Writing Tools: Google Docs, Scrivener, Word, Pages

For years now, I’ve been writing with a variety of tools. I’ve typically used a standard word processing application (years ago, I used a word processor itself before I got a computer). These days, there is a proliferation of different tools from different companies that inhabit different operating systems. Here’s my small spiel on what works for me.

Google Docs

I’ve used Google Docs off and on for writing- and work-related business. As a writing tool, it is pretty similar to Microsoft Word or Apple Pages. In my experience, it has been difficult to format documents in such a way that people who don’t use Google Docs can read them; if I send a gDoc to someone else, the formatting occasionally gets skewed. The bonus to using Google Docs is that my work is backed up online and I don’t need to worry about what computer I’m using.

Microsoft Word and Apple Pages

Word and Pages are pretty much the standards. For straight word processing capabilities, they work really well. The downside to them is that you have to manage chapters and related documents in another fashion. Also very few worries about what kind of computer you have available.


Scrivener is a good tool. It has the benefits of a solid word processing core, like Word and Pages, but lacks the sync capability of Google Docs. However, Scrivener manages everything about your current writing project. You can organize your project in a cork-board-style display with notecards representing each chapter or section. Scrivener also includes exporting formats that will automatically format your manuscript for submission. You can also include PDF documents and other media files that are important to your project’s research.

The difficulty with Scrivener is migration. Currently, it only works with Mac OS X, but has plans to support Windows in the near future. Other than a concern about need a Mac and Scrivener together, I find Scrivener to be an excellent tool. I don’t write in a linear fashion, so Scrivener allows me to write my content and then rearrange it later as needed.


I could go two ways: if you have money for a Mac and Scrivener — Scrivener only costs around $50 — I would go in that direction. The flexibility and capabilities that Scrivener gives a writer more flexibility for projects than not.

If you jump from multiple computers — work to home to public library — then Google Docs could be convenient. You don’t have to worry about viruses infesting your flash drive or forgetting your flash drive in one place. You do need to make sure that your password is strong for your Google Account and possibly establishing a system for changing your password regularly if you use public computers often.