It took me three tries to find my perfect writing software match. If you're still searching, check out the info I put together below. Maybe it will help make a writing-match in heaven for you!
Below, based on years of research, I have listed five writing programs that came up often throughout my quest. Of these five, I have used three of them extensively, and would consider myself experienced enough with them to be allowed to share my feels with you. Please make your own decisions on what works best for you, my aim is only to give some information so that you don't have to say, "Third time's the charm," like I did. These are not listed in order by rank, rather in order by the first program I tried followed by the next two programs that I used. Programs 4 and 5 are other programs that I have come across through extensive research.
Writeitnow - As of this post, this program is up to it's fifth version, writeitnow5. Created by Ravenshead, this program costs $69.95 for the CD ROM version, or $59.95 for the Download version. Writeitnow offers versions for mac, or windows. It providers writer's with a workspace for building characters from their backstory to their physical features. Writer's can structure their stories by chapters and then further breakdown the chapters by scenes. For a high-level view of your work, writeitnow offers a story board option, that allows you to see each chapter as an index card that you can move around to see what scenes work better in other spots. Why I moved on: Despite having many features, that on paper appeared to be exactly what I needed, the interface felt too noisy for me. I never really felt like I could lose myself in my writing. I prefer a sleeker interface, with fewer menus and bars and, well, noise.
Ulysses - Ulysses sold me with their less "in your face" approach, or as they describe it on their site "Clean, distraction-free, interface". I was also lured in by the mobile app/laptop syncing capability. I hated it when I was suddenly hit with inspiration, and I would have to scribble the idea down, and wait until I got home to add it to my story. Carrying the laptop around with me wasn't convenient for me either. So, when I saw that I could easily switch from platform to platform and have them sync via iCloud, I whipped out my credit card. Ulysses is sold as a subscription, $4.99 a month or $39.99 annually. With the subscription, you can download the app and unlock it across all of your mac, iPhone, and iPad devices. Ulyssesapp.com allows you to try it for free for 14 days if you want to check it out for yourself. They do not have a PC version. There are tons of other features, like direct-publish to your wordpress account, super easy export ability, and mark-up based text editor. The mark-up based text editor is actually one of the reasons I started researching other programs. It felt too complicated for me, like learning another language when I was so used to Word.
This brings me to my current love affair, Scrivener. Scrivener has a clean design. I was advised that Scrivener takes some getting used to, and that tutorials go a long way. This is true, but I still found it easier than learning all of the mark-up codes with Ulysses. With Ulysses I felt like I had to learn how to code, with Scrivener two short tutorial videos was all it took to get me working comfortably. That being said, it is very likely that I am not using it to it's full capacity. With Scrivener you can also sync it with your mobile devices by signing up with Dropbox and linking the Dropbox account to Scrivener. Scrivener helps with organizing my research, outlining, story board, and more! I am a simple person, I just need a few good tools and I am all set. Scrivener cost me $45 for the Scrivener 3 MAC version, and $19 for the mobile app. (Yes you have to pay separately for the app, but I felt it was worth it. An investment towards my writing career. I've spent more on worse things, trust me).
Storyist - I don't know much about this program, but PCMAG called it a deluxe word processor. According to Top Ten Reviews, Storyist helps make structuring your story easy peasy with it's organizational tools. This is another program that is designed strictly for MAC, not PC. Storyist.com, says that it is great for novelists and screenwriters, which is awesome if you have plans for both fields. From looking at their site, it looks very similar to Scrivener. There is an editor, where the writing happens. There is an area that outlines your scenes and chapters and keeps your files in order. It keeps your research, images and story development in a convenient place and has a cork board high level view option, like Scrivener. Off the cuff, I would say that the feature of screenwriting is what sets it apart. It even allows you to export in Final Draft FDX, which is big for screenwriters. When I studied screenwriting, I remember Final Draft being the end all be all for screenwriters. Storyist for iOS also allows for syncing with either iCloud or Dropbox. The MAC version costs $59 and separately the app costs $14.99.
Prowritingaid - I have the least to add on this program, yet I have seen it come up as an option many times while searching for my match. It is revered as an outstanding editor with "thousands of style suggestions to help with your writing," by thewritersacademy.co.uk. Other sites describe it as an editor that can be used through a website vs download (not sure how I feel about that). You can paste your work on the site and have it run its editing program all over it, analyzing it down to its whitey-tighties. There are five purchasing levels; free, $50 for one year, $75 for two years, $100 for three years or $175 for a lifetime. That's just not for me.
As was evident by the six people that took my twitter poll on the topic (sad smiley face), Scrivener seems to be the most well known writing software. But being well known should not be enough of a selling point. You need to focus on finding a writing tool that offers what YOU need as a writer.
Writing is an art form, and our art as writers is drawn out by inspiration and mood. Your workspace as a writer, sometimes in itself is like a muse. So, you have to choose carefully and do so based on what works for you. My mind doesn't work well if my work space feels cluttered with too many options. For me, Scrivener offered everything that I needed to get into the right frame of mind. Choosing the right program is important, it could be your source for word flow, or block your ability to compose. For some, a simple pen and journal is enough for drafting. But, that won't suffice in today's world of email queries. (If you are wondering what a query is, check out my post on queries.)