7 Essential Free Writing Apps for Students

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Got a term paper to finish? There’s an app for that!

Writing is challenging for many college and university students. Fortunately, there are many apps that improve, systemize, and demystify the writing process, many of which have free or cheap plans available for students.

In this article, we look at the seven top writing apps every student should use.

What to Look for in Writing Apps for Students

There are dozens of apps students can use to improve their writing. Here’s what to consider when evaluating an app you’re considering:

  • Suitability: Some apps have specific purposes. For instance, an app might work well for creative writing but not so well for nonfiction writing. Consider your subject and assignment when evaluating an app. Make sure it’s built for what you need.
  • Price: Many writing apps are free or offer discounted student rates. If you’re on a budget, consider the price of an app when deciding whether to use it. If the app is out of your price range, do a quick search for an alternative. Often, you can find something that performs the same function at a lower cost.
  • Function: You may need different apps for different parts of the writing process. Some apps are great for outlining, while others are better for editing. Consider what you need help with, then search for an app that suits you best.

Our Top 7 Writing Apps for Students and Teachers

Now that you know what to look for when evaluating apps, let’s get to our recommendations. These apps are our picks for the seven essential writing apps every student (and teacher!) should use.

ProWritingAid: Best Overall Writing App

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ProWritingAid is a grammar checker, style editor, and writing mentor all rolled into one easy-to-use package. ProWritingAid doesn’t just find spelling mistakes. When you use ProWritingAid, you also get suggestions on how to improve elements like transitions and sentence structure in your writing.

Here’s why we’ve rated ProWritingAid as our best overall app:

  • Customizability: ProWritingAid is highly customizable. You can choose your document type and language and set custom parameters for the ‌suggestions you want to receive. That means that you will get specific instructions on how to improve your document type. Academic essays will have a different set of suggestions than science fiction short stories.
  • Flexibility: You can use ProWritingAid in several ways. You can write your whole essay in ProWritingAid. You can upload your essay to ProWritingAid. You can write your essay in Google Docs and receive feedback directly in Google Docs from ProWritingAid. You can write your essay in Microsoft Word and receive feedback directly from ProWritingAid. Basically, you can use ProWritingAid wherever and however you write— it’s easy to access feedback.
  • Plagiarism Detectors: Besides its 20+ writing reports, ProWritingAid also offers plagiarism detection. Run your paper through ProWritingAid’s plagiarism report to make sure you haven’t accidentally added plagiarized text to your work.
  • Price: ProWritingAid is extremely affordable and offers discounts for students. You can also use a free version in Google Chrome or check up to 500 words for free at a time in ProWritingAid’s web editor.

Want to try ProWritingAid today? Use code BOOKSRUN20 for 20% off.

Google Docs: Best for Drafting

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Google Docs makes our list as the best app for drafting. No matter what you need to write, Google Docs lets you gather and share your ideas with ease.

Here are some of our favorite Google Docs features:

  • Formatting: Google Docs allows you to format your documents easily. You can add complex styles with a few simple clicks. Google Docs also makes it easy to insert custom features like drawings and images.
  • Collaboration: Google Docs makes it easy to share your writing with others. You can share in a number of different ways, from just allowing one person to view your work to granting full edit access to the entire world. This feature makes it easy to get feedback from others.
  • Price: Google Docs is free. You can’t beat that!

Dragon Dictation: Best for Voice Notes

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Sometimes, it’s easier to write or take notes through voice memos. That’s where Dragon Dictation comes in. Dragon Dictation lets you record voice memos that it then translates into written form. If you have permission, you could even record lectures or talks, so you have the transcripts to reference later.

Dragon Dictation stands out from other dictation apps because of its high accuracy rate, large vocabulary, and range of commands. You can also easily share or translate your documents to other apps. If you struggle with typing or simply want to multitask, Dragon Dictation can help.

Notability: Best for Note Taking

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You’ll often need to reference notes to complete your college papers, and Notability makes note-taking easier and more enjoyable. Notability is like a virtual journal. You can use it to type, write, draw, read, and more.

While many users load Notability onto their tablets, there are also versions of Notability for phone and computer use, making it highly functional. Notability’s features let you create multimedia notes with ease. 

For example, you may decide to handwrite notes on your tablet during class. Then, ‌you may want to add a snapshot of a textbook into those handwritten notes to clarify a particular point. Finally, you may decide to add an audio recording of your professor into the file so you can reference it easily. All of that is possible with Notability. You can put each of those features into one document quickly and easily.

Scrivener: Best for Organizing Large Documents

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If you’re working on a long, multi-part document like a thesis or a dissertation, Scrivener can help you organize and make sense of your ideas. Like Google Docs, Scrivener is a word processor, which means it’s a place where you can write and format your ideas.

Scrivener is more effective than Google Docs or Microsoft Word for multi-part documents because it lets you save your documents into different folders and sub-documents. This feature allows you to easily organize and access your writing. You don’t have to scroll for 50 pages just to get to a certain section of your document. 

Scrivener is also useful for outlining, offering templates and prompts for different document types. By the way, you can also use Scrivener with ProWritingAid (our first recommendation), meaning you can write your document and get effective feedback all in one place.

RefME: Best for Citations

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Many students struggle with citations. That’s where RefME comes in. With RefME, you can easily create citations in several formats, like MLA or APA, and add them to your essay.

To use RefME, simply scan the barcode of a book. RefME will generate a properly formatted citation in the style of your choice. No more searching “APA citation format” and hoping you’ve gotten it right!

Forest: Best for Focus

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If you struggle with focus, the Forest app can help. The Forest app lets you set custom timers that you can use to sprint on your writing. Simply decide on the duration of the focus session, adjust the timer, and press start. Forest will count down your time, adding soothing sounds or music if you choose.

There are many timers that you can use for similar purposes, but Forest lets you collect your times into, well, a forest. You’ll plant a tree for every period you successfully stay focused. This feature makes the app highly motivating and fun to use.

Use Apps to Improve Your Writing

Writing can be challenging, but there are many apps that can make the process simpler and more enjoyable. Use the apps outlined in this article to ace your next essay.


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As Head of Education at ProWritingAid, Hayley focuses on building engaging, helpful learning content for the millions of users who rely on ProWritingAid to make their writing clear and effective. Hayley has a robust writing portfolio and has written for dozens of publications on topics related to education, marketing strategy, history, entrepreneurship, and more.

Natalie Song