Features in Writer Pro, Writer's Diet, Word Counter

The syntax tool in Writer Pro looks extremely useful, for me at least. Any chance of seeing it in Scrivener?

A related set of tools is Writer’s Diet (http://www.writersdiet.com/WT.php) something I use often and would enjoy seeing in Scrivener.

And while I’m on a roll, I’m also a big fan of Word Counter. Any chance of getting these features into Scrivener?

I doubt it. It looks interesting, and I’m sure plenty of users will like it so all the best to them, but I’m not sure how much syntax tools can help drastically improve the flow of your prose. That’s only possible by reading, re-reading, reading aloud and so on. So I’m a little suspicious of syntax tools, grammar checkers (Scrivener only has one of those because it comes for free with the text system), readability analyses and so on. (Besides, don’t they have a “patent pending”? :wink: )

Scrivener already has decent word counting and target tools (and the ability to count the number of words used in a document), and these will continue to be refined, but readability analyses and suchlike are really out of scope for the reasons outlined above.

All the best,

It says here that they are licensing Syntax Control to other developers:
(at the end of point 2.)

I would love that in Scrivener, personally. It’s the one reason why I’m even considering buying Writer Pro, because I’m writing in English, and it’s not my first language. But the thought of copying everything back and forth between Scrivener and Writer Pro doesn’t really get my juices flowing.

To be honest - and bear in mind that I haven’t tried Writer Pro - I don’t know exactly what there is to licence or patent, so I must be missing something that Writer Pro’s “Syntax Control” does. In OS X 10.7, Apple introduced a new class called NSLinguisticTagger. This can find all parts of speech in a document, making it really easy to highlight all nouns or verbs in some text. It took me twenty minutes and less than twenty lines of code to use Apple’s NSLinguisticTagger class to highlight all nouns, adjectives, adverbs, verbs, prepositions or conjunctions in a document (and to be able to choose which word type should be highlighted).

(It was easy because, in fact, Apple demonstrated exactly this at WWDC 2011 - developers can still see the demonstration in the “Advanced Text Processing” video on Apple’s developer website. The video shows how to use NSLinguisticTagger to change the text colour of all nouns in a document.)

So highlighting parts of speech and counting how many adverbs there are, or how many of a particular adverb is used, is certainly something that could be added to a future version of Scrivener given that Apple has provided the tools to do exactly this. I assume that Writer Pro is doing much more than just calling on NSLinguisticTagger to pick out all nouns or verbs or whatever in a document, though, if they feel they have something they can patent, but as I say, I haven’t bought it (I’ve only taken a quick look at the video), so I don’t know what else their syntax tools do. And as I said before, although I can certainly see that being able to see at a glance whether or not you’ve used too many adverbs might be useful, I’m sceptical of relying on machines where reading back work over and over again works much better.

Oh. That’s interesting, since that’s exactly what it sounds (and looks) like.
And it’s probably all that makes sense to leave to the software. Like you said, it might not be the best idea to leave evaluating the writing style to a machine. But simply highlighting all adjectives would make it much, much easier to spot repetitions and such.

I for one wish that these sorts of supplemental processes not be embedded into or bolted onto Scrivener and by extension its user interface.

My proximate concern is that while I have begun to more frequently turn to Scrivener for a variety of smaller writing projects, I have never since 1998 needed to use any third-party process to perform grammatical analysis. So incorporating text analysis features into Scrivener would clutter up my nifty writing tool with a bolted-on capability that I almost certainly would never use.

If I need to do text analysis or the like, I’d much prefer to output my document or project from Scrivener in a generally recognized exchange format (RTF being but one), then use one or another supplemental tool to post-process that output.

Aside from keeping Scrivener’ “clean”, that approach also means that if I want to use one or another content analysis tool that I neither need to wait for Scrivener to support it and its latest features, nor need to constantly “step around” functionality and user interface elements that I never use.

Cheers & hope this helps,

If anything like this were ever added, it would just be something hidden away in the Edit > Writing Tools menu that you could bring up as a panel, so that it never got in the way of those who didn’t want to use it. It is something we’ve had a lot of requests for over the years, although its only the ease of NSLinguisticTagger’s use that is making me consider it as a possibility…

Have you read the reviews in the App Store? Not exactly the best collection of reviews I have ever read

I agree [+1] [Like - check]. Resisting the notion means we’re grumpy old gits I suppose. The idea that these algorithms have anything to add more useful than the writer’s own reflective experience seems totally alien as what I find most useful in Scrivener, Scapple and other software I choose to use is exactly that it helps me to do what I want to do (write, organise) and doesn’t pretend to do things that I later need to do for myself. Writing (for me) is mainly editing and re-writing (I’m a great believer in Annie Lamott’s `Shitty First Drafts’) and these tools don’t have a natural place there.

I now realise that I probably sound like my Dad - a man who taught police and royal security drivers how to drive fast and safe - railing against `the blight’ of automatic gearboxes.

The statistics popup already counts instances of words. I don’t even find it that much of a paradigm shift to offer more detailed lists of verbs, adjectives and such.

I genuinely don’t mean to sound flippant or snide, but is not that the sort of “just one more feature won’t hurt” thinking that produced that paragon of UN-usability, Microsoft Word? Un-usability that not incidentally arises because of so many obscure corner-case features “hidden away” somewhere in its deeply nested user interface?

Clutter tends not to arrive in one big load; it instead is usually the result of an ongoing series of small incremental additions …

Cheers & hope this helps,

In principle, I definitely agree with you, but there are certain extra features that require almost no maintenance. One example is the name generator. Although many users love it, it is really entirely superfluous to Scrivener. It is hidden away in the Writing Tools menu and exists separately to everything else, which is something I usually avoid. However, since implementing it three years ago, it has taken very little maintenance - maybe only a couple of hours. A parts-of-speech highlighter would be in a similar category, because all of the underlying code has already been done by Apple (and it would thus be much easier to implement than the name generator). It would thus not detract my focus from the core features.

And I should say that over the next year I am working on integrating and synthesising Scrivener’s core features even more than ever before, something about which I am very excited… So even though I’m considering this, the overall focus is definitely on becoming less cluttered.

While I agree that writing is as much about reading and re-reading, I do think the syntax tools, writer’s diet, etc. sort of functionality is useful. There is far too much loose writing out there, and if these tools help tighten up prose then we’re all the better for it. So, at the very least, these tools help with style.

I like the sound of your dad — I too want as little to do with automatic gearboxes as possible!

To continue with a rant (I know Keith, as an ex-primary school teacher, is likely to train his big guns on me, and that any generalisations are going to be wrong in parts!):

I think the existence of grammar checkers, style checkers, spelling checkers have merely served to exacerbate the prediliction of our education systems to aim for the lowest common denominator and say, “We don’t need to teach children how to spell; they have computers with spell checkers. We don’t need to teach them grammar; they have computers with grammar checkers.” The same horrific principle as “We shouldn’t bother teaching them mental arithmetic; they have calculators.”

So we end up with a generation that can’t write — I remember seeing a PhD admissions tutor being interviewed on TV some years ago; he said that 80+% of applicants he turned down because they couldn’t write a correctly spelt, grammatical covering letter. Yes, there have always been people who have had trouble with spelling, grammar and arithmetic. That may have been a failure by the education system; to me it is an equally awful failure of the education system that many children who could have mastered spelling and grammar have not been helped to do so.

Admittedly, it is some time ago, but I’m sure there are still areas where this is the case today. When our daughter was coming up to four and we were moving to London, we were prospecting for a primary school for her. One head proudly showed me a writing assignment of one pupil in the top class — a description of the living room in their house. It was chock full of very elementary spelling and grammar mistakes, none of them even marked for the child’s attention let alone corrected, all done under the “Correcting their English will destroy their creativity” ethos. To be creative you need to master the relevant tools … or you did! And in writing, that is spelling, grammar and an ear/eye for style.

And to put the back up of the rest of you, I think that anyone who aspires to be a writer, but who thinks dependency on spell checkers, grammar checkers etc. will help should be wondering about his/her commitment to being a writer. Spell checkers miss hundreds of errors through homophones; grammar checkers mark perfectly correct grammar as wrong; and reliance on reading indices reduces writing to the most pedestrian and banal level, perhaps acceptable in business correspondence, irrelevant for any attempt at creative writing. It is only by giving the time to identifying our mistakes, solepsisms, infelicities and becoming aware internally of our usages and failures that we improve and develop our own style. To mechanise that process is to reduce its centrality.


Colonel X of Tunbridge Wells!

PS from Mark: I did once attend a conference paper which did for me give a valid use for the grammar checker in Office. The speaker was an Australian who taught writing to non-native English speaking postgraduate students on pre-admission courses. Over a number of years, he had completely customised the grammar checker, writing his own rules to mark up all the errors that his students produced, and none of the spurious rules. Every student was given the rule set to install, which they had to use with all their writing assignments, working out for themselves how to correct any errors it marked. He would not accept any assignment from his students with any errors marked. His records showed a considerable improvement in the students’ writing following the implementation of the system. So yes, any of you who are writing in a language not your mother tongue, grammar and spell checkers may help … but only if you can find someone to customise the grammar checker to the right level, and you distrust the spell checker!

One model for multi-featured usefulness that seems to be working well is the Firefox browser. The basic browser doesn’t stray into specialization, leaving that for designers of browser extensions. This is working so well that many users eschew reputedly “faster” browsers simply to retain the extreme customizability delivered by Firefox’s extensions library.

And what an amazingly broad extensions library Firefox has. Not incidentally, a few extensions enable Firefox to interface to various brands of text analysis tools and the like. The point being that IF a Firefox user finds one particular sort of functionality useful, THEN he or she is free to add its to the browser; or not, as the case may be.

With that in mind, as far as Scrivener’s writing tools, rather than see more of them, I’d rather see the ability to more fully choose them. For example, I avoid Google search, using the tracking-free DuckDuckGo front-end instead. (Then there’s the Online Etymology Search site; and One-Look Dictionaries; and Urban Slang Dictionary site; and, and, and…) So I’d rather be able to change the Tools menu’s search engines (note plural) on my own rather than have them hard-coded into Scrivener’s code. (viewtopic.php?f=4&t=24728).

Not only would that model enable me to choose which special-purpose tools I do or do not use, it also liberates Scrivener’s developers from chasing specialized functionality in Scrivener’s code: The extensions’ developers do that.

In the end I think we’re essentially in agreement: Cluttering up Scrivener is not likely to produce a better product. Here’s hoping…

Cheers & thanks,