Scrivener Review

Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.”

Scrivener costs $40 from

I have spent the past few days checking out a program called “Scrivener”. It is not really something I have ever thought that would be useful to me. I have been aware of it for a long time having seen it mentioned in relation to NanoWriMo and numerous of the scifi/fantasy podcasts that I listen to.

I do not write fiction, I do not write anything more than web content and the occasional report. I never even considered that this would be a useful tool for me. I always have been a fan of Online applications. For my blog posts I’d fill out WordPress with numerous plugins and have 101 tabs open for research. For Reports I’d make use of Google Docs and once again have 101 tabs open in Chrome. The problem here is the transient nature of that research and the excessive memory usage of 20+ tabs within Chrome. I continually find myself pruning tabs based upon the value of what they contain.

  • Corkboard – This is where the Index Card feature really shines. You have a board with each item “pinned” to the cork board with the ability to drag and drop them into whatever order you wish.
  • Outliner – The Outline mode is more like a directory structure. This quickly allows you to see the order in which the items are and you can easily see the status of each item.
  • Scrivenings (editor)- This mode displays the contents of all the items one after another. Much like you would in a standard Editor.
  • Integration between the corkboard, outliner and editor – All three of the above features work seamlessly together. If you change the order of the cards on the cork board you will see that change reflected in the editor instantly.
  • Text Editing – The text editing is almost a WYSIWYG editor but in combination with the Compile feature it allows for you to change the output styling. This has a lot more in common with HTML/CSS than a traditional word processor.
  • Tools for Writing Non-Fiction – Numerous options for importing of research and exporting in non-fiction formats.
  • Scriptwriting – Export to numerous recognised formats for scripts.
  • Snapshots – As a coder I would call these revisions or maybe rollbacks. Save the state of a project at specific states.
  • Full Screen—Evolved – Much like numerous applications out there for distraction free writing. Full page the item you are working on with nothing else on screen to distract you.
  • Collections – Collections function in a very similar way to Labels within Gmail. You can add particular items to a collection whilst keeping it in the main Binder. You can also create “smart collections” in a very similar way to filters/labels in Gmail.
  • Automatic backups – This has already save me several hours worth of work in the mere three days I’ve been using Scrivener.
  • Keywords – Not exactly what I expected from the point of view of creating content for the web. Much closer to Tags. These are for tracking bits of information within an item. For example what scenes a particular character appears in.

I really love the Modular approach that Scrivener takes to writing and research. A real nod towards index cards in real life it allows for you to import huge amounts of information which can be almost infinitely cut up into smaller parts and reorder into whichever way works best.

For example to write this Blog post which is mainly a test run for making use of Scrivener in the future. I started with finding another Blog post about good structures for posts. That post found it’s way into my research directory within Scrivener. I then dissected that post to create some basic templates for different style posts. From there it’s just a matter of filling out the different sections. I have different “cards” within the review folder for Overview, The Good (this section), The Bad and Overview.

Another example of why I am loving this program. On another project I am putting together a Wiki. I initially started just using the editor within Media Wiki making use of in-site links to structure the site. I very quickly discovered as I researched more and more that the page structure I had started with was not going to be especially efficient. Added to that due to the insane amount of information I was trying to compile I was killing Chrome with the number of tabs I was using. That was the deciding factor in my decision to try Scrivener. As I started importing information I could very quickly work out the best structure for how to display the info within Media Wiki.

Both the above projects show for me why Scrivener is such a god send. My usual approach to writing starts with an idea, which I then try writing about from start to finish. Any research is done on the fly and is very “volatile”.

Scrivener provides a structured methodology for the distillation of ideas and research to finished content.

From my initial experiments into Scrivener I am finding a few issues. The main issue is lack of plug ins. With the addition of the ability to add plug ins I am sure that very quickly you would find a that plugins would be developed for most things I have issues with.

I would dearly love for the ability from Scrivener to export to a WordPress blog. On the WordPress side they are covered with the XMLRPC import. However Scriveners Compile is somewhat lacking in that respect. It would also be awesome to see Export to Media Wiki.

Other features I would like to see:

  • Web Browsing – There are numerous context menus for “Look up on Google..” and similar functions but these all open in an external browser.
  • Thesaurus and Grammar checking.
  • Text Spinning – Bit of a grey-hat article marketing thing. It would be awesome to be able to make use of Spintax and be able to compile different versions of the same text.

If you intend to write anything longer than a diary style blog post I would highly (and un-affiliated-ly) recommend checking Scrivener out. They offer a 30 non-consecutive day trial. However after 3 days I’ve pretty much made up my mind that I don’t just want but actually NEED this program.


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About Timothy

Geek Tendencies.. Google/Droid Fanatic..

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