It doesn’t matter if you’re a novelist, screenwriter, copywriter, or someone who occasionally wordsmiths for fun, the best Mac writing apps can not only make you more productive but also increase your writing enjoyment.
When putting together this list, I decided to omit the apps you’re very likely already familiar with, such as Microsoft Word and OneNote, Google Docs, and Apple Pages.
Instead, the apps listed below are the kind of apps writers typically discover when they search for better digital tools on software review sites, Reddit, and the web in general.
1. Scrivener ($49)
Scrivener aims to be a complete writer’s toolbox. Its features cover everything from research to outlining to writing to publishing, making it suitable for all kinds of writers.
Because of how much Scrivener can do, you can expect to encounter a fairly steep learning curve. Don’t let the almost overwhelming number of buttons, panels, and menus discourage you from completing the built-in tutorial — Scrivener is worth the effort.
You can try the latest version of Scrivener for free for 30 days, which should be more than enough for you to know if paying $49 for a full version of the software is something you want to do.
2. Ulysses ($5.99 per month or $49.99 per year)
Before its embrace of the subscription pricing model in 2017, Ulysses was arguably the most commonly recommended Mac writing app. Now that it costs $5.99 per month or $49.99 per year, it’s still recommended often — just not to budget-minded writers.
To justify its price, Ulysses combines a distraction-free editor with a powerful backend that makes it easy to stay organized regardless of if you’re writing a new post for your blog or a sci-fi opera of epic proportions.
Ulysses stores your work in a flexible library that seamlessly synchronizes to all your connected devices. The app comes with a built-in proofreader and editing assistant, and it’s even capable of exporting finished texts into nicely formatted PDFs, Word documents, ebooks, and blog posts.
3. Vellum (from $199.99)
Writing a good book isn’t easy, and getting it to readers can be just as difficult. Vellum won’t help you with the former, but it can transform your raw files into beautiful ebooks and paperbacks.
The app is meant for writers — not publishers — so it’s easy to use and smart enough to automatically take care of many time-consuming issues, such as image optimization, widow-handling, and spread-balancing.
Vellum is especially loved by self-published fiction writers because it saves them from having to hire someone to format each and every story they publish. Such writers can easily justify the app’s high price. Others can download Vellum for free, test how it works, and purchase a license when ready to publish.
4. Typora ($14.99)
Typora is my markdown editor of choice across all platforms. Because it’s distraction-free by nature, it helps me get in the writing flow and stay there for a long time. But don’t let its seemingly featureless design fool you into thinking that it can’t do just about anything a markdown editor should be able to do, from working with complex math equations to inserting images and more.
You can easily customize Typora using first- and third-party themes. Several themes are shipped with the app, and you can find a lot more good-looking options in the official theme gallery. One theme you won’t find there is Dracula, my personal favorite.
Typora was free to use until recently, but it has become a paid application (costing $14.99) with the release of version 1.0. The good news is that you can try it for free for 15 days.
5. Obsidian (free for personal use)
As a writer, how do you organize your research, ideas, and thoughts in general? If you use a proprietary app like Evernote, your precious notes could one day end up hostage to a sudden pricing or terms of service change. With Obsidian, you can easily maintain an app-independent knowledge base in plain text Markdown files.
This unique knowledge management app reflects the fact that the human brain is non-linear by allowing you to create links between individual nodes and display the connections between them.
While highly capable in its stock form, Obsidian shines the most when you take the time to customize it to fit your needs. You can change its design by installing a custom theme or modifying the default one, and there are around 500 community plugins that you can install to address your needs. Obsidian is completely free for personal use, but online note synchronization and publishing are available as paid add-ons.
6. Causality ($5.99 per month or $279 for a permanent license)
It’s easy to lose sight of the sequence of cause and effect events that make up the storyline when building a rich world and inhabiting it with memorable characters. Causality is an innovative writing app whose goal is to help writers develop their stories visually by giving them a convenient overview of its entire structure.
Instead of forcing you to tackle a large wall of text, Causality works in smaller units called Snippets. Each Snippet expresses a plot or character beat. This makes it easier to see how all the events in your story fit together and spot where they don’t fit as well as they should.
Causality has many useful features that address the specific needs of professional screenwriters, novelists, graphic novel authors, and others. To enjoy these features, you have to pay either $5.99 per month or $279 for a permanent license. There’s also a free trial version that lets you open sample scripts and story templates so that you can see how the app works.
7. Final Draft ($249.99)
If you dream about becoming a professional screenwriter or filmmaker, then it makes sense for you to become familiar with Final Draft, a writing app that’s used by 95% of film and television productions.
Final Draft was first released in 1990 as a word processor capable of automatically formatting a script to the entertainment industry’s stringent standards. The latest version of Final Draft is packed with many brainstorming, visualization, outlining, reporting, and collaboration features that can save you time and help you write the best version of the story you have in your mind.
Considering who Final Draft’s target audience is, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that the app costs quite a bit more than a cup of coffee in LA. A full license will set you back $249.99, but discounts and special deals are easy to come by.