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Free Writing Software Review: Papel

Updated: Sep 19, 2020

[NOTE:  This post was originally written in October 2016.  Some features or functionalities of the reviewed program may have changed since then.]

Welcome to Part 6 of my “Free Writing Software Review” series. This series is a companion to my "Free Scrivener Alternatives" post.

This week’s topic: Papel!

Papel and I go way back.  It was actually the first writing software I ever used (other than word processors, of course), starting over a decade ago.  I still love Papel, for a few solid reasons mixed in with a dash of nostalgia, but to be honest, it really hasn’t changed much in the last ten years.  So… imagine the technology available ten years ago, and you have a pretty accurate idea of Papel’s functionality.   It’s basic, but for what it is, it does its job well.  Even ten years later.

So, let’s get into what I love about Papel, as well as its limitations.

Papel is very basic with not very many features, but what I love about it is the freedom to organize your content visually however you desire.  You can literally drag the icons anywhere on the screen, and you can also connect plot lines or connected ideas visually by creating a line between them.  This was incredibly helpful to me in the days of plotting out a complex fantasy story that was a little overwhelming to track just with linear outlines.  Papel gave me a virtual thread-board where I could arrange ideas spatially and show the connections between them.

You start out with a blank screen:


You can set a Project Theme, and also a Target Word Count, and customize your screen size.


Then you begin creating custom items to add to the screen.  These items are called “Papels,” and you just right-click on the screen to create a new one, which opens a box that lets you give that Papel a name, type, and a brief description (which will show when you hover over it.)  You can drag and move these Papels literally anywhere on the screen.


Every Papel is basically just an icon which opens a blank text screen when you click on it.  While this is very basic, it gives a lot of flexibility and freedom with how you arrange things.  You can create and label icons for characters (male or female icons), or choose icons for other story elements as well.  The icons can be assigned however you choose, so you can set up your own visual organization system.


You can hover over icons to see a description of what is in them, and Papel has basic analytics like word count (both overall and by selections) and tracks the percentage toward your overall word count goal, if you enter one.  You can also mark the revision status of individual Papels. You can also create templates for specific types of icons, so that the box for that icon will open onto some pre-populated headers, etc.  This is helpful if you’re creating a lot of any specific icon type.

Once you have several icons set up, you can also click and drag to draw lines between them to represent timelines or connections.


However, other than giving a lot of freedom for organizing things spatially and the ability to have character descriptions, backstory, etc., all on one screen, Papel’s features are limited.  You can only connect each item to one other item, so you can’t draw complicated webs of connections, and when you actually open each item, they are simply text boxes you can type directly into.

Papel does allow you to compile your writing into a final manuscript fairly easily, either by selecting what you want to include from the screen, or by using keyword descriptions to compile based on a keyword search of the files.  This creates a new icon called “Compilation,” which you can view within Papel, print, or copy as a .txt file into another program.


You can group-select a collection of icons to see total word count between them, or you can select them to check word count individually as well.


Papel has an autosave feature, and also allows you to copy files between Papel projects.

Papel does not have formatting features, so any content created in Papel would have to be transferred as a .txt file and formatted in another program.

Overall, I really love the ability to use Papel as a memoboard and to visually organize the sections of my story.  Its functionality is somewhat limited, but it’s a very useful program for what it is.

Papel is completely FREE!  You can access it here:


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