There are as many writing styles as there are writers. A writing tool that works well for me may not be the best option for you. And if you're like me, you're always on the lookout for new writing tools that can help you streamline your novel or nonfiction writing.
Well, in my quest to give you options to best serve your needs, I've come across Dabble Writer. Often just called Dabble, this is a writing tool that proclaims it's “Scrivener without the learning curve.”
Let's put that notion to the test in this Dabble Writer Review!
- All About Dabble
- Dabble Features and Pricing
- Pros and Cons of this Writing Tool
- Who Should Use Dabble?
Table of contents
- What is Dabble Writer?
- Dabble Features
- Dabble Pricing
- Dabble Pros: What I Like
- Cons: What I Don't Like
- Who Should Use Dabble?
- Dabble Writer Review Conclusion
What is Dabble Writer?
Created in 2017 by Jacob Wright, Dabble is a writing tool that can help you stay organized and on-task. As a software programmer with a passion for writing, Jacob Wright decided to create a streamlined, simple, and powerful writing tool anyone could use.
And after testing Dabble, I'm excited to share what I've learned with you. There are some clear benefits of this writing tool, along with a few drawbacks. Like any other tool, it will be great for some and not exactly what others are looking for.
Read on to find out whether Dabble will work for you.
Let's take a look at the major features offered by this writing app. Then we'll get to pricing, followed by the pros and cons. Keep in mind that not all the features mentioned below are available on every pricing tier. More on this in the pricing section.
Dabble is primarily a cloud-based browser app. This means you can use it on pretty much any system. It's not limited to just Windows or Mac. If you have a browser and an internet connection, you can access Dabble.
When you start a project in Dabble, it provides a handy overview of the story on the left side of your screen. Not only does it break down the chapters automatically for easy viewing, but it also automatically updates a Plot section for quick reference. While it adds the scenes in the Plot section automatically, you can go in and use “cards” to write out and keep track of your various plot points. This is similar in functionality to novel writing software like Scrivener, but simpler.
There's also a Story Notes section where you can provide information on characters, world-building, or just random notes and research links. It's all straightforward, which is a definite plus.
Dabble has a built-in goal setting feature that allows you to stay on track and get your daily word count in. You can customize your goals by excluding a previous word count, selecting specific days off, and even drilling down to goals for each section or for the whole project.
While all writers are different, all successful authors will tell you that you need a writing goal. Even authors that regularly sell a gazillion books sit down and knock out their writing goals one word at a time. Plus, if you're participating in something like National Novel Writing Month, this feature will help you plan your month.
Dabble's focus mode is another feature that I find appealing. When you've been typing consistently for a little while (something like ten words or so), the toolbars on the right and left side will fade away automatically, allowing you to focus only on the writing. If you want the toolbars back, you just have to move your cursor.
If you don't like this feature, you can always turn it off. They make it easy to toggle in and out of Auto-Focus mode with the click of your mouse. You can also enter full-screen mode, allowing the Dabble window to take up the entire computer screen so you aren't distracted by all the browser tabs you have open.
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You can quickly access a number of helpful tools within the writing app. These include:
- Built-in Thesaurus
- A Text to Voice “Read to Me” Feature
- Grammar, Style, and Spell Check (Powered by ProWritingAid)
When you highlight any text on the page, a little toolbar will pop up with several options: bold, italic, quote, strike-through, highlight, sticky note, and comment.
You can customize this writing software easily in the Preferences section. Customization options include things like dark/light theme, spelling and grammar checking, cache management, dictionary maintenance, and data management.
The most commonly used customization options can be seen on the image below. These include inspirational quotes on startup, auto-focus mode (mentioned above), typewriter scrolling, and preventing extra spaces, among others.
Under the Project Settings menu, you can do things like invite a co-author to the project for collaboration. You can also assign each author a different color, allowing you to keep track of who writes what.
You can choose from several different formatting options, allowing you to choose how your text looks while you're writing. It's important to note that this is not formatting for print or ebooks. Just for your manuscript.
At the time of this writing, there are three different subscription tiers. You can also save money by paying annually. Let's break these tiers down now.
Basic – $10 per month or $96 paid annually ($8/month)
- Unlimited manuscripts.
- Cloud backup and sync.
- Access on any device.
- Goals and stats.
- Manuscript Organization.
- Spell check.
- Text highlighting.
- Email support.
Standard – $15 per month or $144 paid annually ($12/month)
Everything in Basic, plus:
- Plot Grid.
- Story notes.
- Focus mode.
- Dark mode.
- Sticky notes.
Premium – $20 per month or $192 paid annually ($16/month)
Everything in Standard, plus:
- Advanced grammar and style checks.
- Priority support via chat.
Is There a Free Trial?
Yes! Dabble does offer a 14-day free trial. They don't even require you to put a credit card on file, either. I was signed up and writing in just a couple of minutes. You have nothing to lose by signing up for the trial.
Dabble Pros: What I Like
There's a lot to like about Dabble. Here are the features I liked while testing out this writing tool.
Simple, Clean Interface
When the folks over at Dabble say it's like Scrivener without the learning curve, they're mostly right. Even if you're the least tech savvy person in the world, it won't take you long to get going with Dabble. And if you do get stuck, they have a library of helpful articles that should get you unstuck quickly.
That said, it doesn't have the power of Scrivener. In this case, simplicity does sacrifice a little bit of functionality. But for me, that's just fine. I don't need a ton of features, and I certainly don't want to spend hours learning a new software. So Dabble gets a thumbs up for its interface and ease of use.
Great Goal Setting
The simple goal-setting features included in all tiers are great. You can really plan your month (or week) out by selecting which days you'll be writing and how many words you'd like to get down. The tool will automatically calculate it and tell you how much you need to do per day to hit your word count goal. Pretty great feature.
Excellent Plot Grid
While I'm not the type of writer to create an incredibly detailed plot map or grid, I sometimes think I should be that kind of writer. Most other word processor apps with plotting features can be a bit intimidating. But that wasn't the case with Dabble. It was easy to wrap my head around. But if you are one who needs a detailed plot line for each character, you have that option with this tool.
Focus Mode Is Superb
I found Focus Mode to be really helpful. The fact that you can make it full screen helps to keep me on track. And although I didn't like the auto-fade feature, I simply turned it off and used the button at the bottom of the screen to turn Focus Mode on and off. Super easy.
Cons: What I Don't Like
While my overall impression of the tool is good, there are some things I found wanting.
I've never been a big fan of the subscription model for writing tools like this. If you consider the price of Dabble over a two-year period compared to the one-time price of a tool like Atticus, there's no competition.
If you paid annually for the Standard version of Dabble, you'd be looking at $288. That's nearly double the cost of Atticus — and it's only for two years. The cost goes up the longer you use the tool.
I understand why they do this. They want to keep improving the tool and a subscription model allows them to make updates free. But Atticus provides all future updates for free. All for the one-time price. So purely in investment terms, Dabble is lacking when compared to other top tools on the market.
No Import Options
As of this writing, you can't import an MS Word or Google Docs file into Dabble. However, you can copy and paste your manuscript in. When I pasted the first five chapters of a work-in-progress into the tool, I had no issues. Dabble automatically located the chapter headings and page breaks, transferring them seamlessly into the Dabble format.
However, if you don't have the correct formatting already in place, you could face troubles copying and pasting like this. According to the website, they're working on better import options.
No Book Formatting Options
Dabble is a writing and plotting software in the truest sense. There is no option to format and export book files that are ready for upload to Amazon or other online retailers. As of now, you can only export an MS Word document. No print-ready PDFs and no EPUBs.
This means you'll either have to pay someone to format your manuscript or use a formatting tool yourself. Again, this is where a tool like Atticus excels. You can do both writing and formatting in Atticus, all for a one-time fee.
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Who Should Use Dabble?
If Dabble sounds like something that would work for you, I encourage you to try the 14-day free trial. It's a great tool for novelists and nonfiction authors who have a publishing contract. If you're an indie author and you already have a separate plan for formatting your ebook and print book versions, this could be a great tool for you.
Just consider the overall cost of the monthly or yearly subscription compared to alternatives. There's less of an initial cost, but a large one in the long run.
Dabble Writer Review Conclusion
If you're tired of writing in Microsoft Word or Google Docs and you're looking for an easy-to-use writing tool, give Dabble a try. You can't go wrong with their free trial. After two weeks, you can determine if it's worth the investment.
For creative writers who do a lot of plotting or have a sprawling character list, Dabble is a legitimate alternative to programs like Scrivener. It's simple, streamlined, and doesn't require hours of tutorials before effective use.Looking for a great writing tool? You can also check out our article on the best book writing software here!