iPhone version of Scrivener?

I’ve now written several short stories on the iPhone, but I really REALLY miss the organizational abilities of Scrivener.

Any chance you will consider doing an iPhone version? Nothing out there offers Scrivener’s Manuscript/Chapter/Scene arrangement.

A subset of the full features focused on the writing process is all that would be needed. The key, I think, would be to make movement among and manipulation of those three elements fluid.

Everything else that is out there is either a (slightly) glorified version of Notes, or a (slightly) glorified to-do list.

Personally, having made a very thorough move to all things mac, I would value this much more than a Windows version.

Ron Wodaski


In short: no. In medium: search the forum. :slight_smile: In long: I have little interest in the iPhone, wouldn’t want to write on one myself (let alone afford one in the UK), and thus have no interest in writing a version of Scrivener for it. Even if I did, how could Scrivener’s interface possibly be squeezed into such a small screen? And then, what about the rich text features? The iPhone is still plain text. I know some Apple apps provide rich text features, but I know a developer who had an upgrade to his app refused by Apple because he had added rich text features using HTML and they asked him to remove them. I just don’t see the iPhone as a serious writing environment. Note-taking, yes - but you can take notes in other apps and bring them into Scrivener easily enough. You can’t print from an iPhone and it’s just not the sort of device that can seriously be used for structuring a novel or long text, or for doing any of the things for which Scrivener is designed. To me, the idea of an iPhone version of Scrivener is like having an iPhone version of Photoshop, 3D Studio Max or Logic Studio - you might be able to have a couple of features scaled down, but it would be a different app altogether with a different scale of purpose.

So no, a thousand times no, sorry. :slight_smile: But I am interested in collaborating with iPhone developers to allow the integration of existing iPhone apps with Scrivener for the Mac, and have been talking to the developer of one such app about the best way of proceeding - but unfortunately things were set back by Apple refusing him rich text capabilities…

Happy New Year and all the best,

Interesting response. We really - really - look at this process differently!

A couple of thoughts to ponder:

  • Rich text is meaningless to me. I am interested in one thing only: writing. A key reason I’m using Scrivener is because it leaves all that Word stuff behind. Apparently, there are some features related to rich text that either I don’t realize I’m using, or that I don’t use.

  • I’ve used some complex project management software on the iPhone, and, yes, it’s quite tricky to pare down the UI to the point where the critical features are still there and still useful. The small screen and the clunky keyboard get in the way, but do not ruin things entirely.

  • I agree completely that printing and major structuring have no place on the iPhone. But writing absolutely does. Once you really get comfortable with the keyboard, you can write well enough to do stories and novel bits. I know this because I do it. It’s clumsy on several counts, but it’s useful. I have no idea how many people feel that typing on the iPhone for story purposes is good enough, however.

  • I can see two useful outcomes from my own perspective. One would be to be able to access a Scrivener ‘document’ (the set of folders and files inside a .scriv) and select one and edit it. That’s clumsy if the whole thing has to be moved around; some friendly Sync would be the way to go. Like keeping the master copy in one’s Mobile Me account or something. Not sure how that stuff works. The second thing would involve having the Scrivener Outline column ‘be’ an iPhone app. You can cut/copy/paste chapters and scenes if necessary, and you can select anything and edit it. You could add notes to any scene by clicking a button in the interface. The ability to add/edit notes, and move/add/edit scenes and chapters, covers the vast bulk of what I do in Scrivener itself, and 100% of what I want to do on the road.

Currently, I have to work on five different computers depending on where I am, so my case is probably worse than average. I have to carefully make sure that I know which is the latest copy, and copy it to either a server somewhere, or to the computer I am/will be working on. It’s not only annoying, it’s dangerous; thank god for Time Machine. I mean, really.

So the underlying idea that would be very helpful for me is to be able to sync depending on which computer I’ll be at - my laptop at home? My Seattle office? My NM office? Will I be on the road with my work laptop? (It’s a long, sad story about why I have to deal with so many computers…don’t ask)

The next thing that I do a lot of is to make notes that I want to get into Scrivener. These might be voice recordings that wind up in iTunes when I sync my phone (only option when driving), or notes I type into my iPhone. The thing here is that they are notes that come up when I just cannot use my laptop for some reason. It would be great to be able to get notes and scenes into Scrivener. Most of the time, these are raw text files; I already noted that I avoid text formatting whenever possible. (For me at least, every second spent thinking about how to format text, even in the most trivial ways, is a disconnect from the creative process, and to be avoided at all costs.)

I take the time to write all this in the hope that it will be useful feedback. If I’m all off alone in terms of my needs, well, so be it, but at least now you know.

BTW: There is an iPhone version of Photoshop. There are, indeed, subsets of major apps that wind up being very useful on the iPhone. I can even see a situation where, say, a guitar-only subset of Logic Studio would be useful, such as for playing around with loops or sounds enhancements. Forget video editing.

Thanks for the load of your ear. I really love Scrivener. I proselytize a lot. I do have a bug to report that’s been annoying me for over a year now, but I have to take the time to work out exactly what steps one does to cause it. It’s a key combination that results in the wrong font. (Wouldn’t you know it would be a rich text feature?)

I cherish my iPhone, but I don’t see myself ever using a version of scrivener on it, for the reasons Keith noted.

I wonder how many minutes it will take after the iPad or iSlate or whatever appears for a forum request for a Scrivener version for it? Assuming, that is, that it doesn’t run OSX.

BTW rwodaski, you might wanna give WriteRoom for iPhone a go. it’s not Scrivener, of course, but since I took the advice of another forum poster here and got it (the Mac app free during the macheist sale, the iphone app discounted at the same time), it’s been a bit of an improvement over Notes, as explained here and elsewhere on the Scriv forum.

I agree.


My understanding is that the dev platform for the iReader (or whatever it will be called; that’s my fave) will be similar to the iPhone. The source said that some app developers have been invited to do scaled-up versions for the late-Jan. announcement.

Doesn’t the iPhone run a version of OS X? That’s what I recall reading, that hackers have found ways to ‘free up’ the hidden bits of OS X.

WriteRoom is OK, but nothing like what I want. It is a great tool, mind you (owned it for a long time), but it does nothing for the manuscript/chapter/scene devotee. Worse, it sorts the list of stuff you’ve written - horrors! That’s such a killer for someone like me.

I read the post about version 1.54 being ‘out in a few weeks’ (from October) with better support for moving back and forth, but apparently we’re still at 1.53 so I can’t test it. A clean ability to export and then import would be great, would solve my problem at least well enough. But from what I’ve seen of the way that WriteRoom handles the web interface – well, it’s only the next day, and I can’t remember half of the steps that were required. Ugh.

What I would like is not to have to think about all that kind of stuff when I’m writing - which is what Scrivener is really good at. It disappears, just does its thing, which is incredibly valuable. It would be great to have things like multi-platform syncing that work as well as the writing functions do. Just because one can do something does not mean it’s worth doing. I spent hours and hours this week trying to find something better than what I do now (archives between computers + time machine + offsite storage of archive periodically), and nothing I tried was either easy enough or clever enough to be worth implementing.

I fully agree with Keith. The iPhone interface and screen simply aren’t up to managing an application as complex as Scrivener. There’s also the fact that OS X comes with quite a few services for programmers that make developing Scrivener easier. Those services don’t exist in the very stripped down version of OS X that runs on the iPhone/touch.

I’ve detailed my own investigation of writing on my iPod touch here:


In my case, I’ve concluded that doing actual writing on my touch doesn’t make much sense. My own touch-screen typing is so riddled with errors, that I’d have to spend quite a bit of time cleaning those typos up afterward, negating any time savings. The same is true of editing. Marking and changing text is much easier on a Mac with a mouse. I’m not saying that would be true of everyone. People in Japan are writing short novels while commuting on Tokyo subways using their cell phones. You might do the same. Just recognize the limitations.

As I mentioned in that series of posts, I’ve found that an iPhone/touch is best as a high-tech version of a stack of 3x5 cards for taking down snippets of ideas that come to me on the go or in the middle of the night. It’s so compact, that I can keep in with me wherever I am. Also many of my ideas come to me after I’ve gone to bed. For that it is perfect.

For a time, I kept an AlphaSmart (essentially a recording keyboard discussed elsewhere on this forum) next to my bed for taking down those ideas. But I found that the hassle of turning on a light, getting the AlphaSmart, and then sitting up to type meant that I didn’t bother. With my iPod touch, I can grab it from beside my bed and, using its lighted touch screen, be taking down that idea in a few seconds with WriteRoom. Later, when Scrivener 1.54 comes out, I can import those notes directly into Scrivener. It’s only one way, but that’s all I need for ideas and notes.

In that link above, I also describe how to use a popular iPhone outline app that can import an existing outline into Scrivener as an OPML file, recreating all the levels of the structure in the binder. If you write from an outline and want to create that outline on your iPhone, that should work well enough.

Also, keep in mind that there are iPhone/touch text editing applications that synch both ways via a website that you can display on a Mac or a PC. They include both WriteRoom and SimpleNote. On the go, you can write or edit a scene on your iPhone and then sync via a cellular or WiFi connection. Once back at home or the office, you can then edit that same text on your Mac in a browser. Sync the next time you use your iPhone, and your Mac-based revisions will be there. It’s not the same as having the entire feature set of Scrivener at your command, but it isn’t shabby.

If my rambling spirit ever returns, I’ve thought of traveling wherever the wind blows with nothing as gadgets but a second-hand iPhone or an iPod touch that (finally) has a camera. I’d write on the go about whatever strikes my fancy and post some of it online. That’d be infinitely more convenient than traveling with a laptop, even one of the small netbooks.

–Michael W. Perry, Seattle, author of Untangling Tolkien

The problem I’m having, of course, is getting out of Scrivener and into the iPhone. As you might imagine, even half a novel is a lot of text. Keeping something like that in WriteRoom is out of the question (especially because it would then sort my files, so I’d have the extra step of renaming everything if I want to keep track of the 50 or so scenes I have now).

Heck, an iPhone app that did nothing more than allow me to view my Scrivener files (living somewhere on a server, able to sync with multiple devices), and pick scenes to edit, would be fantastic.

The hang-up now is how hard it is to get stuff out of, and back into in good order, Scrivener.

As I already said, going from Scrivener to the iPhone is problematic because of rich text. A viewer on the iPhone that maintained rich text would necessarily be incapable of editing the text, which would be useless. .scriv files just wouldn’t work well on the iPhone because of the differences in the frameworks (no, the iPhone OS is not the same as OS X - there are many, many differences; they both use Cocoa, but not the same AppKit classes). To me, going from Scrivener to the iPhone just isn’t a great step. I don’t see why anyone would want to (although I acknowledge you obviously do). Taking notes on the iPhone and getting them into Scrivener for structuring - I get that. But trying to squeeze and manage an entire Scriv project on the iPhone seems lunacy. :slight_smile: Anyway, I think I’ve said all I have to say on the subject - there certainly won’t be a version of Scrivener for the iPhone anytime soon.

What I’d find ideal is something that would let me tell Scrivener “Send this scene to my Touch”, then I could edit on the Touch, and then sync the changes back to Scrivener.

But I know I won’t get it. :slight_smile:

So what I plan to do (having just bought Scrivener, and using it to organize revision notes for one book and planning notes for the next book) is to use Scrivener for planning/outlining/to do lists, and then to do my actual writing in a word processor as usual, for easy syncing to the Touch (or netbook). (I do maybe only half my writing on my Mac.) I haven’t yet decided whether I’ll bother keeping the draft in Scrivener at all; maybe I’ll copy it in as I finish chapters so it’s easy to export the whole thing in proper format later.

We all work differently - it amuses me that some people think the iPhone/Touch would be great for making short notes, and bad for writing. When I’m making notes, I want to easily be able to organize them in my existing system, not have to copy them all into the proper places later.

The point is that you can’t have a hierarchical system on the iPhone anyway - so you couldn’t have the binder structure represented on the iPhone (only as multiple lists that you drill in and out of).

I’m not sure if you’ve read the whole thread before posting, but I’ve already explained why “send this to my Touch” wouldn’t be useful - you would lose all of the rich text formatting. If you’re happy to lose all of the bold, italics, footnotes, annotations, indentations, line spacing, underlines etc, fine, but I know many users wouldn’t find that acceptable.

But indeed, horses for courses, as you say. Alas, life is short, and I have no interest in spending time (it would take months) away from a project I love (Scrivener for the Mac) to put together something I have no interest in (a pared down version of Scrivener which wouldn’t be much like Scrivener at all for the iPhone). Maybe when L&L is so rich we can afford extra programmers we can hire an iPhone guy. :slight_smile:

Good luck with finding a system that suits you.

I guess I am just too simple minded to understand why the notes application would not suffice for this type of simple transfer. If all you want is to jot notes and work on a scene just use the Mail app notes and sync your phone. Once you are done sync and copy it back.

I didn’t see this mentioned, but I recently found “the Writing Nook”. You need a google login to use the desk top version. I don’t own write room and didn’t want to spend the money on another program.

I just found this app, but so far I like it. I just copy and paste from Nook to Scrivener. I don’t do a lot of heavy writing on the touch. You can have different documents/chapters on it. I use it for ideas, notes, read/rework scenes and other little things while I am out and about.

Its a nice app and the update works pretty good.

A quick addendum: In revisiting this thread I have noticed that a very long and thorough explanation I wrote in reply to rwodanski is missing. I wrote it, hit “Post”, and all my subsequent replies I made in the assumption that post was above - but it seems to have disappeared in the ether. In it, I explained how Scrivener necessarily used rich text, how an iPhone version was not a simple thing and would detract from Scrivener for the Mac, how the lack of rich text on the iPhone would make a back-and-forth very difficult, how the iPhone frameworks weren’t up to the job of reading a full .scriv file very well, how the list views of the iPhone couldn’t emulate the binder without it being a pain in the backside, and more… But all those explanations I gave seem to be missing. So if I seem like an ass in my subsequent replies, it’s because I thought I was repeating myself, only now I see my original post seems never to have made it through. Sorry about that! I am meaning to write a blog post on why I don’t think Scrivener for the iPhone will happen, so I’ll try to put everything in that when I get around to it.

Apologies to rwodaski especially - I really did write a long explanation in reply, I have no idea where it disappeared to.

All the best,

What’s really strange is that I saw it, too, or thought I did.

I read the forum via the RSS feed, so it might have been in a different thread, but it’s out there somewhere.


Probably in the, ‘Artificial Stupidity’, thread, in the ANFTL forum.

There’s an iPhone app called Auteureist that does what you want, or at least part of it. It’s still a bit of a work in progress but the programmer is open to comments and suggestions. It can work with .scriv files up to a point and it has basic import/export functions.

And yes, this reply was typed on an iPhone :wink:

I read that long reply, so no problems.

Can I assume that most of those issues go away when it comes to the iPad? :open_mouth:

It doesn’t look like it. Apple made, in my opinion, a very bad decision in going iPhone OS for the iPad. It means small developers cannot feasibly support it for all of the many excellent reasons given in the iPad threads by Keith, and because it is also to be an iTunes App Store device, restricts the development community through the Apple bottleneck of approval and contrived distribution methods.

What they should have done was take Snow Leopard, make it lean as hell, and then run an iPhone OS emulator in it so you can buy and run cell phone apps, but also install and use standard OS X applications as well. It would require tweaking for many applications, but probably nothing more intense than your standard major OS upgrade. It would add work to the average indie developer’s plate, but it would be possible. I’ve seen quite a number of small single-developer or similar applications, otherwise very good applications, bite the dust because they finally got suckered into making an iPhone version, and wound up with no time to maintain the core application.

iPad could make that situation even worse. And yes, the RTF problem looks like it will still exist.

100% agree. I find the announcement enormously disappointing, and for the first time in years, I find myself questioning the future of the Mac. And who the heck, I wonder, is Apple’s target audience with the iPad? Certainly it can’t be those who use a Mac creatively. If that were the target audience, the iPad would run Mac OS, not iPhone OS. The target audience? I’m still not sure.