Linux - Is it worth it?

I’m confused on how to get Scrivener to run on my Ubuntu 11.04 64 bit machine. I got Writers Cafe working in no time, so does this package offer any important features? I’m mostly worried about the support for a Linux distro, especially since any mention on it is buried in a Windows folder. It seems that the company is embarrassed to admit they offer a Linux version. I’m interested in writing a series of technical articles; this one seems to be better suited, but if they aren’t serious about Linux, then I suppose this isn’t for me.

thank you,

I was wondering about that too. From what I can tell by looking at the website and forum, most of the info about it is apparently produced by the Linux end users. It seems to be a kind of “unofficial” or experimental thing. I guess as long as it’s a free beta like this, you can just try and see if it works well enough for you to use. I haven’t spent much time on it, since it seems like many of the features are not completely implemented yet. Figured I’d keeping checking in on the progress though, since the full product (as in, the Mac version) seems like exactly the kind of thing I would like to use. It would be nice if there was an official statement on what the plans are for Linux support, how serious they are, anticipated release dates, what’s new in latest beta, etc.

Hey, this is from the NaNoWriMo forum, dated 29th September 2011. Hope it helps to answer your questions.

My 2 cents…

I haven’t used Windoze in 12 years so I guess you could call me a hard core Linux user.

I also tried the Linux version and if you need to use it for serious work and need most of the features in the Windoze or Mac version–the Linux version is not ready for prime time.

The problem is not lack of interest by the company but resources to develop and maintain 3 versions all at the same time.

I wanted it really bad… so my solution was to set up a VirtualBox running XP service pack 3 and install some C++ stuff that Windows left out of XP that are required to run Scrivener. The latest version of VirtualBox is really nice. I have had no problems with it either and the learning curve is not bad.

The Windoze version is Beta, doesn’t have all the features the Mac version does and still has quite a few bugs but is quite usable in the .Beta 35 release. Installing VirtualBox, Windoze and Scrivener was easy and straight forward and everything worked really good.

They do not support VirtualBox yet but in 3 weeks of experimenting I have not had any problems except one–If you use AutoKey in Linux make sure you turn it off before you use Scrivener. Autokey when running in Linux will expand and paste text inside VirtualBox when you use any HotKey or keyword expansion you specified for it while you are working in VB. Normal text is no problem but my HotKeys mostly injected HTML and CSS code snippets or strings of Control or Alt key commands to make my editor and file manager in Linux do complex tasks. Accidentally activating one of these trashed Scrivener and it took me an hour to find the damaged ini file and correct it. So be careful

Is Scrivener worth putting up with Windoze until the Linux version finally gets finished… YES! It doesn’t take very long to get seriously hooked.

I plan on buying the Windows version when it is released and I will buy the Linux version when it gets released. It is worth every penny.

It is an organizational tool that can be used to organize a lot more than just writing task. I am using if for several non writing task.


I guess the answer to “is it worth it?” depends largely on what features you use in Scrivener.

I haven’t used Scrivener for OS X since the 1.x days (around when I stopped using OS X), so my use of the Linux version of Scrivener is pretty much limited to 1.x features. In addition, I do mostly technical writing these days, so all of the enhancements for managing characters, formatting screenplays, or generating bibliographies go unused on my machine.

That said, I use the Linux version quite regularly for content generation, and have found it to be stable and functional. As a basic writing tool, it works – the issues all lie in the bells and whistles.

In terms of the likelihood of long-term support, the Windows version is likely to have a larger userbase, and therefore to demand more attention in terms of features and support. The upside of this is that the Windows version is using Qt, which is cross-platform – so features and bug fixes will make their way into the Linux builds. I imagine that Linux-specific issues will largely be reported and dealt with (via workarounds) on this forum – as is typical for Linux projects, the easier it is for the developer to implement a fix, the faster it will make its way into a new build.

The Windows and Mac versions are not equivalent at this point, though as the moderators have said time and time again, this is the eventual goal. No “beta” software is “ready for prime time,” so any expectation in that direction is misguided, IMHO. Patience is called for, I would think.

My understanding is that the goal is to go to release with something like the 1.5x equivalent Mac functionality, though 2.0 features that have been proving easiest to implement have been getting into the Windows builds. Having said that, I’ve been using the Linux version for some time, and for serious work, and have encountered no show-stopping problems that were not also present in the Windows version. And very few of those, I might add. It just works, from my point of view.

If your XP build is SP3 or later you shouldn’t have any issues installing Scrivener in VirtualBox or otherwise. I got it running without adding anything. VirtualBox running Windows 7 works well with Scrivener out of the box as long as I turn off Aero. It runs okay with it on, it’s just a tad on the sluggish side for window creation/takedown, given the relative lack of code optimization at this point in Scrivener. I wouldn’t run Scrivener using VirtualBox unless you have a processor that can handle the load and has hardware support for virtualization, though most of them are–and do–these days.

I’ve given up completely with Wine, by the way, since I haven’t been able to get it running with b35.

The real problem with Linux support is that bug reports for that environment go largely ignored and that there is no official release package, just a tarball (“packaging” being a distro-dependant thing), which frequently leads to problems, so I’m not sure what the Linux version is for other than a good-will gesture, or something, which is a pity, because, really, it works fine, for me.

The lack of VirtualBox support probably means that there is no official test-bed for regression testing in that environment. Considering that VirtualBox is likely to be the environment of choice for Linux-based Scrivener users for the foreseeable future I think it would behoove the company to make a move to secure that market, especially considering that doing so would be relatively inexpensive.

But then, hey, your mileage will vary, and what do I know, after all?

Hi nathanzal

Thanks for your comments, I appreciated them. I have no disagreements with anything you said.

Re: Wine… I agree. I think VirtualBox is a much better solution if you have to run any Windows programs on a Linux machine. I am using XP SP3 and have a computer that is totally compatible with lots of horsepower (quad core AMD CPU)

I am planning on switching from Ubuntu to ArchLinux sometime in the next couple of months. When I do I will try the Linux version again.

Until then I will continue learning on the Windows version. I think part of my problem with the Linux version could have been:

(1) trying it on Linux without knowing how to use Scrivener and knowing that it wasn’t supported much as well as no information to speak of about the Linux version and known problems. That always makes you blame the problems on the program–not on the fact you don’t know what you are doing…

(2) I’ve had lots of problems with Ubuntu since I switched from 8.04 to 10.10 and some of my problems with Scrivener could have been caused by Ubuntu. The problems are why I am switching to ArchLinux.

Re: VirtualBox support. I agree totally. I have had no problems that I could blame on VirtualBox in about a month of using them together. Support for it should be easy for them to do–assuming they had or could afford the employee(s) to test it.

If I was them I would open up a VirtualBox forum for everyone to discuss issues with it RIGHT NOW so that when they did try to support it they at least would have a good idea of what they are getting into.

Milage always varies…

(EDIT: And now I feel like an idiot for posting after Keith already answered. 'Swhat I get for driving a web browser while on pain meds.)

The reason the Linux native version is here is that the Linux beta is based on the Windows beta. The Windows/Linux versions actually have their own full development team, but here’s the history: The original Mac version was developed in Cocoa, basically as “scratch-your-own-itch-ware,” so it wasn’t really possible to port it, despite popular demand for Windows and Linux versions; it needed a rewrite from the ground up. That, in turn, couldn’t happen until Keith found the right Windows/Linux dev to head up that project, which is where Lee came in. Right now the Linux beta downloads are tarballs, but users (like me) have been building .deb packages. (I believe the plan is to provide debs and rpms once the beta gets to RC status.) The plan is also for the Windows and Linux versions to catch up with the Mac branch, but the first goal is to get 1.x equivalence going.

You can get the deb for the 3.5 package at … eb-package, but note that while it should install on most 32-bit systems with just a double-click, it’s a little different for 64-bit. I included pretty detailed instructions in the post with the download link. I installed it on my own 64-bit Natty system and have it running fine–including the name generator–so theoretically, it should do okay on any other Debian-based distro.

I’ve used some of the other writing software out there, both free and paid, and while I prefer Scrivener, not everyone will. I’d say it’s worth the time to give it a try, though.

I’ve been running the native Linux version exclusively for many moons. I can’t vouch for the production aspects of the system, as my mighty tome has yet to near completion; but in terms of the application’s ability to help organize the larger work and manage my research, I have no complaints. I did have the grey-screen problem briefly, and have subsequently avoided full-screen Scrivener action.

My only real gripe is the program’s forced mortality and the resultant incessant need to update. Though I understand this function from the developer’s standpoint, I much prefer Kovid Goyal’s model of updating Calibre – let you know it is there but give you the choice of whether or not to pursue the next iteration. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve discovered a gap in my schedule and fired up Scrivener, only to discover that I’ve either got to spend the next 30 minutes downloading/installing/faffing about with priveleges or just move on to the next task. Usually I choose the latter, so I end up repeating the unpleasant surprise multiple times before the latest revision gets installed.

Frustrating, I tell you.

BTW, 3.5 seems to be working fine on Ubuntu 11.10 running Gnome Shell. The launcher was a bit of a PITA, though.

I’d be interested in trying to make this more smooth. Is the launcher problem you had specific to Gnome-Shell?

On the preferences thing, the “manage” button in the preferences interface lets you choose a previously-saved preference file, so that may save you a little bit of a headache. And yeah, but of course, if the betas worked forever and ever, there wouldn’t be much incentive to purchase the final release for anyone satisfied the the beta.

In what way was the launcher a PITA, though? If you installed using the .deb, it should have automagically given you a launcher in the “office” section. Unless that’s screwing up, of course.

My two cents: if you’re running 64 bit Linux, you’re better off running the Windows version in Wine. The windows version runs flawlessly in wine (for me, at least) but if you install the Linux version on a 64-bit system, you default to having a non-working spell checker, and once you go through the process of downloading all the 32-bit libraries you need to make the spell checker work, you get a spell checker that underlines EVERYTHING and doesn’t remember between sessions when you mark that something is actually spelled correctly.

Spell check works great running the Windows version in Wine.

If you’re running 32 bit Linux, from what I’ve heard Scrivener runs pretty much without a hitch, though.

Yeah, except PDFs are broken in 035 on. There’s an error message that fontsub.dll isn’t found:

err:module:import_dll Library FontSub.dll (which is needed by L"C:\\Program Files\\Scrivener\\QuickPDFDLL0811.dll") not found

I replaced a native fontsub.dll in system32, but it crashed Scrivener repeatedly. I haven’t tried with the most recent version, though. (I tried using a dll from XP and Windows 7.) I’m guessing it has to do with font handling in wine, itself, that’s the issue. Not sure it would be something we could get the WINE people to address.

One thing I haven’t tried is actually installing these (native) libraries, if they’re the same thing as what’s used in Scrivener’s PDF handling: I’ll poke a bit more at it once I get the stuff done that I need a stable Scrivener for.

It could just be a wine regression, though, and wind up fixed in one of the later builds. What version of wine are you using?

Hadn’t thought of that. I’m using wine 1.3.29. I’ll upgrade to 1.3.31 and see what happens. Procrastination ftw!

Edit: upgraded to 1.3.31. No dice. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be fixed later on, though.

Regarding the launcher: for some reason, installing the deb (even with the forced architecture thing going) doesn’t give me a functioning Scrivener. Thus, I have to untar everything and move it manually, per the wiki instructions. That works fine, except then I have to make myself a new launcher, which was easy in Gnome 2 and Unity, but not so much in Gnome Shell

Aside from that little peccadillo the manual install worked fine, until this morning. A lot of updates came through on Ubuntu 11.10, and now my Scrivener won’t work. Ratzenkinder.

Y’know, I’d happily pay my money up-front now just to have one version of the app without planned obsolescence.

EDIT: Is there any planned end to the betas, or am I just stuck in writer software purgatory, endlessly pushing tarballs up a Sisyphusian slope?

Will try this later today. Are you on 64 or 32-bit?