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I grew up on PC and graduated to Macintosh when I got into a design field. A couple years ago, I made the decision to transition to a Google Chromebook. The primary factor was cost. (The second factor is that Luke the Dog likes to smack my laptop with his paw to get my attention.) I’m a dedicated, passionate writer–I write every day–but I don’t write for profit and couldn’t justify the cost of a MacBook. I picked up an Acer Chromebook for under $200 on Amazon, and it was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.
That said, Chromebooks don’t support the novel-writing software I have on my Macintosh, which brings me to the point of this post: What are the best writing apps available to writers using a Google Chromebook?
If you already write on a Chromebook, you probably have favorite programs already. These are mine. And they might not work for you, but maybe you’ll get an idea or two out of this post.
If you’re considering the switch to a Chromebook, I’ll be honest: your choice of writing programs is limited. Storyist and Scrivener don’t work on this platform. But if you’re adaptable, Chromebooks are fast and affordable.
Google Docs has been my go-to writing program for years. My documents are available on any computer, iPhone, and iPad, and it offers collaboration tools–invaluable if you work with one or more editors. Google Docs (part of Google Drive) is free to use and works on all browsers. There are apps as well for IOS and Android, so you can take your novel on the go.
The only downside I’ve noticed is that larger documents do not play well with my Acer, which does not have a lot of memory. I have to split anything over 20,000 words into multiple documents, but that’s no big sacrifice.
Google recently integrated Google Keep into Google Docs, giving you virtual post-its in the sidebar. You can drop and drag notes into the document, and they paste as text. I use it to hold cut material or the line that just popped into my head. No more jumping between my notes and the actual manuscript. It’s a lot closer to the Storyist experience now.
This Chrome extension costs a few dollars, but it’s worth it. It provides a distraction free, full screen environment in light and dark clothes, and you have the option of turning on the delightful typewriter sound! Ahh, the sound of productivity. It’s good when I need to write in sprints. Bonus: Calmly Writer can sync with Google Drive to back up your documents.
If you don’t want to pay for the extension, there’s a free browser-based version!
These tools add back some of the functionality found in novel-writing software.
In February, I was invited to join a private writing group where we report our daily word totals, and since I have a poor memory, I knew I wouldn’t remember whether or not I had reported on any given day. I needed a way to track my daily writing progress, what I worked on, whether I had reported it.
If you’ve ever spent time around me, you’ve probably heard me gush about Airtable. It’s a database program with a clean, easy-to-use interface. The day I signed up, I was up and running in five minutes. I use it to organize everything from Christmas card lists to city-wide events. It’s free to use (there are paid levels) and can be fully tailored to your needs with a variety of field types.
I use it to track my daily writing progress and keep track of my works in progress. I’ve seen it used as a way to hold story notes and storyboard ideas.
Airtable’s website (if you sign up, I earn a $10 credit that goes toward writing challenges I organize)
Trello is an organizing tool. Create boards and move items between them to easily keep track of a list of story ideas, works in progress, characters, scenes, settings–you get the idea. How you use Trello is completely up to you. It is free to use and there are apps for on-the-go use. I use it to hold a list of story ideas that I might want to work on at some point, and I move them between likelihood boards.
I adored Pinterest when it first came out–all of those recipes I would never make! Houses I would never own! I stopped visiting it after a while, but a few years ago, when I was working on an intimidating story, I needed to collect visuals to nudge me along. I’m a visual person, so I came up with the idea of creating a Pinterest board for that story.
Since then, I’ve made Pinterest boards for nearly every large project I worked on. It’s an easy way for me to keep everything in one place, from links to research to inspirational photographs that remind me of a person or place in the story itself. Pinterest is free to use, has a Chrome extension to easily add articles or photographs to your board, and also has mobile apps.
If your manuscript’s content can’t be publicized, you can create a secret board visible only to you.
“Jess, this post is supposed to be about writing tools.”
Yes, well, writers need to create graphics sometimes. Canva is graphic design software right in your browser. If you need to make a new Twitter banner or design a shareable graphic to promote your work, it’s a fantastic tool. I like it so much for personal use, we’ve started to use it at my company. It saves time and doesn’t chain me to my desktop computer.
Luke just smacked the computer. A fitting end to this post.