Popular Writing Tools and Software for Authors and Researchers
Overview | Writing Software | Reference Management Software | Research Tools | Grammar Checking Tools
Whether you are writing an article, research paper, essay, blog, and dissertation or PhD thesis, it is important to choose an appropriate writing software tool for your work. The choice of writing software comes down to your personal taste. Everyday users are happy to shed a few dollars to purchase a well-known writing tool such as MS Word. Tech savvies welcome open source projects such as OpenOffice and LibreOffice. Whereas, research community is much more adventurous and have embraced the type-setting system, Latex as their writing medium. Blog writers and journalists use online writing tools such as GoogleDocs and DropBox Paper as they find these tools perfect for collaborating with others. Novel writers use more fancy writing tools such as Scrivener to organize their ideas and create a storyboard to help them write. In this blog, we review some of the common writing tools and software used by writers.
1. Microsoft Word
MS Word is the most widely used tool in the writing community. It comes with great features and keeps evolving with each version. Some of the popular features include: Grammar and spell checker, Thesaurus, text formatting and aligning, bullets and numbering, inserting watermarks, page numbers headers and footers, readymade templates and mail merge. You can install plenty of third-party plugins and apps to enhance your experience. A good choice of plugins can save you a lot of time and effort with your writing.
You can use office online for free and save your documents in the cloud; all you need is a Microsoft account. If you need a desktop version, then you have to purchase a copy. Some universities offer free copies to students. Office 365 offers a subscription model that allows you to install the latest version of MS office on up to 5 computers. You will also have access to the online version of MS Office and up to 1TB cloud storage.
- Features of MS Word
- Advantages and disadvantages of MS Word
- Plugins and apps for MS Word
- About MS Office 365
LaTeX is a typesetting system for the communication and publication of scientific documents. It is free software. The writer writes in plain text and then adds markup tags to stylise text. Latex is widely used for publishing scientific papers, thesis, and books in many fields. Latex offers a wide variety of features including cross-referencing tables and figures, bibliography management, page layout, chapter and section headings, and numbering. It has a steep learning curve, and beginners will take some time to build up expertise in Latex. People who have no or very little experience in programming will take a while to get used to Latex since it is similar to learning a new scripting language. Most publishers make a Latex template available alongside MS Word template as a part of the author submission instructions.
Complex equations can be beautifully formatted in Latex by inserting relevant tags. Latex produces a .tex file which in turn can be converted into a wide variety of output formats such as PDF, HTML, etc. using TEX distribution packages such as MikTex. The major disadvantages of using Latex is that it does not come with an inbuilt spell checker or graphical user interface. Latex comes with several templates – book, report, article, letter or beamer. You should define the document class in your .tex file so that Latex can include all the necessary packages to produce the final output. One of the biggest advantages of using LateX is that you can concentrate on the writing and leave the formatting to Latex. You don’t have to worry about figures getting out of place because you hit a key by mistake. Everything is taken care of in the backend. One of the powerful features of Latex is bibliography management. Essentially the whole process of referencing and generating bibliography is automated using BibTeX or BibLaTeX.
- Latex tutorial
- Benefits of Latex
- Advantages and disadvantages of using Latex
- BibTex tutorial
3. Open Office
OpenOffice is an open-source product that mimics MS Office. It is completely free, and the suite of products it offers includes Writer (Word), Calc (Excel), Impress (Powerpoint) and Base (Access), plus a vector graphics editor, Draw (Visio). The default file format of OpenOffice is OpenDocument Format (ODF). However, you can open and save documents with DOC and DOCX extensions. OpenOffice is available for Windows, Linux, and macOS, and the tool is distributed under Apache License. Many paid features of MS Word such as PDF export are available for free in OpenOffice. There are no hidden charges for add-ins and upgrades. The tool supports over 40 languages and includes Grammar and spell checker.
OpenOffice might exhibit some formatting issues while working with DOC/DOCX files. These issues might be apparent while working with word files with a lot of pictures, columns, headers and fancy text alignments. OpenOffice remains quite popular as it is downloaded approximately 100,000 times a day. Another important advantage is that it is open source and you can customize the tool to your requirements. It is ideal for small businesses and startups if they are not so keen on shedding money for buying the MS Office site licenses.
- OpenOffice vs. MS Office
- Benefits of using OpenOffice
- OpenOffice Writing tips
- OpenOffice Writing training and ideas
LibreOffice is a free open office suite that is similar to OpenOffice. LibreOffice project branched out from the OpenOffice project in 2010 and is maintained by ‘The Document Foundation’. You might notice some minor differences in features between OpenOffice and LibreOffice. However they are broadly similar regarding layout and functionality. Both projects are well-maintained. LibreOffice team tends to release very frequent updates with minor feature increments, but OpenOffice project tends to release new versions with major feature updates. LibreOffice enjoys a better recognition among the Linux community as it comes packaged with Linux, whereas you must download and install OpenOffice manually.
- LibreOffice review
- OpenOffice vs LibreOffice
- OpenOffice and LibreOffice feature comparison
- Should you switch from OpenOffice to LibreOffice?
Scrivener is a writing tool that allows you write and manage a long document such as a Ph.D. Thesis or a novel with a lot of chapters, sections, and subsections. Scrivener is available for both Windows and Mac. One of the great features of Scrivener is that you can split your writing into small chunks or snippets. You can move these chunks around easily and reorganize your content. You can visualize your document using different views. One of the views displays a short message summarising each chapter as a sticky note stuck on a board. You can create folders and subfolders to store documents, images, PDFs, audio, video, and web pages that you need for your writing. You simply drag and drop these into your writing easily in a single click. After finishing the text, the user can export the project into a wide variety of formats. Scrivener is not a free software tool; you can get a copy for approximately $45.
- Scrivener for Dummies book
- Reasons for switching to Scrivener
- Benefits of Scrivener
- Scrivener online course and help
7. Google Docs
Google Docs is a web-based writing software offered by Google. The suite includes Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides which are simplified versions of MS Word, MS Excel and MS PowerPoint respectively. You can create and edit files online. One of the powerful features of the Google docs is the ability to collaborate with other users online. The changes made by multiple users on the same documents are highlighted with a user-specific color. Google docs are extensively used in the publishing industry where the articles predominantly contain text and pictures with minimum formatting. This Google project is actively maintained, and there are frequent product updates.
There is a limit on the size of the documents you can create on the Google Docs. The documents cannot be larger than 50MB, spreadsheets have a limit of 2 million cells, and presentation cannot be larger than 100MB. The images in the documents and presentation slides cannot be larger than 50MB. Users can load and export documents in a wide variety of formats such as DOC, DOCX, TXT and ODF file formats. You can upload documents to Google Drive cloud storage. You can either download Google Drive App to your desktop or use the online interface to import and export documents. There are handy research tools that allow you to search for academic papers and quickly insert the appropriate footnotes or citations in a variety of citation formats to Google Docs. You can install third-party add-ons. Some of the popular add-ons include easy bibliography creator, diagramming tool, and table of contents generator.
- How to use Google Docs?
- Tips and tricks for Google Docs
- How to use Google drive?
- Google drive tips and tricks
8. DropBox Paper
Dropbox Paper, or simply Paper, is a web based document-editing service developed by Dropbox. Paper is broadly similar to Google Docs in functionality. It has a very lightweight interface and is capable of supporting a wide variety of content including images, Google spreadsheets, data from Github, YouTube videos, Spotify playlists, and plain old code. This makes DropBox Paper easy to customise for a wide variety of projects. Documents can be easily shared with others. Documents can be shared individually or added to a folder with group access. You can also invite people to edit (or view) a file via email or with a specific URL. It is so easy to create tables and image galleries in Dropbox Paper document. You can create a table by simply clicking on an icon and specifying the number of rows and columns. Image galleries can be created by simply dragging and dropping images. DropBox paper also offers plenty of shortcuts that will save you a lot of time. For example, typing # followed by space will create an H1 header, and typing a hyphen followed by a space will start an unordered list. DropBox will notify the changes made to the DropBox paper documents via the bell icon in the top left-hand corner. The version control system is very good. You can see all the changes that have been made to the documents and who made the changes. It is easy to navigate to various sections of the paper as the headings are listed as links in the left-hand panel. One of the downsides of using DropBox paper is that DOCX and MD (markdown ) are the only file formats available for exporting documents at the moment. Also, DropBox Paper does not currently support spreadsheet and presentation formats. Hopefully, this will be included in the future updates.
- Google Docs vs. DropBox paper
- Reasons for choosing Dropbox paper
- Features of DropBox paper
- Tips and Tricks for using DropBox paper
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Given that the intro mentions all sorts of academic writing, there’s a severe lack of any mention of how these tools interact with referencing softwares. Mendeley, endnote, papers3, and many more I’m failing to mention…
Plugins are available almost exclusively for word and libreoffice, and little else. As beautiful as scrivener looks, and as much as I like the way it structures documents and lets you focus on the writing, without an easy way to cite-as-you-write and automatically generate a bibliography, it’s simply never going to make any huge in-roads as far as academia is concerned.
Timothy, For the purpose of an integrated software suite that incorporates every component of academic writing — research, writing, and citation management –you should look into Nota Bene (www.notabene.com). I note that I have no financial interest in the company.
most people use scrivener or scribus
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- Top 20 Writing Apps for Android and iPhone
20 Best Writing Apps for Android and iPhone
Looking for essay writing tips ? We have everything you need and much more. In the recent decade, advanced development companies have released a range of writing applications. Students enjoy these opportunities. Young professionals use writing tools to:
- Enrich vocabulary
- Avoid grammar/spelling/punctuation mistakes
- Apply correct formatting
- Automatically check entire notes
Composing and publishing software became faster during the last five years. If you are a journalist or an English Language & Literature student trying to overcome difficulties with work, we recommend these 20 applications. Don’t miss your chance to get help from an essay writer online . Writing gurus number one on the academic/creative market help everybody!
- IWriter (iOS + Android)
Top world recognized tool which functions excellently on Android/iOS. Android version lacks opportunities. iOS version allows authors to enjoy their job! Functions contain:
- Syntax stressing (find adjectives, nouns, and other parts of language without any problems)
- Split screen (not all writing apps have it)
- JotterPad (free)
Available for Android only. It has a cool design every user loves; JotterPad makes it possible to convert files from PDF to WORD and some other popular formats. The app supports Markdown. A demo version lacks the availability of features; a paid version is required to unblock Creative Mode.
- Final Draft Writer (better for iOS)
Not an expensive creative tool which allows effective screenwriting. The best thing is every user can share the final version of screenwriting in many formats, including FDX. Authors save the drafts to iOS devices to view them anywhere. Simple navigation makes both drafting and editing rather exciting. Change your piece to standard industry formatting – share the results on Dropbox, e-mail, or else.
- Writer (free)
Wish to have an app developed by the famous screenwriter? Actor Tom Hanks has offered free Hanx Writer with paid upgrading; it shares the secrets of the most popular typewriters. The software is the first typewriter simulator ever – try your creative composition skills!
- Lists for Writers (free)
Students who start practicing novels will find Lists useful. Forget about search engines: this babe generates ideas better than Google. Without an Internet connection, it is possible to access the program and choose your character name/story plot/event location.
Do you want to have excellent Scrivener analogy which costs three dollars? Those who prefer bullet lists will find it simple to allocate characters, locations, backgrounds, and other story elements. Using physical index cards is time-consuming!
Audible is a loyal student’s teacher which allows listening to books dedicated to the art of writing. We recommend it even though it is not one of the best writing apps – it’s a listening tool. Beginning authors listen to the guides while riding, walking, or having a rest. Students save money on books found expensive on Amazon.
- Evernote (free)
Evernote is the top preferred web/mobile application as it is easy to jot down new ideas not to forget arguments or question you have later. The best thing is that you don't need to type everything manually – enjoy voice recognition option (paid) to record the thoughts. Check grammar/spelling/punctuation.
Insert words with automatic synchronization; programmers would love this function. The app allows creating a document out of fragments, making a complete story; the content order is predetermined in the final version of the notes.
- Text Expander
Type your essay manually using keyboard requires text expansion. Table and phone typing is a nightmare. The writing software saves time and nerves: whatever you compose gets into Text Expander tool automatically. You can move it via e-mail, messenger, to the cloud, etc. Write your creative essay in the blink of an eye.
Sync your notes online if you got stuck far from your PC/laptop unable to type words on one of these devices. Receive plain text to your phone. The top chosen app comes free of charge. The main theme is white text on a dark gray background which you can change. Save the ready content on the Android or iOS device to share it locally.
- My Writing Nook
Need a writing Android/iOS app with different customization options to improve your skills? This helpful innovation has many wonderful themes, opportunity to activate auto correction of English grammar/spelling, ability to share content online. Three dollars paid online to start your novel creator career!
An essay or short novel – ManuScript is an available Android/iOS app based on the web app with the same name. Having problems with creating outline – choose ManuScript to develop an action plan (outline) to follow. The tool contains research paper options equal to Google features. Once you are finished, obtain XML or HTML version of essay upon request free of charge to publish masterpiece online.
- MonoSpace Writer Beta
If you need bare bones writing or editing application with user-friendly, stylish interface (dark theme activated). One feature makes it stand out: the opportunity to organize & collect hashtags instead of uncomfortable folder system. Supports DropBox functionality.
As an owner of iOS devices (iPhone, iPad), a student is interested in a convenient writing app. Type your opinions with the speed of light and store to use prepared notes on any device in the future. Submit drafts from iOS to different services/websites.
Just sit down… and create using “Write” writing application iOS users around the world love. In the middle of the keyboard, find cursor nub to navigate the entire process. Special iOS software allows locating the cursor during the entering process, sharing content, passing code locking, managing interface, etc.
- Pro Writing Aid
Free online proofreader & editor in one face fixes the notes quicker, leaving no space for grammar mistakes. Wordiness, complex sentences, jargon words, repetitiveness, passive voice – it solved all problems.
Android/iOS stylish users appreciate yWriter 5 thanks to its powerful, user-friendly design supported by novelist features. No need to break your head – the best app will divide the story into logical chapters and essay structure. The tool keeps track of progress; meet urgent deadlines with the application!
Beginning an essay, research paper, short story, or novel becomes simpler with exclusive drafting/editing apps! Brainstorming is the assignment of Bubbl.us. it is available on both website and Android/iOS app which serves writers of any level. The offer includes winning features:
- Full customization
- Changeable bubble colors
- Inserting hyperlinks
The service is free!
An original Android/iOS add-in developed to release hidden potential, let reach any part of the document faster, start from the moment you closed document, prevent distracting factors, and more.
Android and iOS developers know what students want. They do their best to create opportunities to support young professionals and even talented novelists.
Best writing apps along with the professional online academic services solve student’s problems in several clicks. How long does it take to write a 5 page paper? Our writers can complete it in a matter of hours. Place an order with us to achieve both academic and world’s writing heights!
Need a good piece of advice from a strong writer on how to make an engaging plot? Think your personal or national honor society essay is challenging? Suffering from the writer's block? Can’t find the right words as a writer to begin your story, engage your reader, and express your thoughts on a topi...
A research paper usually weighs 20-30% of the total course grade. It is assigned closer to the middle of the semester. There are special formal instructions and generally accepted international formatting standards that a student should study. For instance, he or she should study the particular form...
Thesis Apps: Best Applications & Software for Graduate Students
The process of writing a thesis requires a lot of time and patience. Custom-writing.org experts are willing to make this task easier for you. We’ve compiled a list of thesis writing apps and software. These tools will help you make plans and self-organize. There are also free apps to improve your productivity, help you carry out the research, boost your vocabulary, and check your work for mistakes.
Our specialists will write a custom essay on any topic for 13.00 10.40/page
With the thesis apps on this list, you won’t ever have to wonder how to write a dissertation because you’ll know the answer – it’s easy!
- 📑 Word Processors
- ⏰ Time Managers
- 🚀 Productivity Apps
- 🎓 Dictionaries
- 🔬 Research Tools
- 🔤 Grammar Checkers
1. 📑 Word Processors and Note-Taking Apps
This should be a no-brainer, but writing is one of the essential parts of creating a thesis. So it’s evident that you need to have the best thesis apps to deal with this task effectively.
Here are some apps that you might want to check out.
- Google docs . This is probably the first app that comes to mind when you think of alternative free word processors. It has all the functionality and capabilities you’ll need to write and format your thesis. It also allows users to work together on the same document in real-time. It’s available for Android, iOS, or as a web app.
- WPS Office . This multi-platform solution includes not only a word processor. It’s also a full-fledged office suite that allows you to create and work with spreadsheets, presentations, and PDF documents. What else could you need to create a perfect thesis?
- Office Online . This one is for those who want to get the most out of Microsoft Office for free. This one is as good as it can get — an online version of Office. Enough said.
- Jarte . This is a free word processor based on the WordPad engine. It has all the necessary functions and provides a comfortable way to work with text—and it’s free. This app also can export your documents to PDF and HTML files.
- Evernote , Google Keep , and OneNote . The reason why we put these three together? They’re all note-taking apps. Do we know that there are many other similar apps too? Yes, we do. But there’s a reason why these three are so popular. They all offer the same thing – a way to keep all your notes in one place. The difference between them is how it’s all organized, along with some extra features. All of these thesis writing apps are free, too.
2. ⏰ Time-Managing Thesis Apps
With all the steps you need to complete to write a good thesis, it’s not hard to get lost. You can quickly get stuck in one place without knowing what to do and end up making no progress at all.
Or you can use one of the dissertation apps in this category to build a plan and organize your workflow!
- Pocket . Pocket brings order to the chaos of posts and articles you want to read or use to write your thesis. You can easily save them all in one place and look through them later. Then you can decide whether or not you’ll need a particular piece of information.
- Todoist . This one is a free time manager (though it also has paid plans with extra features). With this app, you can set deadlines for each stage of your thesis creation process, and it will remind you of them beforehand. This app will help you stay on track of what plans are waiting for you next.
- Wunderlist . This to-do list app indeed does wonders. It lets you build short- and long-term plans and keep them all in order. You can set notifications to stay on track and always be sure that you’re performing according to your schedule, whether it’s a particular stage of your thesis writing or some other assignment.
3. 🚀 Thesis Apps to Improve Productivity
We all have days when things don’t work, and everything is a distraction. So how can you deal with this all-too-common problem?
There’s a good selection of productivity apps that can help you out. With one of these, you’ll finish writing your thesis in no time.
- Any.do . This one is a task manager that’ll help you stay on track of whatever your current tasks are. It will help you build a habit of reviewing your tasks and make sure that you know which assignments you need to pay the most attention to at the moment. With this app, you won’t miss deadlines or find yourself wondering what to do next.
- IFTTT . This tool allows you to create short automation sequences without any coding skills. It will remember every little thing that you tend to forget. On the one hand, you’ll get those things done; on the other—you won’t get distracted by those tasks and will be able to concentrate on what’s important right now. The app supports plenty of services and is easy to use.
- RescueTime . This app will track the time you spend completing tasks. It will also report all the websites you visit, the apps you use, and breaks you take during the day. By doing so, it helps you create greater self-awareness. As a result, you’ll immediately see whether something is going wrong and keeping you from following your plan.
- StayFocusd . This Chrome extension helps you stay focused on your current task (which, of course, explains its name). It will block all those distracting sites that tend to get in your way while you’re working. You can set a specific time for blocking or choosing a time limit for a certain time during the day.
- Write or Die . This one is a web-based tool. It is also available for iOS, with an Android version coming soon. The tool helps you eliminate writer’s block. Within the app, you can set a specific period and the word count you need to reach within this time. It also features stimuli and rewarding images.
4. 🎓 Vocabulary Boosters and Dictionaries
At this stage, dictionaries and vocabulary boosters come into play.
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary . This is one of the most well-known dictionaries out there. Apart from listing definitions and offering a thesaurus, it also features word games. These word games aim to increase your vocabulary, which will come in handy when writing a thesis. Apart from having a web-based version, there are also apps available for Android and iOS.
- Cambridge Dictionary . This is another famous dictionary listing almost every aspect and sphere imaginable. In long-term perspective, it’s even more useful than the best thesis statement generator , as it can potentially provide you with knowledge you’ll keep forever. All of the resources are available from the site, widget, or official mobile apps. A wide selection of available dictionaries and thesauruses will surely meet all of your writing needs.
- The Free Dictionary . There are many things to discover under this simple name. This web service provides dictionaries on a variety of topics. It also features a thesaurus, idioms, acronyms, a grammar book, and encyclopedia articles. What else can you ask for?
5. 🔬 Tools for Conducting Research
Another essential part of writing a thesis is research. Without properly researched sources and data , everything that’s written in your thesis will be highly questionable.
To avoid poorly supported arguments , and to be able to conduct outstanding research, consider using one of the following tools.
Receive a plagiarism-free paper tailored to your instructions.
- Mendeley . Once you try this tool, you won’t believe that you ever researched without it. It will help you complete any type of research, come up with a topic for your paper, organize your literature review , make annotations, and manage your research materials. This multi-platform tool also allows syncing across all your devices.
- Mindmup , Bubbl.us . Both of these apps are great tools for mind mapping. They’ll help you get all of your thoughts and ideas in order. This organization will significantly help your research, as everything will be neatly organized and accessible. Both of these tools have free plans and web versions. They only differ with their extra features.
- WolframAlpha . This is a go-to source of expert knowledge on a wide variety of disciplines. This answer engine is also available on mobile platforms. Instead of just giving a list of documents or web pages that may or may not answer your question, it comes up with results from a curated knowledge base in response to your query.
6. 🔤 Grammar Checkers
Everyone makes mistakes. But it’s not a bad idea to make sure that there’s none in your thesis. The apps described below can help you with that.
- Hemingway Editor . This tool aims to improve your writing style and make it as straightforward as possible. It makes colored highlights to indicate long or very complicated sentences. As a result, you get a clean piece of content that’s understandable and easy to digest.
- Ginger . This multi-platform solution helps you find and correct all types of grammar mistakes. It also makes it easier to edit text, which improves your overall productivity, as you’ll spend less time correcting errors.
- Grammarly . This tool has gained so much popularity that it probably doesn’t even require an introduction. It finds and corrects mistakes that no word processor can spot. The tool has a browser extension, offline software, and a premium version with extra features.
Hopefully, you’ll get some thesis help by using these free tools. With these apps at your disposal, you’ll be able to craft a fantastic thesis easily.
Did we miss something? Are there any free thesis apps that you like to use that aren’t on this list? Tell us about them in the comments!
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This overview of research paper strategies will focus on the type of research paper that uses library resources.
The research paper is a popular academic assignment. Forms of it are also used in various professional fields. The research paper gives you the opportunity to think seriously about some issue. Building on the research of others, you have the opportunity to contribute your own research and insights to a particular question of interest to you. It also gives you practice in important academic skills such as:
- formulating research questions
- conducting research
- managing time
- organizing information into coherent ideas
- substantiating arguments with research in the field
- and presenting insights about the research
Disciplines vary in their ways of conducting research, in writing research papers, and in the form of the final copy. See the Complete Discipline Listing Guide (Purdue OWL) of style guide information, with links to useful resources under each discipline.
Individual instructors may also vary in their expectations of a research paper. It is important that you read the assignment carefully . Writing a research paper can be a very messy and fluid process, and the following is only a representation of commonly used steps.
- Start by choosing a topic.
- Then narrow your topic .
- Draft a main claim or thesis statement (which may easily change as you do the research).
- Do the research. For more information, see guides on how to evaluate websites and other sources; understanding primary vs. secondary sources ; incorporating references , and paraphrase and summary .
- Organize the research. ( Outlining can really help at this point.)
- Draft. See The Writing Process for drafting ideas, tips, and suggestions.
- Create your bibliography or works cited page.
- Revise your draft. Revise for content and for organization .
- Edit and proofread your final draft.
Two major types of research papers
Argumentative research paper: .
The argumentative research paper consists of an introduction in which you clearly introduce the topic and inform the audience exactly which stance you intend to take; this stance is often identified as the thesis statement . An important goal of the argumentative research paper is persuasion, which means the topic chosen should be debatable or controversial. To be debatable, someone must be able to argue against your position. For example, “Mozart was a composer” is a fact and cannot be argued against, but “Mozart was the best composer to ever live” is an opinion and can be argued against.
You would support the thesis throughout the paper by means of both primary and secondary sources, with the intent to persuade the audience that the interpretation of the situation is viable.
Analytical research paper:
The analytical research paper often begins with asking a question (a.k.a. a research question) on which you have not taken a stance. Such a paper is often an exercise in exploration and evaluation.
It is not the intent to persuade the audience that your ideas are right while those of others are wrong. Instead, the goal is to offer a critical interpretation of primary and secondary sources throughout the paper--sources that should, ultimately, buttress particular analysis of the topic.
It is typically not until you have begun the writing process that the thesis statement begins to take solid form. In fact, the thesis statement in an analytical paper is often more fluid than the thesis in an argumentative paper. Such is one of the benefits of approaching the topic without a predetermined stance.
Updated June 2022
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We found the best productivity apps for academics
From unsticking your writing to squashing digital distractions, here’s our pick of the 10 best productivity apps for academics out there.
When you get the rare chance to block out some precious thinking time, don’t let poor organisation get the better of your productivity. There are lots of handy apps for academics out there like PaperCrowd and Google Scholar . But what about the apps that can boost your focus, squash distractions or cut down on the endless march of admin in academe?
Working at a software company, you learn a thing or two about the useful do-dahs out there. Here are some of the best productivity apps for academics we’ve found.
1. Project management app: Trello
Keeping projects on track takes a world of organisation; sometimes you need a few visual aids to help. Trello is a hyper-visual free productivity app that can help you keep on keeping on. Trello lets you create works streams for different projects, days or themes, and add tags and due dates to help you keep them all organised. You can also add colleagues or committee members to your boards, so you can see where people are on each project. At Ex Ordo we use Trello for everything from app testing to customer support and content planning.
Trello has are a barrel-load of inspiration boards to choose from. Choose one that works for you, and use it to help you balance your work and life admin.
The best productivity app for academics who : want to put order on an unruly project plan
2. To-do list app: Momentum
Are you a Chrome user who wants crystal-clear focus at the beginning of each day? Momentum is a free productivity app that’s designed to eliminate distraction and promote inspiration, focus, and productivity. Momentum transforms each tab you open into a personal daily dashboard highlighting your main focus for the day.
At least half of us in the office use Momentum to make sure we give our most important tasks priority each day. (Plus the inspiring background shots really don’t hurt.)
The best productivity app for academics who : want a good start to the day.
3. Literature-management app: Mendeley
If you’re an early-career researcher, a lot of your time is likely spent reading, reviewing and citing other academics’ work. Mendeley is a free reference manager that captures info like authors, title and publisher any time you import PDFs from your desktop, existing libraries or from websites.
As apps for academics go, Mendeley is the holy grail. Having a searchable literature library that allows you to create categories for different research themes – or different papers you’re writing – can save you a lot of time wading through files. Plus, Mendeley’s citation plugin for Word and LibreOffice allows you to cite as you write (and in the correct format for the journal you’re writing for). And as a bonus, your library lives on the cloud. So it won’t go poof when your hard drive does.
The best productivity app for academics who : want hassle-free literature management.
4. Bookmarking app: Pocket
Why is it just when you’re about to get stuck into a solid writing stint that the most interesting stories seem to flutter by? Thankfully, you can now avoid having a neverending list of open tabs by getting switched on to free productivity app Pocket .
Pocket is a distraction-busting plugin that lets you save interesting stories for later. It works across multiple browsers, and on your phone. Plus, you can quickly tag content as you add it, so no more wading through convoluted bookmark-folder architecture.
The best productivity app for academics who : want to save top-quality content for appropriate reading times.
5. Writing app: 750 words
Read anything about the difficulties of academic writing and the theme of procrastination crops up time and again. If your academic writing has hit a wall recently, commit to writing 750 words each day to start writing faster . You might surprise yourself. This writing-productivity app was inspired by the notion of “morning pages” – a set number of uncensored pages writers commit to writing every day. This type of free writing produces raw material that’s often unusable, but it’s main aim is to help clear your mind and unstick your writing for the rest of the day.
If your academic writing has hit a wall recently, commit to writing 750 words each day. You might surprise yourself.
The best productivity app for academics who : want to unstick their writing.
6 Noise-blocking app: myNoise
Find yourself getting distracted by chatty colleagues or noisy housemates? MyNoise is a free productivity app that gives you an impressive range of background noise machines to choose from. It’s got everything from sleeping dragon to Gregorian chant to help you block out what’s going on outside of your head. So you can better focus on what’s inside.
At Ex Ordo we’ve got a soft spot for the Irish coast noise machine. Partly because our HQ is bang smack on the Irish coast. Partly because it’s immensely satisfying to be able to add a splash of wind rumble and a sprinkle of wave crash as you please. (And you don’t need a raincoat to listen.)
The best productivity app for academics who : like their concentration soundtracked by the seashore.
7. Time-tracking app: RescueTime
When you’re trying to pin the tail on where your time goes, a time-tracking app like RescueTime comes in handy. This nifty app is great for academics who want a true reveal of how much time they spend on different tasks. Unlike a lot of time-tracking apps, RescueTime doesn’t ask you to self-report, instead it snoops in the background and logs how much time you spend on different apps and websites.
This tool can give you a good picture of where you’re productive and where you’re distracted. And it can help you quantify your productivity – which is helpful for validating your suspicions around how much time your current academic workload costs you. And means that when you’re asked to account for how long you spend replying to student emails or fulfilling a committee role, you’ll have some solid stats to point to.
The best productivity app for academics who : want to discover where their time really goes.
(If you want to combine RescueTime’s stats with self-reporting, try Hours .)
8. Self-control app: freedom
Freedom is a handy app that will block the internet, social media and apps to give you space to focus. A “session” on the productivity app lasts as long as you specify, and blocks everything you tell it to. And you can start sessions in the moment or schedule them in advance.
If you’ve got a solid paper-writing stint in your diary, switch on Freedom and save yourself from digital distractions.
The best productivity app for academics who : can resist everything but checking their messages.
(Freedom only works on iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Windows computers. So if you’re an Android user, check out AppBlock – Stay Focused )
9. Note-taking app: Evernote
Evernote is a digital filing cabinet to help you organise your notes and improve productivity . Sure, there are lots of note-taking apps out there, but Evernote offers the kind of heavy-duty functionality that academics need from an app. Evernote lets you take notes and organise them into virtual notebooks for easy accessibility. And you’re not limited to text. You can add links, checklists, tables, attachments, and audio recordings. And because you can access it from your computer, phone or anywhere online, you can take notes on the fly.
Evernote’s web clipper extension also lets you capture online content that interests you. And when you save it, you’ve got it for keeps – regardless of whether web addresses change or go down.
The best productivity app for academics who : want a virtual filing cabinet.
10. Time-tracking and planning tool: Timely
Timely is a time tracking tool that uses automation to solve the inaccuracy and hassle of traditional manual time tracking. You can work naturally and focus solely on your tasks, while Timely captures every second of your workday in the background, showing you the data on your private timeline. This data can then be used to reorganise your daily structure to be the most productive.
Plus, the Timely Tasks feature means that you can also plan your time in advance by creating a prioritized to-do list. Then by simply dragging and dropping onto your schedule, you can visualize your progress and stay on top of task deadlines.
The best productivity app for academics who : like to visualise their progress.
As a researcher, there’s a good chance you’re keeping lots of balls in the air. If you need to do some app testing you can but these productivity apps for academics to give yourself a helping hand.
Dee helps shape the new features we build at Ex Ordo. She enjoys thinking through customer needs, and loves finding the words that make a complicated process simple. When she’s not bashing on a keyboard, you’ll find her weaving baskets from willow or drinking fancy herbal tea. Sometimes both at once.
Conference software, powered by people who care.
Papers is a research management software designed to streamline searching, aggregating and citing digital reference materials. Designed to simplify the complex world of high-level research, Papers does the work of an astute research assistant so you can focus on what’s important.
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We have 2 reviews for Papers. The average overall ratings is 4.0 / 5 stars.
Overall Opinion: As an award winning reference management solution for personal and professional use, Papers supports deep-level research. Designed for academic, private sector and government agencies, this intuitive platform enhances your research efficiency. Are you tired of misplacing vital studies? Have you wasted hours formatting citations for lengthy research papers? If so, then prepare to have your research life transformed. Engineered to solve the issue of proper research material organization, Papers elevates information access and research via a user-friendly interface. Compatible with Mac, iPhone and iPad devices, this robust research platform compartmentalizes digital research into manageable tasks. While Papers is designed for Apple-based operating systems, PC and Android users may access the research power of Papers in their sister app, ReadCube. The cornerstone of Papers is its search engine aggregation. If you’re tired of skipping between countless browser tabs, then you’ll adore this feature. Search over 20 search engines, such as Google Scholar and PubMed, from a single search interface. While access to such vast research libraries may feel overwhelming, Papers aggregates search results into smart folders. No matter how many search engines you use, reviewing results is simple, intuitive and places essential information front-and-center. As a professional researcher, you’re likely accustomed to an overflowing desk of notes and books. However, Papers was founded on the belief that an uncluttered screen is best during research tasks. Reading search results is a pleasure thanks to the full screen reader. However, simply reading isn’t enough to separate this software form its competitors. As you read, highlight, strike through, underline and even add a customized sticky note. Switching between tabbed documents is an effortless event. Accessing supplemental documents, or reading offline versions of online results, is all done without leaving the application. As you move deeper into your research, you’ll need a powerful organizational tactic to keep track of your discoveries. The days of misplacing vital documents is over. Based upon your preferences, Papers automatically organizes and renames documents. Whenever you import research material, full-text versions automatically download for offline review. With over 85 document file types supported, you’ll never waste time searching for studies and notes again. Regardless of the purpose of your research, citing references is vital. Unfortunately, this necessary task isn’t always swift. With Papers, the essential task of proper citations is easier than ever. Whether you’re using an existing standardized style, or require a customized citation style, Magic Citations simplifies citing research material.
Pros: Simplifies search engine research Expedites document research via tabbed interface User-friendly setup for non-technical users Dynamic document viewer Aggregates reference material and notes in a central platform Free trail available
Cons: Only available on Mac devices Automatic file renaming isn’t always accurate PDF viewer isn’t smooth when rendering large files
Overall Opinion: I'm currently using Paper 3. It's quite good when I switched from Qiqqa/Endnote/Jabref/Zotero. Much easy to use than the others, esp. on Mac. The downside would be hard to export into the other software as I'm doing literature review in Nvivo.
Pros: -Easy to use -Faster to download -Workflow suits me better
Cons: -Not easy to import into Nvivo for analysis -a little bit pricy if considering the free alternatives -No data analysis
- Search 20+ Reference Search Engines
- Automatic File Naming and Organization
- Citation Styles
- Multi-Device Syncing
- Interactive Document Viewer
- Multi-User Teams License Available
Introducing Papers 3, your most revolutionary library of research to date. Papers 3 introduces a brand new user interface, automatic PDF downloading, automatic meta data retrieval, and many...
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The Best Online Writing Apps for Collaboration
Writing shouldn't be a solitary endeavor. Unless you're a team of one, every published piece requires hours of back-and-forth between writers, editors, sources, and stakeholders. Thankfully, many of today's online writing apps offer robust collaboration features that keep everyone involved in the process on the same page.
Whether you're writing a blog post or documentation for your team, writers often work with multiple editors for each article or document—at least, that's how we work here at Zapier ( Editor's note: Hi there! ). The writer submits a draft, then editor(s) add comments and make updates directly to the document. The writer then responds to the comments and revises the draft accordingly.
Sometimes, though, this happens simultaneously--multiple people are adding text, editing, and commenting in a document. Without the right app, that can get messy.
What to Look for in a Collaborative Writing App
The best writing apps for sharing single files or folders, the best writing apps for team content management, how we evaluate and test apps.
All of our best apps roundups are written by humans who've spent much of their careers using, testing, and writing about software. We spend dozens of hours researching and testing apps, using each app as it's intended to be used and evaluating it against the criteria we set for the category. We're never paid for placement in our articles from any app or for links to any site—we value the trust readers put in us to offer authentic evaluations of the categories and apps we review. For more details on our process, read the full rundown of how we select apps to feature on the Zapier blog .
For this guide, we researched and tested more than a dozen writing web apps with collaboration features, and graded them based on criteria such as:
Simple sharing with collaborators: Does this app make it easy for colleagues and other collaborators to jump into one of your documents?
Commenting on specific parts of the document: Does this app offer a smooth experience for providing feedback?
Synchronous, confusion-free collaboration: Can multiple people edit a document at once without tripping over each other?
Editing and version control: Is it easy to see what's been changed since you last opened the document, and does the app let you accept and reject changes?
Exporting options: Whether you need to post your finished product to your blog or attach it to an email, does this app offer a variety of exporting options?
Markdown support: Can you use Markdown to add quick, clean styles to your copy? (If you haven’t used it before, here’s our Markdown guide to get you started—once you've tried it, you'll never go back.)
In the end, these apps stood out for their writing and collaboration features.
The writing apps below make it easy to share a single document with others via email or a shared link, or by sharing a folder. They're basically online word processors with collaboration features such as clear commenting, but without extra features such as project management tools for teams. Their simplicity and popularity are their greatest strengths, particularly for freelancers and people who collaborate often with others outside of their company.
Google Docs (Web, iOS, Android)
Best for quickly and easily sharing documents with other Google Apps users
Google Docs is the most popular collaborative writing and editing tool today, with nearly 25 million active monthly users (compared to nearly 5 million for Microsoft Word, according to a report from SurveyMonkey ). Because it's so easy to use and automatically tied to every Google account, it's the default word processing app for many individuals.
Google Docs offers the essential features you'd expect of any popular word processor. It excels, however, in its baked-in collaboration features.
Clear and Easy Commenting : Google Docs lets you comment on any text, image, or other specific part of the page, and highlights the text with comments. These make it easy for both editors and writers to spot parts of the text that need to be addressed: When you scroll through a document, the highlighted text jumps out at you. At the same time, the comments are not inline with the document but off to the side and can be hidden or shown, as well as marked as resolved.
Convenient Suggested Edits Mode : Google Docs' editing mode feature (the pen icon in the toolbar at the top right) lets you decide whether to directly edit the original document or make all your edits as suggestions. The main benefit of suggestions: they won't get merged into the original until accepted by the author, so anyone can recommend changes without affecting the original document.
Suggestions come with what looks like a comment, but rather than having a "resolve" button, as comments do, they have accept (checkmark) and reject (X mark) options. This is great for editors who want to suggest a change to the text but want to let the writer decide, and for writers to easily see the kinds of changes their editor(s) typically make for future reference.
The downside, however, is that the suggested edits, color-coded and littered throughout the piece, can be overwhelming. The simple act of deleting a space or adding a comma is called out in green or pink or another color—and that can be daunting for writers who return to find gallons of virtual ink splashed across the page.
Detailed Revision History: If you need to know what's been changed in the document, when it was changed, and by whom, Google Docs makes it easy to find that out. Just go to File > See revision history and you can see every edit that was made by collaborators. To revert to a previous version of the document, all you have to do is click the "Restore this version" link.
Exporting to Multiple Formats: Unlike many other writing apps that let you export the document only to text or HTML, Google Docs supports exporting your document to a wide range of file types, including Word (.doc), OpenDocument text (.odt), PDF, HTML, and .epub. This makes Google Docs a great publishing tool and allows collaborators to use your document in just about any app they choose.
Advanced Sharing Controls: Not only can you share a Google Doc via email or with a link, but you can also prevent people you give editing control to from adding others to the doc. You can also disable downloading, printing, and copying for those who only have view or commenting access. And for even more control, set an expiration date on a collaborator's access to the doc. This is useful when you want to co-author the file with someone but stop sharing it as soon as they're finished.
Google Docs was created with collaboration in mind from the start--and offered real-time collaboration features before Microsoft Word. You'll need a Google account to use Google Docs with other collaborators, but those you share the doc with don't need a Google account to view, comment, or edit the document. (Still, everyone's got a Google account, right?). With the Google Docs Chrome extension , you can even work on your documents offline. This is one of the easiest apps to collaborate on a document with.
Google Docs Price: Free
For a deeper look at Google Docs' features and pricing, see our in-depth Google Docs review . Then, connect Google Docs to your other favorite apps with Zapier's Google Docs integrations .
Related: 40+ Google Docs Tips and Tricks .
Microsoft Word Online (Web, iOS, Android)
Best for compatibility with other Microsoft Office files and quick document formatting
Ask anyone to name a word processing program, and chances are they'll say Microsoft Word. As part of the 28-year-old Microsoft Office suite, which is used by over a billion people worldwide, Microsoft Word has long been the de facto tool for writing and editing at most companies. It's only in the last few years, however, that Microsoft's free web apps suite, Office Online--including Word Online --became a serious contender to Google's Apps offering.
Google Docs and Word Online have similar features--excellent real-time collaboration, version history, and mobile as well as desktop browser access--but there are a few features that might make you choose Word Online over Google Docs.
A Streamlined Microsoft Office Interface and Better Office Compatibility : If you use Office 365, Word Online is a no-brainer for those times you don't have access to the PC or Mac desktop app or you just want to make a quick change to an Office document. It's easy to sign in at OneDrive with your Microsoft account to access your Word docs or create a new one and get right to it. You'll see the familiar Ribbon user interface and can access the most essential features of the writing app.
If someone sends you a Microsoft Word doc and you don't have the desktop app, you can open it in Word Online and expect it to look and function like their version.
Actionable Comments : Comments aren't always just comments when it comes to shared documents. Sometimes they're to-dos, such as "find a better way to phrase this." Word Online adds a checkbox to comments so you can mark comments as completed, in addition to replying to comments or deleting them.
Advanced Page Layout Tools: Many simple writing web apps give you a default page size (8.5x11") in portrait mode. But what if you wanted the document to be legal-size, A4, or any other size or in landscape mode? Word Online gives you complete control over page sizing, and easy ways to adjust the margins, indents, and paragraph spacing, so you can build your pages with precision.
Quick Text Styling: Word Online's styles pane makes it easy to apply more than 20 default styles to blocks of text or the entire document. And if you click the Apply Styles option, you have access to dozens of other styles for table formatting, lists formatting, and footer and endnote styles. Especially when there are multiple people formatting the same document, these pre-made styles help ensure consistency.
Skype Group Chats in Word Online: When someone is editing with you in Word Online, you can click the Skype button to start a text, voice, or video chat directly within the document's chat pane. (Note: This requires users to have an Office 365 subscription.) Or, if you're away from the document, you can still participate in the chat using Skype on your phone or web browser.
Word Online doesn't have all of the features as the desktop version of Word, but it has all the functionality you'd expect in an online word processor--including strong collaboration and sharing options. As with Google Docs, you can share Word Online with others even if they don't have a Word Online (Microsoft) account.
Word Online Price: Free
Want to collaborate on spreadsheets, too? Learn how to use Excel Online to crunch numbers in your browser with our Excel Online review .
Dropbox Paper (Web)
Best for clean, clutter-free writing and rich media support
Dropbox Paper is still in beta. However, the beta feels polished and has an elegant, modern design. Here are some of this writing app's best features:
Minimalist Design : Dropbox Paper's design is very reminiscent of online publishing platform Medium . It's clean and uncluttered, with lots of white space to put the focus on your content, rather than buttons and options. The sleek interface makes Dropbox Paper easy to use and encourages you to just start writing.
Rich Content Embedding : You can insert just about any kind of content into your document: videos from YouTube or Vimeo, audio from Spotify, and files from Dropbox and Google Docs.
Dropbox Paper also offers one of the best ways to use images in your document. You can paste two images next to each other and they'll be automatically organized side by side. The image toolbar lets you align images left, center, or right, or expand them full width. And if you double-click on an image, it will open in a full-screen gallery view.
Instant Markdown and Code Formatting : Dropbox Paper uses rich text rather than Markdown formatting, but it took my pasted Markdown and re-formatted it as rich text immediately. That was a nice surprise.
Compared to the process of exporting my Markdown as rich text, pasting it into Google Docs, and fixing the parts of my formatting that get lost during that process, Dropbox Paper's auto-formatting would save me a bunch of time. If you prefer to write in Markdown but the final document needs to be in rich text format, Paper is a lifesaver.
You can also use Dropbox Paper for writing code. Start a line with three backticks ` and the app will automatically detect the programming language and highlight the syntax for you.
Easy Folder or Documents Sharing : Dropbox Paper uses a simple approach to sharing: Enter an email address, add an optional note, and send the invite. It also gives you a couple of additional sharing options: As with Google Docs, you can create folders in your account and share their contents with collaborators. Or, you can share a single document from within the document editor.
You might use folders to keep you work and personal files separate in your Paper account. If you're going to share files with the same people over and over, sharing a folder saves you the time and effort of sharing each new document.
Colorful Comments : In your Dropbox Paper document, you can highlight a particular parts to add your comment to. Plus, it's easy to reply to comments. In other words: You'll feel right at home if you've used Google Docs a lot in the past. The Paper team even threw in some fun stickers to keep comments lively.
Dropbox Paper also uses colored names (similar to Hackpad , below) to show who wrote what. If you're working on a living document with a team of people, this can be handy when time passes and you can't remember who had which idea.
Within your document, you can also use the @ sign before a team member's name to call their attention to a comment. Similarly, you can reference another document or folder by typing + and its name.
Unobtrusive Table of Contents : Dropbox Paper automatically creates a table of contents based on the headings in your document. Although other writing apps can also do this, it's implemented unobtrusively and automatically here. In other apps, you have to click a button in one of the menus to show the TOC, but Dropbox Paper shows very small lines on the left of the screen that you can just hover over to show the TOC. It's out of the way when you don't need it, but easy to get to when you do.
Linked to Your Dropbox Account : As you might expect, Dropbox Paper requires users to log in with their Dropbox account, so you'll need to create one if you want to use the product. Paper isn't mixed in with your Dropbox files, but, again, you can link to Dropbox files easily from within a Paper document. The good news is, at least for now , Paper documents don't count towards your Dropbox storage quota.
Do note that Dropbox Paper doesn't offer offline access. It's possible Paper will add offline access in the future, but for now you'll need an internet connection to create and edit documents. Depending on your workflow, this could be a dealbreaker.
Dropbox Paper Price: Free
Learn more about the core Dropbox features in our Dropbox review .
Best for developers who want full control over their tools
Etherpad is an open-source, real-time, collaborative writing tool. If you’re looking for a tool that you can host yourself—rather than storing your data on some big company’s servers—this is the app for you. There are also a few publicly hosted instances of Etherpad you can use for free, such as etherpad.net .
Color-coded and Account-Free Collaboration : Each collaborator on the document gets a color, and their additions to a document gets highlighted with that color. This makes it easy to see who contributed what to the document at a glance, but with many collaborators a document could look like a rainbow of LEGO blocks. You can, however, clear the color formatting.
Anyone with a link to your document can view or edit it without needing an account. This means you can open up any project to the public and let people contribute anonymously.
Plain-Text-Like Design : Etherpad has a stark, no-frills design. It's not as elegant or modern as apps like Dropbox Paper, nor does it have as many rich formatting features as apps like Word Online, but some might be more comfortable in Etherpad's distraction-free interface.
Open Source : The internet, and most of the software we use today, wouldn't exist without open source code. Developers rely on each other to share their code so they can build upon what others have done before. It's great to support open source software, and because Etherpad is open source, you'll find several free variations of this writing tool, one of which might suit your needs better.
Fun fact: Hackpad (below) is based on Etherpad.
Timeline view : One feature that's unique to Etherpad is the timeline view, which lets you explore previous versions of your document. You can quickly scrub through the timeline to find the version you’re after, or marvel at how your document has changed over time.
Syntax highlighting : If you’re a developer and want to share snippets of code with your team, you know how awkward it can be to share code without syntax highlighting. Syntax highlighting in Etherpad is enabled through a plugin, so not every public instance will include it, but https://etherpad.mozilla.org/ does.
Embed your Etherpad : Another unusual feature that’s present in Etherpad is the option to embed your document elsewhere. Most collaborative editors expect you to pull collaborators into their product, but Etherpad lets you embed your documents in your own website.
Etherpad Price : Free
Some writing apps are built more for teams in the same company. Beyond allowing you to share documents for collaborative editing, the apps below also let you share entire sets of content. They also offer team-centric features such as project workspaces, task management tools, and detailed access control.
Quip (Web, Windows, Mac, Android, iOS)
Best for robust commenting and team chat within your writing app
Quip is a streamlined app that combines text documents, spreadsheets, and checklists in a central place. With messaging and notification features not found in many standalone writing apps, Quip is more of a team content management platform than an online word processor. Here are some of Quip's best features for writers and editors working together:
Change History Stream: Documents in Quip all get a handy side panel that shows comments and changes to the document in one long stream. This can be useful when trying to keep track of who touched the document last and what changes have been made recently.
Fun Commenting: What makes people want to discuss a document? Emojis, of course. Quip's commenting feature not only boldly highlights comments, but also lets you add emojis and add commands like /yoda to automatically insert a Yoda GIF as your comment. You can archive comments and team members can "like" your comments, creating a sort of social network within your living doc.
Granular Notifications: When you want to keep up with all activity in a document, notifications are your friend. Quip lets you customize the desktop and mobile notifications for each document, so you can stay on top of the changes that matter most to you.
Folder-Based Organization: In addition to sharing individual files by email or with a link, you can share entire folders with one or more people. That's possible in many other apps, such as Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive, but Quip offers color-coded folders, notification settings on a per-folder basis, and a clear way to see how many people a folder is shared with. You can also add files to multiple folders--useful, for example, for saving a file to both a drafts folder and a department folder.
Built-in Chat Room: Aside from inline comments, Quip also lets you create one or more chat rooms, similar to Slack. So instead of switching to a separate messaging app, you can write, edit, and collaborate on content under one roof.
Quip's minimalist, toolbar-less user interface might take some getting used to if you've long used other writing apps. With dedicated URLs for teams (such as zapier.quip.com), granular notifications, built-in chat, and fun commenting, however, it's worth a look if your team needs a new collaborative writing tool.
Quip Price: Free for personal accounts; from $10/month for teams
Note: The app was recently acquired by Salesforce .
For a deeper look at Quip's features and pricing, see our in-depth Quip review . Then, connect Quip to your other favorite apps with Zapier's Quip integrations .
Hackpad (Web, Android, iOS)
Best for living documents that don’t need to be published elsewhere
Hackpad has been acquired by Dropbox and is no longer maintained, but it's been open-sourced and open-for-business for existing and new customers. This collaborative, real-time text editor offers moderation and organization features not found in many other team writing apps.
Organization Tools : Your pads can be organized into workspaces, which function like notebooks. They can also be added to collections, which are more like labels or tags. Add a pad to as many collections as you need to stay organized.
If you add a hashtag to your pad, you can find all the related pads just by searching for that hashtag and clicking on it.
Hackpad also generates a table of contents for you automatically, creating a header out of any bolded line. That makes it easy to jump to any section to find what you need.
Sharing : Sending an invite is as simple as dropping a collaborator's email address in the box to the right of the editor. However, there's no option to add a comment when sending an invite, so if you want to add a note, you'll need to send a separate message.
You can also share a pad with the public, making those pads more like a wiki-style resource.
Document Moderation : Hackpad works more as a "living document" or online notebook for co-editing notes. Collaborators all work on the same document, and comments are included inline, rather than attached to--and visually separated from--the document.
This works well for brainstorming or collaborative meeting notes, but isn't as versatile for writers and editors co-authoring content. It can also be confusing when different contributors start adding lots of comments, as there's no easy way to keep track of where you've read up to and which comments need to be dealt with. However, every update to the document is attributed to each user, and you can moderate additions, updates, and comments added to your pads.
Code and Rich Media Support : With code blocks, video embeds, and Markdown-style headings, Hackpad caters towards developers and designers. Export a pad with a code extension, such as .html or .js, and the syntax will be highlighted automatically for that language.
You can also embed images or other rich media and even create a to-do list within your pad with the task list feature.
Notifications of Changes Delivered in Email : This one probably depends on personal taste, but I enjoy the way Hackpad sends me actual changes in an email. I never have to open the document to see what's changed; I can just read the email notifications to catch up. For those who are drowning in email, this might not be ideal, but I found it especially handy when collaborating with others in different timezones, as I could just jump into my inbox to catch up on everything I missed overnight, including changes to ongoing Hackpad files.
Seamless Dropbox Syncing : If you're a Dropbox user, you can connect your account to Hackpad to sync all of your Hackpad documents. You can also add files of any size to your document, which in Hackpad is called a "pad". This can be handy for keeping all of your work-related documents together.
Hackpad Price: Free public workspaces for unlimited users; free private workspaces with up to 5 collaborators; $2 per user for private documents with more than 5 collaborators
For a deeper look at Hackpad's features and pricing, see our in-depth Hackpad review . Then, connect Hackpad to your other favorite apps with Zapier's Hackpad integrations .
Other Collaborative Writing Apps
These aren't the only apps suited for co-authoring a document or just sharing a document for comments, but they're the most popular and feature-rich online writing apps you can easily use with either a team member or a new contact today.
That said, here are a few other established and up-and-coming web apps for document collaboration you might want to take a look at as well:
Zoho Writer : As part of the Zoho Docs suite of apps (similar to Microsoft Office) and the larger Zoho business apps ecosystem, Zoho Writer stands out for its advanced document access controls. You can specify who can manage permissions to the document, set an expiration date for file access, share a document publicly but require a password, turn off collaboration temporarily, lock sections of a document, and more. This is great for businesses or individuals working with sensitive content. We found the sharing and collaboration features to be less intuitive than the other writing apps, but if you need a full-fledged writing app that offers more security than most, this is the app to test first.
Penflip : Penflip is designed around Git , a popular version control technology used by software developers. This makes it a great choice for programmers who want to work with something familiar, but it doesn't have some of the collaborative features that come with other apps on this list. Penflip offers great version control, but comments are stored outside of the document in a separate section for each project, which makes co-authoring and collaboration trickier.
Notion.so : More of a team workspace like Hackpad than a standalone writing tool, Notion makes it easy to edit documents or create quick notes and organize them by team or category. It ticks of most of the boxes in terms of features, cost per user ($5/month), and learning curve, although key features such as versioning and seeing who edited parts of the document are still coming to this new app.
GatherContent : Used by organizations such as Harvard University, Intel, and Ogilvy, GatherContent is designed for large teams. It offers features for controlling content approval workflows--seeing what content is due, when, and who is responsible. Then you can export content to popular CMSes. With prices ranging from $66/month to $216/month, it's a bigger investment than the other apps on this list, but well worth it if you want an efficient way to organize and collaborate on content before you publish it.
As more of us spend our lives working online and with others in cities far from our homes, collaborative tools are exploding in popularity. For anyone who spends a lot of time writing or editing, collaborative writing apps like these can not only save time, they can make the entire process simpler and easier.
Whether you're collaborating on a blog post, novel, project plan, or eBook, the apps above can help you and your teammates stay on the same page (no pun intended) and each contribute to that written work of art.
Evernote, OneNote, and Beyond: The 12 Best Note-Taking Apps
15 Editorial Tools to Help You Outline, Write and Edit (Better and Faster)
Belle Beth Cooper contributed to this post.
Photo by Ilya Pavlov via Unsplash .
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Melanie Pinola is a NY-based writer. Besides trying out new productivity systems, she enjoys cooking, playing video games with her family, and traveling. Follow her at @melaniepinola.
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