Writing Tools

11 Best Free and Open Source Tools for Novelists

Writing is one of the essential skills in modern society. Being able to communicate effectively is paramount both at work and at home. It makes your thinking visible to others, and is the main way in which work, learning, and intellect is judged by others.

At first glance, the trusty word processor might seem a good tool for a novelist. After all, in days gone by, budding authors would tap away using a typewriter, and a word processor is the modern day equivalent. Linux has some excellent word processing software such as LibreOffice. However, word processors are actually not the ideal tool for some forms of writing, particularly novel-writing. In fact, it could be said that using a word processor for novel-writing is a recipe for disaster, and actually a retrograde step from a typewriter. Word processors are a general application software that are perfect for constructing business documents, letters, batch mailings using templates, etc. However, many word processors are too obtrusive and distracting for writers. What is needed is software that helps concentrate on the content of the novel, sketch out the chapters and scenes, work out the best structure, import research, add locations, characters and objects, and so on.

The software featured in this article is designed to meet the specialised needs of a budding novelist. There’s the finest open source distraction-free tools, software designed to create visual novels, and tools to help capture and visualise ideas.

To provide an insight into the quality of software that is available, we have compiled a list of 11 high quality free writing tools. Hopefully, there will be something of interest here for anyone who has a passion for writing novels, including visual novels.

Top Tools for Novelists

Let’s explore the 11 tools at hand. For each title we have compiled its own portal page, a full description with an in-depth analysis of its features, a screenshot of the software in action, together with links to relevant resources.

Writing Tools
FocusWriterSimple, distraction-free word processor
CherryTreeHierarchical note taking application packed with features
Ren'PyUsed to create over a thousand visual novels, games, and other works
oStorybookOffers authors a complete and well integrated tool
Quoll WriterJava tool to help you focus on writing and your words
novelWriterPlain text editor designed for writing novels
TwineVisual tool for creating interactive stories
BibiscoWrite your story, in a simple way
JoplinNote taking and to-do application with synchronisation capabilities
Plume CreatorProject manager and rich text editor for writers
ManuskriptSnowflake method can help you grow your idea into a book
Best Free and Open Source SoftwareRead our complete collection of recommended free and open source software. Our curated compilation covers all categories of software.

The software collection forms part of our series of informative articles for Linux enthusiasts. There are hundreds of in-depth reviews, open source alternatives to proprietary software from large corporations like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, IBM, Cisco, Oracle, and Autodesk.

There are also fun things to try, hardware, free programming books and tutorials, and much more.
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Michael DeBusk
Michael DeBusk
1 year ago

CherryTree is rated kinda high (and Joplin kinda low) considering that there’s no mobile version of CherryTree right now.

1 year ago
Reply to  Michael DeBusk

Not certain the lack of a mobile version has much bearing on an article about Linux software.

Thankfully LinuxLinks seems to publish far fewer Android articles these days.

1 year ago
Reply to  Indra

October 12, 2022 at 8:02 am

Well, I doubt Cherrytree would run on any Linux mobile platform out there e.g Purism’s OS?

And also, availability of good Linux apps on other platforms would increase linux fanbase, as the bane of the low usage of Linux distros on PC’s is not so much of Linux not being a good OS but the lack of standard apps that can compete with, not be like, the defacto commercial ones

1 year ago
Reply to  Michael DeBusk

Since Cherytree exports to plain text files, you can export to such format, send them to your mobile, then copy/paste to your note taking app…

?…the perks of linux, great options (which sometimes may not be usable), lengthy workflows or rather workarounds…

Dark Blue Eyes
Dark Blue Eyes
7 months ago

Where’s Wonderpen?