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My Favorite Writing Software Programs by Hank Quense

I love learning new stuff and that includes playing around with new software programs and apps.  I guess that means I’m a bit of a software nerd.  I use a Mac laptop and an iPad, so I’m looking for programs that work on both devices and will sync without me doing anything to make it happen.

Over time, I’ve tried (and mostly discarded) many apps, but I’ve also discovered a few gems that I have incorporated into my writing and business.  Some of these programs are Mac only and some have versions for other operating systems.  Many of the newer programs are web-based.

What follows is descriptions for the gems I found.


I love mind-maps.  I prefer to see information presented in graphical format rather than in flat lists or tables.  Consequently, I tend to use mind-maps instead of lists.  When faced with a problem of almost any kind, I’ll fire up a mind-mapping program and figure out how to solve it.  Currently, my favorite programs are iThoughts and Mind Node 5.  Both are Mac only and both have desktop and iPad versions.  Which one I prefer depends upon the one with the latest update because both programs constantly offer new features and capabilities.

I carry mind-mapping to extreme lengths.  I even mind-map my novels before I start writing the first draft.  In effect, I use the mind-map to create a graphical synopsis.  For non-fiction, I use a mind-map to organize the content and the table of contents prior to writing the book.  Here is the mind-map I used to organize and write this article.

Both mind-mapping programs will export a mind-map as an OPML document.  More about that feature later.


Padlet is a website that allows creativity to run free.  It organizes various material in a variety of ways.  You start by adding a small blank box that you can drag anywhere on the webpage.  Then you fill in the box.  With what?  With virtually anything!  You can add text, drag in graphics, videos or audio tracks. You can draw inside the box.  You can record video or audio directly into the box.  You can add hyperlinks into the box.  You can add files that can be downloaded.  And you can add unlimited boxes; the webpage just keeps expanding.  I’ve created a number of Padlets (as they’re called).  You can see these Padlets here:  In one of these Padlets, I uploaded the mind-map for the graphical table of contents from my recent book, How to Self-publish and Market a Book.

You can the full board using this link:  My only purpose in adding the graphic is to show off. 


I use Omnioutliner for outlines. The original version of this article was written in Omnioutliner from an OPML file generated by the mind-map.  Here is what the OPML file looks like:

I also use this program when I create a lecture.  I’ll first use a mind-map to come up with the slides I need and get them in the proper order.  Then I’ll export the mind-map as an OPML file, open it in Omnioutliner and start writing the scripts for each slide


What can I say about this program that you haven’t already read?  I use this program to write all my books, both fiction and non-fiction.  I can’t conceive of starting a new book without using Scrivener.  I also use the program to organize my writings.  I have a dedicated Scrivener file to hold all the short stories I’ve written.  Instead of chapter headings, I use Fantasy Stories and Sci-fi Stories.  Each short story is placed as a scene under one of those headings.  I have another Scrivener dedicate for my articles.  Here the chapters are Fiction Writing, Publishing and Book Marketing.  Using these Scriveners makes it easy to find a particular story or article, much easier than scanning through a file management program.

I have another Scrivener file with nothing but fiction writing information.  It contains stuff on character philosophies and personalities.  It has links to relevant articles about fiction writing and lots of charts and tables on sensory information and emotions.  It’s a very handy tool for my fiction writing.


Coda is a new class of software that integrates many features usually found in separate programs.  With Coda, I can have multiple types of documents grouped under a single heading.  Coda is web-based and can be used with different operating systems.  Currently, I have six projects in Coda.  Some are projects to control new book development, others detail marketing campaigns or new course development.  Each project has text files, spreadsheets, images, to-do lists, expense charts, a Gantt chart and other material all under a single heading.  Previously, all these would be separate files on my laptop and would have to be opened individually.

Coda has replaced Trello and Airtable for my to-do lists and spreadsheets. While both programs are more robust, Coda is in its infancy and will gain robustness over time. You can visit the Coda website here:

In conclusion:

While I still use a word processor, spreadsheet, a notebook and other programs, their use has declined as Coda and the other programs listed here take over.

One of the issues with listing favorite software programs is that not everyone will find the programs useful.  What software programs one uses is a personal choice and my favorites simply won’t work for some people.

Do you have a favorite software program not listed here?  Tell us about it.

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Hank Quense writes satirical fantasy and sci-fi. Early in his writing career, he was strongly influenced by two authors: Douglas Adams and his Hitchhi...