Friday, August 3, 2012


I've been hearing about Scrivener for a long time. If you've never heard of it, it's an awesome drafting and editing program for writers. Originally it was only available for Macs but the makers recently came out with a version for Windows. I tried to use the beta but had to stop when it started deleting large blocks of my text.

Now over a year later, I decided to give it a second chance and downloaded the free trial. I have never wanted a Mac more in my life. The free trial is almost up and I'm intending to buy the full version soon. Here are some things about the program based on my use of the free trial.

Scrivener is fantastic for revisions. I love the ability to divide my document into scenes, give them all note cards, and switch between them. I also love the ability to seamlessly move scenes from one part of a document to another without having use copy/paste. Because I do several rounds of edits (usually one for plot, one for character revisions, one for grammar stuff, etc), I loved the ability to "stamp" note cards for each chapter with what stage of revisions they were in.

I'm not sure about using it for writing, though. I'm a major pantser and I think Scrivener is designed more for writers who enjoy drafting with a lot of structure. I haven't had a WIP stick yet, though, so I haven't really tried it. I might use it for first drafts just because of the ability to have all of my research in a file right there for me to see. Which brings me to another thing I love about Scrivener: the ability to see two documents on the same screen easily. I can have my MS on one side, and research or another scene or my revision notes on the other.

The only thing that bothers me about it is the inability to have two documents on the same screen in full-screen mode. I like to use full-screen to block out distractions, but if I want to be referencing something else at the same time, I can't do that. Another issue I have with full-screen mode is how jerky it is. Clicking on the screen causes it to move so where you clicked is at the center. Selecting large chunks of text is almost impossible because of how much it moves around.

There are a lot of features in the Mac version that haven't been released for the Windows version yet and it's difficult to know exactly which features have been left out unless you're trying to use them. I can't change the full-screen background. I can only use in-line comments instead of the much more convenient "inspector comments" that are available in the Mac version.

I think it's worth having, but I can't wait until the Windows version is closer to catching up with the Mac version.

Do you use Scrivener? What do you think about it?


Ioa Petra'ka said...

Hello, this is Ioa over from Literature & Latte. Thanks for the nice write-up of the software! There are two things I noticed in the paragraph of stuff that bothers you that I might be able to help you out with.

1. The "jerky" editing you refer to is very likely the typewriter editing mode, which does ship as a default in full screen mode. Once you know what it is doing it can be less annoying---it's basically just trying to act like a typewriter, where the line you are working on is kept in one place in the middle rather than being anywhere on the screen. However it does work a whole lot better when you are just writing non-stop, rather than doing a lot of jump edits. You can turn this feature off in the Tools/Options window, under Editor. I'm not 100% on that, this is where it used to be, but I'm on my Mac at the moment and can't double-check. If it's not there, try right-clicking in full screen and see if the option is listed in the contextual menu.

2. Referencing more than one document in full screen: you are correct the editor cannot be split in full screen. A good way of working is fully taking advantage of the History feature. It works just like a web browser. As you click on stuff to view them, they are stored in the history so you can get back to them easily, and this works in full screen as well. You'll need to use the Ctrl-[ and ] keyboard shortcuts to do that. So what I do when I know I need to work in more than one document in full screen is click on the sequentially to load them into the history list, and then go into full screen. They also get remembered if you use that little "Go To" button in full screen, but I find the binder to be easier when I know what I want before I go in for a long session.