A Solid C- on Documentation

I love your product, but I think a lot of the online comments I’ve seen about “steep learning curve,” are due to the antiquated nature of your documentation. As a beginner, I’ve been floundering around, in large part due to your unhelpful help system.

A searchable text document is not sufficient for an application of your scope. One picture can explain why:


On the left, a search for “paragraphs” in OpenOffice. On the right, the same search in Scrivener’s manual. I hope that makes it clear.

The other thing missing is a Help button on every dialog that takes you to the help for that dialog. If I’m in OpenOffice columns dialog and press the F1 key, it takes me right to the relevant part of the help, and tells me what each control is for, and how to use it. I know that’s a major change, but that was a wonderful innovation that happened decades ago.

Finally, you produce a product that is used for writing manuals as well as fiction. So your manual/documentation should be faultless.

P.S. your forum software doesn’t allow the display of larger images – a link was necessary.

I really do disagree - especially with your headline. In my opinion and experience - and I’ve used quite a few writing programmes in my time - there is none that I can think of, with the possible exception of the products of Microsoft and Apple which obviously have much vaster resources, that compete with, let alone exceed, the totality of the Help documentation available for Scrivener.

Like Hugh, I’ve been using Scrivener for years. So we began when the program was newer, smaller, less complex, and have learned (some of, anyway) the new features as they came along.

Begin with a simple project. Get comfortable with the tools. Don’t expect to master it right away. Learn new features as you need them. Your “steep learning curve” complaint might also be read: "I don’t want to take the time to learn.

But that is what’s required. It is a complex, multi-purpose tool with unprecedented features. To learn Scrivener, you need to invest time. Tens of thousands have; look at MacUpdate or MAS ratings — or the trade press — to see how satisfied they are.

Once you begin to understand the program, you may discover the manual is better organized and more helpful than you thought.


Yes, when I understand it better, the documentation will be much easier to use. I’ll know where to look for things.

Newbies are the ones that need help the most. For the newbie who wants to know how to deal with paragraphs, for example, the search function just isn’t as helpful as it is in the OpenOffice example above. If you were a newbie, and you wanted to know how to deal with indenting paragraphs, which of those screens would help you most?

Having read this and a couple of the other threads you’ve started, I can’t help but think you’re trying to actually read the Manual, you know, like cover to cover, instead of treating it like a reference material. Now, I enjoy Ioa’s writing as much as the next person, but it’s a reference for dipping in and out of when you need to confirm whether a particular feature exists or remember where they put the command for this that and the other.

If you are looking for a tutorial to walk you through the initial learning curve, then I recommend you look at the appropriately titled Interactive Tutorial instead.

That said (to return to your earlier point) I think that the combination of a well structured and detailed contents page (available at the start of the document and as a side bar in Acrobat Reader) and the Find feature makes the Manual incredibly easy to navigate, whether you are a long time user of the program or not.

As for your example, the following passage took me maybe 20 seconds to find in the Manual using the Ctrl+F search and hitting next a couple of times. And that includes the time it took to Launch Scrivener, go to the help menu, and load up the Manual. Having a quick look down the contents pane at the left hand side, I suspect it would have gotten me there just as quickly, maybe faster.