Free Scrivener Alternatives

[NOTE:  This post was originally written in September 2016.  Some features or functionalities of the reviewed programs may have changed since then.]

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!

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35 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?


    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!


      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.


  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


    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.


  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.


    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! 🙂


    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!


  6. How secure are these programs? I always worry about ideas being taken and before I can ever get around to finishing my novel someone else finishes it first. What are your thoughts?


    1. It depends on the program. Your writing is always YOURS, and they cannot just take it. But some online-hosted programs have in their Terms & Conditions that they can use excerpts, screenshots, etc., of users’ writing for marketing or other purposes. Some writing programs are not hosted online at all, and would essentially be no different than composing in Microsoft Word… you’re using their program installed on your device, but it’s all hosted on your own computer; no one would have access to it any more than to anything else on your hard drive. Other programs have an online component, but go to great lengths to make sure your writing never gets seen or used by anyone else. A new program I’m just now trying out (haven’t had a chance to write a review yet), WriterStat is this way. They told me they actually encrypt your writing as it saves in their system, so that they are not even able to see what you write, much less use it. My best advice would be to read the Terms & Conditions of each program before using, or contact that program’s customer service if you have questions. (Shout out to WriterStat on this, because the creator of the program emailed me back immediately and was so nice!… and by the way, they are not paying me to review or test their software, I just loved how helpful they were. Lol)


  7. FYI all: The scrivener 30 day trial is 30 USES. so if you use it once a week you can use it for 30 weeks free, just something to keep in mind for those shopping around. You’re not limited in time since you first installed/launched, but in number of different days (not jsut sessions, can launch dozens of times same day without losing usage) it is used. Most of the trials for these programs are like tha, except for one: NovelCreator – which you don’t even mention here. It’s one that is truly odd, quite different I think, if yo uwant to use their system anyway, based on the Marshall Plan, I still can’t understand what anyone finds so difficult about Scriv beyond the compile feature. That is an absolute mess, or was (theyre making new version right now) but the outline, writing etc parts are extremely simple, moreso than any of the others that are on your list- most of which I’ve found much harder to figure out. There is very little to scrivener actually, so why it’s ranked so high – SUPPOSEDLY – by “professional writers” I don’t know. I’ve yet to hear of a single author anyone would recognize that uses it. It’s not a bad program, sometiems I write on 3 differnet programs at once to make use of different features I like in each one and those 3 are Scriv, yWriter, and FreeWriter. FreeWriter has one thing none of the rest have: one screen no matter how many projects. I like that. Hate tracking what is and isnt open in what order, hovering previews that take up half your screen etc, pet peeves galore with newer software (Windows 10 in particular even though I despise everythign mac/apple, and choose not to use linux because loss of some functionality i need) FreeWriter is great in that way. I can make a new project, and bam it appears on the left side in its own outline/folder just liek al lthe rest. switch between manuscripts as I please without switching tabs, just wish I could figure out how to change paragraph formatting, then I’d use nothing else probably. Oh also on Scrivener, you say doesnt use story and character templates: but what it does is include some basic ones right off the bat, jsut not REQUIRE their use like others, and yo ucan create and customize or download unlimited other templates from other users all over the web. Some of those tmeplates are why I use it mainly, I’m always takign one and modifying it to my own styles.


    1. To be honest, I feel about Scrivener the same way I feel about Adobe Illustrator… they have a lot of good features but it’s sort of overload for my brain and other programs appeal to me more. I’ve been using a combination of programs, actually, depending on what part of the writing process I’m in and what I need at that moment. As I explained in some of my posts, I’m very visual and also somewhat hands-on… for my current project I had so many details to manage that I ended up using spreadsheets, Google Docs, a couple of writing programs to store world-building and character details (Outlining Your Novel — which isn’t free, either, but worked for what I needed at the moment — and one or two others). Maybe I didn’t explore Scrivener enough to find the templates you’re referring to… I’m not talking about formatting templates; I was talking about outlines or templates to help writers plot or plan their stories. Perhaps Scrivener does have those and I just missed them. I don’t use templates for formatting… I have pre-formatted stuff set up in Word that makes it easy for me to format e-books, print books, etc., depending on the need for publishing. Story templates aren’t really a need for me, either… I have a basic outlining process of my own that I use… but I know a lot of authors like the help getting started, especially those still navigating story structure. Anyway, thanks for your comments!


  8. Reblogged this on The Octavian Journal and commented:
    Hello fellow writers,
    I’ve often wondered what the alternatives to Scrivener were and, well, if they were any good. Everyone is always telling me how it is the best out there, but I’ve personally always used MS word and I’m hesitant to switch.
    Here’s a great post on Scrivener and how other writing programs hold up to it. I hope you enjoy it.


  9. If there’s one other writer in the world I can trust, it’s definitely a fellow Crawford. Thank you for your insight.


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