novelWriter is a simple, multi-document plain text editor using a modified markdown syntax to apply simple formatting to the text. It is designed for writing novels, and allows for the component documents to be ordered freely to create the desired structure of the novel. More details about how projects are structured is covered in Novel Structure.
In addition, the project can contain notes on the various plot elements, characters, locations, etc, that make up the story. These notes are organised in a set of category-specific top-level folders (root folders), and each entry can be tagged and cross-referenced from within the novel documents and notes. These tags make it possible to inter-link documents, and generate an overview of the entire novel project and how the various documents and plot elements are interconnected. This is covered in Novel Projects and Project Notes.
These additional features are not standard in markdown, but are available through special meta keywords described in Tag References. Syntax highlighting is provided to make it easier to verify that the markdown tags are used correctly.
An overview of the supported markdown syntax is covered in User Interface.
The user interface of novelWriter is intended to be as minimalistic as practically possible, while at the same time provide a complete set of features needed for writing a novel.
novelWriter is not intended to be a full office type word processor. It doesn’t support images, links, tables, and other complex structures and objects often needed for such documents. Formatting is limited to headers, and bold, italicised and strikethrough text.
The main window does not have a toolbar like many other applications do. This reduces clutter, and since the documents are formatted with markdown tags, is more or less redundant. However, all formatting features supported are available through convenient keyboard shortcuts. They are also available in the main menu. A full list of shortcuts can be found in the Keyboard Shortcuts section.
In addition, novelWriter offers a Distraction Free Mode where all the user interface elements other than the document editor itself are hidden away.
The colour scheme of the user interface defaults to that of the host operating system. In addition, a dark theme is provided, and can be enabled in Preferences from the Tools menu. A number of syntax highlighting themes are also available in Preferences. A set of icon themes in colour and greyscale are also offered. The icons are based on the Typicons icon set designed by Stephen Hutchings.
The main window is split in two, or optionally three, panels. The left-most panel contains the project tree and all the documents in your project. The second panel is the document editor, and the optional third panel is a document viewer which can view any document in your project independently of the document editor.
A second tab is also available on the main window. This is the Outline tab where the entire novel structure can be displayed, with all the tags and references listed. Depending on how you structure your novel documents, this outline can be quite different from your project tree. Your project tree lists individual documents, your Outline tree lists the structure of the novel itself as it appears in the text of the documents.
You are free to organise your project documents as you wish into subfolders, and split the text between documents in whatever way suits you. All that matters to novelWriter is the linear order the documents appear at in the project tree (top to bottom). The chapters, scenes and sections of the novel are determined by the headings within those documents.
The four heading levels (H1 to H4) are treated as follows:
- H1 is used for the book title, and for partitions.
- H2 is used for chapter tiles.
- H3 is used for scene titles – optionally replaced by separators.
- H4 is for section titles within scenes, if such granularity is needed.
This header level structure is only taken into account for novel documents. For the project notes, the header levels have no structural meaning, and the user is free to do whatever they want. See Novel Structure and Project Notes for more details.
The project can at any time be exported to a range of different formats through the Build Novel Project tool. Natively, novelWriter supports export to plain text file, HTML document, novelWriter flavoured markdown, standard markdown (requires Qt 5.14), and to a basic Open Document format.
In addition, printing and printing to PDF is also possible. The best supported export format is HTML, which can be imported or converted by a number of other tools like Pandoc, or simply imported into Libre Office Writer and similar word processors.
It is also possible to export the content of the project to a JSON file. This is useful if you want to write your own processing script in for instance Python as the entire novel can be read into a Python dictionary with a couple of lines of code.
A number of filter options can be applied to the produced document, allowing you to export a draft manuscript, a reference document of notes, an outline based on chapter and scene titles with a synopsis each, and so on. See Exporting Projects for more details on export features and formats.
novelWriter with default system theme:
novelWriter with dark theme: