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Best writing software of 2022 for Windows and Mac

Person writing on a laptop
(Image credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters / Unsplash)

The best free writing software helps you focus on your writing - from getting those words down on the page to saving, sharing, and organizing your docs (and all your thoughts). 

Top writing tools like Google Docs and Microsoft Word are still the go-to apps for writers. They’re easy to use, built for the cloud, and available on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. They even play nicely with writing tool extensions like Grammarly

If you’re deep within the Google ecosphere or considering picking up a Microsoft 365 subscription, either writing app could be the perfect pairing. 

If you're looking for note-taking apps for your phone, we've reviewed the best for writers of all types. 

Aspiring novelists should check out Scrivener. It's not free but has loads of writing tools to help you track and structure your book as you go.  

But if you just want to write without signing into Google or you’re just not a fan of Word, what are the best writing apps to use? 

After countless hours uncovering the best free word processors, best AI writers, best document editing and management software, we've selected the best free writing apps for all types of writer.

BEST FREE WRITING APPS

1. FocusWriter: Best for distraction-free creations

2. WriteMonkey: Best for markup support

3. LibreOffice Writer: Best alternative to Word

4. Scribus: Best for designers

5. Author: Best Mac-only tool

When you’re choosing which free writing app is best, you’ll find great Docs and Word alternatives that help you complete your business report, college essay, or soon-to-be-bestselling novel. 

Tools that let you just focus on the art of writing, without worrying about costs or distracting features you’re never going to use. Just you, your keyboard, and your creativity. 

We’ve curated the best free apps for writing - the ones packed with features built for writers, scribblers, scribes, and dreamers, when creative tasks demand your undivided attention. 

We've also listed the best laptops for writers.

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The best writing software overall is: Scrivener
Scrivener is packed with all the features a novelist needs, helping you track plot threads, store notes on characters and locations, structure your work and (most importantly) get some serious work done. It's not free like the tools below, but it's well worth the investment if your budget will allow it.

Which free writing app is best?

(Image credit: Gott Coide)
The best free writing app for distraction-free creations

Specifications

Operating system: Windows, macOS, Linux

Reasons to buy

+
Distraction-free design
+
Timers and alarms
+
Auto-save function
+
All desktop operating systems

Reasons to avoid

-
No traditional word-processing features

FocusWriter is designed to eliminate distractions, so you can concentrate on your writing. 

The stripped-back interface is deliciously sparse - ideal for when you just need to get your head down and write - and not dissimilar to a moderately powerful version of Notepad, featuring support for TXT, basic, RTF, and ODT files. 

Even the toolbar is hidden until you actually need it. Just swoop your cursor to the top on the screen to reveal a barren menu, from basic formatting to themes and timers.

Features are light within the software, but FocusWriter isn’t made for heavy editing sessions. It’s designed to make the act of writing flow seamlessly onto the page. 

Elsewhere, the best free writing app boasts the ability to add themes and your own background images, which can help you stay motivated. 

The Daily Progress tool is a sweet extra, adding Duolingo-style gamification that lets you track your daily writing streak. For when it’s oh-so-easy to slip onto social media when you can’t find the perfect word, it’s a nice way to keep you within the app. 

Available for Windows, Linux, and macOS, the writing software also comes as a portable download, no installation required. So, you can pop it on a USB stick and plug it into any computer you’re working on. 

Read our full FocusWriter review

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Website screenshot for WriteMonkey

(Image credit: WriteMonkey)
The best writing software with markup support

Specifications

Operating system: Windows, macOS, Linux

Reasons to buy

+
Distraction-free interface
+
Supports markup
+
Handy keyboard shortcuts

Reasons to avoid

-
Only works with TXT files

WriteMonkey is another piece of writing software that cuts down on the clutter to deliver uninterrupted writing sessions. 

The free word processor, cleverly described as zenware, is unbelievably pared back compared to more traditional writing apps. 

There’s very little in the way of distracting ‘screen furniture’, which means you’re better positioned to concentrate on the writing process. And absolutely nothing else. 

But don’t let that stripped-back approach fool you. As one of the best free writing apps, WriteMonkey is still rich with the sort of core features that matter to writers. 

However, most options are hidden in a context menu (so you’ll need to right-click to view it). It also only supports TXT files, which may limit those looking to read, write, or edit across multiple formats. It is, at least, a portable download, letting you take it wherever you need.

If you’ve enjoyed Markdown, the simplified text-editing language that lets you format, annotate, classify, and link as you type, then great. WriteMonkey’s inner-workings will instantly chime. 

First-timers should spend a little time with this free writing software, to uncover that intuitive simplicity. 

Read our full WriteMonkey review. 

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Website screenshot for LibreOffice

(Image credit: LibreOffice)
The best free alternative to Microsoft Word

Specifications

Operating system: Windows, macOS, Linux

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent format compatibility
+
Document template galleries
+
Support for plugins

Reasons to avoid

-
No mobile app

Writer, the open-source word processor software, serves almost all general writing needs.

LibreOffice is a near-perfect example of free office software - a familiar, feature-rich take on the office suite. What the veteran software package lacks in Microsoft polish (its interface is undeniably old-fashioned, for starters), it makes up for in its price-point: free. For that, you get access to six tools: Calc, Impress, Draw, Base, Math, and Writer. 

Earning it a slot on our list of best free writing apps is the fact that LibreOffice Writer packs the full editing toolbox. 

This isn’t just a note-taking app for staving off distractions when you’re deep in the zone; it’s for when you’re in pure writer-mode. 

If you’re at all proficient with Microsoft Word, you won’t have any problems using the Writer software. Layouts and functions are almost identical, and there’s support for DOC and DOCX file types, making it efficient to switch out of the Microsoft garden.

This free writing app is ideal if you’re hunting for a tool that almost perfectly replicates the Word experience without the cost. 

Read our full LibreOffice review.

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Website screenshot for Scribus

(Image credit: Scribus)
The best free writing app for designers

Specifications

Operating system: Windows, macOS, Linux

Reasons to buy

+
Professional cross-platform design tools
+
Supports layers
+
Easy PDF export
+
Ideal for designers and editors

Reasons to avoid

-
Steep learning curve

Scribus is easily one of the best free writing apps when the look and meaning of your words are equally important. 

It’s one of the best DTP software and writing tools that lets you lay out professional-grade publications and design magazines. 

As an alternative to Adobe InDesign, it works well. If you’ve used one, you can master the other. While it lacks the power of the industry standard, it has more than enough features to make sure your words catch the reader’s eye. 

The free writing tool does have a steep learning curve, especially if you’re making the jump from general-use writing apps. That’s to be expected of a DTP technically capable of laying out a 400-page book design - although we wouldn’t recommend trying it. 

For best results, use Scribus to design smaller publications. If you’ve ever dreamed of being a magazine publisher, Scribus is a great place to start. 

Read our full Scribus review.  

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Website screenshot for Author

(Image credit: AT)

5. Author

The best free writing app exclusive to macOS

Specifications

Operating system: macOS

Reasons to buy

+
Fantastic design
+
Innovative export options
+
Powerful concept map features

Reasons to avoid

-
Only on macOS

Author promises to make it easier to ‘think, write, and cite’. It’s a promise capably delivered, with a clean interface and bags of writing features designed to make it easy to go from first draft to final copy. 

If you're an Apple user in search of the best free writing apps on macOS, this one demands your attention. 

Concept Maps is one of the best features. It’s a great mind-mapping tool to visualize and lay down all your thoughts while they’re fresh in your head without constraint. You can worry about whipping them into shape later. 

Students and report writers will appreciate Author’s ‘fast citing’ tools - speeding up assignment-writing by correctly adding and formatting citations, references, and contents. 

A paid-for upgrade of the writing software that offers exporting options is available for $28.99. Unless you need automatic formatting on export, you can stick with the free version. 


How to choose the best free writing app for you

When deciding which free writing app is best, start by figuring out what sort of writing you want to do. 

Do you need a handy tool for quick scribbles and jotting down ideas here and there, or are you using the writing software to write and edit an epic novel? Tools like FocusWriter and Write Monkey are great for getting thoughts on the page without friction.

It’s also worth considering if you need a writing app with a distraction-free design, so you can concentrate on what really matters to you. Again, FocusWriter performs admirably here, but as a result, you lose core typography and editing functions. Unlike LibreOffice, this isn’t the best Microsoft Office alternative if you need those tools. 

Access is an important factor when using your writing software. A tool like Scribus needs to be downloaded to your machine. Lightweight apps like FocusWriter, however, offer a portable download that can be downloaded to a USB and carried with you. 

Check what file formats your chosen writing app supports, too. While some let you create and edit the common DOC and DOCX files, others only allow TXT or RTF documents.

But most of all, it’s important to choose the best free writing app for your unique creative flow. 

How we test the best free writing software

Testing the best free writing software, we assess how easy it is to get your words down on the page with the least amount of friction. Portable writing apps rank high, because they let you use the program on whatever computer or laptop you’re using. 

We also look at performance for its intended audience. For distraction-free writing apps, do they really foster focus? For word processor-style software, does it offer good formatting and editing options? 

Most importantly, we expect to see free writing apps that are genuinely cost-free - no-one wants to stumble across hidden fees and tricksy charges in the contracts. 

See how we test, rate, and review products on TechRadar.  

If you prefer speaking your mind, explore the best free text to speech software.

Daryl Baxter
Software & Downloads Writer

Daryl had been freelancing for 3 years before joining TechRadar, now reporting on everything software-related. In his spare time he's written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider', alongside podcasting and usually found playing games old and new on his PC and MacBook Pro. If you have a story about an updated app, one that's about to launch, or just anything Software-related, drop him a line.