Ask most experts what the best novel writing software is, and they’ll usually tell you Scrivener. It’s also a popular tool for organizing research for most writing projects, although it’s not free. While they’re not always as robust, free Scrivener alternatives help you accomplish similar results without any fees. For students, full-time writers, and even freelancers, these alternatives could be exactly what you need to boost productivity.
Manuskript offers an incredibly clean interface for distraction-free writing. It’s also one of the most popular Scrivener alternatives. The open-source alternative features a simple, yet powerful, editor, along with an intuitive outlining function. Tabs keep all your windows and tasks neatly organized.
One of my favorite features is virtual index cards. These are perfect for quick notes and thoughts or as a simple way to keep track of research. You can even analyze your writing to help it flow better, which is hard to find in free options.
This is my personal favorite alternative just for the variety of features and how well everything is laid out. Everything is completely free, but donations to the developer are welcome. It’s compatible with Linux, Windows, and macOS.
The multi-platform bibisco is available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux. The free version offers everything you need to keep a novel or other writing project neatly organized.
The interface isn’t fancy but keeps you focused on the work and your research, which is what’s most important, right? You can also export your work at any time to PDF, txt, docx, and archive to easily share your work with others who don’t have bibisco.
It’s easy to lay out characters or ideas along with making notes. Of course, the built-in editor gives you all the basics to create everything from first drafts to final results.
The tool is free, but a Supporter’s Edition is available for around $21.
3. Reedsy Book Editor
So far, the Scrivener alternatives have all been like Scrivener: you have to download them to use on your system. The Reedsy Book Editor is an online alternative that focuses on collaboration.
If you’re working with a fellow student, co-worker, or author, you’ll easily be able to track changes based on users. While it’s not nearly as feature-rich as Scrivener, it’s still perfect for crafting written projects. Organize chapters or sections with the outlining feature. You can even drag and drop to reorder them at any time.
Since Reedsy is all about helping authors get their books published, one of the Book Editor’s standout features is formatting. The tool handles formatting your final manuscript into PDF or popular formats for e-book providers, such as Amazon, Apple iBooks, and Smashwords.
While FastPencil offers premium packages for book editing, publishing, and more, the FastPencil writing editor and project manager is free to use. If you’re looking for collaborative Scrivener alternatives, it’s hard to beat this one. It’s a little more advanced than Reedsy Book Editor but not quite as intuitive.
Easily add people to your project. You can also set up various publications, which are just different aspects of a single project or completely separate projects. Import text from other tools, such as Evernote, and even export your project at any time. Set privacy controls, add tasks and to-do lists, check project activity, and chat with your collaborators. Everything is built in to this web-based tool.
It’s slightly different than other alternatives and definitely worth checking out if you want to work with others.
5. SmartEdit Writer
SmartEdit actually comes in several premium forms, including an add-in for Microsoft Word. However, SmartEdit Writer is completely free. It’s only available for Windows currently. But, considering a big complaint among Scrivener users is how much better the Mac version is over the Windows, you’re probably looking for better Scrivener alternatives for Windows anyway. It’s actually one of the best options for Windows users.
What’s great about SmartEdit Writer is it has a similar look and feel to Microsoft Word, which all but eliminates the learning curve if you’re used to Word. However, it adds features, such as research notes, an outline tool, built-in editor (to catch common issues), a daily word counter, and much more. Think of it as Word but geared specifically toward creative writing and research projects.
If you just need a word processing tool, skip the high price of Microsoft Office. Try a free Office alternative instead to start your next writing project.