Scrivener Review

 

Scrivener

Developer: Literature and Latte

Price: $45 USD

 

 

 

I’m going to warn you right now, I love Scrivener. Literature and Latte didn’t pay me to write this, I just freaking love it.

You were warned. 

When I switched to Mac’s a few years ago, part of the reason I did it was that I wanted to play with Scrivener. It was the first program I’d come across that actually seemed to offer some advantages over MS Word. Every other writing program I’d every tried just lacked too much in the way of actual writing tools to compete with the Microsoft juggernaut…but Scrivener was different and I wanted in.

I’ve been using Scrivener for just over a year now and I feel like I can review it properly for anyone and everyone who might be wondering if Scrivener can actually do real things for your writing, or if it’s just another shiny toy.

First things first, the price: $45 US. That is a bargain. It’s cheap enough that it makes simply trying Scrivener out a serious option (of course you can also try it for free for 30 days…). If Scrivener were literally just a writing program like Word with the Full Screen Editing Feature it would be worth it.

 

Writers love this so much it's a little unseemly.

Speaking of which, the Full Screen Editing mode (caps totally justified) was the first thing that attracted me to Scrivener, and it’s one of the things I use the most often in it. I am easily distracted. Magpie with ADHD easily distracted, and having the ability to silence the other programs on my computer while I work shot my productivity up 200%. It’s customizable, and it works surprisingly well. Of course I could just switch all the background programs I run off, but what fun would that be?

The other feature I use almost daily is the research tool. It makes keeping research for a particular project in one place easy, and adding too the research file is a matter of a couple of clicks. It’s also locally stored content, so there’s no problem with links suddenly dying on you. It’s also right there at your fingertips, further reducing the temptation to go away and do other things.

I would like to review every feature on Scrivener for you, but there are so many that it would take me days to write it and test your ability to read text from a screen. Still there are a couple more features I’d like to tell you about in full, and then I’ll move on to a simple description of how it all works.

Scrivener has a name generator. You just plug in your parameters and it generates names for you. I laughed like a supervillain when I first found this feature. You can set an almost insane number of variables tot he names generated. You can even set them on a sliding scale of obscurity…

Muahahahahahaha!

 

*ahem*

Finally I’d like to mention character sheets; both for actual characters and for places. You can make up character sheets, as many as you need, for anyone and anywhere in your story world. This is insanely useful for major works or for people writing multiple novels in the same world. Since Scrivener operates on a project based system rather than individual files you can put all of your research, planning and notes into the same project and then tie ten books to it if you like.

Speaking of the project system, this is really where Scrivener starts to get ahead of its competition. The ability to plan, outline and produce your work all in one place is invaluable. You start by making binders, whether it’s for one work or fifty in the same world and start building from there. I haven’t used the corkboard much, although I am getting into it, but I know authors who swear by its usefulness, especially if they are collaborating on a work with someone else.

I have written two screenplays and a ridiculous amount of film school work with the script writing system, I find it easier to use than the other script writing programs I’ve but it does take some getting used to so if you’re pushed for time I’d wait to use the script feature until you have time to play with it.

Scrivener isn’t great for short writing projects, if you just need to dash of a letter or a blog post Word is probably still your bunny but anything longer and Scrivener starts looking very tempting. I’m yet to try writing non-fiction with Scrivener but I hear their templates and tools work very well for the format.

The One Massive Glaring Thing Missing

No tracking changes. If Literature and Latte could code in the ability to track changes in the document and make that system compatible with word then I think Scrivener would be the dominant word processing tool among writers and editors within a year. I understand that asking them to code something like that, especially for a small team, is like asking them to build me a full-scale replica of the Death Star out of broken glass…

I still live in hope though.

There was actually one other thing missing but Literature and Latte have heard the hue and cry of the masses and there will be an iPad (and iPhone if you love to squint) version out very soon. This made me so happy I did the dance of joy. My workmates gave me odd looks but no one said anything so assume they’re getting used to me.

This fact alone has kept from buying a new laptop*.

A wireless keyboard, an iPad and Scrivener is going to be all the travel writing kit most people need.

One Last Thing

I keep thinking of awesome things, but I wanted to end on this. Scrivener can export directly to .epub and .mobi (amazon Kindle) e-book files. It’s a very good, very clean conversion and as long as you know what you’re doing with e-books you can make a professional standard e-book using these tools.

I have only used the trial version on Windows, but from what I could tell they are functionally identical with the only differences being those built into the operating systems rather than Scrivener itself. I will warn you that it can take some getting used to, especially if you’ve only ever used Word, but it’s well worth it.

Scrivener is the best writing tool I’ve come across since I started typing. It’s so good that if they bring in tracked changes in the future I see it rampaging across the writing world like Godzilla.

If you want to try Scrivener out on Mac or PC, just click here.

 

If you have any tips, tricks or an opinion on this review I’d love to hear from you. If you use Scrivener and you have a favorite feature I haven’t mention, just let me know in the comments.

* That and I would have had to sell a kidney. I think the buyers are getting suspicious of my octo-kidney story.

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18 Responses to Scrivener Review

  1. Sam GilmourNo Gravatar says:

    Turned onto Scrivener just this past month and agree with all your points. One bug that does drive me bananas though is the way the Bold/Italic/Underline buttons stay clicked even if your text is normal, and the Show Invisibles function seems to switch itself on and off at random when you go from one folder to another or from draft to just about anywhere else.

    Other than that, yup! Word’s got some serious competition at last.

    Oh the ebook export function is also a freaking godsend!

  2. Peter MayNo Gravatar says:

    The single most important thing to me is that it will sync automatically with the desktop software – either way.

  3. Pingback: Scrivener Review | Everything Scrivener

  4. Jonathan DavisNo Gravatar says:

    There is track changes in Scrivener. It is under Format -> Revision Mode. Hope that helps.

  5. Brenda CNo Gravatar says:

    I’m using Scrivener on a PC, and think there are a few features unavailable as compared to Mac. For example, Snapshot doesn’t work the same way (although it is entirely possible I am doing something wrong).

    Jonathon…I hope your comment works on PC. I couldn’t understand why there would be no tracking changes in something so powerful!

  6. Brenda CNo Gravatar says:

    Yeah, no Revision Mode in my PC version. Crap.

  7. Amber CraigNo Gravatar says:

    So over and above the features you pointed out I love the ‘Paste and match style’ option, which allows you to paste a piece of text from another tool and match the style/format you already have.

    I also love the ‘Sync’ feature. It allows me to sync to an external folder which I have set up on my laptop. I then have that folder syncing onto dropbox so I always have a copy of my story on my PC and within the cloud of dropbox, every time I save & close down.

    I’m a new writer and the application has helped me get a clearer understanding of the structure of my novel through seeing the folder tree as well as not having to worry about styles and novel templates! I love the app too!! Thanks Scrivener team :D

  8. David ShepherdNo Gravatar says:

    As a very new writer, one short story to my name, so far that is I want to tell you about my, as yet, very brief relationship with Scrivener.

    Our first date, a walk through the tutorial was a very fulfilling and surprisingly engaging experience which certainly left me wanting more.

    The more must be to start writing that elusive ‘first novel’, “write about what you know son” rings in my ears, it may be good advice or bull, who knows but with a companion like Scrivener to help me on my way I am sure I will find out soon.

    How this relationship develops is yet to be seen but as I explore Scrivener’s ‘nooks and crannies’ further I will be sure to let you know

  9. Dennis BirtchNo Gravatar says:

    I been thinking about getting software to help me get organized with my writing. I came across Scrivener and i been doing research since…. your post just helped me decided that I WILL be picking this up.

  10. You say: ‘Scrivener can export directly to .epub and .mobi (amazon Kindle) e-book files. It’s a very good, very clean conversion and as long as you know what you’re doing with e-books you can make a professional standard e-book using these tools.’

    My knowledge of knowing what I’m doing with e-books is zero so is it best to get someone techie to format my e-book for me?

  11. AndrewNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Carole, you can easily learn how to format your own books but it can take some time to get it to work well. If you’re not feeling comfortable with doing it yourself you may be better off getting someone else to do it. Make sure you shop around and get a good price and make sure you can see samples of the person’s work before you commit to anything.

  12. Thanks for that advice!

  13. Linda DunnNo Gravatar says:

    Just curious — you wouldn’t regard the snapshot feature as a track changes feature?

  14. Pingback: Crash Course | » Writing Apps

  15. Lonnie MillerNo Gravatar says:

    I assume it has the context checking like MS Word for the correct word usage? (i.e. their, they’re) I’d hate to live without that…not that I’m sloppy.

  16. AndrewNo Gravatar says:

    It does, and it works well.

  17. Pingback: scrivener and letting go | storytelling

  18. BlancheNo Gravatar says:

    Spot on with this write-up, I absolutely
    believe that this web site needs a great deal more attention.
    I’ll probably be returning to see more, thanks for the information!

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