Deciding on a writing set up before buying a version...

Have decided to get a bit more serious about my writing and am promising myself a copy of Scrivener if I finish my NaNo novel by the end of the month. I find myself a little stymied, though, about whether to get the Windows version to work with my current set-up or reevaluate what I’m writing on in general.

What I have:

A desktop running Windows 7 - hardly write on it at all - desk is a mess - share an office with my gamer husband.
A netbook running Windows XP - do most of my writing on this on the go, but it’s on its last leg
iPad 2 - no external keyboard - currently using for bookmarks, quick reference checks while writing on the netbook

What I’m considering:

a) re-do the office to make my desk more writing friendly (and train the hubs to wear headphones) and then figuring out the ‘on-the-go’ later

b) treat myself to a Mac and jettison the Windows machines, setting up my desk so I can dock or grab the laptop and go

c) leave the office as is, put scrivener on the Windows desktop and get a keyboard for my iPad on the go (I wonder what the point of having scrivener is, then, though if I’m never at the machine that has it)

Are there tips, tricks, features, compatibility issues, etc that I’m not considering? Which of the above seems most usable? Other options?

This has to be a personal decision dependent on many factors, for example:

  • your budget

  • your readiness and time to learn another operating system

  • the extent to which you plan to work away from your desk in future

  • your willingness to rely on iPad writing applications, which are universally more limited than those on Macs or PCs

And so on. If money were no object, I’d buy an 11-inch Air, put Scrivener on it and keep it permanently with me. If money is short, I’d get a cheap replacement Windows netbook, put Scrivener on that, and ditto.

H

Much as I love my 11" Air, based on your idea of ditching both Windows machines and using the potential Mac for both travel and a desktop, I’d say go with a MacBook Pro if you switch to Apple and can afford it. It’s still portable, but it’ll be a much heavier lifter for doing things besides writing (especially if you work with graphics or video, in which case you’ll want one of the higher end MBPs) and will give you more storage room and a DVD drive. If you just get the Air, chances are you’d end up needing more peripherals for extra storage and CD reading and burning and maybe even larger screen space.

I made a switch from Windows to Mac several years ago, as the only Mac in the household, and it went off smoothly enough, but I didn’t mind having to mess around learning a new OS and so forth–kind of geeked out about it, really. And I went ahead and got virtual machine software as well so that I could keep running certain Windows programs that I might still need (at the time, MS Office–namely Word–and PaintShop Pro were the two biggies that I already owned and couldn’t also afford to repurchase as Mac options). I haven’t regretted the decision at all, but I did spend a while working it out before I took the plunge. If you’ve got friends with Macs you can play with or have some time to go mess around on some machines at the Apple store, it may be helpful to try out the Mac setup first hand. (Friends are also great for the first days when you’re learning how stuff works, although Apple also has a bunch of handy tutorials and free classes and such which might help you jump start as well.) And do make a list of programs that you’re going to want or habits that are super ingrained and are Windows-based–potentially talk to some Mac people about that too, to make sure you’ll be able to switch over without a hassle. You want to know ahead of time if something is going to be possible on a Mac or not rather than finding out after you’ve switched and then having to belatedly find a workaround.

This isn’t meant to try and influence you toward a Mac–you can get some great Windows machines too, even do the laptop route there and get something you can use as both a desktop and a portable, and have the benefit then of already knowing the OS, having the programs you need, and probably spending a bit less money since you won’t have to purchase replacements. But if you’re not heavily glued to the Windows environment and like the idea of a completely fresh setup or some of the goodies you can get with a Mac, just spend a bit of time researching your options and consider what in addition to the physical machine itself you’re going to need to get or put in time learning.

One thing to keep in mind is that each windows license allows you to install Scrivener on multiple Windows computers that you or your household own or are the sole operator of (like a work computer). So you can use one license for your desktop, netbook, and even your husband’s gaming machine in a pinch.

The same goes for the Mac licenses, though to be clear, you can’t use the same license on both Mac and Windows computers. If you have a mixed setup, then you have to buy a license for Windows and a license for Mac.

But if you’re thinking of going Mac, I personally think it’s a great platform for getting out of your way and letting you create. The new macbook Air models, from everything I’ve read, are actually faster at doing a lot of things than the Macbook pros, though if you think you’ll miss having a built-in DVD/CD drive (Blu-ray is not an option), that’s really the dividing line. Discussions on this forum, which got kind of technical, revealed that the hardware as a whole made some things unexpectedly faster on the Air than on the typical Pro.

My next mac setup is going to be just like you are considering: It will be my only computing platform, and I’ll dock it with my 20" video monitor, an external keyboard, Apple trackpad, and external DVD burner. It’s actually what I have on my desk right now, except with a Macbook pro, Circa 2006. I anticipate replacing that pain-in-the-shoulder with an air in a year or two.

Just whatever you do, don’t skimp on storage and memory. Get the biggest that’s available, because unless you have a run of bad luck, that little thing will be with you for quite a few years.