Most authors still use Microsoft Word. But other writing tools have their fans.

If you’re used to writing in Microsoft Word, stick with it. Familiar tools make writing flow more easily.

In my survey of nonfiction authors, 61% used Word as their primary tool.

Google Docs has its adherents. It makes sharing files easier (and for the same reason, makes keeping track of stable file versions harder). Where two or more coauthors or editors need to comment on the same file, it allows people to see each other’s comments. And, of course, it’s free. But Word’s markup features are superior and it is better at some secondary tasks, like tracking footnotes, managing text styles, and indexing.

Evernote and Scrivener have their adherents

For people who are wrangling lots of bits of text and research, more specialized tools like Evernote and Scrivener have their uses.

For example, as a describe in my new book Build a Better Business Book, Jimmy Soni used Scrivener to keep track of voluminous collections of notes and sources inThe Founders, his epic tale of the PayPal mafia who went on to gain so much influence in Silicon Valley. Scrivener is a $49 tool has features that make it easier to manage content as you assemble it into a book. When it comes to collaboration, though, it’s significantly weaker than Word.

Evernote, another tool for managing bits of content, is also beloved by writers like Roger Dooley, author of the strategy book Friction. His Evernote notebook included snippets from online articles, links to web pages, bits of PDFs, and even photos of book pages. He sometimes buys Kindle versions of books and uses screen captures to get relevant passages into Evernote. Evernote has a free version and a $9.99 per month professional subscription version.

In my own writing experience, Scrivener and Evernote were overkill. For all the books I’ve written, cowritten, or ghostwritten, it was possible to plan out the chapters and then assemble and organize the content using folders in Google Drive, then complete the writing in either Word or Google Docs.

But I am incubating a notion for a “big idea” book right now, and I’m not at all certain what will be in it or how it will be organized. That sounds like potential use case for Evernote or Scrivener.

In my experience, the tools aren’t nearly as important as the process and the discipline of the author and their collaborators such as coauthors and editors. If you approach that task with rigor, any set of tools can get you to the finish line. And if you don’t, Evernote, Scrivener, Word, or Google Docs still aren’t going to assemble your book for you.

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  1. Saw some Youtube videos recently about how some authors use Obsidian for the research/note taking phase because it allows a different way of linking notes and therefore ideas that you can’t do in a doc file. I used it recently and I was skeptical at first but it really helped me pull the ideas from a set of similar books into a map and outline that made more sense to me.

  2. Let’s not forget Corel Word Perfect. It’s been stable for many years. It puts the text exactly where I need it to be put.