 22, 2013 at 4:55 am

    Have you examined what yWriter offers?
    I would be interested in your opinion on this.

  2. P. Robbemond
    December 18, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    Personally, I like LyX ( No hassle about layout, just typing your content. Best of all: LyX is open source software.

  3. Akshata
    December 17, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    That's interesting, Lisa. If you're involved in different types of writing, I see how having multiple apps can come in handy.

    My workflow goes something like this:
    For MakeUseOf posts - Writer and then blogging platform.

    For my personal blog - Paper, then Writer, then copy Paste to Kingsoft Writer for .md files (saved in a Dropbox folder).

    Thankfully, we have Dropbox to keep all of our writing in one place.

  4. Lisa O
    December 17, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    In my *very long* quest of finding myself a perfect writing app, I have spent countless hours fiddling instead of doing the actual writing. Definitely fun, but unnecessary. I agree that it takes several trial and errors to find what you really want from a writing app.

    Nowadays I've given up searching for one-size-fits-all swiss-army-knife writing app to handle all my needs, so I choose one specialized software for every specific writing needs (formal writings, freeform/fiction, notetaking, blogging, journaling) and change the title of my hunt to be 'finding the perfect writing workflow'. So far it's been two or three times more successful than my old approach!

    Basically my arrangement is based on three mandatory aspect:
    first, output as plaintext,
    second, available as portable application.
    third, works offline.
    This way although I use five different programs to manage and write my documents, I can open each file anywhere and keep them synced via Dropbox.

  5. Stephen Hill
    December 16, 2013 at 6:27 am

    I actually use Notepad++ with a simple plugin that adds newline characters at the end of each line and indentions before paragraphs.

    Of course, this stems from my time programming.

    • Akshata
      December 16, 2013 at 6:57 am

      I guess programmers are always partial toward code editors for writing. I tried using the distraction-free mode in Sublime Text for a few days, but ended up switching back to Writer.