Linux Productivity

4 Apps Should Help You Improve Your Writing

Justin Pot 27-10-2011

Are you a Linux user with a passion for writing? If so, check out these essential tools for the job.


Writing is a key skill in the modern world, whether it’s directly how you make your living or not. Whether it’s writing memos or emailing clients, most jobs include at least some use of the written word. Even outside of work, more and more communication is moving to the written word. Don’t rush through these things – take your time and get them right. Develop writing as a skill, because it will reward you. But it’s a lot easier to do if you have the proper tools.

FocusWriter FocusWriter - Minimalist, Distraction-Free & Beautiful Text Editor Read More

Word processors are cool, and Linux users can use Open Office/Libre Office or AbiWord Abiword Is the Best Free Lightweight Word Processor Get a lightweight but not underpowered word processor. If you need a program compatible with a wide variety of file formats, Abiword might be the right fit for you. It's not as powerful as Microsoft... Read More if a word processor is necessary.

These free writing tools aren’t primarily for writing, though. They are for laying content out on a page to be printed. If you’re writing for a website or an email, or just aren’t yet concerned about layout, they do way more than you need. That’s why I like FocusWriter FocusWriter - Minimalist, Distraction-Free & Beautiful Text Editor Read More , which offers a minimal interface without sacrificing on features.

free writing tools

Artha: Thesaurus

Repeating the same word while writing is problematic. Add some variety by using a Thesaurus. A plethora of online options exist, but if you want something hosted locally on your computer check out Artha. This simple program runs quickly so you can get back to your writing after finding the word you need.


writing tools

You can almost certainly find Artha in your distro’s repositories right now, so go ahead and install it. Ubuntu users can simply click here to install Artha. Users of other distros can find Artha installation instructions here.

TomBoy or Zim

It’s important as a writer to keep you thoughts organized. A personal wiki can help a lot, giving you a place to collect ideas and organize them with cross-links. TomBoy, a Linux note-taking app How To Sync Tomboy Notes Across Different Computers & Operating Systems Read More , is installed by default on Ubuntu and is an excellent application for storing ideas.

writing tools


If you don’t like the way TomBoy works, check out Zim, a desktop wiki ZIM - A Desktop Wiki / Note Taking App [Linux, Windows] Read More . It’s a desktop wiki, but different from TomBoy in many ways. If you like using wikis on the web you’ll love this tool.

free writing tools

Plus: it’s named after the single greatest cartoon alien of all time.


We mention Dropbox more than enough here at MakeUseOf, but there’s a reason for that – it’s awesome. If you’re a writer primarily using Linux, it or something like it is almost essential.


Dropbox can automatically sync your writing between your computers, making it essential if you own more than one device. Even if you possess only a single computer you’ll want to use Dropbox, because it automatically backs up your work to the cloud every time you save it. Even better is that you can revert to a previous version of the file, within the past 30 days, anytime. This is great if you accidentally delete a large chunk of text and click “save.”


I do most of my writing for this and other blogs on Linux, and find these tools indispensable. Together they make my workflow what it is, and I’m extremely grateful to the developers of all of them.

While researching this article I stumbled upon Writing On Linux, a blog dedicated to outlining Linux tools for writers. Be sure to check that blog out for more cool ideas, but be aware that updates are sparse.

Do you have any other cool free writing tools for Linux? Let us know about them in the comments below, because we love learning from our readers.


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  1. theusualuser
    October 27, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Focuswriter is an excellent application. I'm really hoping that in future versions, the developer makes it so that you can keep the word count at the bottom while still having his great distraction-free environment. Then it would be the perfect tool for things like NaNoWriMo (coming up next month, I believe).

    • jhpot
      October 28, 2011 at 10:19 pm

      I like that the wordcount is hidden yet easy to bring up, but perhaps this should be an option.

  2. Mohammed Yatim
    October 27, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    Great article, Linux is getting more powerful and more versatile as time is passing, and I'm loving it. The only reason that I come back to windows is PowerPoint, there is still no Linux alternative with the power of PowerPoint, hope someone makes a program soon!

    • jhpot
      October 28, 2011 at 10:18 pm

      I'm pretty happy with Google's presentations tool, but I can't think of a Linux tool for the job. Enjoy Linux!