novelWriter is an open source plain text editor designed for writing novels. It supports a minimal markdown-like syntax for formatting text. It is written with Python 3 (3.7+) and Qt 5 (5.3+) for cross-platform support.
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README.md

novelWriter

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release pypi python Crowdin

novelWriter is a plain text editor designed for writing novels assembled from many smaller text documents. It uses a minimal formatting syntax inspired by Markdown, and adds a meta data syntax for comments, synopsis, and cross-referencing. It's designed to be a simple text editor that allows for easy organisation of text and notes, using human readable text files as storage for robustness.

The project storage is suitable for version control software, and also well suited for file synchronisation tools. All text is saved as plain text files with a meta data header. The core project structure is stored in a single project XML file. Other meta data is primarily saved as JSON files.

The full documentation is available at novelwriter.readthedocs.io.

The full credits are listed in CREDITS.md.

You can also follow novelWriter on Mastodon at fosstodon.org/@novelwriter.

Implementation

The application is written with Python 3 (3.7+) using Qt5 and PyQt5 (5.3+). It is developed on Linux, but should in principle work fine on other operating systems as well as long as dependencies are met. It is regularly tested on Debian and Ubuntu Linux, Windows, and macOS.

Installation

Linux Mint, Ubuntu and Debian

The Releases page has a .deb package that should install on Mint, Ubuntu and Debian.

You can also use the novelWriter PPA. For more details, check the Getting Started section in the documentation.

Windows 10+

The Release page has a setup.exe file for Windows 10, that should also work on other Windows versions. The installer includes Python 3.10 and the library dependencies.

Other Install Options

You can also download and install one of the minimal zip files from the Releases page or the novelwriter.io website. The Getting Started section of the documentation has detailed install instructions for these packages, and for installation via the Python Package Index.

Project Contributions

Please don't make feature pull requests without first having discussed them with the maintainer. You can make a feature request in the issue tracker, or if the idea isn't fully formed, start a discussion on the discussion page. Please also don't make pull requests to reformat or rewrite existing code unless there is a very good reason for doing so.

Fixes and patches are welcome. Contributions related to packaging and installing novelWriter will also be appreciated, but please make an issue or a discussion topic first. Before contributing any code, please also read the full Contributing Guide.

Translations

New translations are always welcome. This project uses Crowdin to maintain translations, and you can contribute translations at the Crowdin project page. If you have any questions, feel free to post them to the Translations of novelWriter issue thread.

For more details, and how to use Qt Linguist for translations, see the i18n instructions.

Key Features

Some key features of novelWriter are listed below. The documentation has a lot more information.

Formatting Codes

Although novelWriter is a plain text editor, it uses a Markdown-like syntax to allow for a minimal set of formatting that is useful for the specific task of writing novels.

Code Usage Description
# Prefix Headings level 1 to 4.
_ Wrapped Emphasised (italicised) text.
** Wrapped Strongly emphasised (bold) text.
~~ Wrapped Strikethrough text.
% Prefix A comment; does not count towards the word count.1
@ Prefix The following text is parsed as a keyword/value command for meta data.
> Prefix The paragraph is indented one tab width from the left.
< Suffix The paragraph is indented one tab width from the right.
>> Prefix The paragraph is right-aligned.
<< Suffix The paragraph is left-aligned.
>>, << Wrapped The paragraph is centred.

1 If the first word of the comment is synopsis:, the comment is indexed and treated as the synopsis for the section of text where it occurs. These synopsis comments can be used to build an outline and exported to external documents.

Export Formats

The core export formats of novelWriter are Open Document and HTML5. Open Document is an open standard for office type documents that is supported by most office applications. See Open Document > Application Support for more details.

You can also export the entire project as a single novelWriter-markup document. These can later be imported again into novelWriter. In addition, printing and export to PDF is offered through the Qt library, although with limitations to formatting.

Colour Themes

The editor has syntax highlighting for the features it supports, and includes a set of different syntax highlighting themes. Optional GUI themes are also available, including dark themes.

Easy Organising of Project Files

The structure of the project is shown on the left hand side of the main window. Project files are organised into root folders, indicating what class of file they are. The most important root folder is the Novel folder, which contains all of the files that make up the novel itself. Each root folder can have subfolders. Subfolders have no impact on the final project structure, they are there for you to organise your files in whatever way you want.

The editor supports four levels of headings, which determine what level the following text belongs to. Headings of level one signify a book or partition title. Headings of level two signify the start of a new chapter. Headings of level three signify the start of a new scene. Headings of level four can be used internally in each scene to create separate sections.

See the documentation for further details.

Project Notes

Supporting notes can be added for the story plot, characters, locations, story timeline, etc. These have their separate root folders and are optional to use.

Visualisation of Story Elements

The different notes can be assigned tags, which other files can refer back to using @-prefixed meta keywords. This information can be used to display an outline of the story, showing where each scene connects to the plot, and which characters, etc. occur in them. In addition, the tags themselves are clickable in the document view pane, and control-clickable in the editor. They make it possible to quickly navigate between the documents while writing.

Installing or Running from Source

If you want to run novelWriter directly from the source code, you must run the novelWriter.py file from command line.

Dependencies can generally be installed from PyPi with:

pip install -r requirements.txt

On Linux, the dependencies are generally available in the standard package repository.

For more details on running or installing from source, see Other Setup Methods.

Debugging

If you need to debug novelWriter, you must run it from the command line. It takes a few parameters, which can be listed with the switch --help. The --info, --debug or --verbose flags are particularly useful for increasing logging output for debugging.

Licence

This is Open Source software, and novelWriter is licenced under GPLv3. See the GNU General Public License website for more details, or consult the LICENSE file.

Bundled assets and their licences are listed in CREDITS.

Screenshots

novelWriter with default system theme: Screenshot 1

novelWriter with dark theme: Screenshot 2