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8 Non-writing Apps for Writers

This guest post is by Ben Ellis of www.b3n3llis.com.

A lot of “app talk” in the world of writing revolves around the main applications used to compose your piece of writing, such as Scrivener, iA Writer, and my weapon of choice, MOApps’ Write, plus a whole load of others too.

I use a few additional apps to help me research and record things when I’m out and my notebook or laptop are at home. These assistant apps are ones you can fire up on your phone or tablet when a moment of inspiration hits you or you need to double-check something. Now you don’t need to worry about always remembering a pen and paper … just keep your battery charged.

Dictionary & Thesaurus

My poor spelling of words longer than five letters demands I use this app on a very regular basis. It’s easy to use, very well designed and the Thesaurus is great too. Although I only use it to find words that have slipped my memory—it’s no good filling your MS with a myriad of grandiloquent words you, your peers, or characters would never use in normal everyday life. This app’s free with ads and paid without.

Rhyme Source

The basic design means it’s not the most attractive app on your device, but it is one of the easiest to use. For someone who doesn’t write poetry I use this surprsingly often. It comes at a small cost.

Dropbox

Everyone should have a backup in the Cloud. This is the Big Daddy of the services available out there, but there are others. The main, fundamental point is: back up your stuff. Also, handy if you’re out and about and you want to review or add to a document of yours—you can access it and make an amendment to the live document from anywhere at anytime. Free for a basic account.

Nebulous

Now, you could use Mac’s native Notes app to record your story ideas, but that would be boring, right? So check out Nebulous. It’s especially built for writers, coders, and others to record ideas.

I only use it to note down ideas but it’s better than Notes, allowing a better filing system, plus it’s integrated with Dropbox so once you enter an idea, it automatically creates a backup in the cloud via your Dropbox account. Free and paid versions are available.

Discover

I’m glad I started writing during the Age of Wikipedia because I can’t imagine it any other way! This app gives you an intuitive way to navigate Wikipedia along with some added features such as a search history and related articles. It’s an effective and enjoyable research tool. Free but you’ll have to switch to the US store to get it (if you’re not already there).

MacFreedom and TV Guide

TV, along with the internet, is probably the worst enemy of a writer’s productivity. Vegging in front of a reality show or scrolling aimlessly through Twitter or an exe’s Facebook profile doesn’t get the next great novel of a generation written!

MacFreedom (for Mac and PC) blocks all internet activity on a laptop or desktop for a set amount of time, whilst the TV Guide app lets you see what’s on TV before you actually switch it on. MacFreedom is only $10 and the TV Guide is free. Your writing time is precious, protect it!

The National Geographic HD Atlas

Yes, you could use Google Maps or Google Earth, but for a small cost you could immerse yourself into a beautifully rendered HD atlas and let your imagination travel the seven seas!

Baby Names

Gives you ideas and inspiration for names and the meanings and origins behind them. Anyone seeing you use it may have some questions for you, especially your other half. Free.

You can probably achieve the same results with most of these apps by just using a web browser on your phone, but where’s the fun in that?! Also, if you really like an app then go ahead and pay for the full version to encourage the developer to spend time on updating and improving it for you.

Do you use any of these apps? Or others we should know about? Share them in the comments.

Ben Ellis has completed his second novel, ‘Broken Branches’ a dystopian tale of controlled procreation, and is currently looking for an agent or publisher.  You can find him online at http://www.b3n3llis.com and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/b3n3llis.

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Comments

  1. M Hartong says:

    In addition to the ones you’ve mentioned, especially dropbox… We love Evernote too for keeping snippets of all sorts of things, especially since even the text in photos is searchable. Plus you can use it on ALL your devices, iPhone to desktop.

  2. Samuel says:

    Distraction is one of those enemies that you cannot get rid of.

    But with MacFreedom or TV guide, those can keep the distraction away from your mind.

    RescueTime is a program I use as well, for the distraction part.

    Thanks for the list of apps that can help you improve in your writing and other aspects.

  3. And what about people who don’t use apple? As in Android? Sometimes Apple users act like the rest of the world, as in the majority of computers that exist, simply don’t exist… Seems foolish to waste a golden opportunity of getting to post on ProBlogger with an apple-centric article. With very little efforts on your part you could of made this writing speak to needs of Android users rather then being a brand snob? In other words, I don’t think I’ll be clicking on your link or remembering/sharing your effort. Most likely 1/2 the readers of Problogger will feel the same.

  4. Aditi Datta says:

    Hi Ben,
    Well, I think these apps are just the great for writers and would be a great help for them too. I like the discover idea of using age of Wikipedia. That was just great. Thanks for the share!!

  5. I totally agree with you, especially when it comes to baby names. The names we give to our blogs do matter a lot, we should make an extra effort to look for names that are quit. The names need to be the revelation behind our work thanks for sharing this.

  6. You know it well @Samuel distraction is one enemy that we fail to deal with. We should try as much as possible to look for a serene environment to do our work, away from any kind of distraction. To work perfectly well we need to have piece of mind and we need not to be interrupted.

  7. I have used some of this app’s and they are great. nice post!

  8. Reed Nixon says:

    I have to confess, I have never used some of these apps. I got to try them… Nice read.

  9. Ferb says:

    Hi Ben, thanks for introducing so many great apps that I haven’t known, I only know the Dictionary and Dropbox. I’ll definitely try all of them out. And so far, I think this post is the easiest post to read compare to other posts. I love your voice – Ferb

  10. Shelby Roth says:

    I just don’t know how to thank you for such a wonderful help! Your great site really helped me a lot and no doubt to such apps being so crucial for writers and would be a great help for them too! Thanks for sharing and keep up the great job!

  11. The best app for writers is simple. It’s a book. If you want to be a good writer, read as much as you write.

  12. Penny Hinton says:

    Great ideas for info sources – particularly liked the baby names: really innovative idea and one I’ll use more often now. Can’t live without my Thesaurus, one of the most useful resources ever. I also use a hard copy version too – contains some more unusual words – just in case inspiration is flagging a bit.
    Look forward to some more great tips soon

  13. Love this post, thanks for sharing. One thing struck me after I finished reading it. I wonder if anyone pulls down their dusty, old dictionary anymore. The one with the hardcover and the dog-eared pages? I’d have to say my dad still uses his. Then of course, he can barely use his cell phone. I have my grandpa’s atlas, and copies of ancient TV guides with yellow pages. Thirty years ago, when I was about to give birth, I still have the baby name book I wore out. Do we aways forsake the old for the new? Just wondering.

  14. Bella says:

    I use both. When I’m working on corporate writing and the like, I pretty much stick to dictionary programs. When I’m writing fiction our more personal pieces, nothing beats pulling the OED off the shelf and flipping through the pages, sometimes just for inspiration. Same goes for my other reference books. Basically, anytime I’m not sure exactly what I’m looking for, browsing is still much more enjoyable for me in print.

  15. Hi…Ben,
    I’m favor of this article! This is really nice & interesting article for non writing apps.

  16. James Dean says:

    baby names for inspiration, never thought that way.

  17. Z.C.Bolger says:

    The app that I have found most useful in my writing would be “A Novel Idea”. It helps with character design, storyline, book layout and much more. I suggest it to all fellow writers.

  18. Matthew Rose says:

    Hi Ben, what a nice list!
    Hey Samuel, have you used IceDeep WorkTracker? I have been using this program to alert me of distraction that kill my writing time. It is not free, though.

  19. Ben Ellis says:

    Hi everyone, thanks for your positive comments.

    I have heard of Evernote but not quite sure why I never tested it out, I’ll give it another look.

    Can’t remember the last time I looked at a real-life, dead-tree…I mean, paper dictionary :) I find online dictionaries easier to search plus they’re constantly updated. On the flipside, I love old maps and atlases.

    I have seen ‘A Novel Idea’ and other such apps but avoided them as I fear they may give your writing too much of a ‘paint by numbers’ feel. I don’t know, never used them, but that would be my only concern. Probably very good for brand new writers and those wanting a kick-start out of their inertia though.

  20. Paper Dumps says:

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