I previously wrote a listicle of Mobile Apps for Writers, aimed at the writer on the go. But after seven months of lockdown and WFH, no commute, and not much lingering in coffee shops, it was time for a different slant. What about apps that run in a web browser? Platform independent applications that can assist you in your creative projects, whichever computer you happen to be using. Quarantining somewhere unexpected without your computer? As long as there’s an internet connection, there’s no reason you shouldn’t have access to all your projects and documents.
I’ll be honest, I’m starting with one of my least favourite offerings here. Google Docs, and the whole package is absolutely fine, and free and will serve you well. It works perfectly well with everything in the Google world, including their data collection; but for me, it just doesn’t work seamlessly enough with the offline and office-based world.
Non-Free Alternative: Microsoft Office 365
(Cost: £60 per year)
Software As a Service (SAAS) is a cumbersome mouthful for, essentially, leasing your software. But Office 365, with all its components like Word, Excel, Powerpoint etc., is solid, works well with your offline colleagues, and their web interfaces are excellent. And, if you do choose to work offline rather than in a browser, that’s covered too.
(Cost: From free)
This one’s for the screenwriters; a superstitious breed that tends to cleave fast to their preferred software. But if you don’t have your laptop with you, or maybe Final Draft has crashed on you one time too many, WriterDuet is a good alternative.
If you use it a lot, the Pro account at $89 per year is great, but the free version allows you up to 3 projects at a time in your portfolio, with easy import and export of widely compatible files.
(Cost: From free to £36 per year)
While not a writing app, I use Todoist constantly. Not just for shopping lists and other domestic and personal tasks, but I create projects for everything I’m working on. I use an adapted GTD method and document all next steps on my creative projects, so I can stay on top of them all.
You’ll likely find it worthwhile to pay for a Premium subscription at £3 per month, which allows tagging, filtering and attachments.
(Cost: From free to £60 per year)
Evernote, the grandad of note-keeping software, has recently undergone quite a spruce-up. It’s not surprising, they could feel the breath of their competitors on their necks, and it’s been long overdue. Evernote works as your external brain, holding snippets of information that you type or scan in, or have clipped from web pages. As much as I loved Bear, that’s still not cross-platform at all.
I sometimes have difficulty focussing, so I need to work in blocks of time, chunks of concentration where I mono task entirely. The Pomodoro method is to do this in 25-minute chunks, then a 5-minute break. Every four pomodoros, take a longer break of up to half an hour. The web-based timer just helps you with the timing rather than setting your phone or a physical clock.
(Cost: From free)
Grammarly is a web-based spelling and grammar checker, much better than what’s built into your OS or web browser. It works as a plugin to your browser, and so it’ll work alongside all of the above tools. The Premium account will also check tone delivery, inclusive language, and clarity improvements. You’ll be surprised at how useful it can be.
(Cost: From free)
Mailchimp is the monster of the email newsletter world, and so it might be a bit unwieldy for some. However, if you want to forgo (or supplement) the Facebook page or WordPress website, a weekly newsletter is a good thing to do. If for no audience, even if you’re just using it as a writing exercise, it all helps.
(Cost: From £36 per year)
These days every browser has its own password manager, but the difficulty is when you change browser or use someone else’s computer, or you’re on a public computer. How do you access your passwords then? 1Password is the password manager I use and its web interface and browser extension are a godsend.
So what does all this cost me in total? What is the price of platform independence for me? Here’s the breakdown:
|£192 per year
This isn’t including any other software subscriptions, like Adobe Creative Cloud, Dropbox, iDrive, as those are mostly for installed software rather than web browser use.
Do you have any others you can’t live without? Any replacements for any of the above, or comments on the ones I’ve chosen? Let me know!