First Impressions for Science/Engineering Use

Hi all! By way of introduction … I had a major document, a research proposal, to write in a very short deadline. My usual tool would have been LaTeX. I decided to try Scrivener instead. Here’s a few of my thoughts from the process.

I found it great that I could …

  • generate a document outline and write key questions for each part on the note cards
  • order the sections even as they were still in the draft stage
  • view the flow of different sections together in different ways by command-clicking on the left pane or splitting the center pane

This is a big quantum leap ahead of what I would have been able to do by slogging through with LaTeX.

I was disappointed that I could not link portions of the Scrivener text to people on my team and directly directly track those links in one place as a way to see who still needed to send me what for text input. For example …

“The big box will be measured by {THIS PART NEED SMITH’S INPUT}” <-- link this segment to my colleague “Smith”

I played with “Actors” and other options to no real avail. I see from searching the forum, the feature I really want has been requested in the past.

I was also frustrated or overwhelmed at times by the UI. The myriad of options in the compile dialog where a bit too much. I kept looking for a “click here and get your file” output mode. Similarly in other sections (e.g. most of the “stuff” other than index cards in the right-most pane). I tended to try stay out what seemed to me to be “clutter”. I suspect here I just need a bit more due diligence on my part to learn what it all can do and what I should do with it in return.

In the end, I compiled the Scrivener file to a text file that I then imported and recomposed in LaTeX (and finally output to PDF). I am impressed and very happy with the overall outcome. I think I would have missed the proposal deadline without Scrivener, or at best had a far less coherent document produced under a far greater amount of up-front stress.

In summary, for generating a science/engineering document, I found the writing experience in Scrivener very refreshing, even as I found the UI at times overwhelming. I might do better in a Scrivener-Lite version. I am certain that I will do better after I get my head around all the options in Scrivener.

I have a trial run in mind to write a journal article next. We’ll see how it goes.


Have you tried using Scrivener links? These allow you to link between documents in the project.

Select “Original” next to “Format As” and click Compile if you just want a simple compilation without fussing with all of the options. The options are necessary, though - in order for Scrivener to offer absolute flexibility when it comes to organising your work, it needs fine-tuned options in Compile to allow users to take any structure and random collection of documents and convert it into a final manuscript. You can safely ignore all of those options if you just want to get your work out as-is and polish it up in a word processor, though.

Indeed, just ignore anything that you don’t need. The index card in the inspector allows you to keep a synopsis of your work and so structure it via the outliner or corkboard. If you aren’t worried about using that, you can just ignore it. Scrivener doesn’t force you to use every feature.

Thanks for trying Scrivener, and for your feedback. Part of our focus in future versions is going to be in consolidating existing features and making them a little easier to use, so hopefully this will help. I’m glad you enjoyed using Scrivener over all.

All the best,

WRT links, what I really want is the equivalent in script writing of a way to track all dialog or actions associated with a given character. Unfortunately, I cannot reconstitute the search term that I used to find the specific request. Consider if you will this by way of example …

characters (a special container in Scrivener)
character (an individual item in characters)
(properties list)
name (text): Smith
traits (properties list): …
personalities (properties list): …
actions (properties lists)
–> climbs over fence [section: …, page: …, ]
–> throws away bomb [section: …, page: …, ]
dialogs (properties lists)
–> introduces Sally [section: …, page: …]
–> gives away location of buried treasure […]
others (user defined properties lists): …

I would substitute actions as …

name: Smith
–> provide me with description of black box [section: Methods]
–> give me a list of students on project [section: Manpower]

When I would click on character Smith, I would want to be able to see a list of his actions. Those actions in turn would be hyperlinked backed to where they are referenced in the document itself.

BTW, in the interest of expanding the reach of Scrivener beyond novel or playwriting, I would suggest the terms “characters” or “actors” might be replaced by “people” as a contain with individuals each called “person”. The terms are more familiar to team work projects. Characters also adds confusion to the term characters as in the word “blue” has four characters.

people (a special [resource] container in Scrivener)
person (an individual item in people)
(properties list) …

Hope this helps to explain what I meant a bit better.

The word “Character” is the standard term used in scriptwriting, so if it were changed to “People” we would have screenwriters up in arms. You can change it yourself or make your own script format using Format > Scriptwriting > Script Settings, though.

All the best,

Yes … Characters -> People.

Clearly I have much to learn.