Getting Started

This is a brief guide to how you can get novelWriter running on your computer. These are the methods currently supported by the developer. Packages may also be available in other package managers, but those are not managed by the developer. A Windows installer file is also provided on the GitHub releases page and linked from the main website.

As novelWriter matures, more options for how to install it and get it running will be added. For non-Windows users the install process is at the present time best suited for people used to working with the command line. But even if you’re not, the install process is fairly straight forward.


The text below assumes the command python corresponds to a Python 3 executable. For operating systems with both Python 2 and 3, the command python3 may be needed instead. On Linux, the scripts can also be made executable and run without the python command. Likewise, pip may need to be replaced with pip3.

Installing and Running

The application is written in Python 3 using Qt5 via PyQt5. It is developed on Linux, but it should in principle work fine on other operating systems as long as dependencies are met.

You can download the latest version of novelWriter from the source repository on GitHub. novelWriter is also hosted on PyPi, and can be installed on all operating systems that support Qt5 and Python 3. It is regularly tested on Linux, Windows and macOS.

To install from PyPi you must first have the python and pip commands available on your system. If you don’t, see specific instructions for your operating system later in this document. To install novelWriter from PyPi, use the following command:

pip install novelwriter

To upgrade an existing installation, use:

pip install --upgrade novelwriter

The latest version of novelWriter is 1.0.2.

Python Dependencies

novelWriter has been designed to rely on as few dependencies as possible. Aside from the package(s) needed to communicate with the Qt GUI libraries, only one package is required for handling the XML format of the main project file. Everything else is handled with standard Python libraries.

The following Python packages are needed to run novelWriter:

  • pyqt5 – needed for connecting with the Qt5 libraries.
  • lxml – needed for full XML support.
  • pyenchant – needed for efficient spell checking (optional).

PyQt/Qt should be at least 5.2.1, but ideally 5.10 or higher for nearly all features to work. Exporting to standard Markdown, for instance, requires PyQt/Qt 5.14. Searching using regular expressions requires 5.3, and for full Unicode support, 5.13. There is no known minimum version requirement for package lxml, but the code was originally written with 4.2, which is therefore set as the minimum. It may work on lower versions. You have to test it.

Optionally, a package can be installed to interface with the Enchant spell checking libaries, but this isn’t strictly required. If no external spell checking library is available, novelWriter falls back to using the internal difflib of Python to check spelling. This is a much slower approach, and it is less sophisticated than full spell checking libaries, but if you only work with small files, the performance loss is not noticeable. The spell check library must be at least 3.0 to work with Windows. On Linux, 2.0 also works fine.

If you install from PyPi, these dependencies should be installed automatically. If you install from source, dependencies can still be installed from PyPi with:

pip install -r requirements.txt

Running from Source

If all the required dependencies are met, you can run novelWriter from the command line with:


A few switches are supported from the command line, mostly to assist in debugging if an error is encountered. To list all options, run:

python --help

Setup on Linux

The dependencies of novelWriter are generally available from Linux distro repositories. For Debian and Ubuntu, they can be installed with:

sudo apt install python3-pyqt5 python3-lxml python3-enchant

If you downloaded the source, you can use the provided script to install novelWriter into the system’s default Python install locations. If so, run:

python install

To set up the novelWriter desktop launcher, the icons, and the project file association, run:

python xdg-install

By default, these commands install novelWriter and its icons for the current user only. To install for all users, run the script with the sudo command. Other options are also available. Run python help for a full list of install options.

Setup on macOS

These instructions assume you’re using brew, and have Python and pip set up. If not, see the brew docs for help. Main requirements are installed via the requirements file. You also need to install the pyobjc package, so you must run:

pip3 install --user -r requirements.txt
pip3 install --user pyobjc

For spell checking you may also need to install the enchant package. It comes with a lot of default dictionaries.

brew install enchant

Setup on Windows

On Windows, you have two options: You can either run from source, or install novelWriter via a Windows installer.

Windows Installer

You can install novelWriter with the Windows installer for 64-bit Windows available on the main website and GitHub page. This installer bundles all that is needed for novelWriter to run, including Python and the XML and Qt libraries. When installing novelWriter this way, you don’t need to install any of the dependencies manually. The installer is made with pyinstaller and Inno Setup.

From Source

To run from source, you may first need to install Python. If you don’t have it installed, you can download it from the website. novelWriter should work with Python 3.6 or higher, but it is recommended that you install the latest version of Python.

Also, make sure you select the “Add Python to PATH” option during installation, otherwise the python command will not work in the command line window.


Once Python is set up and running, you can either run novelWriter from the folder where you extracted it, or you can build an executable and run that from a desktop icon instead.

The PyPi installer should come bundled with the Python installation, so to install dependencies, run:

pip install --user -r requirements.txt


To create a desktop shortcut to launch novelWriter, you can right click the file, create a shortcut, then right click again, select “Properties” and change the target to your python executable followed by It should look something like this: C:\...\AppData\Local\Programs\Python\Python38\python.exe

You can also run the script to generate a single executable, or an installer. See Build and Install novelWriter for more details or run: python help.

Building the Documentation

If you installed novelWriter from a package, the documentation should be included. If you’re running novelWriter from the source code, a local copy of this documentation can be generated. It requires the following Python packages on Debian and Ubuntu.

  • python3-sphinx
  • python3-sphinxcontrib.qthelp

Or from PyPi:

pip install sphinx sphinxcontrib-qthelp

The documentation can then be built from the docs folder in the source code by running:

make html

If successful, the documentation should be available in the docs/build/html folder and you can open the index.html file in your browser.

The documentation can also be built for the Qt Assistant. To build the help packages from the documentation source, run the following from the root source folder:

python qthelp

The setup script will copy the generated files into the nw/assets/help folder, and novelWriter will detect the presence of the files and redirect the menu help entry to open help locally instead of sending the user to the website. Pressing the F1 key will in any case try to open help locally first, then send you to the website as a fallback.


In order for the local version of help to work, the Qt Assistant must be installed on the local computer. If it isn’t available, or novelWriter cannot find it, the help feature will fall back to redirecting you to the documentation website.