Oh boy! Another top ten list! I know you are excited, but if you don’t have the gift yet for that writer friend of yours, here is a list of must have software you can buy them on line at the last minute. I promise they won’t be disappointed.

10. TextAloud. http://www.nextup.com/TextAloud/ This is a text to speech software, invaluable in editing. Mistakes missed by conventional means can’t be mistaken when your computer reads your work aloud to you. The link takes you to the free trial version, but for this holiday, why not upgrade the writer in your life to Pro? For under $30 they get premium voices and other tools.

9. Natural Reader. http://www.naturalreaders.com/products.php This is another text to speech option. There is a free version, but the personal version includes two natural sounding voices and the ability to convert files to .mp3 for play on personal music devices, transfer to CD’s, etc. For under $70 this is a bargain, and something they will be sure to use.

8. Calibre eBook Management. http://calibre-ebook.com/download_windows. Another useful tool, this allows the user to convert various file types to eBook formats, from .mobi to ePub to Amazon’s new format, AZW3. Your friend can transfer their manuscript from Word .doc format to any file needed to read on their tablet or e-reader. They can easily keep track of their entire library in one location. Technically Freeware, consider a donation to support the developers and then download!

7. Rescue Time. https://www.rescuetime.com/ You know how easy it is to get distracted and play on social media rather than working right? Well no more with Rescue Time. Okay, the first time your friend (or you) sees the report of how they really spend their time they might cry, but this program will help set goals and stick to them. Nothing better to track those New Year’s resolutions. The Lite version is free, but for a $72 a year subscription, more detailed reports and more features are available.

6. Office 365. http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/ If your writer friend is a Microsoft fan, this is a great gift. The new Office (32 bit version) is great, and has a ton of plug ins designed to boost productivity. At $99 a year, it’s cheap compared to single use versions. Working with businesses and publishers is easy. Multiple device or Mac user? No problem. You can download the software on up to five devices, and use the mobile apps in the cloud. Sky Drive means documents follow you anywhere.

5. Write Monkey http://writemonkey.com/ or WriteRoom http://www.hogbaysoftware.com/products/writeroom/ Mac users have the delight of using WriteRoom, a tremendous distraction free, full screen writing software. Write Monkey may be a better alternative for Windows users: the download is free, but a small donation unlocks plug-ins and additional features. Is your friend’s or your goal to write more words in 2014? This may be a very helpful tool.

4. FocusWriter. http://gottcode.org/focuswriter/ Another distraction free working environment, this works a little differently. Also “Freeware” the developers request a donation when you download it. Many extra features can be turned on and off, daily goals set, and multiple documents and formats are supported. A slick full screen/distraction free package with customizable themes, this makes a great gift.

3. Pro-Writing Aid. http://prowritingaid.com/en/App/RequestTrial This is an app your writer friend can try for free. Checking text on a blog post? Even checking sections of text in a longer work? This aid checks for repetitive words and phrases, common grammar mistakes, and even academic foibles. A great self-editing tool, and at $35 a year, a steal. The app has a plug in that can be installed in Microsoft Office or the popular OpenOffice software and used with no need to cut and paste. The gift that will give all year long.

2. CharacterWriter. http://www.characterpro.com/characterwriter/demo.html I blogged about this software earlier this year here, but you need to check this out. For character development or fleshing out those minor characters, there isn’t a better platform out there. With advanced features, this program gives you psychological profiling at your fingertips. For under $70, the benefits last for years.

1. Scrivener. http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php If you know me you saw this coming. But for $40 this software combines some of the best features of some of the other software listed here, and then some. The compile feature and the ability to create great looking ePub documents as well makes this a must for many writers. Developed by writers for writers, the software is one of the best out there. For $10 extra at checkout, get them the great guide to using their new software. Better yet, enroll them in a local class, like the one here.

That’s the top ten. There are many more, and just before Christmas next week we will talk about the top ten free sites and options for authors. Next year more reviews and great stuff on the way.