Best Features About This Software?

Hi all,

Thought I would ask the community before buying this :slight_smile: What do you like/ dislike most about this. I am an aspiring author so want a good, all rounder that I can do everything in.

What are the best features of this please and the worst :slight_smile:

Moderator Note: I moved this to the usage section since not as many people poke around in the tech support area. :slight_smile:

Sorry :frowning: I didn;t mean to post in the wrong section :frowning:

It’s quite all right! I’d have left it alone because we’re not that picky around here, I just wanted to make sure your question was seen by more than a few of us that hang out in tech support all day. :slight_smile:

That’s the best feature.


Folks here are willing to help and don’t seem to care how many times the same questions are asked. Any software can be useful, but when the software comes with a user base that will help you with everything from basic “how do I do X in scriv” to “does this read like a first grader wrote it”, the amazing features are less important.

That said, my “holy reorganization Batman!” moment came when I started to understand how powerful splitting docs into smaller segments really is. Talk about making my non-linear ramblings easier to manage…

That and compile. I scares the crap out of me, but it lets you forget about form while you are vomiting onto a page with the assurance that a smart person can make it pretty later. And the forum is full of smart people (I’m not one of them).


First off, I agree with Jaysen about the help, from team members and from users. Also about compile.

After that, for me it’s the enormous flexibility of Scrivener – write a journal or a dissertation or a novel or a collection of short stories or a play. Move things around. Change colors and layouts.


It all really depends on your needs. If you’re technically astute, and are willing to spend many hours fiddling with stuff, you can output some pretty sophisticated documents. But if your formatting requires text wrapping around lots of images, or margin figures like you see in text books, then you’re not going to be able to do everything in Scrivener.

Straight-up novel manuscript formatting of the kind that agents and editors require is pretty easy. Making it look pretty for CreateSpace or other self-pub stuff takes more work, but usually is fairly straight-forward, but there are some things that Scrivener can’t do (widow/orphan preservation, for instance… I think). So, if you’re going to be mad that you have to drop your RTF file from Scrivener into a text layout program (Word, OpenOffice, InDesign, …) then you’d better try out your most challenging formatting up-front while the trial period is still counting down. Come here for answers about how to accomplish X with the compile settings (once you’ve been through the tutorial so you know the right words for everything), and see if it will satisfy your needs that way.

The views expressed about compile just gave me one of those aha moments. How hard would it be to implement a live preview of what each compile option looks like?

Pretty tough. :slight_smile: The main issue is that our layout engine is pretty basic. We can do more with code than we can with layout basically. For example, we can stick the RTF codes in that will cause a program like Word to display it in columns—but we can’t display those columns ourselves. Even footnotes would be difficult. Then you have oddball formats that don’t have any native viewer, like ePub or Mobi. What it comes down to is that a preview would work for only the most basic options, with only a small handful of formats. With those constraints, it’s not really worth the effort it would take to make one.

Meanwhile if all you do want is a basic preview of something along the lines that PDF give you—well just about any Mac program can do that out of the Print dialogue. Set your compile output to Print, and then use the “Save as PDF” button to “Open PDF in Preview”. Done.

Another “ditto” to Jaysen’s comments about the community here (although I have limited myself to evenings now so I don’t procrastinate during the day) and also about chunking small.

One of my many “aha” moments was learning to use scrivenings mode (which shows all the documents you select as if they were one document) with my small chunks. Hallelujah!! This meant that I could get hide of all the stuff that wasn’t directly related to the text I was typing, but still see the context for those words. AND, because I chunk down to idea level (which is often a single paragraph) it’s a dream to restructure and reorganise.

All of this works because of the flexibility of the binder. So, if I had to pick my top three features… no, not my top 3, just 3 of my favourite features (next time I start Scrivener I’ll remember another 3 that should be on the list). Anyway, here’s 3 great features – the binder, scrivenings mode, split screen view.

The only thing to remember with Scrivener, as robertdguthrie was explaining, is that Scrivener is designed for writing. For writing, getting words on the screen and organising them, nothing beats it. While Scrivener can do quite a lot in terms of final layout, it requires more technical know-how and wizardry. Personally, I still prepare final layout in other applications such as Word. By design, Scrivener compiles to Word beautifully. :slight_smile:

Have to emphasize Jaysen’s comments. There is something powerful about the ability to write in smaller segments while retaining a connection to the whole. It allows for clarity because your focus in narrowed. You have peace of mind because you know your gem of an idea is not going to get lost in a massive document or an orphaned file on the hard drive.

My three ‘likes’ in order are:

  • the philosophy of the software. If you think that writing anything longform - a book, a postgraduate thesis, a lengthy business report, a long email to your parents or your children - is simply a matter of typing your thoughts out once, this software isn’t really for you. But if you think that that isn’t good enough, that in longer documents particularly expression demands clarity, explanation and refinement that aren’t necessarily available on the first draft, that the novelist Vladimir Nabokov was on to something when he wrote “I have rewritten — often several times — every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers”, that in other words writing is rewriting, or most particularly where Scrivener is concerned, that writing is reorganising, then Scrivener is for you.

  • the embodiment of that philosophy in the software.

  • the knowledge, skills and courtesy of the team at L&L - which as outlined in the posts above are pretty rare and special - and the wider community on this website.

No significant dislikes that I can immediately think of. (Well, cats - though I make exceptions for Fluff and Floss.)

I would get a big head but…

Only to address the compile complexity that was mentioned…

Forget about compile. Seriously. Just write your “thing”. Get used to writing. Once you get to the point where you need to compile, you can then learn how that beast works. Yes, you will likely spend some time fixing a few things, but it will be the polish, not the substance, that you will be addressing.

And as far as polish goes, KB never suggested the scriv would replace a WP like word, pages, or layout tool like Indesign. Scriv is for drafting which is supposed to be simply formatted. If I need a pretty doc, I compile to RTF then make sexy in word*. I hate word but it does the job.

Which is another big "feature’ in my opinion; Scriv is output agnostic. I vomit onto the screen, organize in scriv, then prettify it later

[size=70]* Which I do about as well as I “make sexy” my person which is to say I wind up having someone else fix it once I ruin it. [/size]

I use and recommend Scrivener for writing just about anything more complicated than a grocery list.

  • The split/merge/rearrange features make it the first (and to my knowledge, only) program that comes close to working the way I do.

  • I don’t use the Outliner for outlining much, but the metadata makes it a great tool for project management. Word count vs. target, revision status, and much more, all neatly organized and tracked for me.

  • Links. Links to other parts of the draft, links out to the web. Yes, I know lots of writing tools support links, but I use them a lot, and Scrivener’s implementation seems to “just work” where others just get in the way.


The things I like most about Scrivener are the fundamentals really; the things I kind of take for granted now but which aren’t there (or at least not as transparently implemented) in other software I’ve tried. Things like…

  1. Scrivener helps you apply structure to your work, without restricting what that structure should be. Many writing programs impose that on you; others provide no or only limited tools. Scrivener has the binder, which doesn’t care if you think any given document is a chapter, a part, a scene, a paragraph, a title page, a character sheet or a drunken note to yourself where you try to figure out the funniest possible spelling of the name “Jason”. But let’s you care if you want to.

  2. I can write in the font, size, spacing and layout that I find easiest on the eye (and the most encouraging) without caring what an editor, agent or other eventual reader might insist upon seeing. I know I can change all that very quickly and easily with the press of a button.

  3. Safety. Scrivener saves my work every time I stop typing for a couple of seconds. It does all sort of other things too, like automatically creating numbered back-ups (in my case automatically uploading those to the cloud), and protects against accidental deletion via the trash can. I simply don’t think about losing work anymore.

Things I dislike?

Really none. Scrivener has been pretty good to me, both making it easier to get on with writing and making it easier to procrastinate!