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34 Tools to Help You Create Better Content From Start to Finish (and Beyond)

34 Tools to Help You Create Better Content From Start to Finish (and Beyond)

Creating content isn’t easy. Creating remarkable content is even harder.

But creating valuable content is a pivotal starting point for drawing the attention of a relevant audience, fostering meaningful conversations, forming lasting relationships, and developing dedicated communities. All of which, if done correctly, should lead to conversions and ultimately a stronger brand image.

With all of the distractions throughout our everyday lives, it’s easy to get caught up somewhere in the content creation process. Having been there several times before, I have discovered certain tools to be invaluable for maintaining my focus and driving my motivation to create remarkable content.

Most of these tools are free, a few are a bit more pricey, but they’re all incredibly useful throughout the entire content creation process from inspiration and ideation, to brainstorming the ideas with your team, to the research behind the ideas, to the actual writing, to collaboration in developing the story, to word help, and editing, to apps that will make bringing your words to life easier, and finally, to tools that will help you to write more often.

This is by no means a definitive list and many of these have much more popular alternatives. Some of these tools I use daily, and others only a few times per year. Some are mainstays and others are ones that I have recently been using. I hope they can help you in your journey to creating better content, because remarkable content enriches everyone’s lives.

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Tools for Inspiration and Ideation

1) Yutongo

What: Yutongo allows you to develop ideas for different creative challenges by using a unique ideation process with a systematic approach.

Why: This tool helps to break down the ideation process and then develop your ideas out. It’s a helpful because it also allows for collaboration with people on your team, or with people from around the world.

Cost: Free (requires registration)

2) Bottlenose Search



What:
Bottlenose has a suite of social intelligence products, but they also have a ‘now’ social search engine that is great for seeing what people are not only talking about but also passionate about at any given moment.

Why: If you’re looking for ideas based around current topics, this is a great tool to use and a good alternative to the much more popular Google Trends.

Cost: Free (create an account and connect if you want to have more customization and insight into your own network)

3) The Idea Swap

What: The Idea Swap lets you take ideas that may not be useful to you and exchange them for ideas from other people.

Why: This tool is hit or miss but great for getting the creative juices flowing and sometimes finding a needle in the haystack of ideas. Think of it as an open source idea bank and use it if you have great ideas that aren’t exactly realistic for you, but might be to someone else, and vice-versa.

Cost: Free

4) Cognition



What:
Cognition’s Semantic Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies add word and phrase meaning and understanding to computer applications, providing a technology and/or end-user with actionable content based upon semantic knowledge. This understanding results in much higher precision and recall of salient data within the universe of possible results.

Why: Don’t let the out-dated design fool you, Cognition is awesome for digging deep (especially if you do anything in the legal or medical/health fields) and reverse engineering ideas. See what academdics are doing and then figure out how to apply that to your target audience. Their Wikipedia engine alone will help you find stuff that you probably never thought of.

Cost: Free

5) Omgili

What: Omgili is a vertical search engine that focuses on “many to many” user-generated content platforms, such as forums, discussion groups, answer boards, and others.

Why: Omgili allows you to differentiate between discussion entities, such as title, topic, answer, and post date. Users can use Omgili to find consumer opinions, debates, discussions, personal experiences, and solutions. Get a good look at what people are talking about on forums and figure out how to fill that void.

Cost: Free

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Brainstorming Tools

6) Mindmeister

What: MindMeister is an online mind mapping software that allows its users to visualize their thinking.

Why: MindMeister provides real-time brainstorming, allowing you to see the changes as they happen. It is easy to use and provides mobile access and offline capability which makes it incredibly convenient and user-friendly.

Cost: 30-day free trial and then paid subscriptions (starting at $4.99 per month) depending on use

7) Creative Writing Prompts

What: Creative Writing Prompts is a cool source for deriving inspiration and ideas to come up with creative content.

Why: If you’re stuck or don’t know where to start in the creative process, this is a good place to start. It provides you with ideas and opening phrases for your imagination to run off with. Try using it for blog posts, guests articles, short stories, and more.

Cost: Free

8) Twine

What: Twine is a tool for creating your own interactive, non-linear stories.

Why: Twine lets you organize your story graphically with a map that you can re-arrange as you work. Stories are created on easy-to-share single HTML pages. Links automatically appear on the map as you add them to your passages, and passages with broken links are apparent at a glance. It’s a nice alternative to writing long documents or text outlines.

Cost: Free (GNU Public License)

9) Scribble

What: Scribble is like sticky notes on steroids. It’s a note taking interface which allows you to manage everything in one place.

Why: If you have a habit of saving .txt files to your desktop as reminders, notes, thoughts and random ideas, Scribble is perfect for you. It provides a place to manage all those notes in one place – clutter free. They also have a nice Chrome extension.

Cost: Free

10) Scrivener

What: Scrivener is a powerful content generation tool for writers, allowing you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents.

Why: Scrivener puts everything you need for structuring, writing, and editing long documents at your fingertips. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, the focus of Scrivener is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.

Cost: $35 to $45 one-time fee (depending on use and version)

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Research Tools

11) Dedoose



What:
Dedoose is a cross-platform app for analyzing text, video, and spreadsheet data (analyzing qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research).

Why: Dedoose is a fairly intuitive and interactive platform, and great for people who aren’t used to research software. It’s awesome for teams and produces some really sweet interactive charts and tables.

Cost: Sign up for free and you’re only billed for the months you use it (starting at $12.95 for one user)

12) Wolfram|Alpha Pro

What: Remember when people were thinking of Wolfram|Alpha as a potential Google killer? When it was obvious that it wasn’t, most people wrote it off. But their Pro product is a pretty powerful tool for finding answers and killer data.

Why: The Pro version goes so much further than the “tourist” version and  gives you another way to get knowledge and answers. Not by searching the web, but by doing dynamic computations based on a vast collection of built-in data, algorithms, and methods. It uses built-in knowledge curated by human experts to compute on the fly a specific answer and analysis for every query.

Cost: $4.99/month ($2.99 for students)

13) InstaGrok



What:
instaGrok is a search engine (of sorts) that provides results in the form of a visual graph which represents the important concepts around your search topic. Quickly learn about any topic by exploring connections between concepts or facts on their interactive concept map.

Why: instaGrok presents each topic as an interactive visual interface, allowing the user to quickly grasp important concepts, key facts, and relationships. It also provides educational websites, videos, images, and quiz questions relating to your topic. It’s a great way to establish close or broad relationships between topics or ideas.

Cost: Free

14) Zanran



What:
Zanran is a search engine for finding data and statistics.

Why: Zanran doesn’t work by spotting wording in the text and looking for images – it’s the other way around. The system examines millions of images and decides for each one whether it’s a graph, chart, or table. It’s a great way to find “semi-structured” data (the numerical data that people have presented as graphs, tables, and charts).

Cost: Free

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Writing Tools

15) ZenPen

What: ZenPen is a minimalistic writing zone which allows you to write without any distractions.

Why: ZenPen eliminates distractions by keeping it’s interface simple. Simply delete the text on the screen and get to writing. If you are someone who gets easily distracted (like me!) this will become an invaluable tool for you.

Cost: Free

16) BBEdit 10

What: BBEdit is the leading professional HTML and text editor for the Mac. Or in their own words “It doesn’t suck.”

Why: If you love writing in a text editor, you will probably love BBEdit. After 20 years, it’s still the top choice for so many web writers out there, and that’s probably because it was built in response to the needs of web authors. BBEdit provides an abundance of high-performance features for editing, searching, and manipulation of text.

Cost: $49.99 (free trial available)

17) TextExpander

What: TextExpander turns an eight-second repetitive typing task (such as rewriting the same lines of code, the same paragraphs or even the same signature) into a keystroke.

Why: Great tool to help you save time and effort when writing. If you are someone who lives by hotkeys and shortcuts, you will love this.

Cost: $34.95 one-time purchase (free trial available)

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Collaboration Tools

18) MixedInk


What: MixedInk’s collaborative writing platform allows groups of any size to weave their best ideas and language into a single text.

Why: MixedInk is a good alternative to Google Docs or MS Word for those times when you really want to have a true open writing project. It does a great job of tracking who wrote what and also allows people to give better feedback and real-time suggestions.

Cost: Free for basic version with registration (full access starts at $32/month)

19) Etherpad lite


What: Etherpad lite is an Open Source online editor providing collaborative editing in real-time.

Why: Etherpad lite allows teams to work on or edit documents collaboratively in real-time — working on the same document at the same time. The built-in plugin system makes extending the core functionality a breeze, regardless of whether you’re adding support for inserting images or videos, or allowing users to collaborate on tables.

Cost: Free (if you see an area for improvement, you can contribute)

20) Murally



What:
Mural.ly describes itself as “whiteboards on steroids for visual collaboration” and that is pretty accurate overview (even though I have never actually seen a whiteboard on steroids so I’m just using my imagination).

Why: Mural.ly allows you to show your ideas as freely as you create them. You can create murals and collect any content you want inside them. You can drag and drop photos, text, sound, and videos from any website or your computer. It also allows you to collaborate with other people at anytime and obviously anywhere. If you like using Prezi for creating presentations, you will probably get a lot out of Mural.ly.

Cost: Free (requires simple registration and gives you an option to connect through social channels)

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Word Help Tools

21) Word Source


What: Word Source is an online dictionary and thesaurus directly in your browser’s address bar.

Why: Word Source allows you to search for the definition or synonym of a term directly in your URL address bar by typing ““word.sc/EXAMPLE.”  It’s a good alternative to doing the same thing with Google or doing something crazy like opening up a dictionary and looking the word up :)

Cost: Free

22) Tip of My Tongue


What: Tip of My Tongue remembers the word you forgot for you.

Why: There’s not much that’s more annoying than not being able to think of the word on the tip of your tongue. This simple program solves that problem for you and can be ridiculously helpful.

Cost: Free

23) The WritersDiet Test



What:
The WritersDiet Test assesses your writing for you — letting you know if it’s ““fit” or ““flabby.” The test identifies some of the sentence-level grammatical features that most frequently weigh down academic prose.

Why: Because some of us (or maybe all of us) struggle to keep our writing concise and need a quick third-party opinion.

Cost: Free

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Editing Tools

24) Grammarly


What: Grammarly is an automated proofreader and a personal grammar coach of sorts.

Why: This is an incredibly helpful tool when your editor is tied up with projects (if you’re lucky enough to have an editor) and you need a quick edit.

Cost: Free to check. Monthly subscription plans starting at $29.99 (discounts available for longer terms)

25) After the Deadline



What:
After the Deadline is a language and spell checker for the web with contextual spell checking, advanced style checking, and intelligent grammar checking.

Why: Offering both a Firefox and Google Chrome extension, as well as plugins for jQuery and TinyMCE, After The Deadline allows you to check your grammar on any site. As a WordPress plugin, it’s also a handy tool for bloggers. There’s even a plugin you can add to allow commenters to check their language. It definitely goes beyond most spell checkers out there.

Cost: Free

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Apps

26) Phraseology



What:
iPad app that is part text editor, part word processor.

Why: Phraseology is a simple environment focused on making it enjoyable and productive to write on the iPad. Phraseology also supports your writing with tools that help to improve word selection and better understand and structure your text.

Cost: $3.99

27) Drafts



What:
Drafts is another distraction-free editor and a different kind of note taking app for the iPhone and iPad.

Why: This is great for note-taking or brainstorming. Simply launch Drafts and start typing. It’s that simple. No upfront decisions about titles, filenames, or folders. Drafts are automatically saved and easily exported to social sites, Dropbox, Evernote, email, SMS message, and more. Also supports Markdown.

Cost: $2.99 for the iPhone app; $3.99 for the iPad app

28) Dragon Dictation



What:
Dragon Dictation is an easy-to-use voice recognition app that lets you essentially speak instead of write.

Why: Dragon Dictation allows you to easily speak and instantly see your text. The app claims it’s up to five (5) times faster than typing on the keyboard. A lot of people thought it would die out when Apple released Siri but it’s still going strong.

Cost: Free

29) Pop for iOS



What:
Pop is a digital ““piece of paper” to write notes, ideas, and things to do.

Why: This is such a simple app and that’s the beauty of it. If you like writing things down on paper and want to replicate that on your phone, try this out. It’s simply a convenient place for writing things down — that piece of paper you grab to write when you have an idea. It doesn’t help you do anything smarter or more organized.

Cost: $0.99

30) Day One App



What:
Day One is a journaling application on the Mac, iPhone, and iPad with fast syncing from iCloud and Dropbox.

Why: Day One is a simple way to journal. It’s focused on helping you remember, record, and track your life in a simple way that will provide a valuable resource in the future. It’s easy to quickly enter your thoughts and memories and have them synced and backed up in the cloud on your Day One Mac desktop application, the iPhone and iPad apps, or Dropbox. Day One is well designed and extremely focused to encourage you to write more.

Cost: $4.99 for iPhone and iPad app; $9.99 for Mac Desktop app

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Tools to Help You Write More

31) 750 Words



What:
750 Words is the online, future-ified, fun-ified translation of the exercise detailed in The Artist’s Way called morning pages, a process of writing three pages in long hand each morning that can be about anything and everything that comes into your head. It’s about getting it all out of your head, and is not supposed to be edited or censored in any way.

Why: The idea is that if you can get in the habit of writing three pages a day, that it will help clear your mind and get the ideas flowing for the rest of the day. This tool gives you a simple way to do that in a fun way.

Cost: Free (requires registration)

32) Onword



What:
Onword is a simple writing application that was designed to get you to “Ju