Free and Useful Apps and Services for Authors

Jan 12, 2015 | The Publishing Industry

So this came up while I was chatting to a couple of writer-inclined friends, so I thought I’d put together a list of some useful free and not so free apps that I use and have used in the past.

This is specifically for writers and authors – enjoy!



This is what I currently use to outline my books. Each book has its own entry, with individual sub-entries for each chapter, and each chapter broken down into scenes. Then I mark off each scene as completed when it’s done. It’s quick, super-simple, and very easy to modify! Not much by the way of actual functionality, but it doesn’t need much if you’re using it as a convenient to-do list. It’s a web app, so always available through your browser.



So I’ve tried a lot of different project management apps, and this one is probably the only one that I’ve stuck with. I use it for the ‘meta’ stuff – tasks that have to do with the book production, like what I’m doing with the cover, deadlines and schedules, lists of artists or other contacts, that kind of thing. (Also a web app.)



Some people swear by this. I personally found it too cluttered for my taste! That said, Evernote is the gold standard for organization apps, and it’s the most widely available cross-platform solution if you want to be able to keep your writing, notes and project organization all in one place. It’s got iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac OSX versions.



Oh, how do I enjoy Scrivener. If you’re a writer, then you want this program. It started off as Mac only and now has Windows and Linux versions, and it’s a godsend for the less technically inclined among us. Scrivener does cost money, and it is worth every cent! Its big advantage over other word processors is that it’s the easiest way to organize a book and then create ebooks with the push of a button. I use it for quick and dirty production or testing.



Okay, this one is for the programmers among us. If you want to do more complex ebook features, and Scrivener just isn’t playing nicely, then Sigil is where it’s at. It lets you get down into the code of an ebook and, provided you’ve got the know-how, change the formatting, or insert tables and images, or do all kinds of tricky things that Scrivener can’t do. It is not for the faint-hearted! If you’re not familiar with ebook encoding, then Sigil won’t teach you how to do it, but it’s an amazingly powerful tool in the hands of a tech-y person. It’s also free, open source, and cross-platform compatible.

Focus Writer


This is a new one, and I’ve found that it’s working better for me than I thought. It’s a typical word processor (based on Open Office, I think?) that cuts everything down to the page, the text, and a save function – and a kickass background to get your creative juices flowing.

Dropbox/Google Drive


I can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure your work is backed up securely. A backup to another hard drive is all well and good, but if you want to really guarantee your work will be safe, then cloud-synced storage is best. This way, your work will still survive even if your computer gets eaten by a T-Rex. It goes without saying that you should organize all the local files related to your work in the cloud storage folder, so any saved changes are immediately backed up and they’re all accessible from other computers if needed.

My Setup

So here’s how I roll:

  • Fire up the computer.
  • Start the browser, sign in to Workflowy. This goes on one screen.
  • Make sure Dropbox is synced.
  • Open up Focus Writer, and the last thing I was working on. This goes on my other screen.
  • Check Workflowy for what scenes I need to work on.
  • Tea. Relax. Mull over the scene for a few minutes. Talk to my husband about non-book related things.
  • Get frustrated, stop for more tea. Stare at the window.
  • Finish the scene.
  • Go back to Workflowy, cross that one off.
  • Check Trello for things that need to be updated.
  • Repeat.

And there you have it. For what it’s worth, trying out new apps and services is a great idea for authors. We all settle into our creative groove in various ways, so experimentation is the only way you’ll figure out what works for you.