Microsoft Word versus Scrivener

I am trying to get a sense on the differences between these two applications on my fast growing manuscript. What is important for me is to be able to navigate with speed and easy through my manuscript. I also need the ability to synch with a cloud drive seamlessly between all my devices, i.e. Desktop, Laptop, iPad and iPhone.

The above said, I have been using and do like Scrivener. I am able to synch To Dropbox, which I use as my cloud. There are issues with not getting the same formatting between my Mac’s and iPad, but this easily is fixable, and able to update the master manuscript - as long as I don’t corrupt the master manuscript.

In the interim, while waiting for Scrivener OiS version - I decided to give The new Microsoft Word 2016 version a try !!, that recently was released. I think they call it Office 365. To be honest, I now find, I have everything I need ! . Microsoft gives me a 1 TB on their cloud - OneDrive. I have installed MS Word on all my devices, i.e. desktop, laptop, iPad and iPhone and all synch with the master manuscript. Plus, I am able to navigate to any part of my manuscript via the navigation panel and with styles and more ! all is highly customable and provides the same look, features and more than I thought possible with scrivener !

The question now, can someone tell me what I can’t do with MS Word, that I can do with Scrivener ?.


Easy. Restructure the project without totally screwing up the text. Drag and drop in the Binder. Not possible in Word.

Then there’s 1,000 other things that make Scrivener an author’s tool rather than a typist’s tool like Word.

A question (because I haven’t tried the navigation panel in Word): What do you see in the navigation panel? Every page, or Headings, or what?

First this is the new version of MS Word for Mac - version 15.11.2, part of the new Office 356 combo. The navigation pane (similar looking to Scriveners pane) is extremely flexible and can be customize. I customized mine to include, TOC, Preface, All Chapters separately, Epilogue, Acknowledgements, notes, etc… these heading are controlled thru the Styles Pane (to the right of screen), both panes can be switched off, and one can add any section, part, paragraph etc to the Navigation map. With one clip you get to where you want to be. What I Particularly like about this new version of Word, is the IoS compatibility. Whatever changes to the format you make on the desktop or Laptop are instantly picked on the iPad or iPhone thru the cloud. So when I get I ideas on the go, I can simply type or speak to the iPhone and its captured in the main Manuscript section for editing - truly amazing enhancement. Something that I hope that next IoS version of Scrivener will have. I am just scared, that I just love the new MS Word, and won’t be using my Scrivener because of the lack mobility features of cloud and IoS. Still, the jury is still out - if someone can convince me to think differently, I am all ear’s.


The new MS Word is not fundamentally different than how it was before – just more “cloudy”, so to speak. And they brought over some UI stuff that the Windows version already had. So, in short, if you have any former experience with working in Word, you can think about that in comparison to the capabilities of Scrivener.

The Document Map is not a new feature. It was already in Word 2011. It is not like the Scrivener binder. All it is showing you is the outline of your one document – assuming you have given your document an outline structure, i.e., you have used the outline mode (or the outline header styles) to make outline-styled paragraphs in your document. As you say, you can click on these elements and be scrolled to that point in the document.

If the above Doc Map functionality seems to you like it is delivering what you were getting with Scrivener, you have definitely been underusing the power of Scrivener! Maybe another walk-through of the Scrivener tutorial might be a good idea. Many great capabilities will come to light that Word has no notion of.

You say you have been using Scrivener and love it, but apparently you don’t already have your own good sense of how working in Scrivener would be different from working in MS Word. This confirms my sense that you have only scratched the surface of what Scrivener can do for you. Well worth exploring!



  1. If, as a Scrivener user, you need other people to explain why Scrivener is more powerful than Word…

…and / or …

  1. If Word suits your needs…

…Word is the right tool for you.

Horses. Courses.

Good luck with your writing.

Oh, I thought it was a new feature. Word has had the outline view for a long time, and it was possible even back then to rearrange the various chapters by moving them in outline view. Expanding on that feature doesn’t change the way Word handles documents.

But I guess it’s a bit like Briar Kit puts it: if you don’t understand the power of Scrivener, use some other software.
If you like the binder style handling of documents but really need an iOS companion, try Storyist, or if you like/accept writing in markup style, use Ulysses. They have iOS companions and are more powerful than Word, but do not come close to Scrivener. I myself am content for now with using Textilus and Index Card as iOS companions. This morning I new I would have to wait for someone in my car for a while, so I brought my iPad along and did some writing in Textilus. Coming back home and starting Scrivener, it told me I had done some writing and did I want to sync it? That’s close enough to automatic iOS syncing for me, so no more Word.

Scrivener is an interesting software. You can start using it without having to learn more than the basics, so the learning curve is very gentle, more like a gentle slope, but an extremely long slope! I keep finding new, useful things in spite of having used it a lot for about two years.

I think Briar Kit put it very well: if Word does everything you need and you cannot see the difference between Scrivener and Word, then Word is almost certainly the best tool to use. People generally come to Scrivener because they have reached the boundaries of what Word can do and want something more flexible. Asking what Scrivener can do that Word cannot is a bit like asking what an aeroplane can do that a semi-articulated truck cannot; they both have similar purposes but are useful for very different things and have a very different approach. I wouldn’t have spent ten years of my life writing Scrivener if Word could already do what I wanted. But, quickly, in Scrivener:

  • You can assign each section of your manuscript a synopsis and view that synopsis on a corkboard or outliner, and restructure your manuscript using those synopses.

  • You can break down each section of your manuscript into chunks as small or large as you want, and view those sections in isolation or in context with the whole manuscript or just with other sections of it.

  • You can bring in all your research files (images, notes) and view them right alongside your text.

  • You can compile to multiple formats (including e-books) using a completely different format to what you see in the editor (if you want), for different purposes.

  • And a lot more besides.

But the fact that you haven’t discovered any of this or don’t see it as useful over what you can achieve in Word suggests that you just don’t need this stuff. That’s fine; every writer is different. People coming to Scrivener normally do so because they don’t want to be able to take a less linear approach or have access to more powerful structural and research tools than are provided by Word; other people are happy writing in Word and don’t need Scrivener’s extra tools. You should use the tool you feel most comfortable writing in and which allows you to get your work done in the way you want.

The new Word is very nice, by the way, I agree. It is still in a completely different category of writing software from Scrivener, though.

All the best,

I see Word as a hammer (a badly made, poor quality, broken one), and Scrivener as a box of professional tools: some which I use all the time, some which I use occasionally, and some which I have yet to fully unpack.

If a person can do everything they need to do with a hammer, and if they don’t want to use any additional tools for whatever reason, then the hammer is the right tool for them. Maybe some people can do more with a broken hammer than I can do with a box of tools.

In the bathroom, we have a bath, a shower, a loo, and a sink. I could use each thing for its designed purpose, but I can get away with doing everything in the shower, so I only use that. I have porridge, a poached egg, and a pot of tea for breakfast. I could cook them in separate pans and consume them from separate bowls/cups, but I find I can do everything I need to do using the kettle alone. When it comes to putting on my make-up, I have a huge selection to choose from, but find that I can use eye-liner for everything. When I get in my car, I don’t see any point in using all the gears: I really like the pretty R gear, so I only ever use that. When I play golf at the club, the putter is all I need.

Guess we all choose what we are happy to use. I think Word is a terrible tool, but it suits some people and that’s all that matters to them.

When I got home last night, I received a message saying I had won a prize. I could choose a month at any hotel (or any other type of accommodation I wanted) in the world with all expenses paid, or I could have one night in a cardboard box, sited next to a sewage plant. Heck, how could I resist the sewage plant?

Word is definitely not the best tool that the OP could use, but it sounds as if it is the right tool for their particular needs (and that they have already reached that conclusion). Huzzah for that: we’re all different.

As Voltaire once said: “I disapprove of your software choices, but I will defend to the death your right to choose whatever best suits your needs.”

When Word first appeared, version 1, back during the MS-DOS days, it was a revolution. You could move the cursor anywhere on the screen, you could set styles for paragraphs, etc. Over the years they have added extra features, but it is basically the same idea, and one of the key features is “styles”. By changing the “style” you change all text that has this “style”, so you can easily change line spacing, distance between paragraphs, etc, throughout the document. The funny thing about Word is that most users don’t use the styles at all. They use Word as they would have used a mechanical typewriter, with hard returns for space between paragraphs, selecting text and then manually changing its appearance, etc.
To be fair, such persons don’t even need Word. With BriarKit’s hammer analogy - they don’t even use the broken hammer, they just kerp piling stones.

MS Word is an excellent programme. I use it a lot and find it both powerful and very easy to use.

I use it for very different things that I use Scrivener for.

I will use MS Word when I’m writing a document:

  • which is very short (say, under 5 pages)


  • which is relatively short in length (say, under 20 pages),
  • has a very simple structure,
  • that I already know, and
  • which I intend to write by starting at the beginning and working my way through in linear sequence to the end


  • which is short in length (say, under 10 pages), and
  • the layout of the document is as important as the content (ie, more DTP / WYSIWYG is needed).

Other than that I will use Scrivener.

Yep. Knowing which tool to use for which purpose is a beginning of writing wisdom.

Thanks, I do appreciate all the perspectives on the comparisons. I want Scrivener to win, it’s specifically built for writers, manuscripts etc… I purchased Scrivener because I wanted the best writing tool in my hands. The lack of full IoS iPad/tablet integration thru synch to a cloud, has been my biggest frustration with Scrivener. Let’s be honest and agree here, Scrivener has fallen behind with this important aspect. Given this new age of mobility, as a writer I need this tool, period. Using analogies to make your argument, only work if the concept were true. So I doubt the analogies fit fairly to the argument. WORDS cloud integration works across all devices, shine right through and through and includes the navigation maps, styles, images, resources. (BTW - a resource folder can be created by simply creating a chapter at the end of your document and name it ‘Resources’. )

Let me tell you what is true - the ability to create chapter summaries or synopsis is excellent, I give that point to Scrivener. But one could argue, there nothing sophisticated about that ! Just type, paste etc the synopsis above each chapter, and point the navigation on the map to go there when you want with a click - you don’t need rocket science !. Granted, Scrivener has lots of tools, that I probably need to discover yet. Show or tell me how I could take advantages of these on the run ?. Just like we recognize the simplicity in creating a sentence, so should good writing be all about. Having many tools is good, but how much of it does it, adds to good writing - maybe some. I have found too many useless tools complicating and at times confusing , just like circumventing a synch through Dropbox, albeit not a mirror synch - careless. I have found that either I forget which is the updated version and where, or I just lost a chuck of writing somewhere in the mixup. Scrivener lacks a proper integrated cloud synch - I just cannot say this enough about this !, it is driving me out.

I know people get stuck in what they get used to. It’s easy to fall behind, and not even see it, in this fast moving technological age - like blind believers. I think this is a good discussion, let’s be true to the writing tool, because it evolves to making Scrivener the best writing tool out there. To say, that if I like Word, use it - is a blow off !. Let’s make this comparison substantive.


Darn you Piggy! You make too much sense sometimes.

I think a simpler way to think of it is:

Much as Pigfender I use both. More scriv than word, but nearly everything gets formatted in word.

And for the records In only use about 2% of the scriv “features”/

  1. minor organization of reference material
  2. LOVE the restructure in the binder. Dragging “things” around to make concepts clearer because …
  3. I abuse split like a crack addict.

I think the advice “if word does everything you need …” is sound. I can’t get word to work “with me”, I’m always fighting it when drafting, which is why I use scriv. We play nice nice together.

I’m out.

But it can’t handle simultaneous alternative navigations. Scrivener’s Collection feature allow you to create multiple orders so that you can experiment with better organisations. Word will tell you what you have but only Scrivener lets you see what might be. And not just a single alternative but you can create as many as you want until you get it right.

Honestly, if this is how you feel, you don’t know Scrivener at all. You must have fired it up without ever going through the tutorial and just typed in the main area without ever using a single one of its powerful features.

It’s not really our job to list all of the differences between Scrivener and Word; that would be like listing differences between a jeep and a flying saucer. There is a trial version, a tutorial, videos, and a product page; from these, you can see a billion differences between Scrivener and Word. If you don’t care about those differences because you don’t need them, the solution is simple - use Word.

A-ha, now we get down to it: you’re angry about our iOS version being so late - that’s perfectly understandable, and reepicheep will be the first to agree with you there. :slight_smile: To imply that our users are just blind believers stuck with what they are used to is highly insulting, however. The fact is that Scrivener provides features no other software does - features that you obviously don’t need or care about, which is fair enough, but that doesn’t change the facts of the matter. We’ve seen a lot of our users try other software because of the iOS syncing but come back to us for our desktop version, because we do the things they need in our desktop version.

And the desktop version certainly isn’t falling behind - the next major update (next year) has had over two years of development go into it, modernising and enhancing throughout.

The iOS version has been a disaster, I do not deny it; it has been subject to development hell. Part of that development hell has been down to just how Scrivener is different from other software, making it particularly difficult to translate the file format and such across to mobile devices. Part of that development hell has been blind bad luck. As of today, we have a new developer on board trying to hammer through all the bugs that have prevented us from putting the iOS version into public beta-testing as yet.

But, to me, it sounds as though you would be better off with Word, given that you do not care about the vast swathes of differences between Scrivener and Word and you like Word’s cloud-syncing so much. I don’t really understand why you would want Scrivener to “win” if you find that you like writing better in Word. You really should use what’s best for you and not want others to try to persuade you differently. We have always been very open about the fact that Scrivener won’t be the tool for everyone, because all writers are different.

Another easy feature of Scrivener that Word does not have. A highly responsive support team and a programmer who interacts with the customers.

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The more I read the more I’m becoming convinced that the original poster is a Microsoft troll. Like gr “I’m out”.