Anyone Using Scrivener for iOS as Their Primary Software?

I’m considering Scrivener for iOS as my writing solution for my iPad Pro. It’s my primary machine, and it will be my only version of the software. I’m hesitating since most of the reviews I find are from a few years ago.
Is anyone using Scrivener on iOS only? I’m just looking for some feedback as the app store doesn’t allow them to offer the free trial.

Hi Sazzy,

This thread asks the same question. It’s from 2020, but the app hasn’t seen any updates since then, so all points are still valid. Hopefully you find something useful in there.

Also, in the final post in this other thread, the poster says they’ve started a Scrivener self-help page for iOS-only users. I have no idea how useful it is, but thought it might be worth your time having a look at it.

I own both Windows and iOS versions. I find the iOS version useful for writing on the go on my phone. Also, sometimes when I’m drafting and just looking to get the words down, the iOS version’s stripped-down interface is just the ticket.

That said, the main challenge I would have going iOS-only is getting the words out of Scrivener. Let me explain –

All versions of Scrivener have a feature called Compile. On the desktop version, Compile is super sophisticated. It’s like an export engine on steroids. You can compile to PDF, Word, RTF, plain text, ebook, html, and others, and you can fine tune the output to look completely different from how it’s formatted in Scrivener.

iOS Scrivener’s Compile feature is an extreme lightweight in comparison, and more like the vanilla export functions I’ve seen in other apps. It can compile to PDF, Word, RTF, plain text, but with limited options. The documentation on how to use it is minimal and hard to find.

So – whether this will be a problem for you depends on what type of writing you do and what you intend to do with it.

For instance, if you’re writing and subbing short stories, than iOS-only might be perfect. You could draft and edit the story in Scrivener, compile it to Word, then minimally tweak the formatting in Word as needed and send it off.

Probably a similar process would work with novels, if you’re submitting via Word. If you’re self-publishing, you’d need other tools besides Scrivener to generate your ebooks.

However, if you’re writing non-fiction, where you need to incorporate a lot of specific formatting or images or what-not, then creating a rough draft in IOS Scrivener could work, but at some point you’d need to import it into another tool for all the formatting bells & whistles.

Just my $.02.



I have been writing exclusively on my iPad Pro for a couple of years now after my MacBook Pro died on me. I like the portability of the iPad, I like it’s lightweight, and portable. While I loved Scrivener for iOS at first, I have moved on. The app has not seen any updates in over two years and with every iOS update, something breaks the app. I can no longer see my work as one whole document without compiling, you can’t select a word without the cursor jumping around, and it crashes quite often. If I go from one scene to another and then back (because the app does not allow for two versions of it open at once), the app crashes. Most of the time my work is still there, but there are times when I’ve lost paragraphs. Since you cannot have the app open twice, you cannot refer to other works in your library if you have to refer back to something. You have to close the project, open the one you want to refer to, and then go back to your current project. Copying and pasting between projects does not exist and if you’re hoping for track changes, doesn’t exist. You can change the font color, but if you decide to go back and keep or delete the changes, you have to do it all by hand. There are more bugs that I might not be listing here that others have posted, a lot of frustrations, and while it was useful in the beginning, it’s one big headache now. It’s a shame since I have been a Scrivener user for many, many, many years, written several novels with it. I have decided to abandon the app and move onto something that works, updates regularly, and works well with the current operating system. So for me, it’s not worth it. I might give it another shot if it ever gets updated, but after waiting this long, I’m not holding my breath. From one exclusive iPad user to another, I hope you found this useful.

One more thing you might find helpful, if you use dark mode and change font colors, it doesn’t carry over. All text turns grey. Highlighting included. Which I used to use during editing. So unless you keep the app in light mode at all times, there’s no way for me to tell what is the original text and the text I am considering changing it to unless you use some kind of symbols that can easily be found.

I have the iOS version because I too wanted to write solely on my iPad. But as others have said, and pointed out above, it has too many foibles and has not been updated / bug fixed for a long time; no bug fixes in two years is quite poor.

I’ve moved on to something else.

I’d like to put one more view here.

Scrivener for iOS has been truly an elegant piece of software, fully using what was available on the iPad to give as much of the laptop Scrivener as possible. An amount of that is probably a little hidden until you really learn to use it the ‘iPad way’ that Apple designed, and @AmberV carefully documents. And yes, at least one important feature, the ability to see and edit the entire manuscript, now needs an update to recover what Apple did to lose it recently.

To never see the bitter complaint about ‘cursor all over the place when selecting’, you can do one of three things:

  • use the nice small T icon to turn off typewriter centering when you want to select, and back on after
  • use instead a hardware keyboard, all of which presumably work like the Magic Keyboard does so that the issue never comes, while giving a very nice precise touch and its solid easel to recommend it.
  • use the iPhone keybboard you get by squeezing down the large screen keyboard, if you need to work with the pad alone, which also allows trace-the-letters word typing, with its own advantages.

I suspect the reasons a software update is slow in coming are a) it really is a lot of time and effort to convert to the later Apple framework, and b) I suspect Keith would like any such result to be as full an accomplishment as the original. I personally out of experience have suggested to make the few really necessary corrections a little at a time before such, given they can be done so, but it’s his views and choices that matter.

Now, what about actually using the iPad Scrivener? If you bought the Apple gear, I can’t imagine $20 is too much to do a good trial, while there’s also the investment in learning it.

As others have said, compiie frameworks are very workable, but limited, so you can get your work out, but possibly not in the exact format you’d prefer. I’d think, though, alittle about this. Without Scrivener on that machine, you won’t have backups of your written text either, in the form Scrivener is using it. This might be ok depending on the length of what you’re writing, to have just the ‘finished’ output given it’s in editable form – i.e. Word or RTF, rather than only or solely PDF.

Scrivener works very nicely on the iPad for writing itself, and even adds a fourth way to handle things like selection as mentioned above, in a sliding row of buttons where you can move by word or letter by letter, whether selecting or positioning for example.

And yet there are alternatives.

The big advantages of Scrivener, I feel, lie with its abilities to arrange and rearrange portions of a full text – and the ways it can offer references external or from your other text portions, even place them side by side with what you’re writing.

Some of this is in the detail abilities which are not evident on the surface of the present program, and would be brought into very clear and much eased availability when the software becomes compatible with iPad ‘multitasking’, where you can have two or more independent windows in view, in today’s iPad framework. Only Keith can have evaluated whether that’s big work or not.

So you see where we’re headed, that your choices really have much to do with exactly what kinds of work you plan on doing, and how you prefer to have your tools help you with that.

There are of course other software offerings, but at this moment trying a couple of them for duplicating Scrivener features, or shifting text among them, I’m reminded that they aren’t smooth at this whatsoever.

If you can stay within one single document while writing, really the Pages that comes for free on the iPad is very capable, nice to write in, and I have a good friend, an expert journalist, who uses only that happily and for years. I myself use IA Writer for journaling – and warn that you have to edit away double spacing between every paragraph if you move text to other editors. Ulysses I’ve looked at, but it is Apple-family-only, has an expensive per year subscrition required, and has few formatting capabilities, nor I think final output flourishes which would fit any strict editorial requirements.

There is no perfection :slight_smile: – and that is a little of the life we write about, isn’t it. As a person with brushes does, you just have to try, choose, assemble, and learn your tools, I think…

Good fortune, then…and we’ll hope Keith can smile on this operation again, given it remains sensible.


Exactly this.

I personally would not be happy with an iOS-only environment, but that has as much to do with the limitations of other applications as it does with Scrivener. It’s not unusual for me to have two or three active browser tabs, at least as many active DevonThink windows, a multi-pane Scrivener window, and maybe now and then a Scapple board all active at once. With a second virtual desktop for secondary tasks like email and Slack. Even if it were technically possible to do all of that on an iPad, the lack of screen real estate would drive me insane.

At the same time, under other circumstances I love that I can tuck my iPad Mini under my arm and shuffle index cards around while at my favorite coffee shop or sitting on my back patio. I can easily see a situation in which I might do a single project in Scrivener from start to finish.

But for all writing, all the time? Not for me.

Great comment, @narrsd. Let me add two more cents.

I have been extremely impressed with the quality of Scrivener on iPad and iPhone; and honestly, I’m impressed with how much of Scrivener’s features have been carried over to the iPad. It really is a great app, but alas, once you’re used to the raw power of Scrivener on desktop it’s hard to use the stripped down version on iOS. That is not the same as saying the app is not usable on mobile devices. You just can’t–as others have noted do as much. There have been a lot of things I have been able to do BECAUSE of the iOS apps, so to me, they are invaluable. (Although, I really do miss the Draft Navigator–as others have pointed out–and need that back ASAP.)

I have been hoping that since iOS has seen fit to put the M1 in the iPad Pro and now in the iPad Air, and since iPadOS opened up the memory limits, that programs like Scrivener can blossom on iPad. I’d love to have as much of the full power of Scrivener on mobile as possible.

That said, Scrivener on iPad (and iPhone for that matter) is a great writing tool that at least enables me to use the core features of Scrivener. Based on the type of writing projects that I do – and the complex compiles I’ve designed – I could not live on the iPadOS version of Scrivener by itself. On the other hand, I get so much more mileage out of Scrivener as a tool because I have access to an excellent–if not perfect–version of it on mobile.

Oh, and if the L&L development team is listening → please bring outline mode to iPad ASAP. Please.

P.S. One additional note–while I’ve had trouble with selecting text on iOS and iPadOS as others have complained about it, I don’t seem to be having any trouble with selecting text in Scrivener on iPadOS. That doesn’t help anybody who is having trouble, I understand.

1 Like

I use Scrivener/IOS for all my writing, literally hundreds of articles on my web site: generally one every day. I started doing that because my programming articles use Codea Lua, an iOS app, and also because I came to prefer taking my iPad to the coffee shop over taking the laptop, so that I could draw with the Pencil. (Remember when we used to be able to go to coffee shops?)

Since I write in Markdown (because my site builder reads Markdown), the iOS version is quite adequate for my needs. I could wish for more, but since it hasn’t been updated for years, I am mostly just hoping they keep it running. For my purposes, I’ve found nothing better for iOS.

1 Like

Glad to report – as many of you may have discovered already – that the recent update to Scrivener on iPadOS has fixed the issue with the Drafts Navigator (i.e., iPadOS’s implementation of scrivenings mode.)

I’ve been using iPad as my main computer since 2016, but avoided using Scrivener as my primary software because of the lack of updates.

That being said, the recent update has filled me with confidence and hope – and I’m currently trialing it as my main writing app for all work.

So far, it’s pretty great.

1 Like