New To Scrivener


I’m new to Scrivener and currently trying to evaluate it. Hopefully I have the right forum for this?

I’m about half way through my first attempted novel (it’s quite large for first novel and I realise I will have to reduce that otherwise it will end up close to 150K) and I have been using Microsoft Office 2010. That, I have realised, is probably a mistake; my novel is science fiction and I have done a lot of research and back story writing to support it so the project is big. It currently runs to 15 chapters and about 130 support documents, mainly Word RTF docs but also Excel spreadsheets, Visio diagrams, Inkscape files, images and text files. I have organised them in what is (for me) a fairly logical structure. I primarily use three machines to work on … my desktop, my laptop and my work laptop.

A friend of mine uses Scrivener, loves it, but I am still evaluating … I have been comparing it to PageFour and I already know that both have features I like. I using an office extender application which gives MS Office tabs so the fact that PageFour has similar tabs appeals to me as does the phrase comparison utility it has. Size isn’t everything; PageFour setup runs to 4MB, whilst Scrivener runs to nearly 70 and, though I believe Scrivener is a port from the Mac platform, I assume that reflects increased functionality. I know I’m new to this but, based on my limited experience so far, Scrivener appears to have more functionality than PageFour.

Licensing is a possible issue. Both applications licenses are around $40 but PageFour’s license fee appears to only cover minor upgrades and major within six months whilst Scrivener’s appears to be lifetime (for tow machines). Scrivener’s licensing policy is slightly problematic since I use three machines but (again my limited research) hinted that Scrivener can be installed on a portable device such as a USB drive, I did that and it appears to work … this means I can potentially use Scrivener (installed properly) on my desktop whilst using it in portable mode for my two laptops I guess.

My friend tells me that I can set scrivener to maintain projects in one location and backups in a completely different location. It doesn’t appear that I can do that with PageFour. If true that probably caps it as I use a Windows domain at home so if I can work off USB or desktop and archive to a network drive that would be awesome.

So, from what I can see, the pros and cons of the two applications appears to be as follows:

Scrivener, Pro’s:

  • Lifetime license
  • Backup location (differs from project).

Scrivener, Cons:

  • Licensing two machine limit (resolvable using USB install).

PageFour, Pro’s:

  • Tabs
  • Word scan function (Smart Edit? Appears to be separately purchasable)

PageFour, Cons:

  • General lack of functionality
  • Non-lifetime license
  • Backup location (doesn’t appear to be configurable)

Sorry I’m going on a bit here but I kinda want to get this right :slight_smile:

A couple of final questions about documents under Scrivener :slight_smile:

  1. Where does Scrivener save files i.e. the various documents making up and supporting my novel? I altered one chapter and saved it but, though the edits remain, I can’t find that updated document external to Scrivener.

  2. Does Scrivener (or can it) save the documents in files named as you choose? I suppose that’s because I’d like to continue using my current project organisation structure and names.

That it … er … I think :slight_smile:


I’ll answer this one. The Scrivener licence covers up to 5 machines belonging to you or used solely by you, or belonging and used by members of your family living in the same house/flat. It’s a rolling licence, so if you try to licence a 6th computer, the first one licenced will be dropped. Licences are checked every few months, so if a computer fails, its status will be removed from the list within that period.

I’m not sure how well trying to run it off a USB device would work. I’m a Mac user and wouldn’t try it, but it may be different on Windows.


Mr X

The lifetime here is for version 1. When version 2 comes out (some day, not saying it’s imminent), there’ll be a discounted upgrade, but you’ll still be free to run version 1 for as long as you like.

Not sure where to find it, but the last time I saw a number, it was 5 computers (they all have to be windows computers if you buy a license for Windows; The Mac version requires a separate license with similar limits on the number of other Macs that can have it installed.

tl;dr – You limit on computers is greater than 2, I’m 99% sure of that.

When you import a file, it is copied into Scrivener’s project file format. When you created your project, it probably defaulted to your Documents folder, so you’ll probably have a folder in there called “yourprojectnamehere.scriv”. There are all sorts of files under that, which are not meant to be fiddled with, but the main thrust is that it stores a copy of your original files within that .scriv folder, so changes you make within scrivener’s interface are made to those copies.

I don’t think the Windows version can add files to the binder without importing copies of them. You can use Document or Project references in the binder, depending on which works best for you, or you can create a file:/// link using Edit->Link in document or project notes in the binder, or even in the text of documents if you like. You can, of course, nest folders and files to create a similar structure in the binder to your current organization.

Reviewing writing applications’ specifications and features lists is certainly worthwhile… but be sure you also do hands-on evaluation.

Most all writing applications offer free full feature time or use limited (typically 30 days or uses) demos for download and evaluation. L&L, the Scrivener folks, provide links to many of their competitors…

Do a short project (perhaps just a minimal proof-of-concept), or perhaps a subset of a larger project (perhaps just a couple of chapters and small amount of research materials, etc.), for evaluation purposes. Go through at least a portion of the entire process you anticipate using, in each application. It is an investment of time you will not regret, given the investment (more time than money) you will wind up making in whatever application you settle on.

There will be learning curve, trial, error, surprises, frustrations and disappointments. No application is magic or perfect.

As an example, you can import/store most anything in a Scrivener project (in its Research folder), but that doesn’t mean that Scrivener will natively be able to display it all for you… you may have to tell Scrivener to use an external editor/application to accomplish that. Note that this likely holds true in many other writing apps also.

As another example, some use just Scrivener to do their entire project’s production… while others use it in combination with other apps as part of their production pipeline. Depends on both personal preference and what sort of project is being attempted.

Migrating a large existing project over may or may not be worthwhile, you’ll just have to decide.

Don’t get hung up on a few tens of dollars difference in price. That is minor, compared to the time you are going to invest.

Hope that helps.

First of all, a disclaimer: Everything in this message is my opinion, and my opinion only, but it is offered sincerely, and in good faith; and in the hope that it might save the reader some valuable time, better spent writing than struggling through user-guides of various ‘easy to use’ writing programs.
I have been writing for many years. In my professional life, I was an Information Technology analyst/manager for many, many years. This combination of interests has led me to a special appreciation for ‘writing programs’, ‘writing software tools’, etc.
I believe I have evaluated (usually, quite extensively) every responsible piece of writing software on the market. In the final analysis (once again, this is my opinion), there are only two that truly provide the suite of functions that a serious writer needs. These two are Scrivener and yWriter. Either of these will far exceed PageFour in usability, functionality, reliability, and available support.
Let me emphasize that last item - available support. No matter what tool you choose, you will have questions or problems from time to time. The fact that you have asked your question and have received responses like this one should provide an indication of the value of the support structure for Scrivener. A similar structure exists for yWriter (though not quite as formally organized). Both product support structures provide direct and timely access to the developers (a rarity, believe me).
The choice between Scrivener and yWriter is purely a matter of personal preference. Scrivener provides a more classical ‘tree-like’ structure and a flawlessly smooth writing interface. yWriter, while slightly more complex (from an interface perspective) offers some organizational & relationship functions that Scrivener does not. I continue to use both of these products - large novels in progress on each program.
One note: yWriter is free, but in my opinion the small cost of Scrivener makes cost a non-issue.

I hope this helps, and I intend no disrespect toward the developers, designers, or advocates of PageFour. I just don’t believe it can compare to Scrivener or yWriter.

Best of luck with your choice.