From an editorial POV, the sheer flexibility of Scrivener’s Compile function is its biggest flaw, at least for the mythical “average” user. Were it a book on, say, general boatbuilding, I’d probably suggest the author place all his general theory of keels and displacement and hull speed and power or sail and suitability for certain seas in a large general applies-to-all section, then sequester all the specialist information on final output–an aluminum fishing boat? a carbon-fiber cup racer? a faithful reproduction of a Falmouth Quay punt?-- into silos of heavily exampled individuality and label them with something specifically useful. Those Falmouth Quay punt folks care toss-all about those carbon-fiber spendthrifts and race-abouts, and very much vice-versa.
I’ve been at this since before Post-It notes replaced marginal paperclips, and find Scrivener superior for drafting and writing compared to all its predecessors, and its basic skeleton very simple to understand yet massively flexible, if you want it to be. But after I’ve drafted and written something using all those wonderfully flexible tools, I have but two needs: to print out a hard copy that lies ruthlessly unread for six or so months while I forget my wondrous brain’s outpourings and can see with fresh eyes that vast stretches have poured forth from a rather less wondrous orifice. Then, when I’ve fixed my idiocies, I’ll want to email a plain-Jane .docx file to my agent, which is what he expects to see, and he will then pretty it up to suit himself and send it along to suitable editors in the forms they expect to see. Every one of which, in my experience–editors mostly know other editors–will be reading my manuscript on-screen, almost certainly in MS Word, probably on a notebook or a tablet while sitting in bed next to her irritated husband, or sandwiched between noisy teenagers and menacing malcontents on the subway. One hundred percent of my target audience wants MS Word, Times New Roman, One-Inch Margins, a TOC, and nothing more.
None of those flexibility options related to typography and fonts and kerning and indentational operatics will ever mean more to me than do online advertisements for private jets or rock-climbing equipment. They’re just confusing.
Not confusing your readers (for which read Customers, is a Thing, as the young folks say. It is, in fact, The Thing. Scrivener partially does this now: Want to write a Manuscript with Parts? check. Compile to Standard Manuscript Format? Check. Then come the options, and options, and options, and options. A good chunk of this Board, since 2006, has dealt with those options, from wanting more to wanting different to wanting something that they can’t quite express but desperately seem to need.
The thing is, virtually any output imaginable is possible with Scrivener, no matter how arcane your needs. But getting to those options leaves many of us in the weeds.
Apple and Word both do do this Output Siloing fairly decently–though of course their metric reverses Scrivener’s by making you choose your Output before you’ve got anything to Output. Or even, as is the case with many acts of writing, not yet sure just what you’re trying to write at all.
Perhaps a rethinking, in Version 4 (or maybe 5) might address the big questions of What do You Want to Write? and Who Will Read It? by having the writer choose Specific Examples (again, this is partly done now), including the most Important choice: I Dunno Yet, but I’ll Decide Later. That Deciding Later–Oops, never mind about that Novel With Parts, I’m totally writing a Screenplay–should be just as easy. And choosing Output even easier: Wrote your Novel with Parts? Sending to an Editor? Here’s what a Greeked version looks like. Don’t care for that look? Here are six or seven others (at least half of which will piss off your editor, who’ll instantly change them 12-point Times New Roman with 1-inch margins all around). ePubbing? Here’s some likely looks, all fiddle-free and ready to go. Don’t care for those? Then On You Go to the Fiddle Section, where options are endless. Just drag and drop and pinch and squeeze until the Greeked text is just the way you like it, and you’ve shown those know-nothing book designers at the Big Five how a real book should look.
Writing a heavily illustrated and massively footnoted History of Etruscan Hairstyles? Here’s your Greeked example. Want those footnotes as chapter endnotes? End-o-Book endnotes? Click here. Something more outer yet so stupendously transparent that next year every historian will adopt it as her own and half will convince themselves they invented it? Drag, pinch, squeeze: Ta-Da!
Again, all these things can be done in Scrivener now for those willing to wade through a sea of fiddly options. But wading is way easier if some clever programmer (who started as a writer, let’s remember) thoughtfully places stepping-stones across the narrow shallow bits possessing firm easy banks with well-marked paths.Want to go wading somewhere more scenic or more challenging or you simply believe that, while that’s quite a nice safe place to wade across, there must be someplace, somewhere, that’s ever so much grander and possibly even safer, well, off you go. Miles of options before you cross; meanwhile, everyone else has picked that nice safe spot and is on to the chippy before it runs out of cod and they’ve run out of patience.