Scrivener a writers best friend

Scrivener feels like a tool made just for me because I write a lot, in fact, if Grammarly is to be believed I write more than 96% of its users. I write articles like this one regularly, I write books for my children and I was bored and frustrated with Word and Pages having limited options and having to juggle screens and windows to get my work done. I wanted to see what other software was on the market. Everywhere I looked I was recommended Scrivener as the only piece of software for a serious writer.

Scrivener layout from a mac screenshot

I contacted Literature & Latte and I was sent Scrivener to evaluate but this will in no way influence my opinions and I hope this review helps you make the right choice.

Scrivener is easily one of the best pieces of writing software I have ever used. It feels like it was made just for me. I have copious amounts of notes and quotes open when I write an article, I like to be able to reference facts and stats and ordinarily, this involves a lot of screen hopping and switching between browser windows. Using Scrivener has literally revolutionized the way I write.

Scrivener was built with writers in mind, there are places to edit, create, organize all of your work, not just the article or page you are working on. There are character tabs for you to flesh out your cast, tools to help with your keywords or synopsis and even place within the screen to reference all of your documents with URLs.

scrivener on macs

I cannot think of anything I need to do on a daily basis that Scrivener doesn’t simplify. Having everything on hand really does let you get on with writing and my output has certainly seen an increase thanks to it.

Scrivener costs $45 dollars and the companion IOS app is $19.99, this equates to around £48 and whilst you do not need the IOS app it is a very handy tool to have. It will allow you to make notes on the fly and this price is for a household licence. This does mean if you want to use the software on a PC and a Mac you will need two licences and I think that it would be fairer to give a fixed number of licences, maybe 2, instead of separating the licences by format.

When you first launch the app you may be a little overwhelmed, there is an awful lot to take in. The top bar includes a binder, a place for your collections, compose, a keyword tool view modes and a very handy compiler which will allow you to compile your book into .epub, .mobi and .docx as well as many others including web documents.

scrivener on mobile

There is a definite learning curve but it does resemble any other piece of office software you will have experience with and unless your last word processor was a typewriter you will be at home in short order. Everything is where you would expect it but there is a lot more here than Word for example.

A handy interactive tutorial opens on the first launch and will set you on the right direction but its pretty obvious the left pane is for organising your manuscript files into folders, the centre pain is for composition and the right-hand pane is where you keep all your reference materials.

Within a few minutes of first opening the software I had written a few paragraphs of text and used the character sheets to get some ideas down. If you are easily distracted there is a composition mode which I ended up using a lot more than I thought I would. It essentially highlights the composition pane by dimming everything else. Having a word and character count within easy reach meant I had to leave the software less and less again improving my productivity and ensuring I wasn’t distracted by external forces every hour or so.

scrivener on mac showing a layout

Everything is conveniently located, the toolbar has the character and word count, there is an inspector tool which you can use for metadata, a keyword info tool which does what it says and a slider for changing the width of the composition pane.

There are included templates, personally, I think these are completely unnecessary and are an odd thing to have included in a creative piece of software but I think it is just expected these days and I could see how someone putting together their first novel would find these templates beneficial. The WYSIWYG has been spoken about in many forums and it seems that “real writers” don’t like it I, however, love it. I like changing the fonts to get a feel for how the pages will look in a finished novel.  I have never used markdown so cannot say if its actually better but I am a fairly new writer and have never written by hand or even a typewriter.

When you have your work arranged and pages sorted the corkboard view becomes very useful. You can see your chapters pinned to the board and then move them around by dragging and dropping, I have found this really useful for writing our video scripts as you can use it like a storyboard and quickly arrange different scenes.

scrivener cork board view

Using the split screen view is another way I have increased my productivity. Once you turn it on you can write in one window but at the same time, you can scroll through your document which for me means I can make sure my text is cogent and my arguments correct and not contradictory. A very handy feature and one I am sure a lot of writers will use.

As well as the .epub, .docx and .mobi exporting formats you can also output to HTML, .doc, .rtf, .txt, .odt, .fdx, .fcf and .fountain.

Scrivener is in no way perfect, for example, it has no native way to collaborate. This is a sorely needed omission and having to use a drop box or google doc drive would be so much better if it was supported natively from within the program. 

Other ways the software could be improved would be to add a web app for free which offers the same flexibility as the IOS app, not everyone has an iPad or iPhone. I would also like to be able to see the way a page will look when exported in a certain format before I export it.

These are not deal breakers by any stretch and overall Scrivener is my favourite writing software but without native collaborative options, it can be awkward making changes. 

In summary

Scrivener is one of the best programs I have seen for writers. I feel like its tailor made for me but I am sure any writer would say the same. Scrivener was built directly for us so it does make sense. I can compose and organise my work far more efficiently than using other software and because of this, I feel more productive each day. The price point is fantastic and being able to install it on as many windows systems as I like means I can travel and always be able to write and having set up cloud storage, means I can work on a document from any location.

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