The Five Best Alternatives to Atticus

Doug Landsborough
September 22, 2023

If you're a self-published author or are on your way to becoming one, you've probably visited Kindlepreneur a few times (or a few hundred times) by now. That website is a wealth of invaluable information for indie authors, and they added yet another powerful tool a few years ago to make our career just a bit easier: Atticus.

But is Atticus the best tool out there for your self-published books? Does it do everything you need it to, and, most importantly, does it do it better than other options? How do tools like Atticus fit into your writing process?

Don't worry, we're going to cover all of that. Specifically, we'll chat about:

  • What Atticus is
  • Why you might need an alternative
  • The criteria we'll use to look at alternatives
  • Options you have to replace Atticus

Your writing toolkit can get pretty hefty these days, so we want to make sure the programs you're using are best suited for you. With that said, let's talk about Atticus.

What is Atticus?

Atticus is a pretty nifty tool, I must say. As the brainchild of the folks over at Kindlepreneur, you know it must be addressing an author need. That need, more than anything else, is formatting your manuscript.

If you choose to go the indie author/self-published route, formatting your manuscript is something you're going to have to do—unless you pay someone to do it for you, of course.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Because Atticus touts itself as an all-in-one formatting and book-writing software, let's look at both.


Atticus Writing Features

Like I said, Atticus is a formatting tool, but it's also more than that. You can actually write your entire manuscript in Atticus from beginning to end. It's not the most comprehensive writing app in the world, but it gets the job done.

Within Atticus, you have the basic word processing power of something like Google Docs, though without the capacity for extensions. This includes:

  • Being able to type (I'd like to think that's obvious, but I'm listing it anyway)
  • Basic in-text formatting (bold, italics, lists, alignments, etc.)
  • Chapter titles and subtitles
  • Adding images

On top of that, there are a few other features built into the Atticus writing tool.

Front and back matter - Atticus automatically creates space for your novel's front and back matter. This isn't necessarily important for writing your book, but you'll need it when you format it for publication.

Chapters - Instead of filling a single document with different headings, Atticus breaks your manuscript up into chapters. You can also drag and drop chapters for quick reordering.

Word count - Because it's important to know how long a particular chapter is.

Goals and habits - I'm a big fan of goals, especially goals for authors (because writing tens or hundreds of thousands of words is one heck of an undertaking). Atticus lets you track book-level writing goals, breaking down your bigger goal into daily word count goals. It also gives you the option to work on a writing habit, which is your daily writing progress spread across all your books.

Atticus Formatting Features

This is where Atticus truly shines. There's nothing stopping you from writing your novel in Atticus's writing tool, but it's quite barebones.

The formatting tool, on the other hand, is much more comprehensive while being incredibly easy to use. 

It covers the basics, such as:

  • Title pages
  • Chapter headings
  • Multiple font choices
  • Page breaks
  • Subheadings
  • Ornamental scene breaks (a must, in my fantasy author opinion)

But Atticus goes a lot further than that basic formatting.

Import a manuscript - While importing a file might not be a huge deal, it means that you can use the powerful formatting Atticus offers without writing your novel in it. 

Formatting themes - Atticus comes with (at the time of writing this article, September 2023) 18 different preset themes to automatically format your manuscript into a professional, cohesive book, including both e-book and paperback versions.

Edit themes - If one of those presets isn't exactly what you want, you can edit the heck out of it until your book looks the way you envision it. This includes making changes to:

  • Chapter headings (font, alignment, styling, size, width, and number style)
  • Paragraph settings (drop caps, first sentence formatting, subsequent paragraph formatting)
  • Subheadings (heading levels 2 - 6, sizes, fonts)
  • Scene break settings (upload your own image or choose from their library)
  • Notes settings (for footnote/endnote locations)
  • Print settings (font, large print, header and footer options, trim sizes)
  • Advanced settings (margin and indent sizes, font size and spacing options, layout priorities)

Full bleed images - Do you want an image that goes all the way to the spine of your book or even onto the opposite page? Atticus can do that for you.

Exporting - When you're done formatting, you can export your book in EPUB, PDF, or DOCX files—whichever is best for the self-publishing platform you're going to use.

Other Things Atticus Offers

There are a few other key features I want to point out before we move on, things that don't necessarily fall neatly under the two previous categories.

Box set creator - One of the most lucrative ways indie authors make money is by bundling their novels as box sets. Atticus now gives you the option to format these with the same ease and consistency as a normal book.

Book Brush integration - Book Brush is an online platform designed specifically for authors to create marketing artwork like covers, social media graphics, ad images, and more. Atticus integrates directly with Book Brush to make your books stand out.

Active development - Atticus is relatively new to the scene (released publicly back in late 2021), but it is constantly getting updates to improve it and add new features. Not only that, but they even have a roadmap showing what they're currently developing, what's up next, and what's in the future.

Value-add content - These days, paying for a product usually isn't enough; we want companies to provide value-add content. As I've said, the team behind Atticus are those folks over at Kindlepreneur, who provide a ton of helpful content for indie authors. On top of that, Atticus also has a bunch of video tutorials to make your life easier.

Price - At the time of writing, Atticus costs $147 for lifetime access. This isn't a monthly cost, like most software as a service products, but you still get all the upcoming features. And while $147 isn't a small chunk of change, it is a very competitive price compared to the alternatives.

Some Atticus Shortcomings

With all that said, there are some places where Atticus falls a bit short. After all, no program is perfect, and you wouldn't be looking for alternatives to Atticus if it ticked all your boxes, right?

So here are some places where Atticus might not meet your needs.

Not as comprehensive as other software - When we review the alternatives to Atticus, you'll see that it isn't the most powerful formatter out there. Other software—namely, Adobe InDesign—is much more intricate and loaded with options. Though Atticus lowers the learning curve for formatting and has a lot of options, it is still limited compared to some alternatives.

No free trial - It's strange, in this day and age, to find a program without a free trial option. If you want to give Atticus a shot, you're going to have to fork over the full price. Sure, there's a 30-day money-back guarantee, but you need to charge that card if you want to use any of Atticus's features.

Limited writing tools - While Atticus brings a lot to the formatting game, it feels as if the writing tool was a bit of an afterthought. It doesn't come with any features to help you write your book, like worldbuilding or character folders, plotting devices, etc. It's a step up from a basic word processor, but only by a few features.

Reported lag - Though I never personally found this, some users have reported Atticus lagging when you're working with large manuscripts.

Limited offline access - You can install Atticus on your device as a desktop app because it's a progressive web app, which technically makes it available offline. However, it appears—according to their support page—to only be available offline on iOS devices. You also cannot import, export, or change the book you're working on without internet access.

Why Do We Need an Atticus Alternative?

The self-publishing world is incredibly dynamic, with tools and platforms evolving continuously to cater to writers' diverse needs. As potent and groundbreaking as Atticus has proven to be, especially under the trusted banner of Kindlepreneur, there are compelling reasons authors might look for an alternative.

Personalized user experience - Different authors have different workflows. What may seem intuitive and user-friendly for one might not necessarily be the best for another. Atticus offers a straightforward interface with specific built-in features. 

But for some authors, a more customizable or differently organized interface may better align with their own creative writing process. Having options allows authors to find the platform that feels most "right" for them.

Advanced features for pros - For authors who've been in the game for a while or those with a background in graphic design or desktop publishing, there's a desire for more advanced features. While Atticus addresses the formatting needs of most indie authors, tools with more intricate features can help create more unique or specialized book layouts.

Continuous online dependence - The progressive nature of Atticus, particularly its limited offline mode, can be a barrier for those who write in areas with sporadic internet access or those who prefer not to be online when they write. A tool that provides a full suite of features while offline can be invaluable to some.

Financial considerations - Atticus's one-time pricing might not align with everyone's budget or preferences. Some might prefer subscription models where they can discontinue easily if the tool doesn't suit their needs, while others may look for a completely free alternative that, although it may come with limitations, can be sufficient for their needs.

Specialized writing tools - Atticus leans heavily towards formatting, but its writing features are a bit basic. Authors who want a comprehensive writing environment—one that offers character development tools, plotting charts, timelines, or worldbuilding modules—will need to look elsewhere.

Collaboration - Some authors work collaboratively, requiring tools that offer seamless sharing, commenting, and editing by multiple parties. As writing becomes more communal, especially in genres like shared-universe science fiction or fantasy series, the ability to cooperate in real-time becomes crucial. Atticus has collaborative features planned, according to their roadmap, but details aren't available.

Community - A tool's community can be its most valuable asset. Platforms with active forums, user guides, and feedback mechanisms not only help authors troubleshoot but also learn new techniques, share experiences, and even collaborate on projects. If an author feels more at home or better supported in another community, they might choose an alternative over Atticus.

So, while Atticus has made significant strides in offering an all-in-one solution for indie authors, the nuances of writing, formatting, and publishing are as diverse as the authors themselves. 

It's only natural that some might look for alternatives to align more closely with their specific needs and preferences. After all, writing is as much an art as it is a craft, and every artist must find the tools that resonate with their unique style.

How are we going to judge these alternatives? Let's establish some criteria.

Criteria to Judge Atticus Alternatives

We know that Atticus doesn't do it all, but what should we be looking for in alternative software? When considering what you're going to add to your writer's toolkit, it's essential to pinpoint the exact features and factors that are important to you as an author. 

Here's a set of criteria that can help you assess the potential alternatives:

User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) - Does the software have an intuitive and user-friendly interface? The ease of navigation, understanding, and using the software is critical, especially for those not tech-savvy.

Comprehensive writing tools - Beyond the basics, how well does the software cater to an author's writing process? Look for things like character development tools, plot planning, timelines, and worldbuilding features.

Advanced formatting options - A good alternative should offer intricate formatting features, catering to those who want a more customized look for their books.

Pricing and value for money - Assess the pricing structure. Is it a one-time fee, a monthly subscription, or a freemium model? Does it offer a free trial?

Support and community - An active user community and robust support system can be game-changers. Tutorials, user guides, forums, and responsive customer support can make the difference between a smooth experience and a frustrating one.

Development and updates - How often does the software receive updates? Regular updates indicate that developers are committed to improving the tool, fixing bugs, and adding new features.

Other useful features - Things like offline mode, collaboration, templates, etc., that make your life and writing easier.

With these in mind, let's look at some alternatives to Atticus.

The Best Atticus Alternatives

Now we get to the good stuff. But, I'll be honest, this section was so clear-cut for me to pull together.

I'm not saying that to complain—I love writing about writing too much to do that—but because Atticus doesn't fit neatly into a single category. It is a formatting tool and a writing tool, which is a combination that not a lot of platforms combine.

So I've broken this section into a few pieces. First, we'll look at a true all-in-one alternative to Atticus that lets you write and format (and more!) in one place.

Then, we'll look at some alternatives that either excel in formatting or writing. Sure, it's convenient to have an all-in-one platform, but do you need it? What if there are two separate programs that do either of those better than what Atticus does in one?

Here are your alternatives to Atticus.

Chapterly: The All-in-One Alternative

Price: Starting at $9.99/month with a 14-day free trial available

Chapterly does a lot. It truly strives to be an all-in-one ecosystem, providing tools to:

  • Write your novel
  • Plan your location and character profiles
  • Add front and back matter, with example content
  • Outline your novel with pre-built outline structures
  • Mind map with integrated Boards
  • Design your book cover
  • Format your book
  • Set multiple goals
  • Pay for services and courses
  • Collaborate with authors and editors in real time
  • Work with an AI writing assistant

I feel like I need to take a deep breath after listing all of those out, and those are just the high-level descriptions of each of those features.

If you want a thorough review of Chapterly's features, I dive real deep in this article here, including everything from the onboarding process onward.

For the sake of this article, let's take a quick look at how it fits into the criteria we just established.

User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) - Chapterly's UI is modern and clean. It's easy to navigate and find most tools. That said, it lacks tooltips to tell you what individual icons mean and requires two or three clicks at times to respond. As far as the user experience goes, it is mostly smooth, though there are instances of upsells and paid services that are a tad intrusive compared to other apps.

Comprehensive writing tools - Chapterly brings outlining templates, character and location profiles, attributes, goal tracking, and custom notes and folders that make it easy to plan, keep track of your work, and finish your book.

Advanced formatting options - You can format and export your manuscript right in Chapterly. It comes with four chapter formats, six header and footer styles, four print layout sizes, and minimal text formatting options. You can't personalize these presets.

Pricing and value for money - The free trial is nice, and a starting price of $9.99/month is competitive with other writing and formatting tools.

Support and community - Unfortunately, Chapterly has one of the least populated support pages of any of these alternatives, and their community is virtually non-existent, meaning there's not much in terms of value-add content.

Development and updates - Chapterly is a SaaS model, but updates aren't regular. Still, there have been some big developments since launch.

Other useful features - Most notably, Chapterly has integrated AI into its platform to help generate new ideas or even compose new words in your novel. From my testing, this was met with mixed results (at best). But I expect to see Chap, the AI writing assistant, only become more comprehensive as technology evolves.

Is Chapterly the best Atticus alternative? In terms of an all-in-one solution, probably. But Chapterly is a jack of all trades, master of none solution. It does a lot of things, and it does some of them well, others just okay, and a few not so great.

Compared to Atticus, Chapterly is a better writing tool but a less powerful formatting tool. Still, it brings more author-centric features outside of formatting than Atticus does.

Vellum: The Formatting Powerhouse

Price: $199.99 for unlimited e-books, $249.99 for unlimited e-books and paperback, free trial available

Vellum is renowned in the writing community, particularly for its top-tier formatting capabilities. It's the granddaddy of formatting programs, having been around for a long time with virtually no competitors. 

While it may not claim the mantle of an "all-in-one" solution like Chapterly, what it does, it does exceptionally well. Here's a peek into what Vellum offers:

  • Professionally format your books for print, e-book, and audiobook
  • Incorporate special touches such as ornamental breaks, drop caps, and image treatment
  • Easy-to-use design templates with a wide range of customization
  • Automatic generation of front matter and back matter
  • Ability to preview and adjust your format in real-time
  • Import Word files seamlessly

Even at a cursory glance, it's clear that Vellum's primary focus is making your book look stunning with minimal hassle. And, in that regard, it stands toe-to-toe with Atticus's formatting capabilities.

Credit: Vellum

So let's see how Vellum stands against our established criteria:

User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) - Vellum's interface is sleek and designed with simplicity in mind. Everything you need is a click away. Its real-time preview ensures that any changes made are instantly visible, giving a seamless user experience. That's not to say there isn't a learning curve, but it isn't a steep one. Unfortunately, and this is a big one, Vellum is only available on Mac.

Comprehensive writing tools - Vellum isn't promoted as a writing tool. You can write in it, but it doesn't have any tools for an author beyond formatting.

Advanced formatting options - This is where Vellum truly shines. The plethora of formatting options, from ornamental breaks to customizable headers and footers, ensures your book stands out. At the time of writing, Vellum has more comprehensive and easier to use formatting tools than Atticus.

Pricing and value for money - Vellum isn't cheap. You can make a one-time payment of $199.99 if you only want to format e-books or $249.99 if you want to do paperbacks as well (known as Vellum Press). But if you opt to upgrade to Vellum Press later, it actually costs an additional $99.99, which is twice the initial cost difference. That said, Vellum offers an "unlimited" free trial; you can use all of its features for free and only pay when you're ready to export your first book.

Support and community - Vellum has a vibrant community and an extensive support system. Their knowledge base is vast, and the team is known for its responsive customer support. It's been around for long enough that there's extensive third-party knowledge out on the web.

Development and updates - Vellum regularly receives updates, ensuring it's in line with the latest design trends and publishing standards.

Other useful features - Vellum's real-time preview feature is a standout, allowing authors to see how their book will appear across various devices as you're formatting it. Vellum is also a true downloadable software, meaning you have full capabilities without an internet connection. But you can only use it on a Mac.

I wouldn't be surprised if Atticus eventually surpasses Vellum as a formatting tool, but Vellum is still the stronger formatter. That said, you're out of luck if you don't have a Mac to run Vellum on, and this software doesn't give you a place to plan or write your novel.

Adobe InDesign: The Designer's Dream

Price: Starting at $20.99/month, free trial available

Adobe InDesign is less a writing tool and more a powerhouse for designers, making it a slightly unconventional choice for authors. Part of the esteemed Adobe Suite, InDesign was crafted primarily for layout and page design. 

But for those authors who like to have meticulous control over every design detail, InDesign has no equal. Here's what it brings to the table:

  • Precise control over typography, with advanced font and styling options.
  • Extensive layout features for both print and digital publishing.
  • Integration with other Adobe products like Illustrator and Photoshop.
  • Ability to handle multi-page documents with complex graphics.
  • Import and style text from various file formats.
  • Capacity to create other marketing materials for your author career

Given its professional design roots, InDesign has a steep learning curve compared to other alternatives. But for those who master it, the level of customization is unmatched.

Credit: Adobe

Let's pit InDesign against our criteria:

User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) - InDesign boasts a professional interface chock-full of myriad tools and options. While powerful, new users might find it overwhelming. The experience is smooth for those familiar with Adobe products, but beginners will need some tutorials to get started.

Comprehensive writing tools - InDesign isn't a writing tool. I've met someone who has written in InDesign, but it's not worth the pain… this is a design and formatting god.

Advanced formatting options - Arguably one of, if not the best in the business. The level of detail you can achieve with InDesign, from intricate typography controls to precise page layout configurations, is exceptional.

Pricing and value for money - You can purchase InDesign for $20.99/month or the entire Creative Cloud Suite (including Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat Pro, Premiere Pro, Adobe Express, and InDesign) for $54.99/month. Both have a seven-day free trial.

Support and community - Adobe has a vast array of tutorials, forums, and customer support options. The community around InDesign and other Adobe products is huge, meaning you'll find help or inspiration when you need it.

Development and updates - Being part of the Adobe Suite, InDesign gets regular updates, adding features and ensuring compatibility with the latest OS and design standards.

Other useful features - The ability to create interactive documents, integration with Adobe's other software, and advanced graphics handling set InDesign apart from many other tools in this niche.

Seriously, you won't find a more powerful design or formatting tool out there. But Adobe InDesign might not be every writer's first choice, primarily due to its design-centric nature and steep learning curve. 

You will be investing hours into learning this program if you want to use it, and the benefit might not be worth the investment for the majority of fiction authors.

But for those wanting unparalleled design freedom and willing to invest time in learning, InDesign stands as a formidable alternative to Atticus. It's especially appealing to those considering creating interactive or graphic-heavy books.

Scrivener: The Writer's Workshop

Price: $59.99 for a single OS license or $95.98 for a Mac/Windows bundle, future updates cost extra, 30-day free trial available

Now we're moving into two Atticus alternatives that are meant to help you write your book rather than format it.

Scrivener is more than just a word processor; it's a complete writing studio. Tailored specifically for writers, Scrivener offers a unique way to manage large writing projects by breaking them down into smaller, more manageable pieces. 

Whether you're penning a novel, screenplay, or thesis, Scrivener's features aim to make the writing and organization process seamless. Here's a snapshot:

  • Segregate your project into chapters, scenes, or any breakdown that suits your workflow
  • Store research, images, PDFs, and more right within the project
  • Visualize and rearrange scenes or sections using virtual index cards
  • Countless first- and third-party project templates for novels, scripts, academic essays, and more
  • Export your work into various formats, including Word, PDF, ePub, and Kindle
Credit: Literature and Latte

Given its feature set, Scrivener caters to both the drafting and organizational facets of writing a book. Let's delve deeper based on our criteria:

User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) - Scrivener's interface is rich and multifaceted, which can be a bit intimidating for newcomers. In fact, one of the worst parts of Scrivener is how much time you have to invest in learning some of its more complex tools. However, once accustomed, many writers swear by it. The binder, editor, and inspector panels combine to create an immersive writing environment.

Comprehensive writing tools - Scrivener is less about formatting and more about creation and structure for book writing. Features like the split-screen mode (to view two sections of your document simultaneously) and detailed metadata options for tracking progress are particularly handy. You can keep all your research and notes on the Corkboard, plan your novel on a powerful outliner, and customize the screen to be exactly what you want it to be.

Advanced formatting options - Scrivener's Compile feature will let you export your book in a variety of formats, but it is not a formatting tool like Atticus.

Pricing and value for money - Scrivener isn't a subscription service like many writing platforms, nor is it a true one-and-done payment that secures future updates. You pay for a license based on your operating system ($59.99 no matter what your OS is) or can get a multi-OS license for $95.58. Future updates have (and likely will) require a smaller fee to get the new version.

Support and community - Scrivener has a strong community of devoted users, ensuring a wealth of online tutorials, templates, and forums. The official website also offers comprehensive user guides and video tutorials.

Development and updates - Scrivener isn't updated as frequently as most SaaS-based tools, but its updates are significant, often bringing in a host of new features or refining existing ones.

Other useful features - The project targets feature, allowing you to set word count goals for your entire manuscript or individual sessions, and the ability to take snapshots of your document to preserve versions are standout additions.

While Scrivener might not be the go-to for final formatting, it is a beast when it comes to the actual act of writing and organizing large projects. 

For those who appreciate a meticulous approach to structure and value a distraction-free writing environment, Scrivener stands out as a top-tier alternative to Atticus. It's particularly suited for authors who revel in detailed planning and organization.

Dabble: A Cloud-Based Writer's Paradise

Price: Starting at $8/month, 14-day free trial available

Let's be clear: I use Dabble to write my novels, I write for Dabble, and you're reading this on Dabble. That said, I hope I've put in the work to genuinely earn your trust throughout this article.

When you're hunting for a tool that merges simplicity with powerful features, Dabble could be the right pick for you. With cloud-based technology at its core, Dabble allows writers to access their work from any device, anywhere. 

Focusing on the modern writer's needs, Dabble presents a seamless experience from brainstorming to drafting and organizing. Here's an overview:

  • Access your project on any device, at any time, with automatic backup
  • Visualize your story with the flexible Plot Grid
  • Organize characters, settings, and other story elements
  • Full-screen mode and a minimalistic interface allow for uninterrupted sessions
  • Write without an internet connection and sync when you're back online.

Dabble's goal is to strike a balance between feature richness and usability. But we need to put it through the same criteria as the others:

User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) - Dabble embraces minimalism, resulting in a clutter-free interface that's perfect for writers who want an uncomplicated yet feature-rich environment. The learning curve is gentle, and first-time users will find their way around with relative ease.

Comprehensive writing tools - While Dabble does not overwhelm with tools, what it offers is thoughtfully designed. The Plot Grid is a favorite, helping writers lay out any of their story elements in an intuitive manner. Story Notes is another gem, making character tracking and worldbuilding a breeze and just one click away from your manuscript.

Advanced formatting options - Dabble isn't a formatting tool but will export your manuscript to publishing standards.

Pricing and value for money - Monthly, annual, and lifetime options are available starting at $8/month. There are discounts for students and teachers, and Dabble offers a 14-day free trial with no credit card info needed.

Support and community - Dabble has responsive, active support and a great community of creative writers (Dabblers and non-Dabblers) over at the Story Craft Café.

Development and updates - One of Dabble's strengths is its regular updates. Being cloud-based, they can roll out improvements quickly, and new features are voted on by Dabblers.

Other useful features - Dabble's autosave and backup ensure you never lose work (which is heartbreaking to experience). Co-authoring, sharing your work, drag-and-drop scenes and chapters, image support, goal tracking, NaNoWriMo integration, and grammar and style checking powered by ProWritingAid are just a handful of the powerful features Dabble has. Dabble also has value-add content like hundreds of articles at DabbleU, our free newsletter, and even an e-book to help you finish your first draft.

The good news? All of these options (other than Atticus) provide a free trial, so you're able to try them out before you buy.

Atticus is quickly becoming a major player in the indie author world, but is it right for you? Hopefully this article has given you some food for thought when it comes to the best software and tools you add to your kit.

And if you want to give Dabble a shot, just click here to start your free trial. And then get those fingers tapping!

Doug Landsborough

Doug Landsborough can’t get enough of writing. Whether freelancing as an editor, blog writer, or ghostwriter, Doug is a big fan of the power of words. In his spare time, he writes about monsters, angels, and demons under the name D. William Landsborough. When not obsessing about sympathetic villains and wondrous magic, Doug enjoys board games, horror movies, and spending time with his wife, Sarah.