Firstly, seeing this is my first proper post in these forums, I would like to salute everyone.
Secondly, I wish to congratulate all those involved in the development of Scrivener, both the Mac and the Windows versions. I find it a fine computer program.
For most of my computer-aware life I have used word processors, even since the days of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. In recent years, I have used OpenOffice and Word, like so many people. All of these were and are very fine for short pieces of text (and some newest versions are even better at manipulating pictures, which I find odd in a word processor). But – and I can say this from my own experience – those programs are at a disadvantage when it comes to long works, as many people here have learnt. Only lately have I found Scrivener and I have been testing it since then. I am now convinced that it will allow me to resume a project I was forced to abandon before, due to the inadequacy of the software I was using. Congratulations, then, for having created such an usable application.
I would however disagree with the philosophy behind Scrivener’s auto-saving mechanics. This works much the same as other application’s similar functions, for instance Microsoft Office’s (in this respect I think Microsoft got it right, so I’ll use MO by the way of example), with the difference that Scrivener auto-saves to the work file (or rather folder, in its case), while MO auto-saves to a back-up file which MO itself manages.
Scrivener allows one to manually save, but this is mostly redundant and better forgotten (see below), specially if the default of auto-saving every two seconds is kept. Additionally, Scrivener has a Backup feature, which creates a copy of the current project to a different location, managed by Scrivener itself. This feature can be left on automatic, but I would prefer either to set it to activate on manual saves (which I would, in that case, use) or preferably disable it altogether and instead create manual backups by means of File/Back Up/Backup Now, when a consistent work state were reached. This is because, for the sake of this comparison, I am considering Scrivener’s Backup function as the equivalent of other applications’ Save function and I wouldn’t want an automated backup overwriting a manual one.
MO too has a Save command. It saves to the work file, but only on a manual basis.
Now, let us consider for a moment the following questions: What are the specific concerns related with not loosing work in any computer application? And how do Scrivener and MO respond to them?
I think those concerns are two. One is the need, due to the possibility of a crash, to have at all times a file containing an exact copy of the project as it stands at any given moment in the running application’s memory — the more frequently this file can be updated, the better, every second if possible. The other concern, due to the possibility of introducing changes to the work which later are deemed undesirable, is to make it possible to determine when a consistent work state has been reached and, at that moment, to manually save that work to a file which will not be overwritten until the next manual save.
How do Scrivener and MO address these two concerns?
Scrivener addresses the first concern by regularly auto-saving to its work files. It addresses the second one (if my reasoning is followed) by means of the Backup function, which writes to backup files and is better used manually when a consistent work state is reached, as suggested above. (The Snapshot function can be used as well, if only one Document was changed.)
MO addresses the first concern by regularly auto-saving to a backup file. It addresses the second one by the normal Save function, which saves to the work file and should be used when a consistent work state is reached.
As can be seen, both systems adequately and similarly respond to the two problems mentioned, but they do it in a reversed manner, one from the other, in what concerns their use of work files and backup files.
Indeed, I cannot help but to feel that Scrivener saves to backup files and backs up to work files.
Also, the fact that Scrivener’s Save command is mostly redundant but is still present doesn’t seem right. And, (using my logic), one has to use Backup at the moments one would normally (in most other programs) use Save.
It is my opinion, therefore, that the way MO deals with files is more logical, more elegant and more intuitive. And I think it is the way most people are used to work.
Of course, I would very much like to know what other people think of this, specially those who have much greater experience than I of using Scrivener. I believe this issue to be the single-most imperfection in an otherwise very good piece of software.