Is Scrivener worth it?


Download the demo, for free. Use it for 30 days (i.e 30 days of actual use, not 30 calendar days), start by doing the built in tutorial so you get the hang of it.

Then you can decide for yourself.

There was a survey of customers carried out before Christmas. The broad outline of the results is here:

I’ve been using Scrivener since around 2006, and I wouldn’t dream of using anything else for long-form writing. But if you are used to using Word, or a similar word-processor, you will have to get rid of a lot of old ideas about how a writing program should work. Scrivener is not about formatting, it is about organising. And a lot more besides …

Yes, I think Scrivener is worth it. I’ve owned Windows and Mac versions since about 2017 and I’m still actually a neophyte in all of this because a) I haven’t really read the manual and b) haven’t used all its features.

In a workshop on writing, a journalist who wrote a book some years back presented some of the writing tools he used to create the book and Scrivener was one of them. I had already written a doctorate dissertation by then and found the way that Scrivener could organize various bits of information and create drafts of documents fascinating.

For now, I largely use Scrivener projects to organize various bits of pieces of information and draft my thoughts about them. This is for working towards a larger long form work.

I am currently also using Scrivener to write up an op-ed piece in response to an institution’s response to the pandemic. In this project are various articles that I’ve organized, my thoughts around some of these articles, and then drafts of the op-ed itself.

At least for the purpose or organizing thoughts or just having a place to dump interesting things related to one’s project, and draft thoughts in one place, I’ve really found Scrivener very useful.

I haven’t used its Compile function much though I did for this op-ed piece (almost in last draft!). The intricacies of Compile still baffles me though I’m sure if I spend just some time looking at the manual it will make more sense. You can always begin your work in Scrivener and then complete it in Word. I think some people do that. Maybe a first or second or third draft in Scrivener, then export the main piece and work on it in Word. I haven’t done that yet.

I don’t know how well Scrivener is for writing academic/scholarly pieces where a lot of footnotes and references are used, but apparently it supposedly can be done. I’m very familiar with how that works in Word (and Endnote). The journalist I mentioned earlier wrote a general audience nonfiction book, so I don’t think the references were done in a way that one would for a scholarly piece — so again, not sure how well Scrivener works for pieces that require good endnote/footnote functions.

I wrote an 85,000 word doctoral thesis with version 2 of Scrivener. It had hundreds of footnotes and references. Not a problem.

My personal experience is that the more you work with it the more valuable Scrivener becomes.

I’m still not really sure what made me download Scrivener for the first time in June 2019 but I read parts of the manual, watched the tutorial and was reasonably baffled by it all. However, I decided first to import my MS Word recipe book (a purely personal venture, I emphasise) and effectively re-create it as a Scrivener project designed to compile to a pdf. I learned a lot while doing that.

I had a table of contents, of course, but it was only last year that I appreciated for the first time the way in which I could ensure that the pdf also had a working outline. I reworked the entire project in Scrivener and was delighted with the result.

That was the key to some real advances for me: selected diary (journal) entries taken from Day One and combined with some of my photos, technical manuals for use at home and a number of other documents followed—all to be compiled to pdfs.

I appreciate many people write books and plays using Scrivener—and generally do far more complex things than I have done. I am merely trying to show that there are other uses and that once you get used to the way Scrivener works (which I concede is not initially easy) the results are really worthwhile.


I seem to recall that there’s a place on the L&L site (not sure if it’s here in the forums) recounting true stories of writers , some famous, using Scrivener. If someone remembers where it is, maybe drop a link here? And add this one from novelist Maggie Shipstead I heard on NPR today: [i]

SIMON: I’m just breathless trying to set up the novel. How did you keep all of this in your mind - the characters, places, epochs, details?

SHIPSTEAD: Somewhat unsuccessfully at times. It was definitely an overwhelming task. And I started without a plan. I just had to kind of dive in and start writing. So I rely actually pretty heavily on a writing software called Scrivener. It allows me to break the book into a lot of different documents, but it makes it easy to rearrange the pieces and to sort of see all of what I have[/i].

Scrivener has been worth it to me from nearly the beginning of the app. I use it literally every day to commit blatant acts of journalism, and over the past 15 years or so, it’s also helped birth a book and several plays. However, the developers are in no way to blame for the lack of quality therein.

The testimonials are here:


I have been using Scrivener for about a month, for a novel, sitcom and have set up two feature film projects (revived from long ago), and I have to say that even if one only considers the organizational features of the programme, Scrivener is well worth it.

Having said that, Scrivener has a very high learning curve, and in my opinion, and that of others I have seen post here, quite often does not lend itself to intuitive use. I have used other software (for different things), and most of those programmes have a kind of logic to the way they are set up once you begin to use and understand them. I would say this is less true of Scrivener than most of those programmes.

Overall, though, I think that Scrivener is fairly unique in its scope and versatility, and because of those factors is definitely worth buying and using.

If you haven’t already, I’d recommend taking a look at our Interactive Tutorial, available from the Help menu.

Scrivener is very consistent internally, but it’s not consistent with the way most other applications do things.


Another defensive comment that completely disregards a user’s (in this case, my) experience, and which presumes knowledge changes experience.

I have been through many of the tutorial videos, both on this site, and elsewhere, so my comment comes from experience. I am becoming relatively well-versed in using Scrivener, but that does not mean that its drawbacks and inconsistencies magically disappear. You are making that mistake.

Katherine referred to the built-in interactive Tutorial, inside Scrivener. It’s a project that explains the basics. In my opinion it does a far better job of explaining the logic than any of the books or videos available.
The misstake most people do, including myself when I started using Scrivener, is that they expect and assume that Scrivener is just another word processor like Word, Pages, etc, although with a slightly different way of organising the text. It’s not. If you approach Scrivener with an open mind, like you would if it was a new category of software, you would understand the logic much faster.
Still, it does have a learning curve, like all other high performance softwares. The thing is, you don’t have to learn very much to be able to use it. Only the basics.

For some users, Scrivener matches the way they think, and using it is like picking up a tool that was custom made for their hands. (As in fact it was: the developer of Scrivener designed it first and foremost for himself and others who think the way he does.)

For other users, it can be like learning a foreign language: necessary to accomplish some important task, maybe, but still slow and frustrating and uncomfortable.

And there are all sorts of experiences in between. None of them is “right” or “wrong;” there are as many approaches to writing as there are writers.


Honestly? Eh.

There is a bit of a learning curve but it’s not that bad. I like that I can separate chapters and be able to access them in the same file. It’s not really that big of a deal for me to have them in different files though as long as they’re in the same folder and labelled correctly. I like that it makes automatic backups. That’s probably the biggest selling point for me, personally.

In all honesty though, I absolutely ABHOR that I have to use dropbox. I can’t stand it and I literally have an account only because of scrivener. I hate that I can’t put all my files in the same folder because I have to use the stupid designated scrivener ones. I hate that I can’t organize my own stuff. I hate dropbox. I just want to have the freedom to do what I want with my folders.

And, to be totally honest, it’s led to me not really using scrivener that much so I’d say I wasted a ton of money buying it on 2 different platforms (which is stupid because no other processor makes you buy it separately on different devices).

That’s another thing too. What’s with them not having an android version STILL? If they’re not planning on ever releasing one, why don’t they come out and say it instead of stringing us along for years? There are far more android users globally than iphone ones so why continue to alienate us? I can’t use scrivener on my phone or tablet. Between that and the dropbox thing, I’m about to drop it completely.

Who is stringing people along? Word from Lit and Lat has always been Scrivener for Android development would begin after the Windows 3.0 release, I understand your frustration as someone who is eager for and Android version, but I don’t feel they have lied or misrepresented anyone on this matter.

I think that’s right. And you would need to actually want software in that new category, for Scrivener to be “worth it.”

I don’t think it’s worth it just as an “alternative word processor” to use instead of Word or Libre Office or even Google Docs because something about those is inadequate.

I found Scrivener out of a desire to manage and access projects in Word through a content or document management system similar to how WordPress blogging software works with its database of blog posts using categories, keywords, metadata, with random access and search capabilities. Searching in and around that concept led me right to Scrivener.

You misread Katherine’s statement. She means to do the built in tutorial that comes with Scrivener. And she is 100% correct. By doing it I learned a lot. In fact I will probably do it again to pick up some new things because Scrivener is so feature packed it takes time to know what all of them are.

  1. You can use whichever folder you like in dropbox, but adding other non-project related crap into a Scrivener folder is not smart. I don’t know what you hate about Dropbox. It is reliable, robust and works. Sounds to me from this and other comments, you might just like to hate because you can’t have everything you own particular way.

  2. I don’t know where you got that pay for one platform crap, but the standard single Microsoft Office license is for one platform only as are MANY others. Yes you can run Adobe CS across multiple platforms if you don’t mind being screwed over monthly. The L&L team had to invest months/years in each of the platforms and it is unreasonable in the extreme to expect them to not get paid for that work. You wasted a ton of money? You paid bugger all - in fact less than a year’s subscription to Ulysses for a license that never expires.

  3. If you bother to look at previous posts you will see that there is discussion of an Android version once the Win version has settled. There is even discussion that the core of the Android version exists. Resources are not infinite and L&L have followed where the biggest PAYING market is. Remember it started on Mac, because the developer and owner of L&L writes on a Mac.
    3a. Yes there are far more Android users worldwide than iPhone HOWEVER. The VAST, REALLY VAST majority are on devices that barely qualify as smartphones and are not even on recent versions of Android.
    3b. The Android market is extremely fragmented in screen size/screen ratio/Android version and Android on Tablet is little more than a half-arsed attempt to port the phone OS to a larger screen size. (even Android Central acknowledge that)
    3c. iPhone users spend on Apps many times more than Android users (so much for the ‘larger market’).

So, far from alienating millions of users, if the market justifies it and it fits with Keith’s vision it may happen. From where I’m sitting, it seems while the majority accept that, there is a small vocal, ‘give me what I want now or I’ll go sulk’ group demanding L&L develop something just for them RIGHT NOW!

My guess is, if L&L decide it is a viable market and sales potential (not the total number of phones in existence) justifies it they will develop an Android version.

One thing they have clearly stated many times is, if Scrivener is not for you, go with their blessing. They realize they cannot satisfy everyone and other applications may be better suited for some.

Keith has also said development decisions are not by popularity contest, (and certainly not in response to hysterical threats and tantrums).