Free Scrivener Alternatives

I recently tried out Scrivener, after hearing about it over and over again from multiple professional writers.  While there were things about the program I loved, it was a little difficult to master, and it also lacked some functionalities I wished it had.  Plus, it costs $40, and though I was using the free 30-day trial, I wasn’t yet convinced that it would meet my needs enough to purchase it.   I wanted to see what else was out there.

So… I looked.

And I found a lot of options.

So, I dug deeper.  I spent many hours testing out multiple programs, mostly free, and comparing their features to Scrivener and to one another.  I read tutorials, I tested out the programs, I created a partial story to try out the software’s functionality… I even took screenshots.

Then I compiled them all and compared them, and what resulted was the chart below.

This chart is by no means exhaustive.  There are plenty of software programs I didn’t try.  I also can’t guarantee the chart is perfect.  It’s possible I missed a feature here or there because it was just difficult to find within the program, or that perhaps some of these programs have been updated or changed since a few weeks ago when I tested them.

However, if you’re looking for writing software and you want to know what’s out there and how it compares to a leading software like Scrivener, then I hope this chart will be helpful to you.

A note: Green checkmarks mean YES to a feature, while blank boxes mean either a general “no,” that I couldn’t find the option in that program or that the option doesn’t apply.  If I took time to put a red X in a box, take that as an emphatic NO.

If you want further information on any of these software programs, be sure to read the individual blog post for each in my Software Review series.

(Visiting a chain of blog posts takes time, I know!  If you’d like to download a PDF of my screenshots and reviews for 10 different writing programs all in one handy resource, instead, please scroll down to access the link to my PDF Info-Book or CLICK HERE!)

And now, THE CHART:

comparison-of-writing-software_page_1comparison-of-writing-software_page_2I realize that this chart gives only a very brief analysis of each program.  It is intended to be a summary tool to help you see a lot of info all at once.  However, if you want more details about each program I tested, I did create a detailed review for each one (with screenshots!).  You can see these reviews in my “Free Writing Software Review” series posts, in which I’ll be posting a detailed review of each program on the above chart.  These will be posted once a week, starting next week.

UPDATE as of 11/15/17: All the posts have long since been published, but now there is a NEW resource available…

Scrivener & Scrivener Alternatives Book Cover

You can now get my FREE Info-Book that contains the detailed reviews for all 10 software programs in one convenient, downloadable PDF!

All I ask in return is that you join my email list so that I can keep you up-to-date through my monthly newsletter. (No spam!  Just one email per month and an occasional email when I have a new book releasing.)

Click here to get the FREE PDF BOOK!

Thank you for reading!

If you found this post helpful, please share it with a friend!

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20 thoughts on “Free Scrivener Alternatives

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  1. Why the split page? The chart is on the left and will not move and the blog is on the right. the chart is too small to read.
    Is the chart somewhere else that is readable?

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    1. Are you viewing on a computer or mobile device? I just double-checked and on a computer, the chart is readable (though the font is small). If you right-click, you can “Open Image in New Tab” and zoom in as far as you like; everything is still clear and readable even when zoomed. On mobile, you can do the same by tapping and holding on the image, then selecting “Open Image.” This should open the image in a separate window that lets you zoom in. Hope that helps!

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      1. I’m on a Windows 7 PC running FireFox and you’re left-hand banner wastes over half the screen. It’s pretty bad. It’s uncomfortable to read with the text shoved to the right 1/3 of the screen.
        Looks like all you posts have the same layout.

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  2. Looking at changing old PC (XP based). I’ve only kept it going because of writing software that won’t work on Windows 7 or later – having said which, the hardware has come to the end of its natural life, so I’m looking at the options. I noticed Bibisco and read your experience which took me here. I already have yWrite 5 which fine except for one thing – backups (I’d prefer to create one when I save rather than the autocreate; not a big deal but I’d rather not have content free backups…) That aside I like it for word count, word count by scene and word usage.
    Your comments on Scrivener ring true. I used the free download a couple of days until other things in life took precedence (Taxi-driver of Dad) plus keeping up with stuff.
    I hope to treat myself to Scrivener at Xmas – it might never get used but as a writing junkie, what else should I ask for? 😉 😉
    Keep writing

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    1. Did I never reply to this??? I’m so sorry! So, I’ve still yet to master Scrivener, but it’s on my to-do list! I have a couple other writing apps I want to try out first, because to be honest, Scrivener intimidates me still. I know SO MANY writers swear by it, but it’s a little too overwhelming for me. I may watch some tutorials, etc., when I get time and then try out the trial version some more before deciding whether to purchase.

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  3. The only reason scrivener will intimidate is if you have to learn it all at once. Taking it a tiny chunk at a time, it becomes second nature quickly. I started with scrivener as the fantasy series I’m working on required a LOT of world building. Having a bunch of files here there and yonder just wasn’t cutting it.

    I look at the alternatives because they gave up on the linux version. (Which I still use at this point because it works ‘good enough’.)

    Currently playing with Manuskript. Good interaction with the developer via git, but the app definitely has a ways to go. (And along those lines, while there ARE templates for characters and such…they are very restrictive compared to Scrivener’s folders as ‘whatever you want’ method.

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    1. Yes, I believe that was my biggest hurdle at the time… I simply didn’t have the time to invest in learning it piece-by-piece. As I said, I know lots of writers who swear by it, and it works great for them! I would like to eventually give Scrivener another try, and have been bookmarking some tutorials to help speed the learning process once I do. For now, I’m using other programs that didn’t have as steep as a learning curve… but I am intrigued by all that Scrivener seems capable of doing. It was just a bit overwhelming! Anyway, thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. If I may I ask, which one do you use to write your novels? And why? (Also, which one would you use if cost were not an issue?) Thanks!

    By the way, this is wonderfully valuable research you’re doing. Thank you so much! 🙂

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    1. Hi! So, I tend to hop around, depending on my particular projects’ needs and where I am in the process. For previous projects, I’ve used Papel, Bibisco, Free Writer, Plume Creator, and True Novelist… none for an entire project, but more for hopping in and organizing my ideas at different parts of the process when I needed a fresh look at them. With my current novel, I did a lot of the planning by hand in notebooks because something about that just helps me focus… then when it came time to transfer everything into a more organized format, I used a combination of a few applications, including one called Outlining Your Novel (an app based on KM Weiland’s book), which came out after I did this blog series and I haven’t had a chance to officially review yet. But it was helpful in organizing my world-building and initial storyline. Microsoft Word is still my primary go-to, despite having tried many other options. I create my own organization in how I name the files and sort them into folders, and for me it works. I just find some of the others either too limiting or too overwhelming (like Scrivener, which I keep wanting to re-try but so far end up only feeling like it’s going to take me longer to learn than I really want to invest and I haven’t yet been convinced the benefits — for me at least — are worth the time investment). But with my current novel, which has been in the works for quite some time, I hit a point where I felt like I needed more than Word and so I explored around to some other programs but nothing quite had what I needed to organize the complex timelines/worldbuilding I had going on, so I used some Google Spreadsheets I created (which I’m still perfecting and hope to share eventually!). I’m sorry for the long response! I guess my overall answer is “whichever one helps me at the time.” If cost were not an issue, there’s a subscription-based one called Story Shop I’ve been very curious to try, but I haven’t wanted to do the trial until I have time to really dive in and purchase it if it was helpful. Maybe soon. 🙂 I’m sorry I don’t have a more definitive answer! I just try to evaluate the programs and put the info out there, because every author has a different process, and some of these programs might be just what an author is looking for!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for that wonderfully detailed answer. I really appreciate it! I’ve got Scrivner and find it’s more trouble than it’s worth. Also, Chris Fox, a writer whose opinions I respect, recently abandoned Scrivner because it gave him red colored letters on his last novel on Amazon. I don’t remember what he’s using now. I’m currently checking out FreeWriter and finding it frustrating because the video tutorials are not currently available. Took me an hour just to figure out how to transfer a short story over to one of its blank documents. Finally figured out where the blank documents were, then cut and pasted the story from a google doc. Now the spacing between paragraphs is twice what it should be. The big problem I find with some of these programs is that once the word count gets up past ten or twenty thousand, there’s a delay between typing a letter and when it shows up on the screen. I’ve used Word for decades, but now with the intrusion of Microsoft’s OneDrive, I have documents scattered all over in a maze and never know if something’s on my hard drive or off in Microsoft’s cloud. Google Docs is a similar maze, but at least it doesn’t intrude upon my computer’s files. I really wish I could get rid of all this cloud stuff, especially Apple Cloud which slows the internet connection for every computer in my house. I’ll check out Story Shop. Thanks for that suggestion and for all the rest of your outstanding research and generous help. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, C.J.! I’ll definitely take a look at the software you recommended! I’m also exploring a new one currently… I’ve been in communication with the inventor/developer and they have a lot of cool things planned… it’s still in development/beta but I’m testing it out and I’m hoping to be able to write about it in a few weeks!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for the comparison chart! I was looking for free alternatives to Scrivener for academic writing and I’m going to try out a couple of these options!

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