Essential Apps for Writers: The 5 Basics

In this new series of posts, I’m going to share the apps that can transform the iPad into a writer’s super-tool. I’ll cover:

  • The basic, must-have apps for writers
  • Apps for the business side of writing
  • Apps for a writer’s research and reference
  • Great blogging apps
  • Apps to foster creativity

Watch for these posts in coming weeks!

The Basic Digital Toolbox for Writers



I remember the bad old days of not having a clue how to bookmark all the great stuff I found on the internet. All those nuggets of writerly wisdom, the fabulous shoes, brilliant book reviews, perfect recipes–all lost because I didn’t have a reliable system for curating the information.

Enter Evernote. This app, probably the one that gets daily use on my iPad, has revolutionised my life and my writing. At its most basic, Evernote is a note-taking app, but that doesn’t begin to cover what it can do. It allows you to have a collection of notebooks, so you can organise yourself. If you add the Evernote webclipper to your browser, when you find something brilliant, you can clip it straight into the notebook of your choice for later reference. Here are 5 of my 30 notebooks:

  • Writing Tips
  • Writing Opportunities (When I set reminders for upcoming contests, I get an email to prompt me!)
  • Recipes (Tag them for easy retrieval–mains, sides, desserts, etc.)
  • Story Ideas
  • A notebook for each of my blogs (When I find a great source or quote for an upcoming blog post on the internet, I send webclips to the appropriate blog notebook for future reference. Sweet Jesus, this is a time and sanity saver!)

Evernote’s premium version has some worthwhile options. I particularly like possibility of shared projects. Evernote’s web version (for use on your laptop) is also nice to use. And–get this–there are even Evernote Smart Moleskine (paper) notebooks that allow you to upload your handwritten notes and drawings into your Evernote e-notebooks! SO cool. (There WILL be a future post on this topic!)



DropBox is a cloud storage provider and a file sharing service. What does that mean? In simple terms, you don’t have to carry a USB around. If you can access the internet, you can access your folders and files in the Cloud. With DropBox, you don’t have to email a document to someone, you just send a link to the file. They can open the file by clicking on the link.

Shared folders are particularly useful for critique groups. A group of registered users can access the folder to share work.

DropBox is a convenient way of backing things up too. Some of your apps will offer the option of backing up and syncing to DropBox.



PlainText is a no-frills app that is just for banging out prose. I like to do my blog drafts in PlainText, which automatically links to my DropBox account. This means I don’t lose my work and I can easily open it on my laptop and finish it off.

It has some simple organisation–files and folders.


Okay–maybe this one doesn’t count as a “basic” app, but I really like it for a first step of editing. Like PlainText, it provides a simple writing space with minimal distractions. A cool feature is its arrangement capacity–I can reorder single sentences or whole paragraphs.


Phraseology comes into its own in its editing capabilities. This app analyses my writing and spits out a little report. It can identify, for example, too many adverbs. Or it can assess the readability of my writing, giving it a score that relates to reading levels (Flesch Kincaid Grade Level) and more! This is a great feature for writers of children’s books.

The app developer, Agile Tortoise, has a suite of products that look like they’d work together nicely for journalists and hard-core freelancers.



ThinkBook is new to my writer’s toolbox, but I have a feeling it will be as well-used as my Evernote app. This one takes a little practice to get used to but it’s worth the effort. I like it because I can organise it by project. As one who always has multiple projects on the go, being able to see them all at once and separately makes me feel like I’m mastering my workload (rather than slaving under it!)

Within each project, I can add notes, pages, to-dos, questions, and more. It’s great for outlining and planning. Read this for more reasons why it is a favourite.

What’s in YOUR toolbox?

Can you recommend any must-have basic apps for writers? Leave a comment. I’d love to know your thoughts!


6 Thoughts

  1. There’s an iPad app called “Fig”, which I find fantastic as a tool to fuel imagination and creativity.


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