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 me.

As novelWriter matures, more options for how to install it and get it running will be added. At the present time, the process is best suited for people used to work with Python projects from command line.


You can download the latest version of novelWriter from the source repository on GitHub. You can also install it directly from PyPi with pip install novelwriter, or download the packages directly from the PyPi project page.

Latest version of novelWriter is 0.12.1.


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.

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.

Package Installation

If you already have Python installed, all you need to do is install the dependencies. To do this, you need to open your command line tool, find the folder where you extracted novelWriter, and run the following command:

pip install -r requirements.txt

This will install all the dependencies and recommended packages.

The following Python packages are required to run novelWriter:

  • pyqt5, needed for connecting with the Qt5 libraries.
  • lxml, needed full XML support.

You can of course also install these packages from your operating system’s package repository.


Sometimes the SVG graphics package for PyQt5 must be installed separately. It is usually called something like python3-pyqt5.qtsvg.

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 are 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.

The spell checking extension is optional, but recommended:

  • pyenchant, needed for efficient spell checking.

The optional spell check library must be at least 3.0.0 to work with Windows. On Linux, 2.0.0 also works fine.

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

To build the help packages from the documentation source, run

./ qthelp

from the root source folder.

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.

Running novelWriter

If all the required dependencies are met, you can run novelWriter from the command line in one of the following ways:


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

There are also a couple of install scripts in the assets folder which will assist in setting up a launch icon and the novelWriter project file mimetype for Gnome desktops on Linux. Currently, there’s one script for Debian and one for Ubuntu.

Building a Standalone Executable

A standalone executable can be built with pyinstaller, using the provided python script in the source folder. This script will automatically try to install all dependencies and build the standalone executable of novelWriter. You can run the script by typing the following into your command prompt:


If successful, the executable will be in the “dist” folder.

Additional Instructions for Windows

If you don’t have Python installed, you can download it from the website. The installers for Windows are available at

novelWriter should work with Python 3.6 or higher, and the executable installer is the easiest to install.

Also, make sure you select the “Add Python to PATH” option.


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.