I'm working on a fantasy series and have been keeping a Word document full of backstory, character/location information, and other world-building elements. At 160+ pages, it's reached the point where it is difficult to search for a topic if I want to go back and edit it. Even with a plethora of subheadings, it's become a bit unwieldy to scroll through dozens of pages to find the subject I'm looking for.

This is why I'm looking for a better tool than Word. Something more like a personal wiki that breaks things up into separate pages would be nice.

Features I'm looking for:

  • Has to be able to link internally
  • Easy to edit pages/entries (don't want to be looking at html and css code)
  • Easy to change font styles/sizes/colours (I'm looking at you TiddlyWiki)
  • Free
  • Compatible with Mac OS X

Also, it would ideally work offline. This isn't strictly necessary, but since I'm the only person who's going to be looking at this thing, it doesn't need to be online. In this respect, Wikidpad seemed like a good option... until I tried to install it for Mac and realized I had no clue how to do so :S

PS I'm aware that you can link internally in MS Word, but the process (at least in Word 2008 for Mac) is a pain in the ass and it still doesn't solve the problem of having one gigantic document.

  • 3
    Out of curiosity, why is changing font/color/etc important? Your goal seems to be organizational more than presentation. (But note that if you use a browser-based solution, you can address shortcomings in your wiki by using Stylish or something similar to impose your own CSS.) Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 22:26
  • 1
    @MonicaCellio for organizational purposes. I've just been colouring certain sections differently depending on if they need revision and whatnot. Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 3:54

6 Answers 6


Allow me to introduce you to Scrivener.

Scrivener is a word processor which allows you to create unlimited documents within a single project, and see all your documents in a nice document tree in a side pane. You can create folders and subfolders, drag items around from here to there, link documents within the project, tag documents for easy searching, and even display your documents as note cards on a cork board.

Scrivener exports as Word and text, so you're not stuck in a proprietary format, and it has a full-screen environment if you need to cut out distractions.

$45 and made for Mac OSX. You can test it full-featured for 30 days.

You can search for other discussions of Scrivener on this SE, including a lot of cheerleading from me. :)

  • 2
    Hey looks great Lauren! I'll give it a shot. Don't like the $45 fee but if it's a one-time charge then nbd. Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 17:55
  • 1
    If you participate in NaNoWriMo you get 20% off. If you win (finish) you get 50% off
    – erikric
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 9:30
  • @erikric Good to know!... although not particularly useful in February. Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 11:18
  • I think the same discount also applies to Camp NaNoWriMo which is in April (and July). You choose your own goal there, so you don't even need to write 50k words
    – erikric
    Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 15:05
  • Lauren I created an opportunity for you to promote scrivener on the Software Recommendation Exchange site softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/questions/2269/…
    – James
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 17:35

Sadly I've been relying on Yahoo notepad which is free but terrible and I've been looking to upgrade.

I think in my case the solution is Microsoft OneNote Online. It is completely free and it is hosted online so I can access it from any of my devices which is great when I'm 'on the go'. It has the ability to create sections and pages which can organize your chapters, events, and character bios. You can even copy sections from Word documents, images, or even Excel cells and paste them anywhere on the page (suppose you happen to be an artist and have sketches, for example).

  • Has to be able to link internally = yes
  • Easy to edit pages = yes
  • Easy to change font styles = yes
  • Free = yes
  • Compatible with Mac OS X = suspect yes since online but not 100% sure

To access OneNote Online, you will need to create a Microsoft account which is free and can be done from Bing.com . Once you have the Microsoft account you also get a free 7GB of online file storage via OneDrive which is an added benefit.


I needed a tool that worked on my iPad, iPhone as well as on my Mac, and not having experience with Scrivener, I used Storyist. I wrote a quick review here

While it is likely not as polished as Scrivener, I really needed universal access, and it synching with drop box was a key feature for me.

Here are the highlights of the points from my experience with Storyist:

  • Works on Mac, iPad and iPhone and synchronizes w/DropBox. This is awesome because it allows me to add notes when I'm on the train (iPhone), work when at a coffee and have a couple of minutes (iPad), or take on full writing sessions. Because it's a synch (for iPad and iPhone), rather than live save, this means you can work disconnected but if you don't synch your changes back, you can end up with multiple copies and will need to manually reconcile them.
  • Provides a left toolbar where you can have characters, plot points, scenes, etc. I like that I can create my own and define what type of items can go within them. For example, I've add technology or "Trilogy plot points"
  • You can have "scenes" and attach character development points to them, or plot points, typing together the different elements.
  • It provides those "cork board" views like competing software
  • Took about half an hour to get used to. Given that I'd been writing with MS Word or Apple Pages for the most part, with Things to store my 'to do' story points, it was pretty painless to get used to it.

Things it doesn't do well enough: 1. Support the export process for editing. When I exported to MS word, it didn't use Word styles properly, which was an issue for me. I had to go and redo them manually.

Overall am I happy with it? Yes.

  • 1
    May i suggest that you summarize your findings in your answer, or move your short answer to a comment to the question? (I believe that's standard form on SE.)
    – Martin F
    Commented Mar 4, 2014 at 20:35
  • Scrivener now runs on iOS.
    – Ray Salemi
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 18:16

Here is an app that tries to make plotting out your story and keeping all your notes together very easy: Plottr

It's got a timeline that is a very graphical way to show each story line (main plot and subplots) and each scene.

There is a place to take notes on characters, and a separate place for settings. For each of those you can add custom attributes which is really handy. The characters and places can be tagged to scenes in the timeline.

It also has a place for general notes which you can tag with your characters or places. You can add descriptions in rich text (markdown) and write as much as you need.

I use it for my stories and it's been invaluable


I've just been using Google Keep to keep notes from my beta readers.

Google Keep has the advantage of being available from my phone and on the web. As I get feedback from beta readers, either in person or in email, I put the data into a single document.

You can also tag documents so as to create groups of notes per project.

  • 1
    Hello Ray, I see this is your first answer on SE. Can you please provide a bit more of insight on how you use GK and how it would solve the problem in the question? This would be so much helpful!
    – FraEnrico
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 18:46

I have been using CherryTree for quite some time now. And I am very happy with it. It doesn't provide packages for OS X but it's open source and written in Python for Qt. With some middleware I'm sure you can run the program on OS X.

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