I am the first to say we don't need more tools in our lives. Most new tools require us to learn new workflows and systems that, ironically, make our work more difficult.
However, occasionally you will discover a tool that fits so seamlessly into your life, you forget you're using it. These are those tools.
Some you may already know about and use yourself. So I've focused this more on how I use them as a writer and publisher. Hopefully these tools and pro tips make your writing process a little easier.
A quick disclaimer: I'm not paid to endorse any of these apps, although I do work on one of them. But I wouldn't recommend any tools I don't use myself, even for our paid partner articles.
The best writing tools are the dead-simple ones. Ideas flit in and out of my head like butterflies, so it’s important to have a frictionless way to capture and keep them. And when it comes to the actual writing part, I need zero distractions. That includes features within the tool that distract or prevent me from write freely.
mymind is quickly becoming my go-to writing tool for these reasons. Whether I’m just jotting down an idea, taking notes from a meeting or drafting an article, I find myself starting in mymind. I save everything in mymind already, so it’s already pinned in my browser tabs at all time. I simply jump to that tab, hit N for a new note and start typing in the notes field. The writing features are minimal so I’m not distracted by the UI or formatting options.
Beyond the actual writing part, I use mymind for saving writing inspiration, research and references. My editor talks more about this here.
Since I work on the team that builds mymind, I’m creating it for my own use case. You can expect more minimal but useful writing features from mymind soon – including features that make it easier to connect your ideas and research.
I’ve been using Hemingway for years to make my sentences sharper and clearer. Often I’ll draft an article somewhere like mymind or Google Docs, then copy and paste it into Hemingway later. (This way, I can get my thoughts down without overthinking the grammar or sentence structure.) Hemingway highlights sentences that are hard to read, offers alternatives for weak words, points out passive voice and useless adjectives, etc.
It’s not only improved my articles, it’s helped me be more mindful and aware as I write them.
I’m so used to Grammarly’s presence in everything I do online, I nearly forgot to include it here. Once you enable Grammarly, it analyzes your writing wherever you type (your browser, emails, apps, etc.) to find typos and grammar mistakes. I don’t use it much for grammar, but now and then it will catch typos that I’ve overlooked. The only negative is that it can feel somewhat intrusive at times, so I disable it for certain activities.
I have yet to see whether this is valuable to me, but it’s certainly fun. This site replaces your use of the word “very” with a stronger adjective. So for example, you enter “very” and “beautiful” and it will provide an option like “stunning.” I’m guilty of leaning on the word “very” when writing, so this site is at least a good reminder to reach for better, sharper words.
5. Google Docs
I hesitated to include Google Docs here as it seems too obvious, but my editorial team uses it so often it would be inaccurate to leave it out. So I’ll assume you know the basics and mention the specific ways it’s been useful to us:
If I’m sending feedback, ideas, concepts or action items that are more than a paragraph or two, I just paste it into Google Docs. Then I write a short email that links to the Doc. It’s a lot less overwhelming to click through to a Doc vs. receiving a novel-length email. And then the receiver can add comments within the doc rather than organizing feedback via email, referencing layers of buried emails.
I am constantly passing articles back and forth with my editor, and the Google Docs comments feature makes it easy to collaborate and bounce ideas around together.
I often find myself using the “Versions” feature, which allows you to browse past changes to your document based on author and date.
For long documents, Google Docs offers a Table of Contents feature, which you can link to your headline stylings and then click to jump straight to a section.