absolute beginner

Greetings-- Let it be known right off the bat that when I say “absolute beginner” I really mean it. I don’t even own a computer yet (this on my ex’s imac), am not clear on the difference between mac and pc, and just heard about Scrivener an hour ago (via boingboing).
However! I am a writer and one in a rather unique situation. I’m fiddling about in the endgame of a ferociously long and difficult text started over 20 years, and 40,000 hours, ago. The entire thing is written longhand in notebooks, photocopied, and stuffed in various vaults, mattresses, and freezers. Time has come to tame the beast by feeding it to a word processor. Due to the unusual nature of my manuscript, I have very specific requirements, namely:
1} A vertically split screen which the cursor can easily hop between (picture an open book).
2} On the left-hand side the type will proceed as normal in English, left-to-right top-to-bottom. On the right-hand side the text will proceed in the opposite direction, i.e. the cursor will move bottom-to-top right-to-left. The letters will not be backwards; the cursor will simply move backwards as I type on that side. THIS IS CRITICAL.
3} Automatic check for various points of letter count, symmetry, uniqueness of each numbered paragraph-- I shall elaborate in a reply if this makes no sense. Intuitive handling and rearranging of large chunks of text imperative (that’s what Scrivener is all about, right?)
4} Am assuming Scrivener comes with all the various fonts, umlauts, italics, accents and so forth available.
5} Slightly off-topic: I need a good bulletproof laptop to do it on, one resistant to the digital vortex I carry about like a bad aura. Got strong recommendations for Lenovo Thinkpad (with Ubuntu?) and Mac. Please advise.
P.S. Be gentle, I am really not an idiot or a troll, just starting from scratch on a big intimidating process here. Thanks.

Well, welcome to the world of Scrivener, Macs, and computing!

Preface: I refer to using menus below. On a Mac, menus for an application are always always located at the very top of the screen, left aligned. So if I say View/Layout, I’m referring to the “View” menu, which you can access by clicking on it with the mouse, and then finding an entry called “Layout” within it. In this particular case, it is a “sub-menu”. That is, it has more menu items within it. Beside menu items that do things, you’ll often find some cryptic symbols along with a letter and number. These are keyboard shortcuts. Some prefer to use these instead of menus, as you can use them while typing. The menus thus serve has a handy reference for what these shortcuts are. The “flower” symbol corresponds to the “Command” key on your keyboard, the “^” symbol: ‘control’, and the flowchart looking thing with two alternatives, ‘option’. Finally an uparrow indicates the ‘shift’ key. In all cases, you can use any of the modifier keys on your keyboard if you have duplicates of it. The left or right side shift key is identical in function.

Point by point:

  1. No problem, in fact either way you meant that is no problem. If you mean you actually do want a two-page layout that mimics a book, this can be done in the View/Page View sub-menu. You’ll need to turn on page view, and then set it to use two page layout. If, however, you want two independant editor columns which may or may not be displaying the same text—no problem there either. You’ll want to use the View/Layout menu to set “Split Vertically”. As you’ll note, you can also turn off splits in this sub-menu, too. There is another way that doesn’t involve menus. There are other ways to do this as well, but to avoid this turning into the user manual, we’ll stick with menus.

It is possible to jump between splits, either with the mouse, or using keyboard shortcuts. Both use a combination of Control+Option+Command as modifiers. All three of these must be held down at once until the final letter is tapped. The two letters for splits are E and R. So Ctrl-Opt-Cmd-E or R to switch. This looks worse than it is. These keys are all lined up in one spot on the left side next to the spacebar, so you can use one hand to hold all three and the other hand to hit E or R.

  1. For the first part of that, you could certainly do so. Scrivener supports right-to-left languages like Hebrew and Arabic, and you can certainly turn this on in English or whatever other language you are using. It will work as you describe—the letters will not be mirrored, but the typing direction will be inversed. Writing direction can be toggled in the Format/Text/Writing Direction sub-menu.

However, there is no way to work from the bottom up. No languages work that way to my knowledge, so nothing along those lines was ever developed into the text engine. I’m not aware of any computer programs that do this off of the top of my head (at least, not anything you’d want to write a book in), so it might not be something anyone does.

  1. Yup. Breaking apart a long text into manageable pieces and making it easy to shuffle said pieces around is one of Scrivener’s strengths. Letter and word count statistics will automatically be tallied for you at the bottom of the editor window as you type. For larger statistics (over more than one chunk of text), you can use the Project/Project Statistics panel. I’m actually not sure what you mean by “uniqueness of each numbered paragraph” and symmetry.
  2. Depends on what you mean by “all”. It supports full Unicode, which is a computing term, but essentially it means it uses the very height of technology in terms of displaying alphabetic, ideogram, phonetic, diacritic, symbolic, punctuation, and mathematic “glyphs” across many different languages, though some of the more glyph heavy languages, like Chinese, tend to work best in certain, specially designed fonts. On that, Scrivener can use any font that you install on your Mac, so long as the Mac itself can use it. Macs come installed with a wide variety of useful fonts, some very elegant, some classic, some “fun”, and some just plain and efficient like Helvetica. It also comes with many specialised fonts for different languages. Scrivener can utilise all of them, being a normal Mac program.
  3. Solid Mac laptops these days: probably a MacBook Air. These are the smaller ones, but they have no moving parts save for a small fan. They are as light as a decent sized book, run for about 6-8 hours on battery, and are machined out of a solid piece of aluminium—so quite sturdy both inside and out. I cannot advise you on a PC laptop as I’ve been out of that market for too long. Thinkpads had a good reputation years ago, though, that’s all I know. As long as they haven’t compromised that for economy.

As a user for some time, and not a member of the Lit&Lat team, can I risk Ioa’s (a.k.a. AmberV) ire by pointing out:

  1. You can choose “Split vertically” … I always find ambiguity in different apps as to which means split left-right and which means split top-bottom … are you refer to the split-line or the resulting relationship of the panes. If you choose one and it’s not what you want, just close one of the splits and try the other option.

  2. One thing about going for a Mac in preference to a ThinkPad running Linux — Ioa uses an 11" MacBook Air, I use a 13" as that gives significantly more space for a split screen, along, in my usage, with up to 11 hours on a single battery charge — is that the Windows/Linux version is still in beta and has a pretty long way to catch up with all the features that are already operative in the Mac version, the original. But if you’re a Linux person — as someone put it in another forum, you like having a computer that you have to beat into submission :slight_smile: — then you might well prefer that and those that are using Scrivener under Linux are also very helpful in solving problems that arise in getting Scrivener to run under the various different implementations.

But welcome to the forums and the many helpful Scrivener users, with Ioa being a prince among them.


Thanks, Mark, I fixed the Horizontal/Vertical error in the original. You’ll have to do more than to raise my ire. :wink: