As writers probably know one of the greatest advancements in technology has to have been the invention of the computer.
Now at least it doesn’t matter about making typing mistakes or rethinking the order of paragraphs and pages, it is easier to delete and start again, or move content around the page.
However, sometimes it is easy to assume that progress has been made and that’s the end.
This was definitely a trap that I found myself in, having enjoyed the delights of Microsoft and their dominance in Word processing.
It was easy to forget that there might be bigger and better things waiting to be discovered.
This review focuses on one such discovery that I have made which is writing software, or more specifically one specific writing software, Scrivener.
One of the best purchases I have ever made in terms of writing is definitely a writing programme called Scrivener. It is a writing software tool that can be purchased for both Windows and Mac, although I use it on a Mac.
I had been a dedicated Microsoft Word follower for nearly all my initial freelance career.
It was great as a word publishing document or so I thought at the time, and since many of the reports I was producing were no more than 30-40 pages it acted as a writing software programme as well.
However as I developed into writing larger pieces of work especially 100,000 words, and I needed easy access to research notes and other materials, I began to despair at the cumbersome nature of Word and began to look elsewhere.
Organising Content on Scrivener
The biggest advantage with a writing software package such as Scrivener is the ability to easily move content around.
Scrivener does appear complicated to start with but they do provide a number of resources to help you find your way around. However it is easy once you become familiar with the screen layout.
As you can see from the diagram below this is the main screen for Scrivener. On the left hand side there are a series of folders and sub folders.
These folders can all be individually moved around and their position as a folder or sub folders can also be changed using the tabs at the top of the screen.
The folders can also be collapsed, making the side bar easier to see if you are only working on one section of a report or a chapter in a novel.
For easy referencing there are number of views of your work in the larger section of the screen, including the cork board shown here.
This shows each chapter as a separate note then with one click you can access all the sub folders within that chapter.
Using Scrivener for Note Taking
Scrivener has other advantages for writers especially for research and note taking. One of the challenges in writing large pieces of work is managing the research aspect.
Scrivener enables you to store documents and text within the research section on the left hand side, which then isn’t included in word counts or compilation.
There are a number of template options built into Scrivener.
Such as novel writing, which has the option to add character notes, scene notes or general notes on events happening.
These can be viewed in a separate screen on the right hand side, shown here in the diagram.
Pictures and diagrams can also be added to the main screen.
Although in the main text I find that using screen shots is the easiest and most effective way to include visual material.
Using Scrivener to Write and Publish an E-Book
One of the more recent uses I have for Scrivener is writing and publishing e-books.
Each chapter of an e-book needs to be placed in its own folder, but then it can be exported directly to Kindle and uploaded and published onto the Amazon platform.
The e-books on my own site were created in Scrivener first.
Any Disadvantages to Scrivener?
The main thing to note when considering Scrivener as a writing resource is to remember that it is not a Word Processing document, and therefore for most pieces of writing this will mean that additional formatting will still need to be done.
There is an easy compile tool in Scrivener that will instantly convert your document into whatever format you need (Word, PDF or Kindle e-book are three that I’ve used).
However, for academic writing, references will need to be compiled by hand.
This is made a lot easier through a tool provided by Apple (sorry PC users) called Sente which I use, alongside Scrivener as my library, note taking and referencing tool.
PROS and CONS of Scrivener
I have been using the software for over 14 months now almost continuously, and I would say that for me the main Pros and Cons are as follows;
- It is easier to write large pieces of work, although I also use it for smaller articles.
- It is easier to move segments around and enables you to work on multiple pieces.
- It has a split screen option so you can read reference material and write at the same time, or work on two different sections simultaneously.
- Research and notes can all be added to the document, but excluded from the final compile keeping everything in one place.
- There is a Target tool available, so that you can set a Word target for the day, or divide how many words need to be written per day to meet deadlines.
- It is very reasonably priced $45 one off fee
- There is a 30 day (of use) free trial.
- You can convert to Kindle e-book format very easily
- It can be daunting to work with at first and takes a while to become familiar with the format
- It isn’t a Word Processing package – so referencing isn’t done automatically for you
- Using diagrams can be tricky unless screen shots are used, or material is saved and edited in the Word Processing stage.
- It probably performs better for medium to larger pieces of work, because you can really start to use the tools, smaller pieces might not see the immediate benefit.
Concluding Comments on Scrivener
It does take a shift in comfort zone to move from writing in a Word Processing software to using a writing software.
Scrivener has been designed by writers for writers and once you start playing around with it, especially if you are writing on a regular basis then the experience will be amazing.
They have a free trial which is for 30 actual days of use, rather than time limited so it is easy to try out and nothing is lost in the process. It isn’t expensive either for the full product which is certainly a major plus.
I would love to hear from other writers about your experience, and any other pros or cons to using the software that you would like to share with other writers looking to try it out. Leave a comment and let me know what you think.
Other articles that you may be interested in on this topic are;