9 smart apps to make you a smarter writer

Want to be a smarter writer? Of course you do.

Well, it’s going to mean more than knowing the difference between “its” and “it’s” (although, kudos for that too, by the way). These days, apps are where it’s at.

Once you get beyond crushing candy, blitzing jewels and Kate-Uptonesque games of war, there are some rather useful things available for your smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer. We’d almost call them life-changing. At the very least, they'll help you to be a smarter writer. And we all want that, right?

1. Grow more productive
We’re always being told to stay focused on a particular job – to be present in the task at hand. But as human beings, let alone writers, it can be hard to resist the modern urge to grab that mobile phone. That’s where the Forest app comes in. You begin by planting a tree. If you leave the app in the following 30 minutes (to do anything else on your phone), that tree will die. If, however, you stay focused on your work, study or even dinner conversation and don’t go near your phone, then the tree will grow! Every 30 minutes, a new tree sprouts, and the idea is to continue to grow a forest of 30-minute productivity trees. The only question that remains is: if productivity falls, does it make a sound?

2. Rate your readability
Whether it’s copywriting, a magazine article or even a novel, these days there is a strong push for “plain English” writing. Finding the balance isn’t always easy – and reading the same paragraph five times over is something you only want to do when you’re nodding off to sleep, not writing a normal passage of text. Luckily there’s a way to test it with this Readability Score app. Your text will get a score generally between 0 and 100 – the higher the better (we managed to score more than 100 with some text!). Also included are some other index results and statistics.

3. Repeat after me…
Sometimes creativity strikes at rather tricky moments – the words are flowing and this is seriously some great stuff, but you can’t physically scribble it down. Or actually, you CAN but it just doesn’t seem fast enough. Enter the Dragon – or more precisely, enter Dragon Dictation – a clever app for iPads or iPhones that will take your words and turn them into a text file you can save or use on emails/messages. It’s five times faster than typing it yourself.

4. Choose your timeline
If your story spans more than just a few days (actually even then…), this tool called Aeon Timeline can help you make sense of it all. This one works best on your actual computer (Windows or Mac), with smart timelining for characters, places and events – and even syncs with the latest version of the Scrivener writing software. You’ll never lose track of where and when everyone is again!

5. Cut and paste
Text Expander (Mac)
Active Words (Windows)
We use shortcuts on a daily basis, often without even thinking about it. And that’s kind of the idea. Have you ever had to type something out that you type all the time, and wish you had a “rubber stamp” to do the job for you? Well that's what Text Expander (Mac) and Active Words (Windows) essentially are. You assign the text you’d like and the shortcut that will activate it. It could be a standard email paragraph response, a business process or even a long-winded name in your novel! Save as many as you like. Save time, save errors.

6. Instant savvy
Word Swag, they say, is like having a graphic designer in your pocket (so, awkward and painful?). Because sometimes it’s nice to put your quotable words of wisdom on a pretty background. And with this cool app, you can say goodbye to the clipart that came with Word and hello to slick-looking design-savvy backdrops and a ridiculously easy “insert text here” interface. And for Android users, take a look at A Beautiful Mess for some photographic fun!

7. Noise works
Available on the web and iOS smartphones (Android is coming – perhaps try Ambio instead), this clever app called My Noise is smarter than most “background noise” apps. My Noise allows you to interact with the levels to get your ambience just right. Sounds include coastlines, waterfalls, jungle noise, purring, cafes, a Tibetan choir, fish tanks, construction, traffic, and even the good old laundromat. Rinse repeat. If you’re a writer that likes a little noise, then this might be your kind of app.

8. Do a quick scan
Meet Office Lens – it's like having a scanner in your pocket. Just like magic Office Lens can convert notes on whiteboards/blackboards, paper, or images into a digital file that you can edit in one of the Microsoft Office apps (yes, that Office) like Word or Excel. Great for documents, business cards, sketched ideas, receipts or sticky notes. And because sharing is caring, it's available for Android, Apple and Windows 10 devices.

9. Just seven minutes a day
As used at least once (okay probably just once) by AWC's Valerie Khoo!
Being a smart writer is all about balance. And after all that time sitting down writing, you need to get some exercise. Brought to you by Wahoo Fitness, the beauty of the 7 Minute Workout smartphone app (Apple or Android) is that it asks only (you guessed it) SEVEN minutes of your day – which we have to admit is better than zero minutes. You can see how you’ve improved over time, and, most importantly, it won’t say a thing if you have another cupcake with your cup of tea.

Happy “apping”!

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