Scrivener, oh how I love thee


I’m just putting the finishing touches on a new book. I wouldn’t be able to say that had it not been for Scrivener, a writing app that has changed my entire work flow. If it hadn’t been for Scrivener, I’m sure I would still be struggling to cobble together hundreds of pages I’ve written into something anyone would want to read.

Scrivener’s genius is that it allows you to break up your writing into shorter parts (chapters, scenes, snippets), and then arrange and re-arrange those parts to your heart’s content. Compare this to MS Word where you either have to open multiple documents or have one very long document. Cumbersome, at best.

Scrivener provides a huge number of features for outlining, writing, organizing, editing, and outputting your work. You can outline with note cards on a cork board, and re-arrange the cards to suit. You can use a traditional outline if you prefer. You can organize your work in folders and text documents, add labels and meta data, and link notes and research materials (text, pdfs, web pages), internally (i.e., within the project) or externally (i.e., on the web, on your hard drive, etc.)

When you’re done, you can export the finished product (”compile” in Scrivener parlance) to just about any format—pdf, .doc(x), .rtf, .epub, .mobi, and more).

Scrivener isn’t only for books. In fact, I’m writing this post in Scrivener, using Full Screen Mode that allows for distraction free writing—just me and a blank piece of digital paper.

I bought Scrivener more than two years ago. The first time I opened it, I was overwhelmed. There is so much to see, and so many ways to use it, and I told myself I didn’t have time to learn everything. At the time, I didn’t realize I didn’t need to learn everything to start using it. For two years, it sat on my hard drive, unused. I opened it a couple of times, and updated it when prompted, but nothing more.

Last fall, I decided to give it another try, and I’m glad I did. Today, I’m fully on board with Scrivener as my primary writing tool.

You can use Scrivener for any kind of writing. Books, articles, papers, reports, or blog posts. You can write legal documents in it, (but you’ll need to expert them to a word processor for formatting).

The bottom line is that Scrivener allows you to write more, write faster, and write better. I know, that’s a big claim, but I’ve found this to be true. I encourage you to give it a try and see for yourself.

Download Scrivener for a thirty-day free trial. Note, this is thirty days of use, not thirty calendar days, so there’s plenty of time to give it a whirl.

The Windows and Mac versions are marginally different. The Windows version, which has just been updated, lags behind the Mac version, but I have not found it to be lacking. By the end of this year, the company says they hope to achieve feature parity between the two versions. They also hope to release an iOS version.

Once you have download the program and opened a new project, you will be prompted to go through the tutorial and read the detailed user guide. I found these to be only somewhat helpful for a first time user. Instead, I would recommend watching some of the youtube videos provided by the company and by users.

I also suggest that you dive in and use the program. Write something, import something, and play around with it. Take the thing for a test drive. I learned how to use Scrivener by using it, and it was a lot easier than I imagined.

True, I’m still learning. I use only a fraction of the features that are available. But I haven’t needed more.