Have you ever used MS Word to write your blog posts and wondered if there was something more blogger-friendly out there?
As a blogger, you have unique needs. More than fancy features and formatting, you want:
- A place to capture all of your ideas
- A writing tool that cuts out distractions
- A way to find and remove embarrassing grammatical errors.
Fortunately, there are plenty of writing tools around to help you do all of the above.
In this post, I’ll share some of the most powerful writing tools for bloggers. I’ll also cover Mac, Windows, mobile apps and web apps.
Let’s dive in:
Tools to capture and organize your ideas
Have you ever sat down to write and come up with… nothing?
The dreaded writer’s block is part and parcel of every blogger’s life. But things become much easier when you have a long list of existing ideas to work on.
This is why every serious blogger I know maintains a central repository of ideas. These can be anything – blog post titles, new angles for older posts, marketing hooks, etc.
The tools I’ve listed below will help you capture and organize all these ideas:
Evernote usually sits at the top of the list for any serious note-taker, and for good reason.
As one of the first “online notebooks,” Evernote lives up to its promise to help you “remember everything”. It is also available online, as a desktop app (Mac and Windows) and as a mobile app (both iOS and Android) so you can jot down ideas wherever inspiration strikes.
What makes this particularly useful for us bloggers is the search functionality. You can make an unlimited number of notebooks and quickly search through them.
Best of all, it is free to use, although you would need to upgrade to the paid plan to unlock more features.
Platform: Online, mobile, and desktop (Windows and Mac)
If you’re like most bloggers, you spend a good part of your day just reading other people’s blog posts.
But sometimes, you just want to file away an interesting blog post and read it later.
This is where Pocket can be incredibly useful. Simply install the Pocket extensions (for both Firefox and Chrome) and click the icon in the browser when you land on an interesting page.
Pocket will archive the page and format it for easy reading.
If you download the Pocket app, you can read your saved articles anytime – even if you’re offline.
Pocket also has thousands of integrations with cool apps (such as Twitter) to make saving articles even easier.
Platform: Online (Firefox/Chrome) and mobile (Android/iOS)
Drafts (iOS only)
What if you just want to quickly take notes without scrolling through half a dozen menus and buttons?
This is where Drafts comes in.
Drafts was designed from scratch as a “write-first, organize-later” type app. Everytime you open the app, you get a blank page so you can jot down your inspiration right away. This design choice fits the writers’ workflow perfectly.
But there’s more: once you’ve got your notes down, you can use one of the many pre-built ‘actions’ to get more from your notes.
For example, you can automatically send the note contents straight into your Dropbox.
Think of it as a built-in IFTTT for your notes. You can see a list of actions here.
The only downside? It’s only available on iOS (iPhone, iPad and yes, even Apple Watch).
A lot of serious content marketers swear by Trello, and it’s easy to see why.
Trello is a ‘kanban’ style project management tool. You create a ‘board’ which can have multiple ‘lists.’ Each ‘list’ can have any number of items.
You can use these lists to store and organize your ideas. Once an idea moves past the ‘ideation’ to the ‘production’ stage, you can drag and drop it to another list.
For example, you might have four lists on a board – “Ideas, “To-Do,” “Editing” and “Published.”
You can then manage your ideas like this:
- Raw ideas go into the ‘Ideas’ list.
- Finalized ideas go into the ‘To-Do’ list.
- Once you have a draft of an idea, push it to the ‘Editing’ list.
- Once the post is live, drag it to ‘Published’.
Ultimately you can craft your own workflow by setting up the lists that matter to you.
This will bring much needed clarity and control over your editorial process.
Platform: Online and mobile
Writing tools that simply work
The writing tool is the blogger’s sanctuary. This is where you’ll spend the bulk of your time; writing and editing your content.
A poor writing tool will make you want to tear your hair out with annoying distractions and errors (remember ‘Clippy’ circa Office 2003?). A great one will make writing sheer joy.
Below, I’ve compiled a list of writing tools for all platforms, budgets and experience-levels.
Dragon Naturally Speaking
I always tell bloggers to write like they speak – conversationally.
An easier way to do that is to actually speak to your computer. This is where Dragon Naturally Speaking comes into the picture.
Dragon Naturally Speaking is a speech recognition tool that lets you fast-track document creation by transcribing text through voice. Unlike the speech recognition tools of old, Dragon has a very high degree of accuracy – much more than Google Voice or Siri.
Also, Dragon recognizes industry specific-terms and acronyms from a wide-range of industries such as healthcare, legal and small business to ensure transcription accuracy.
In case of errors, the software is also capable of learning new words and phrases, giving you a completely personalized experience.
Price: $35 for home version and $80 for premium version
Platform: Desktop (PC and Mac) and online
Google Docs is fast becoming the writing tool of choice for a great many bloggers, writers and marketers.
It’s easy to see why:
With Google Docs, you can invite team members to collaborate and edit documents in real-time (great for working with guest bloggers too). The close integration with Gmail also makes it easy to share your content with others.
Other features include automatic saving, pre-created templates, and powerful add-ons such as speech recognition and label creation. All helping to ensure your attention is focused on the task at hand.
It can also work great for hosting lead magnets.
Platform: Online and mobile
Scrivener is essentially a project management tool masquerading as a writing tool.
Originally built to help novelists write complex projects, Scrivener has quickly become the go-to writing tool for serious bloggers.
Scrivener’s design focuses on creating ideas as ‘virtual index cards’. You can write your ideas on these cards and shift them around to create the structure and flow of your content. It also helps you take and organize comprehensive notes and make quick edits across lengthy documents.
Most bloggers will find Scrivener overkill for everyday blogging. But if you to a lot of writing and creating of lengthy documents such as eBooks, guides etc. – you’ll find it an incredibly powerful ally.
Platform: Windows and Mac
Bear Writer is an iOS-exclusive writing application designed for copious note taking.
It supports writer-friendly features such as basic markdown support for quick text formatting, a focus mode for distraction-free writing, and the ability to export content to alternative formats such as PDFs.
Another unique feature is the ability to organize and link thoughts through hashtags. For example, you can add the #idea hashtag to any paragraph that contains an idea. When you search for the ‘#idea’ hashtag, all of those paragraphs will show up.
This makes content creation and organization much easier.
Price: Freemium (premium version costs $15/year)
Platform: iOS (iPhone, iPad and Mac)
If MS Word isn’t for you, there is a perfectly viable (and even older) word processor out there: WordPerfect.
WordPerfect has been around since 1979. For quite a while, it was the most popular word processor around before MS Word hit the scene.
Today, WordPerfect offers most of the features of MS Word, but with a cleaner interface. You’ll find that it’s particularly well suited for creating long-form documents such as whitepapers and eBooks. It offers writers the ability to create, edit, and share these documents as PDF’s.
You also get access to a wide-selection of templates which allows you to work faster and smarter.
Price: $45 for home & student version and $179 for professional version
Platform: Desktop (PC and Mac)
As a blogger, you want to write, not deal with unnecessary features and menu options.
This is why there has been a big increase in minimalist writing tools on the market lately. These tools do away with most features. Instead, they let you focus on what you do best: write.
Paragraphs is one of the most popular offerings in this category. This Mac-only app gives you a clean, distraction-free writing interface. Instead of ‘ribbon’ menus and a laundry list of features, you get a blank page to jot down your thoughts. Formatting options are limited and within easy reach thanks to a contextual menu.
The best part is that you can export your text as HTML. This is super helpful because you can simply copy and paste this HTML code directly into WordPress (or whichever blogging platform you use) to keep your formatting.
Platform: Desktop (Mac only)
BlankPage is another offering in the category of minimalist writing tools.
Just like Paragraphs, you get a clean, distraction-free interface for writing. There are no menu options or formatting choices to deal with – you open the app and start writing straight away.
What makes BlankPage unique is its goal-tracking tool that motivates you to write more.
Here’s how it works:
You set a goal for the number of words you want to write every day. BlankPage will then track each writing session in terms of word count and time. If you meet your goal, BlankPage will indicate it visually on a daily calendar.
This helps you visualize your progress which, as research shows, can help you stay motivated.
Price: $100 per year
Editing, proofreading and fine-tuning your content
Before your content goes out to your readers, it’s always a good idea to put it through a proofreading tool.
Spelling and grammatical mistakes are embarrassing and will hinder the impact of your content.
Now, I must point out that you shouldn’t completely rely on proofreading tools.
The truth is that no tool will catch every error and they can’t take your personal writing style into account.
That said, they can still spot a lot of errors, so they do work well as an ‘extra set of eyes’.
I also like to put my post titles through different headline analyzers to get an estimate of their potential impact.
Here are a few tools to help you edit, proofread and fine-tune your content:
Thrive Headline Optimizer
Thrive Theme’s Headline Optimizer* is a WordPress plugin which ensures your headlines have maximum impact.
All you need to do is create several headlines, add them to your post in WordPress, and it will automatically begin split testing each one using statistical analysis to determine a winner. This headline will then automatically be shown to your readers.
What I love about this tool is that it doesn’t rely on social media traffic to work out which headline is performing.
A few influencers could share one headline version, and not another. It wouldn’t necessarily mean one version was better. But it would usually skew your data.
Instead, Headline Optimizer uses engagement metrics which feel far more reliable. This approach can also help to determine whether your content lives up to the promise you make in the headline.
Price: $67 for a single site license (gain access to all other Thrive products for $228 per year)
Platform: WordPress plugin only
GET THRIVE HEADLINE OPTIMIZER*
CoSchedule Headline Analyzer
Need a quick estimate of the impact of your headline?
Take a look at CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer.
This free tool measures the impact of your blog posts headlines, email subject lines, and social messages. Simply enter your headline and the tool provides a score based on usage of uncommon words, power words, and emotional words.
Statistically speaking, headlines that contain all of the above word types tend to perform better on social media.
Use this tool to weed out potentially poor-performing headlines before your post goes live.
Grammarly* is your spell checker on steroids. While any decent spell checker can detect common errors, Grammarly goes one step further and detects awkward phrasing, poor-word usage, and run-on sentences.
Okay. So it’s not like you’ve actually got an experienced editor sitting next to you and pointing out all of the ways you can tighten your content. But it’s the next best thing.
You can use Grammarly as a browser extension, as an online tool, as a desktop app or as an add-in for MS Word. By using their Chrome/Firefox extension, Grammarly will automatically proofread your text across the web. Every word you type into email, social media, or a content management system is automatically scanned for grammatical, contextual, and vocabulary mistakes (with solutions offered on-page).
You can also simply copy and paste your finished post into Grammarly to see a list of errors.
Although the service is free, you might want to upgrade to the premium version to detect more advanced grammatical/phrasing errors.
Another premium feature I find useful is Plagiarism checker – I use this for every guest post I receive, just in case.
Price: Freemium (premium version costs $140 per year)
Platform: Online, desktop app and MS Word add-in
Inspired by the sparse writing style of Hemingway, the Hemingway App analyzes your writing for mistakes and highlights them visually through color coding.
Hemingway can automatically detect complex words and phrases, unnecessarily long sentences, and an overabundant presence of adverbs. Besides detection, it can also offer simpler alternatives to complex phrases.
The tool is available for free online, although there is a premium desktop version which lets you access advanced features such as offline use, exporting privileges, and the ability to directly post content into a CMS.
One of the things I love about the desktop version is that it’s a fairly minimal word processing tool. This makes it a great alternative to some of the writing tools mentioned above.
Price: Freemium ($19.99 one-time fee for desktop version with advanced features)
Platform: Online and desktop (Mac and Windows)
WhiteSmoke is a word-processor and grammar checker designed with non-native English speakers in mind.
The software uses an advanced algorithm to detect not only grammatical mistakes in your content but offers tips on how to improve style, tone, and clarity. Think of it as a Grammarly alternative built for writers who struggle with casual English-language expression.
Although you can use it as a writing tool, you’ll get maximum benefit from using it to proofread and grammar-check your written content.
This tool is available both online and as a desktop app.
Price: Online version ($160 as a one-time purchase or $80 per year), desktop version ($300 as a one-time purchase or $120 per year). Grammar checker is available for free.
Platform: Online and desktop (Windows only)
StyleWriter is another editing and proofreading tool that helps to improve your writing.
Designed by professional proofreaders, this tool focuses on bringing clarity to your writing and making it more reader-friendly. It automatically detects jargon and awkward phrasing, grammatical errors and spelling inconsistencies.
Although the interface can be a bit confusing at first, you’ll appreciate the kind of spelling/grammar errors it can detect once you get used to it.
Price: $90 for starter edition, $150 for standard edition, and $190 for professional edition
Platform: Desktop (PC only)
Wrapping it up
As a blogger, words are one of your greatest assets.
Having the right tools can ensure you never forget ideas and that your copy is optimized to drive engagement with your readers.
Use this list as a starting point to discover your next favorite writing tools. Try them out at your own pace and see which ones fit your workflow and writing style.