Getting some writing done
May 16, 2024 5:03 PM   Subscribe

What are my best options for a cloud-based service where I can do free-form writing and store it until I am ready to print it or submit it elsewhere?

I’m looking for a service that will allow me to write documents—ideally a novel, but other writing as well.

I would like the service to support full-featured operating systems as well as an Ipad, and to support offline editing (ideally without the freak outs I’ve run into with Jetpack, which ate so many blog posts on my commute that I stopped blogging).

I currently use Google Docs but am increasingly concerned that Google will wind up feeding my documents into LLM models, and in general am trying to reduce my dependency on them given their direction over the past few years.

Assume any free service will not meet my needs as it will either serve ads, disappear, or be at risk for selling into LLM models.

posted by thecaddy to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Evernote. Saves to the cloud while you type. People complain that it is not free. But I use it professionally and expect to pay something. I've had an account since 2008. No problems ever. Love it.
posted by cda at 5:46 PM on May 16

If you are comfortably in the Apple ecosystem, iCloud + Pages.

Nextcloud + Only Office (or Collabora).

More generally you can sync your documents using cloud storage of your choosing (Dropbox, box dot net).
posted by oceano at 7:05 PM on May 16

Evernote may fit the bill functionality-wise but its history could be considered problematic in terms of its regards for its user base (esp. the free users). Its parent company has a chronic acquire-then-fire habit, which I thought of right after reading "Assume any free service will not meet my needs as it will either serve ads, disappear, or be at risk for selling into LLM models." Guessing for $130/year you're likely to enjoy an ad-free experience and ample warning before any disappearance, and the page about their AI functionality says they will never use your data to train their AI or a third party model. Never.

Other discussions on cloud-enabled writing / note-taking apps:
Previousliest (largely about alternatives to Evernote)

FWIW: from first-hand experience, there now seems to be a plethora of options available for people who need to migrate Evernote data to other platforms, making Evernote a safe choice
posted by jerome powell buys his sweatbands in bulk only at 7:44 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]

Consider Obsidian Sync ($4-10/month)
posted by matkline at 1:07 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]

I personally would probably use Google Docs. Google doesn't need to touch your personal data without any context. It has a firehose worth of data via the search engine and all the rest all of which is MUCH easier to infer the context from. And Google claims any document you store in your own space is encrypted and they do NOT have a way to decrypt it. You may be able to add encryption with an add-on such as DocSecrets, but that may not be available to individuals.
posted by kschang at 2:02 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]

ButterDocs is designed to be exactly this. (It's developed by a friend of mine.) Made for writers, charges money because it's a product.

See also Ellipsus, though it's more focused on collaboration. Also built by some friends. They're highly allergic to LLMs.
posted by daveliepmann at 3:32 AM on May 17

Obsidian Sync is an interesting service, but you can also use the Obsidian app with iCloud (or another cloud storage service) as the datastore so that you have sync between instances of the app, but no web-based editing.

Obsidian is Markdown oriented, which I regard as a pro but others might regard as a con. It has a huge number of plugins—just exploring them is a deep rabbit hole.
posted by adamrice at 6:34 AM on May 17

If you're not an Apple fan, Microsoft 365 has OneDrive cloud sync that works across many devices and operating systems, web-based as well as standalone Word, Excel, etc. $6.99/month or $69 a year for the individual plan, $9.99/$99 for the family plan, which both of which include a terabyte of online storage per individual user. I'm no Microsoft fan, but M365 is solid and reasonably priced in my experience.

Apple also provides reasonably-priced cloud storage in various increments, and their office products are free for use on Apple devices. If you have an AppleID with your iPad, you already have (a paltry) 5GB of free iCloud storage.
posted by lhauser at 6:48 AM on May 17

Writer is web based so will work on anything that can go on the web. It also has an offline mode. I've used it for at least 10 years and have never lost anything. Used it on Macbooks, Chromebooks, Android phones, and iPhones. I think the lifetime was $100.

Evernote has proven themselves to be unethical in the past and I do not respect them enough to not do so again in the future.
posted by dobbs at 6:48 AM on May 17

I've been using Simplenote for... wow, 15 years? And I've never lost a thing. It's encrypted, cross-platform, and free for personal use.

It's quite simple (as you might guess) so if you need higher level organization features like chapters, character tracking, outlining etc, a more writing-focused app might be better. But I have tons of stories, lists, random thoughts in there.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 4:16 PM on May 17

Scrivener is good for novel writing and syncs with Dropbox.
posted by ejs at 9:14 AM on May 19

« Older Post-Interview Etiquette: Executive Search Edition   |   Adventurous Travel with Kids? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments