My Month with Write! (A Software Review)

I’m a writer with a hardcore tech addiction so it isn’t much of a surprise I’m always testing out new software. So, when I was offered the chance to use Write! for free, I took it.

I have to say, my immediate reaction wasn’t the most positive one. I liked the minimalist design, but I was having a hard time figuring out what I was supposed to be using it for.

I have two applications I use for 90% of my writing:

I pick the tool based on complexity. If my project won’t have section breaks, I write it in notepad. If it needs chapters and scenes, I use Scrivener.

The rest of my writing gets rounded up by Google Docs or Word. If I’m coding I use Notepad++.

I didn’t know how Write! fit into my work-flow. It was a minimalist editor like notepad, but had formatting options like a heavier word processor. It seemed like it would be a great tool for blogging and journaling, but the experience was clunky and dependent on the mouse for contextual menus.

As I experimented with putting a few different items into it, I thought, what this program needs is markdown. That would make it a great tool. But, even though it felt like it should exist, my attempts weren’t working and I couldn’t find a single export feature.

I resigned myself to not enjoying the experience and went back to notepad.

It Gets Better AKA How Matt learned to read

Two weeks ago, I was working on a piece with strict word count requirements. I was working in notepad and knew I was getting close. I thought about tossing the article into Word so I could keep track of the words on the bottom of the screen, but I hate Word.

My computer is a couple years old and modern software is so bloated it slows things down.

What I needed was a notepad program with a word count tracker. Then, I slapped myself. I had just the program. For the first time since I started experimenting with the software, I knew what Write! was built for.

I fired it up and began typing.

But, I didn’t have my word count showing on the screen. I knew it could. I’d seen it in screenshots. They even set a goal tracker in the demo video.

I did something I never do with new software. I went to the documentation.

It’s amazing what you can learn when you take the time.

A completely new writing experience

Remember my complaint about markdown? Yes. I’m an idiot. Write! does markdown. It does it well. I just didn’t have it turned on. Write! uses wiki semantics by default. Activating markdown is as simple as clicking on a toggle in the settings. The instructions are on the same page as the instructions for changing the default indicator to show the actual word count.

I smacked myself. I — honest to god—facepalmed.

How could I be so stupid? This program has a metric butt-ton (larger than an imperial butt-ton) of cool features.

Armed with a bit of new knowledge and the ability to charge forward empowered by markdown, I gave Write! another chance.

And, I was blown away. What felt clunky with the mouse was a smooth, pleasant experience using just the keyboard. Typing by hand, I blew through two thousand words in just under an hour.

It’s been a long time since I wrote that fast without using voice dictation.

The whole thing hit a sweet spot for me. It gave me everything I want in a word processor. It is fast with a minimalist design with full markdown integration and checks my spelling. Something I don’t even notice until I’m already putting words into ProWritingAid. Sometimes I get to that point and the word I thought I typed is so mangled, I don’t even recognize it anymore.

Suggestions to the creators

I have two suggestions on how to improve Write!:

  1. Make markdown the default instead of wiki semantics.
  2. Work on getting Dragon Naturally Speaking integrated.

Once I found out how to switch my semantic language, everything about the software became more intuitive and enjoyable. But, the initial user experience for me was almost ruined by not knowing enough about the software to make it work the way it is intended.

This is a sign I’m getting old and losing my superhuman ability to learn new software in a matter of seconds, but it is worth mentioning.

It probably isn’t a common problem. The website has all of this information and the video shows most of the features. I think my eagerness to jump in and use it without learning more about it comes from being approached to do this review.

Most users see the documentation and videos before downloading.

My second suggestion is more of a preference.

love my dictation software. It is a big part of how I write, especially when I’m journaling or putting together a blog post. The reason I use notepad is the excellent support I get for Dragon Naturally Speaking.

Dragon is resource heavy software and gets bogged down when running in a program like Word. I think Write!’s lighter requirements would compliment it well.

Sure, I can use the DragonPad and transfer in, but I’d like a native experience if possible.

Bottom Line: I Like It

Now that I know how to use the software, I am enjoying it. It has become my go-to writing application.

The price is fair, too. You can pick it up for just $20. The application also uses a semi-subscription model for its cloud-hosting features. I haven’t used these features yet, but I can see how they would be helpful. After the first year, the cloud hosting costs $5/year.

I also haven’t used some of the organization features. Write! can be divided into sessions and organize documents into folders in a way similar to Scrivener.

If you are a Windows or Linux user tired of the Apple-ites raving about Ulysses, you should check out Write! I haven’t used Ulysses, but based on the reviews I’ve heard and the first-hand accounts of some of my friends, the experience is very similar. But, Write! is multi-platform.

I feel like I’m just hitting the tip of the iceberg. I can see myself using this tool for years to come.

Disclaimer: I was given a free premium license of Write! in exchange for an honest review.