A markdown-like document editor for writing novels
novelWriter is a markdown-like text editor designed fro writing novels and larger projects of many smaller plain text documents.
The documentation is available here: novelwriter.readthedocs.io.
The application is under initial development, and not all planned features are included. The core functionality is, however, in place and has been used for a while by the author and collaborators.
New features are being added regularly, until the core toolset is complete. When all planned initial features are in place, a release 1.0 will be made. Until then, novelWriter is in a pre-release alpha state, and should be considered experimental. If you do use it for real projects, please run backups frequently to avoid data losses. There is a built in backup feature that can pack the entire project into a zip file on close. Please check the documentation for further details.
The application is written in Python3 using Qt5 via PyQt5. It is developed on Linux, but it should in principle work fine on other operating systems as well as long as dependencies are met.
The application can be started from the source folder with the command:
It also takes a few parameters for debugging and such, which can be listed with the switch
There are no launcher icons yet. Consult your operating system documentation for how to make those. These will be added at some point, and I would appreciate any assistance from people working on Windows and MacOS as I don't use either of those operating systems.
For the apt package manager on Debian systems, the following Python3 packages are needed:
python3-pyqt5for the GUI
python3-pyqt5.qtsvgmay need to be installed separately
python3-appdirsfor locating the system's config folder
python3-lxmlfor writing project files
These are optional, but recommended:
python3-enchantfor better spell checking
python3-latexcodecfor escaping unicode characters in LaTeX export
python3-pandocfor additional exports to Word, Open Office, eBooks, etc.
Alternatively, the packages can be installed with
pip by running
python3 -m pip install -r requirements.txt
in the application folder.
You can also do them one at a time, skipping the ones you don't need:
python3 -m pip install pyqt5 python3 -m pip install appdirs python3 -m pip install lxml python3 -m pip install pyenchant python3 -m pip install latexcodec python3 -m pip install pypandoc
pyenchant may cause problems.
If no external spell checking tool is installed, novelWriter will use a basic spell checker based on standard Python package
Currently, only English dictionaries are available, but more can be added to the
See the RADME.md file in that folder for how to generate more dictionaries.
This option is both slow and limited.
Note: On Windows, make sure Python3 is in your PATH if you want to launch novelWriter from command line.
You can also right click the
novelWriter.py file, create a shortcut, then right click again, select "Properties" and change the target to your python executable and
It should look something like this:
The text documents of novelWriter uses a format similar to markdown, but with a few extensions and a few omissions. Project meta data is stored as XML.
The editor has syntax highlighting for the features it supports, and includes a set of different syntax highlighting themes. The GUI also has an optional dark theme in addition to the default system theme.
Note that the dark theme may not render all elements of the GUI as dark colours if you are running an early version of Qt5. This is not due to a bug in novelWriter, but due to the fact that the the styling options in the Qt API in some versions were incomplete.
New themes can easily be added to the
Have a look in the existing folders for examples of how to define the colours.
Auto-Saving and Document Stats
Open documents and the project file itself is saved regularly on a timer if they have been altered. The status of this is indicated by two indicators in the right corner of the status bar. Unsaved changes are in yellow, and saved is indicated by green. Latest character count, word count, and paragraph count is shown next to these indicators in the status bar. The counts are updated regularly, but not as-you-type.
Easy Organising of Project Files
The structure of the project is shown on the left hand side of the main GUI. 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 makes up the finished novel. Each root folder can have subfolders. Folders have no impact on the project structure, they are purely tools for organising the files in whatever way the user needs.
The editor supports four levels of headings, which determines 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 separate sections.
Each novel file can be assigned a layout format, which shows up as a flag next to the item in the tree view. These are mostly to help the user see what they contain, but some of them have impact on the format of the exported document. See the documentation for further details.
Supporting note files can be added for the story plot, characters, locations, story timeline, etc. These have their separate root folders. These are optional files.
Visualisation of Story Elements
The different notes can be assigned tags, which the novel files can refer back to using special meta keywords. Currently, this information can be used to display a Timeline View of the story, showing where each scene connects to the plot, and which characters, etc. occur in them. Further features using this meta data will be added in the future.
If you ant to contribute to novelWriter, please follow the coding convention laid out in the Style Guide. They broadly follow Python PEP8, but there are a few modifications.
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