15 Apps for Writing Better Papers and Essays

The American journalist Gene Fowler once remarked,

“Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”

Make no mistake, though – Fowler was totally lying, and writing is really hard. So let’s enlist the help of our robot overlords in order to make it a little easier.

Today I’ll share 15 apps and websites that might help you become a better writer. Some are huge, multi-faceted programs, while others are more single-purpose and can help with organizing research, planning, gaining motivation, or editing.

If you’d like even more resources to help with other aspects of your education, you’ll find even more websites, apps, and tools over at the Resources page.

If you’re unable to see the video above, you can view it on YouTube.

  • Coggle – a free mind-mapping tool that can help you organize ideas.
  • Storyline Creator – a mapping tool that’s built around individual characters and the flow of events in a story.
  • Evernote – my second brain. Pretty much everything I write starts out as a note here. Here’s another article I wrote with additional Evernote tips.
  • Scrivener – a full-fledged application for writing a novel. This is what I finished writing 10 Steps to Earning Awesome Grades with.
  • Novlr – a new alternative to Scrivener. It seems like it has a nicer design, but fewer features. I found some recommendations for it on the NaNoWriMo forums.
  • Byword – a minimalist Markdown editor for OS X. You don’t need to know Markdown to use it… but Markdown is really easy to learn.
  • Twinword Writer – a tool with a built-in thesaurus that suggests alternative words when you pause in your writing.
  • Write or Die – an app that will punish you if you don’t keep writing. Punishments can range from annoying noises to “Kamikaze Mode”, which starts erasing your writing!
  • Written? Kitten! – a more positive take on the Write or Die concept; instead of punishing you, it rewards you with pictures of kittens every 100 words.
  • 750words – the name describes it pretty well; this is a site that can help you build a daily writing habit. It’s got pretty cool stat-tracking as well.
  • DailyPage – a site that gives you a different writing prompt (e.g. Write about your favorite leader) every day.
  • Mendeley – I’m not a grad student, but I’d use this if I was. It’s a free tool that can help you manage research documents and PDFs.
  • editMinion – a tool that can analyze your writing and pick out weak and over-used words. It can also tell you if your sentences are too short or long.
  • Coffitivity – plays coffee shop noises to give you a nice working atmosphere – a good alternative to white noise generators.
  • Brain.fm – a web app that uses AI to generate music that’s supposed to help you increase your focus and attention. The site even has research to back up their claims. I’ve tested it a few times, and while I’m not sure if the music is truly working or just providing a placebo effect yet, I will way that it’s pretty darn good music for working.

By the way, if Brain.fm’s style of music isn’t for you, then you might enjoy my Ultimate Study Music Playlist on YouTube. I add new songs to it often.

Lastly, if you haven’t heard it, you might enjoy the CIG podcast episode where I break down how I wrote my 27,000 word book.

Got other recommendations that I didn’t include here? Share them in the comments!

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Thomas Frank is the geek behind College Info Geek. After paying off $14K in student loans before graduating, landing jobs and internships, starting a successful business, and travelling the globe, he's now on a mission to help you build a remarkable college experience as well. Get the Newsletter | Twitter | Instagram

Hey there! Please note that some links in the article may be referral links, meaning that if you buy something through them, I'll earn a commission (at no extra cost to you). This helps to support CIG, but please don't buy anything unless you truly believe it'll benefit you! You can learn more here. Thank you :)

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13 Comments:
  1. Hello,
    I am a grade 9 student in Australia and I have not had time to complete my draft assessment and it is due tomorrow. I was wondering if someone could help me write it and perhaps finish it my tomorrow 8:00am Australian, Queensland time. I have done all my notes and everything I just need help to just at least get started on the assessment. Also, the assessment is on Ecology – Cape York Peninsula (Australia). So if anyone could help as soon as possible that would be AMAZING!

    Thank you, Adia Giaquinta

  2. Great list, I’m saving for future reference 🙂

    I use Kotobee Author though, instead of Scrivener to create ebooks. Scrivener is great, but I found Kotobee to be more comfortable and smooth. It also helps me export ebook apps for mobile app stores easily and cheaply. I never needed to buy a license, I’m using the free version while purchasing app credits to create book apps for $30 a pop.

  3. Thanks for your many great videos. I was especially interested in Coggle, the mind mapping software. It seems like there are a number of competitors in the space. MindNode is one the best although it is only for Mac. Maybe you can do a video on the different options? Thanks again for all your great work!

  4. I really like ProWritingAid. Even though I don’t write directly into it, but I like to copy and past my work in there to check my writing. It checks for spelling and grammar and sentence length, redundancies and a lot of other cool stuff. It has a Pro subscription option, but the free option itself is neat enough.

  5. Another great tool that can help with organising ideas in a mind map is Knowledge Base (this app can be accessed from Windows store). This is a great option for those who have Windows 8/10. Also, recently I came across apps like StyleWriter and Grammarly that can help me proofread my papers. They are quite useful if I’m too absent-minded.

  6. Hey Thomas, I’m a 30 yo from Brazil. This month I am in a parental leaving + vacations (unfortunately ending this weekend), so, 4 weeks to organize and plan the future. A couple of weeks ago I found your blog/channel and pretty much watched everything. THANK YOU A LOT! With you content I was able to organize my stuff using apps and plataform, started to manage my tasks and habits and also did an Impossible List. Keep doing that wonderful work, sharing your knowledge and changing people’s lifes. If you ever come to Sao Paulo, I’d love to have a chat and thank you in person.

  7. Hey! I recently found your YouTube channel and I love it! I have learned so much from you and I’m applying it towards my education in college. I appreciate all your hard work. Keep making great videos! 🙂

  8. “Lastly, if you haven’t heard it, you might enjoy the CIG podcast episode where I break down how I wrote my 27,000 page book.”

    You frightened me for a second! Might want to edit this in case you hadn’t already noticed 😀

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