The Very, Very Best Google Docs Alternatives for Authors

Abi Wurdeman
July 1, 2024

If you’ve tried writing a novel on Google Docs, you’ve probably learned the hard way that this particular word processing tool was not designed for novelists. 

Sure, Google Docs offers plenty of perks. It has a clean, intuitive interface with formatting tools that are easy to pick up. You get 15 GB of cloud storage with Google Drive (though that includes Gmail and Google Photos). Document sharing is a breeze—as is collaborative editing—especially considering most people already have a Google account. 

It’s also free—big points for that.

But once your document reaches 40,000 words or so (as anything longer than a novella will), things start to get slow and glitchy. You also don’t get the planning features and publishing-specific formatting functions you get with the best Google Docs alternatives.

Not to mention, Google’s reputation for collecting data to fine-tune advertising and AI may make some writers wary of using the platform.

So let’s explore what else is out there, shall we? We’ll discuss:

  • The criteria to consider when evaluating Google Docs alternatives
  • Three great writing programs worth considering
  • How all these alternatives stack up against each other
  • How to make the right choice for your writing process

Let’s get to it.

Criteria for Evaluating Alternatives to Google Docs

A writer touches a pen to their lips as they look at a computer screen and think.

The trick is to find an alternative that offers key features you don’t get with Google Docs without sacrificing the functions you’ve come to love.

And ultimately, you need to find the best Google Docs alternative for you. When we start breaking down a few options, you’ll see that the writing software world has a seemingly endless variety of unique features. Your job is to figure out which functions work best with the way you think and work.

That said, a little guidance can help, and I think most writers can at least narrow down their options by considering these criteria:

User Friendliness

User-friendly writing software might be super intuitive—something you can learn how to use in an afternoon.

But if you’re looking for complex features, tons of templates, and a customizable interface, you should expect a bit of a learning curve. In that case, the software might still be user friendly as long as its functions make sense, the system performs consistently, and you can easily find answers to your questions.

Writer-Friendly Features

When you venture beyond standard word processing software like Google Docs, you discover that there’s a whole world of writer-focused functions to explore.

Do you want plotting tools like mind maps and timelines? How about goal setting features to help you finish your manuscript? Maybe a focus mode to keep you on task?

Real-Time Collaboration

As an author, you’ll eventually want to get another set of eyes on our manuscript. Ideally several sets. 

If you want your beta readers, editors, and/or co-author to comment and make edits on your document within your go-to writing tool, you’ll want to choose a Google Docs alternative that allows real-time collaboration.

Cloud Storage

Some web-based word processing tools provide cloud storage, autosave, and automatic syncing with your account (like Google Docs does). You can write to your heart's content and always feel confident that your work is saved.


Do you like to write on multiple devices, use different operating systems, or have the option of online and offline modes? Then you’ll want a tool that offers that kind of versatility.


Could you use a little guidance with your formatting? What about story structure, worldbuilding, and character development? Make sure the Google Docs alternative you choose has all the templates you need.


You can’t really beat free, which is the price of Google Docs. Nevertheless, you might find that the cost of some alternatives is worth the value you get out of them. Consider your budget, goals, and priorities when deciding which features you’re willing to pay for, if any.

Top Alternatives to Google Docs

We’re about to do a deep dive on three great options for anyone looking for an alternative to Google Docs. If you don’t see what you want in any of these, no worries—you can find a list of contenders at the end of this article or browse this corner of DabbleU to see what else is out there.

But at the very least, these three top alternatives will give you a good sense of the author-friendly features you can find when you venture beyond the Docs.


Screenshot of a Dabble Story Note with an uploaded image of a planet and files for a worldbuilding bible in a left-hand menu.

What? Our own writing tool made the list? What an unexpected—

Just kidding. We’re obviously a little biased here, but we also know better than anyone how much research has gone into making Dabble a worthy alternative to Google Docs.

If you’re not familiar with it, Dabble is an all-in-one novel writing program. It has everything you need to make the journey from first idea to properly formatted manuscript. It’s also super intuitive and easy enough to learn in one writing session.

Dabble’s Key Features

Screenshot of a Dabble scene card pulled up within the document editor.
Your notes are just one click away as you draft your novel in the document editor.

You can discover all of Dabble’s features at this link, but here are some of the most popular:

Real-Time Collaboration

Work on the same project with another user or give nonsubscribers read-only access.

Intuitive Editing Tools

There’s a built-in spelling, grammar, and style checker powered by ProWritingAid. You can also add comments and sticky notes, whether you’re using them to communicate with a co-author or just talking to yourself.

Online and Offline Editing

Use the web-based app. Download the desktop app. Keep the mobile app on your phone so you can get a little work done in the school pick-up line. Write your masterpiece anytime, anywhere, with or without an internet connection. 

You also get cloud storage, autosave, and automatic syncing.

Duplicate Project

Embarking on a rewrite but not ready to part with your original draft? 

Dabble allows you to duplicate projects as many times as you need to so you can always refer back to earlier drafts, similar to the way you might use the version history feature in Google Docs.

Customizable Planning Tools

Dabble’s flagship feature is the Plot Grid—a visual plotting tool that allows you to see your entire story at a glance, including scenes, subplots, character arcs, themes, locations, and loads more. 

All the notes you create in the Plot Grid are right at your fingertips as you draft the corresponding scene.

Then there are Story Notes. You can customize these files to be whatever you need them to be. Create your worldbuilding bible, set up character profiles, upload photos of your location, or use the built-in image search (powered by Unsplash) to find idea-sparking visuals.


Set a word count goal, end date, and scheduled writing days. Dabble will calculate your words-per-day goal, track your progress, and remind you to celebrate your wins.

Focus Tools

Thanks to an autofocus feature, everything but your manuscript fades away as you begin to type. And if you’re like me and find that a dark mode makes it easier to get into the zone, Dabble’s got you covered with default, dark, and auto theme options. 

Screenshot of Dabble's default theme (white and gray), dark theme (white text on a black background), and auto theme (adjusts to default and dark according to your device's settings.)

Dabble includes integrated genre-specific templates and (coming soon) character profiles. It also allows users to create and share their own templates.

You can find additional guidance in DabbleU’s jam-packed article library, including downloadable worksheets and templates.

Crystal Clear Privacy Policy

It’s even readable. You can check it out here.

Dabble Reviews

Five gold stars above a blank computer tablet.

“It’s simplistic in the best way, and it’s gorgeous to boot. The plot grid may have blown my mind. I have never been so excited about outlining in my life.” –Constance, Dabble review

“While you won’t find a whole host of fancy features or themes or animated widgets to entertain you, what Dabble lacks in bloated features it makes up for in streamlined versatility, organization, and distraction-free workspaces.” –Yaseen Sadan, Become a Writer Today


Dabble offers a 14-day free trial (no credit card required), so you can decide for yourself if it’s a worthy Google Docs alternative. 

At the time of writing (September 2023), plans start at $8/month (paid annually). There are options for monthly, annual, and lifetime subscriptions, plus discounts for students and teachers. Learn more here.


Screens on four different devices display different functions within Scrivener.

This Google Docs alternative is famous for its steep learning curve. Like Dabble, it’s a creative writing tool that covers every step of the process—planning, drafting, and revising. 

Unlike Dabble, you can’t learn how to use it in an afternoon. But for some users, all that time spent scrolling through forums and watching video tutorials is worth the complex features they get.

Scrivener’s Key Features

Screenshot showing several different methods of organizing the Scrivener corkboard.

If you’re in the market for a Google Docs alternative, these are the Scrivener features you’re most likely to care about:


If you use the version history feature on Google Docs, you’ll care about this. Take a “Snapshot” of a section before you revise it. That way you can return to it later. No risks and no regrets. 

There’s even a “Compare” function that shows you what changed between the Snapshot and your new version.

Autosave and Backups

Just like with Google Docs and Dabble, you never have to fear losing those hard-earned words.

Full Screen

Scrivener’s complex functions can create a certain amount of visual clutter. The full screen option allows you to clear out everything but your manuscript so you can get in the zone. 

Versatile Formatting Tools

Want to write a novel? Screenplay? Dissertation? Scrivener has all the formatting tools you need to accommodate a wide range of writing projects.

Customizable Planning Tools

One of Scrivener’s best-known features is the corkboard, where virtual index cards correspond to sections within your manuscript. You can alter the presentation of your corkboard to plot multiple story lines, rearrange the index cards to rearrange your manuscript, and more. 

There’s also an outliner and several clever functions for organizing your research.

The possibilities expand when you experiment with built-in templates, import templates designed by other users, and create your own.

Side-by-Side View

Split the document editor to view as many as four documents at once. This comes in handy when you’re checking for continuity, filling in plot holes, referring to your research, and more.

Available on Multiple Devices

Scrivener is available on Windows, macOS, and iOS. You have to buy a separate license for each operating system, but you can use them across all devices in a single household.

Scrivener Reviews

A hand gives a thumbs up against a gray background.

“This software is so flexible and customizable! It is also easy to use once you get the basics down, and it can be adjusted to suit any work style.” –G2 review

“I love how I can collect research and easily access it for use in my writing projects. I can even save webpages and videos with the project!” –GetApp review


You can try Scrivener free for 30 days. After that, it costs $23.99 for iOS, $59.99 for macOS or Windows, and $95.98 for a macOS/Windows bundle. There is a discount for students and academics. 

Expect to pay for an update when future versions are released, though you’ll likely be offered a discounted rate. Click here for the most current pricing information.

Microsoft Word

A screenshot of the project page for Microsoft Word online.

This is the Google Docs alternative that looks the most like Google Docs. If you’re used to Google Workspace, then Word—and the rest of the Microsoft Office suite—will be a quick study.

That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn, however. Word is known for having more advanced features than Google Docs.  

Microsoft Word’s Key Features

Here’s what you should know about MS Word:

Collaborative Document Editor

While real-time collaboration features used to be one of Google Docs’ biggest advantages over Word, Word has now caught up with the launch of Microsoft Office Online. Well, sort of caught up. Document collaboration is still smoother with Google Docs. 

Advanced Formatting Tools

Of all the Google Docs alternatives on this list, Word is the one you want if you need a lot of formatting control. While the other programs seek to make formatting simple and automatic, this word processing software comes with buckets of tools allowing you to create documents formatted to your exact specifications. 

Not my ideal Sunday, but it might be a priority for you.

Online and Offline Editing

In addition to the desktop app many of us grew up with, Word is now also available online through Microsoft Office Online. There are also mobile apps for iOS, Windows Mobile, and Android devices.

Publishing Industry Standard

Word’s .docx file format is the standard within the publishing industry. That doesn’t mean you have to choose this particular Google Docs alternative, but you should make sure your chosen software can export .docx files (Google Docs, Dabble, and Scrivener all can).

Free Option

While you used to have to pay to use MS Word, you can now access it for free through Microsoft Office Online. Just be aware that the online version doesn’t have all the features of the desktop app.

Microsoft Word Reviews

A person with a short beard gives two thumbs up.

“I love Word's simplicity, visually appealing and intuitive UI, as well as its impressive formatting capabilities.” –Capterra review

“It is extremely robust. The sheer amount of customization that you can do to make each document your own is useful.” –Software Advice review


As I mentioned above, you can use Word for free with Microsoft Office Online. You’ll get fewer, more basic features—similar to what you’d expect with Google Docs. 

If you want more advanced features, a Microsoft 365 subscription starts at $69.99/year. You can learn more here.

Quick Comparison of the Best Google Docs Alternatives

A writer makes a note in a notebook while sitting in front of a computer screen displaying a document editor.

That was a lot of information. Maybe too much to process all in one go. In the interest of helping you see how these Google Docs alternatives stack up against one another, why don’t I give you a quick-and-to-the-point look at the pros and cons of each?


A screenshot of a Dabble Plot Grid showing the scenes for The Hunger Games with columns for story beats and Katniss's arc.


  • Tools for every phase of the writing process
  • Real-time collaboration
  • Customizable novel planning tools
  • Built-in and shared templates
  • Focus tools
  • Cloud storage
  • Online and offline modes
  • Autosaving and automatic syncing
  • Accessible across all devices
  • Automatic formatting to meet publishing industry standards
  • Easy and intuitive (Get straight to writing!)
  • Updates never cost extra


  • Collaboration only available with Premium subscription
  • Fewer editing tools compared to Word and Scrivener
  • No free version


Screenshot of a Scrivener manuscript with a file menu on the left and notes on the right.


  • Tools for every phase of the writing process
  • Customizable novel planning tools
  • Built-in and shared templates
  • Versatile formatting
  • Side-by-side view
  • Snapshots allow you to save and revisit previous versions of a section
  • Full screen mode for clearing out visual clutter
  • Automatic formatting to meet publishing industry standards
  • Autosaving and backup
  • Exports in several different file formats
  • Available for Windows, macOS, and iOS


  • While collaboration is possible, it’s clunky compared to Dabble and Google Docs
  • Steep learning curve
  • Third-party cloud-syncing service required to sync between devices
  • No free version
  • Charge for future updates

Microsoft Word

Screenshot of a Microsoft word document with a chat between collaborators on the right side of the screen.


  • Real-time collaborative editing
  • Built-in templates
  • Available online and as a desktop app
  • Accessible across all devices
  • Advanced formatting and editing features
  • Usable for a wide variety of writing projects
  • Interface is familiar to Google Docs
  • Publishing industry standard
  • Free version available with Microsoft Office Online


  • Free online version doesn’t have as many features as the paid desktop app
  • Collaboration function is clunkier than in Google Docs
  • Proper manuscript formatting must be done manually

Still Can’t Decide on a Google Docs Alternative?

A person sits on a rock and stares into the distance, thinking.

That’s totally fair. There’s a lot to consider, especially if you’re choosing the word processing software you’ll use to write your next masterpiece. 

If you’d like to explore other options, I suggest checking out one of these Word-like, multi-function word processors:

…or these writing programs designed specifically for novelists:

One last word of advice: don’t let yourself get too lost in the scratchy weeds of document editing software stats and pros-and-cons lists. The most efficient way to find the best Google Docs alternative for you is to test drive the ones that spark your interest. 

In fact, you can start right now with Dabble! 

Explore all the key features we discussed (plus a ton of other functions I glossed right over) for free for 14 days. You don’t even have to enter a credit card. Just click this link and start Dabblin’.

Abi Wurdeman

Abi Wurdeman is the author of Cross-Section of a Human Heart: A Memoir of Early Adulthood, as well as the novella, Holiday Gifts for Insufferable People. She also writes for film and television with her brother and writing partner, Phil Wurdeman. On occasion, Abi pretends to be a poet. One of her poems is (legally) stamped into a sidewalk in Santa Clarita, California. When she’s not writing, Abi is most likely hiking, reading, or texting her mother pictures of her houseplants to ask why they look like that.