32 Tech tools you want in your 2018 writer’s toolbox

When you hire a professional to do any work, you not only expect them to have the knowledge and experience necessary for the job, you also expect them to have the right tools. For example, if a carpenter showed up to the job site without a saw, you might question their abilities. By the same token, there is more than one type of saw available and having the right saw for the job is equally important.

In this article, I offer eight categories of tech tools you should have in your writer’s toolbox, with different options for each. You certainly don’t need all of these tools, and there may be other tools that are more appropriate to your style of writing, but these tools can help in building a solid foundation for most of your writing jobs.

1) Mind mapping: Before you begin writing, you will have ideas. Those ideas connect to other ideas and one of the best ways to see your finished product is with visualization tools that produce mind maps. Key features to look for in these tools are simplicity, flexibility, and ease of use. Four apps worth considering in this category are Mindnode, Mindmeister, Scapple, and SimpleMind.

2) Note-taking/organization: After the initial idea generation and visualization process is complete, the expansion of ideas through research and note-taking efforts, the organization of information into logical sequences, and the management of those various resources becomes the focus in this category of tools. Some apps for consideration are Microsoft OneNote, Evernote, Index Card, Trello, and Vizual Einstein.

3) Distraction-free writing: Once the writing process begins on the manuscript, for many of us it’s easy to be distracted by other programs or websites on our computer. To minimize the distractions, programs such as Scrivener and Jotter Pad provide for a clutter-free writing space. If you want even more control over your distractions, apps like SelfControl, StayFocusd, and Cold Turkey will let you block your own access to websites, email, or other apps for specified amounts of time.

4) Time/resource management: While writing, managing your time to meet goals is important. Many writers find benefit in the Pomodoro technique of writing in 25-minute intervals with a short break in between. Two apps, Pomodoro Timer and Marinara Timer, are favorites for supporting this technique. For a more intense way of motivating yourself to meet writing goals of time or word count commitments, check out the Write or Die app – in Kamikaze mode it will even erase work you have done if you don’t maintain momentum. For managing multiple projects with various journals, the Story Tracker app is an essential tool for knowing the status of all your submissions.

5) Reference: Whether focused on style, word choice, or proper application of industry-specific acronyms, a good reference app or two is important to even the most experienced and disciplined writer. In this category, I offer three suggestions. WordBook provides a comprehensive, online dictionary and thesaurus. Purdue OWL – the Purdue University Online Writing Lab – is an essential resource for all things writing, including MLA, APA, and Chicago style guides. The Acronym Finder app contains over 1 million acronyms in categories of medical, technology, science, business, and more.

6) Proofing/review tools: After the first draft (or final draft) is complete, the tools in this category can help polish your writing, correct grammatical errors, and improve readability. Tools like Grammarly, Hemingway, and ProWritingAid provide grammar checking features to improve the quality of your manuscript. The GoodReader app allows you to edit any PDF file with ease. Focused on length? Check out the Word Counter app. Targeting a specific reading level? Use the Readability Score app to analyze your writing style. For a wide array of feedback on any piece of text – checked against databases including Google Books and Google Scholar – check out the Writefull app.

7) e-Book publishing: Once you have polished that final manuscript and are looking at publishing options, e-book publishing should not be overlooked. Online tools such as To ePub and Calibre make conversion of PDF and other documents into common e-book formats quick and easy.

8) Collaboration: Technology has also made it easier to network, collaborate, and to build a support community. Through sites such WritersNet, authors can collaborate on projects and participate on discussion forums about writing life and the business of writing. Social bookmarking tools, like Diigo, make it possible to bookmark, highlight, annotate, and share online resources.

Eric SchmiederEric Schmieder is the Membership Marketing Manager for TAA. He has taught computer technology concepts to curriculum, continuing education, and corporate training students since 2001. A lifelong learner, teacher, and textbook author, Eric seeks to use technology in ways that improve results in his daily processes and in the lives of those he serves. His latest textbook, Web, Database, and Programming: A foundational approach to data-driven application development using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, MySQL, and PHP, First Edition, is available now through Sentia Publishing.