Tools for Writers

· 4 min read
Tools for Writers

Many people are using tools like MS Word in their daily office routine. But depending on your individual writing requirements, more tools can do the job more appropriate. Today we want to shed the light on 3 text-processing alternatives, which are connected to Markdown or minimalism and the reduction of distraction.

Writing in Markdown

Markdown can be used to write and format any kind of text. It is commonly used by software developers, for instance to write a file for the documentation of a git repository in the context of the development. With the markup language it is easily possible to add formatting information, for headlines or lists, which then can be used to transform the text document into HTML and add CSS styles through an application or a service supporting markdown. If you want to dive deeper, you will find many useful guides, cheatsheets, online editors and background info about markdown, a good intro can be found at for example.

Markdown is a lightweight markup language that you can use to add formatting elements to plaintext text documents. Created by John Gruber in 2004, Markdown is now one of the world’s most popular markup languages.

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Markdown is readable and does not require deep technical background for using it. All you need is a basic knowledge of the syntax, which can be studied via cheat-sheet. In addition it helps to know which HTML elements are typically used to structure a document, but this depends on your usage scenario.

Markdown tooling

You can use markdown for any kind of text or writing ambition. So it’s not a handy option for technical folks only. If you want to prepare your new novel, then you perhaps want to collect character profiles, research snippets, text fragments and different parts of the plot during your process. Specialized tools offer guidance and support for this. But it might be, that markdown might be the perfect option for you to link between fragments and background information. In research related work you would also perhaps like to collect and link information, like Vannevar Bush did it with the Memex. For this kind of scenarios, there is a perfect tool: Obsidian

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With Obsidian you can create your personal knowledge base. Texts can be organized easily and visually navigated. Markdown is used for the writing, linking and for the use of tags for example. I would highly recommend Obsidian to everyone who is searching for a good solution to collect and organize ideas, links, important information or any kind of text fragment. Because it’s using markdown, the texts are formally future-proof and can be migrated to other scenarios later on. Because the application can be used locally (with a support for different devices), you don’t have to fear that important information is stored somewhere in the cloud. I am using Obsidian on various devices, on which I access the same ‘vaults’ which are stored on a NAS server in my local network. That’s a perfect solution for me to maintain and grow a personal knowledge base, which also can be accessed offline. Obsidian can be downloaded and used for free, but additional services are possible.

Another good tool is Zettlr.

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The name Zettlr is a reference to the German word ‘Zettelkasten’, which the system theory superstar N. Luhmann successfully branded.

Zettlr says: “Writing is an essential part of our everyday life. Why make it complicated? Zettlr redefines what writing means. It is slim, fast, and versatile. Focus on what matters to you. Publish, not perish.

The tool supports tagging and organization of text besides many other nice features. A special focus of Zettlr seems to be the scientific community, but for any other writer it is useful as well. I was pretty impressed by the export functionality, which I used when I wanted to create a PDF (EBook) based on a github hosted repo of markdown files. All in all – Zettlr is a very solid tool and another recommendation.

What about ZEN Mode?

Last but not least, we want to highlight a minimal, but proper writing tool: FocusWriter by Gottcode.

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FocusWriter enables you to switch on the Zen Mode so that you can focus on the text. Many Office Suites (like the one from Microsoft) are feature-rich, but also heavily messed up with buttons and symbols and whatsoever. If you want to really focus on a text then you don’t need much, instead: you deserve less. Less friction, less distraction. That’s where FocusWriter comes into play.

Initially, you can choose a theme and edit some settings to customize your distraction-less writing experience. Crucial basics, like spell-checking are supported. For professional writers it can be a thing to have a support for individual target settings and statistics to activate some external motivation (via target) or overall progress info. All in all – FocusWriter is a shy but friendly writing-companion who is recommended here.

If you want to share your favorite writing tool, please don’t hesitate to use the comments below 🙂