Scrivener is an exceptionally cool, inventive and well-executed application, and, as a bonus, this forum provides a wonderful opportunity to interact directly with the developer while the app is still a work-in-progress.
I hope I don’t offend anyone by saying that I am deeply skeptical, as a longtime professional writer, that Scrivener will prove to be an adequate working tool for people who actually write (or aspire to write) for a living.
There’s one reason for this, and unfortunately it seems to be an intrinsic quality of the application itself: You still need a conventional word processing app, at the end of the process, to format your finished document and get it out there into the world. For me, this constitutes a grave (likely fatal) shortcoming on three separate levels:
â€¢ Philosophically, it reduces the app to a sort of “playing with text” device, quite powerful in its way, but really more suited to dreamers and dabblers and endless outliners than to folks who actually create finished written documents, ready to publish.
â€¢ In the context of the Macintosh platform, separating the processes of composing and editing from the processes of formatting and printing is, in essence, a throwback to the old days before 1984, when the primitive state of word processing required one to toggle between different “modes” for inputting, editing, and printing text (though even then, this was usually done within a single program). Moreover, it throws the whole “what you see it what you get” paradigm – a signature of the Mac platform – out the window.
â€¢ Finally, on a strictly practical level, it presents a real-world problem: whenever you export text from one app to another, you create two separate documents. They may (assuming the export/import process works perfectly, which is not always the case) be separate-but-equal for a couple of minutes, or a few hours, or however long this happy state lasts. But sooner or later, any real writer looking at any real piece of writing is going to start tweaking things – a word here, a comma there – and now you’ve got two separate and unequal documents: one in the “production” app that is actually being used to put the document in final form, and another in the “playing with text” app that was used, up to a certain point, in the writing process. Do I need to list reasons this is not a good thing? And there’s no easy fix for it. There’s no non-laborious way to pluck a revised document out of, say, Nisus Writer Express, split it back into the separate pieces it comprised in Scrivener, and re-import them. Naturally you can re-import the whole document, but what’s the point? It’s in NWE now, which is a smart app capable of printing and saving in a variety of formats – you might as well just leave it there and keep things simple.
It’s worth noting, in this context, that the writing process is seldom finished when the document reaches the stage of being ready to format and send out. Most often, you need to go back to work on it, either at the direction of an editor, or because you’ve had new ideas yourself, or you need to cut X words, or whatever. So here we are facing the two-app problem again. Are we going to bounce back and forth? If we’re just going to stay in the “production” app right through the later, tougher editorial stages of the process, then this rather relegates Scrivener to the “not ready for prime time” category, to my way of thinking.
Maybe this stuff doesn’t bother a lot of people. And I suppose if you’re new to (serious) writing, and struggling to get your arms around an ambitious project, then the “fun” factor of Scrivener might help you over some early hurdles. But I can’t imagine many practicing writers embracing an app that will only do part of the job – no matter how beautifully that part is done.