Considering Mac to iPad switch — features?


What features might I miss moving from Mac to iPad & any gotchas?


I’ve been using Scrivener on macOS for the best part of a decade, but my wee writing MacBook is starting to show its age.

My wife exclusively uses an iPad Pro without ever missing her laptop, and after a long play in the Apple Store with the newest models this weekend, I’m very tempted to switch. Now, I already have the iOS version of Scrivener too on an iPhone, so I’ve no qualms with the basics, but I never pushed it for focused novel-length writing.

I’m looking for advise from anyone who has made the switch? I notice the iPad version of Scrivener isn’t updated that often, and with new versions of iOS always just in the horizon this is a slight concern.

I’d likely go for the larger iPad Pro with the keyboard case. I tried the keyboard and found it comfortable enough.

(As a side note, I have a top-end MacBook Pro for day job work, so I will still have access to another machine).

Hi Shell,

What features you’ll miss sorta kinda depends on what features are important to you. You will get way more useful feedback if you provide some info on how you currently use Scrivener, so we can tell you how that will change.

For me, I love using iOS Scrivener on my iPad Air 2. I’m on it daily and am a big-time fan boy. I too am working on a novel, and probably 100k of the book was written using iOS Scriv. It is awesome (iOS Scriv, not my novel :slight_smile: ).

That said, I could never use it exclusively, due to iOS Scriv’s compile feature, or lack thereof. IMHO all Compile is good for on iOS Scriv is proofing rough drafts. If you use Desktop Scriv’s compile for pretty much anything else, you’ll need to keep Desktop Scriv around in some capacity. Launch a project on your iPhone and try to compile it, and you’ll quickly see what I mean.

The other main things I miss on iOS Scriv are Snapshots and Keywords - neither of these are supported.

Finally, iOS Scriv can do zipped backups, but it’s a completely manual process.

What that means for me in practice is I use iOS Scriv for the actual drafting and rewriting, and Desktop Scriv for project level structural stuff and prep/housekeeping work (e.g. making snapshots before revising documents). I also write in Desktop Scriv when I’m on my treadmill, because my laptop balances better than my iPad does on the treadmill’s console section, but you probably don’t care about that.


Hi Jim! This is exactly the sort of feedback I was looking for, thank you!

I imagine I’d have to adopt a similar workflow. I was planning on keeping the desktop version installed on my day job laptop because sometimes I just need a bigger screen to untangle the mess of my plots… :unamused:

Something I do frequently is have Scrivener text-to-speech passages when I’m trying to figure out pacing and editing—this is probably the last niggle I need to solve before deciding to switch. I often do this away from Scrivener too via a compiled PDF, so that’s not a show-stopper.

I don’t use snapshots. My projects sit in a Dropbox folder, and backups (zips) go to a local folder (which in turn heads up to iCloud).

My projects are usually in the 150k region, with a lot of research notes (but not much heavy content, such as images). I obsessively cut—a writer I admire once told me to never throw anything away :slight_smile:

I prefer to write in composition mode with as few distractions as possible. However, one of the most attractive features of the larger iPad for me is the split screen—so I could have Scrivener and Safari open, for example.

Thanks again for the reply.

Scrivener is probably just leveraging the Mac’s text-to-speech. iOS also has text-to-speech, give it a try on your iPhone and see if it works for you. See Settings > General > Accessibility > Speech for the options.

As I mentioned, you’ll need to do create your zipped backups manually. You can still have Scrivener send them to iCloud, but you’ll need to tell it every time. You can also test this on your iPhone to see how it works.

If you drop iOS Scriv’s Keyboard row and iOS’ Shortcuts and Predicative features (Settings > General > Keyboard), you’ll end up with a Scriv Editor screen that contains only your text and the header bar at the top. That’s as minimal as you can get with iOS Scriv.

If you configure iOS Scriv to use the Expanded Binder, the split screen within Scrivener is actually very usable. I find myself in that mode all the time. You can have two documents side-by-side. You can also have a document and its Inspector, which has proven very handy for me lately. I put my scene notes in Document Notes and then reference them in the Inspector while I’m working on the scene in the Editor.

It really is a fine writing environment. I think you’re gonna love it.


These things are very personal. I bought a large iPad and hated it so much I bought a MacBook, and now the iPad spends much of its time in a drawer. But one feature of what I do is that I move files around a lot – not inside Scrivener, but in the operating system. It seems to me that the iOS environment isn’t really geared to that. I’m constantly wanting to find and refer to things which are saved in all sorts of places, and in various file formats (iThoughts mind maps, for example). Being able to switch around between three or four programs and assorted windows is just the way I work, and I couldn’t really do that in iOS.

If you do nothing but write, I can see how an iPad might be a good solution. I don’t, so it wasn’t for me. And it has often occurred to me to reflect that people who extoll the virtues of certain hardware or software are usually telling you as much about the kind of work they do, and the way they do it, as they are telling you about said hardware and software.

Cheers, Martin.

Thanks Martin. You make a great point.

I very deliberately seperate my work environment. The little 12" MacBook is only used for writing, and I have practically nothing else installed on it other than Scriverner and Scapple. My day job laptop is a 15" MacBook pro, which has all my development tools, but no writing tools at all. When I’m in “writing mode” I don’t want to be distracted by other-work (I’m truly terrible when it comes to distraction!).

Interesting comment around file handling: this always felt like an afterthought on iOS (it took ages for Apple to add the Files app, for example). I tend to keep most of my research notes inside Scrivener rather than lots of different files–but I may switch this up to Evernote+Scriverner if I make the move to the iPad, partly because I find the navigation of ancillary documents within Scrivener awkward on iOS (from playing around last night with a “live” novel).

Anyway, thank you for the response. All extremely useful.

Excellent, the tips much appreciated. I’ll install iOS Scrivener on my wifes iPad over the weekend and try it with a “live” novel before deciding to take the plunge.

Kind regards, S.

I feel iOS Scrivener is best used as a companion to desktop Scrivener, instead of a replacement. As others have mentioned, you will miss all of the compile options you get on the desktop version. Now, if all of your writing is handed off to an editor as a .doc-style format, you could possibly go iOS-only with Scrivener.

The other concern I have with iOS Scrivener is the lack of updates. It was last updated in Dec 2017, so it hasn’t even been updated for the screens on the new iPads. While a L&L support person has mentioned it is still in active development, I have concerns over the lack of updates.

For now, I use Scrivener on the iPad to write when I don’t have – or want to have – my Mac with me, and do all the compile et al back at home base.

The reason for the lack of updates in the time-frame you give is quite straightforward: Scrivener for Mac and iOS are both (as is Scapple for Mac) developed by one person, KB. Following that last update to iOS, he has finished v. 3 for Mac, a major update, and has since for various reasons had to produce updates to it, so it is now v. 3.1.2.

He has said somewhere that he has enhancements to the iOS version in the pipeline, but you can be sure he will only release an update when it is ready.


This can be an important issue depending on your usage. I Scrive in both iOS and MacOS daily, and like them both a lot. But on many projects, I tend to use a lot of research files clipped to the Finder. As I understand it, thanks to iOS limitations, those files can only be imported into a Scrivener project in iOS one at a time, forcing me to use the Mac version to at least do the initial import of research files on those sorts of projects. iOS may soon improve in this respect in subsequent versions, and many of us can indeed create research files directly in Scrivener, but for various reasons, that’s not always the best solution for my current usage. Just be aware.

A big thanks to all who shared their experiences and helped me make a decision. An iPad has been ordered (and a trade in for the wee macBook covers the cost of the keyboard folio).

Good luck!

I am curious how you make out, especially in the compilation stages.

I’m going to be ordering one as well this week (the big 12.9 inch one), after considerable saving and thought about it.

I don’t think it has Scrivening mode on the iPad (correct me if I’m wrong). Which does strike me as a major ommission, especially on the new ones, where they are as powerful as a Mac Book pro.

Also, the compile area seems sorely lacking on the iPad version (and file management may be fun and games, if lots of the posts about Dropbox syncing are to to be believed).

And the lack of updates is a concern. The new iPads are so much more powerful, they should really be able to do everything the normal version does (though I realise that keith is developing the programme on his own, so i understand the reasons.) Though I do think that when IOS 13 comes in, it needs an update asap to take advantage of all the new features that is supposed to bring.

But fundamentally, I think it will be fine, even now.

I have written about 100,000 words of a novel longhand, and am now looking to put it into a program.

The big advantage of the iPad for me was the side by side screens, so i could have a scan in one, and scrivener in the other. Or else, scrivener in one, and the internet in the other.

Will be experimenting with OCR apps to see if its possible to OCR my handwriting to bring into Scrivener (so I don’t have to type it all out by hand).

But am hopeful that the iPad Pro 12.9 will be a really good writing tool (among other things).

You are correct, iOS Scriv does not have Scrivenings mode. It does have a feature called Draft Navigator, which provides a Scrivenings-like but read-only view of your entire draft. You could use this to read through your manuscript as with Scrivenings and then pop over to your individual documents for your edits.

Definitely do the iOS Scriv tutorial, as some features were not obvious to me. Enjoy your new toy. :smiley:


This message is being typed on a 12.9” iPad Pro which I nearly missed being delivered (day early, without notice…). Freshly installed Scrivener, Dictionary, Grammarly etc, synchronised my projects from Dropbox and… switched to dark mode, natch. It’s working super smoothly so far. The unexpected delivery means I don’t have the keyboard or pencil yet, but so far Scrivener is really nice to work with. Turned on text-to-speech too, which means when you make a selection you get an additional option for the iPad to read it to you, so that solves my only outstanding regarding editing.

I have been using an iPad Pro (12.9) in anger now for about a week and the experience has been pleasant. I’ve had to make a few minor adjustments to how I work, but I think it’s a mostly superior writing experience, from a focused writing point of view… there are far fewer distractions :slight_smile:

Issues / Observations

  • No way to learn spellings (that I can find) within the app, which is a real pain given the range of international names and technical terms in my current WIP. I’m not sure how to solve this yet.
  • Weird issue where no spellchecking was going on at all. iOS just forgot to do it. Had got toggle it on and off again in iOS’s own settings before that worked.
  • For some reason, creating a new document in iOS paragraphs are spaced at 1.3. On desktop, 1.1. I can’t find any way to change the default. I think I actually prefer 1.3, but the inconsistency is annoying. I’ll have to go through the entire WIP.
  • The lack of built-in backups worries me, but I guess I am working on DropBox so…

Big wins

  • Enabling voice in iOS accessibility magically adds “speak paragraph” selecting text, which is really lovely for editing. Easier than desktop, for me anyway.
  • Lovely, distraction free UI
  • I can type full-speed on the folio case keyboard

The spacing control is in the Format dialogue (paint brush) - there are three tabs at the top: style, indents, spacing.

To make them the default for new iOS documents, format a paragraph exactly how you’d want it, then go back into the format dialogue, then choose Style / Formatting options / set as default.

Short of going through every document and 'select all’ then Use Default Formatting, I don’t know of a way to convert old documents to the new style so I’d do that on the desktop.

(Obviously the short cut to all this is to format the default properly on the desktop, then in iOS just choose one of those paragraphs and set it to be the iOS default as well. Just make sure you’re using the same font on both.)

Congrats, Shell! I do know that plenty of writers, including your countryman Matt Gemmell, are happily writing highly structured novels using only iOS apps like Scrivener and Ulysses. Even though I have a smaller iPad Pro (9.7”), I find myself starting and finishing more and more writing projects using iOS Scrivener only, particularly those that don’t require lots of other notes or research docs, precisely because of the fewer distractions you mention.

I’m curious to see how the next version of iOS, which is predicted to bring more multitasking and other Mac-like features to iPad, will affect how we use Scrivener in particular and writing in general on iOS. Finding that balance between fewer distractions and sufficient power will surely mean that we writers (and of course app developers like Keith) will have to make more choices about how configure our workflows and use newly available features. Please keep us posted on your evolving experience, with more nicely specific reports like this one, and good luck with your projects.

As I mentioned upthread, while it is true there is no auto-backup, iOS Scriv can still generate zipped backups and send them pretty much anywhere you like (iCloud, OneDrive, email, etc.)

From iOS Scriv project list screen: Press Edit > Select project > Press Send a Copy (upward arrow in box, lower left corner) > Select your target > Press Upload Here.

It sounds like you already realize that DropBox is insufficient for backup purposes, but just in case you don’t, please read this thread: [url]Help! Scrivener project corruption: every page is blank]

Don’t be that person. :frowning: Threads with “I had a syncing issue but I have no backup and I must scream” pop up here far too often, that’s just the last thread I can recall seeing on that sad topic.

I urge you to habitually generate a zipped backup after every iOS writing session.


Oh dear, feeling for That Person.

Anyway, thanks. Previously I was manually backing up, but I always had an additional safety net: all my cloud-stored files wing their way back to a home server which is in turn continuously streamed to BackBlaze’s backup service. Paranoid, me? Well once you lose a manuscript, you become kind of obsessive about these things… :unamused: Thanks for the tip! For on-the-fly backups (given my writing “sessions” are hours snatched here and there), this looks like excellent advice. Just gave it a go, and verified the resulting zip landed on iCloud.