What I like best about Scrivener is what I don’t need to know. I am a writer, not a computer geek. I admit I don’t understand half the things you are talking about in here, but with Scriv I don’t need to. I can set up a project and carry it to completion with only a rudimetary knowledge of everything the program can do. I look through the menu and a lot of it is written in Greek, but it doesn’t seem to matter. I can be a writer and turn out good copy, and then thank Keith for designing a very helpful piece of software, and I still don’t know half of what you are talking about. I can look at Story Mill until my head is about to explode, and then seek help on their forum and feel inches tall for not being a computer techie. So, thank you for a very helpful program.

Thank you. :slight_smile: I’ve amended the menus for the next update so that they hopefully don’t seem like Greek to anybody. The menus in 1.11 are horrible. I can say that because I know that I would look at “Open as Index Card Stack In” and say, “Huh? What does that do?” And I bloomin’ well programmed it. So I’ve done my best to make it obvious what everything does and to simplify the menus in the next update, so that nobody feels as though they have to be a computer geek to “get” anything.

Thanks again!
All the best,

Wait! Are you saying that you are making it so simple that even the +3 would no longer have real excuses?

I am not sure I can support that level of improvement. I demand obfuscation!!!

Very glad to hear Keith is overhauling the menus. I wish more developers would do this. It’s so easy, when adding features, to forget how the proliferation of choices can interfere with daily usage of the application. I’m not really smart enough about GUI stuff to offer suggestions, though I do wish that several functions I use often were buried less deeply in submenus or described more clearly. But then everytime I try to think how I’d do it better, I realize just how hard this really is, and my appreciation for Keith’s efforts grows even greater than it already was. Anyway, maybe this is an opportunity for those users who are more informed about menu design to weigh in.

M`sieur Jaysen
Why demand or yearn for something, in which you are already innately gifted :open_mouth:
Le D :smiling_imp:

I desire company. Even genius of my caliber desire companionship.

How is that for obfuscating a real point?

Tis indeed heart warming, Mr. Jaysen, to see how well you have, recovered from your earlier malady: low self worth/esteem. Truly you are, ‘Homme de Renaissance’. Well done young man.
I bid you Good Day
Dr. Mulality

Just change our system language to one you cannot understand. :stuck_out_tongue:

Geesh it is very easy to overconfabulatepreinstigatebiomorphicationdialtiondedeconfusify any computer situation.

What is scary is Team is an actual developer that actually uses the software and actually listens to consumer input.

Imagine if companies like Adobe or MS did such things? Things would actually work more efficiently and less tech would be needed.



This cannot be helped, it’s the nature of the world we live in. Simplicity is opposed to power in 99.99% of the software out there. You can have powerful, or you can have simple, but most of the time, you cannot have both.

Scrivener is a case in point. For years I’ve read about how great Scrivener is, so finally I checked it out. I just wanted to use for a series of notes on a screenplay I’m working on. I opened it, and was immediately puzzled. You simply cannot work it “out of the box”. It’s too complicated and unintuitive. I mean, to actually understand it, you have to read the manual of several pages long… which is insane. Now, no question, Scrivener is very powerful, and ONCE YOU’VE MASTERED IT you have a wonderful tool at your disposal. Yet, note the key here: “once you’ve mastered it”. That demands time and effort.

Life is short. My philosophy is never to read manuals if I can help it. To me, a well-designed app, device or tool is self-explanatory to a reasonably intelligent human being who grew up in our culture. Think of a pad of paper and a pencil. You don’t need any explanations. That’s how software should be.

To me, Scrivener is way, way, WAY too complicated, and for the task I needed it, it’s not worth it to me to put in the time and effort to master it. That’s not the fault of the developer - it’s just the way things are. Instead, for MY purposes, xPad fits the bill - it is instantly understandable, I don’t need to read any manual. I open it, and I instantly know how to use it. That’s not the case with Scrivener. Upon opening Scrivener, I don’t even know where to begin - there are a million panels, buttons, links, icons do-dahs all over the place… Jesus Christ, I just want to write! I’m sure others can use all that power, and the developer will keep adding to it (until the instruction manual will be bigger than OED and Scrivener will have the power to solve world hunger :slight_smile:). Again, nobody is at fault - it’s just the nature of the world we live in. Kudos to the developer, and I envy the lucky users, I hope to become a user one day too once I’ve found a few hours of free time to master this complicated app for taking notes.

So… How did you learn to drive? Or haven’t you?

If you insist that all tools be self-explanatory, you are limiting yourself to only the simplest available tools.

Which is, of course, your choice. For me, though, more complex tools can be force-multipliers, repaying the effort to learn them many times over. Scrivener is particular is remarkably easy to learn and use given the power it puts at my disposal.



Well, I am the developer, and I welcome your feedback and value your opinion. That said, it sounds as if you came to Scrivener hoping to use it for something - note-taking - for which it is not intended. Also, I disagree that it is too complicated to get going. Once you’ve created a new project, all you have is a blue pane on the left with a list of documents, much like in Mail or iPhoto, and a blank white pane on your right, in which you can write. There are indeed icons in the toolbar, just like in any application, and they conform to those of other Mac applications. So, I’m not sure what is so complicated there. You can just write in the white pane. Then click on “+” in the toolbar to add another document. Write other stuff in the newly blank pane. Switch between documents using the list on the left. It’s as simple as that, if that’s all you want it for. There is a lot more complexity - you can do an awful lot more - but you don’t have to worry about it if you don’t want to. The only thing I can see that is puzzling is that you don’t get a blank window when you launch Scrivener, but have to create a new project yourself first. But in the next version, there is a start panel that fixes any puzzlement there. In this, I cannot see how Scrivener is any more “complicated” that Word. In Word, you open a document and have a pane in which you can write - just like in Scrivener. There are a billion other things in Word that you could do, if you wanted; likewise, in Scrivener, there are many other things you could do (different things to Word).

Here’s a picture of what you see when you first create a blank project in Scrivener:

Personally, I find nothing really complicated about that at all. (The menus, as I said, are too complicated, which are improved for the next update.) But, of course, such opinion is entirely subjective - still, I would welcome feedback on what exactly it is about this that might confuse a new user, as I am always trying to improve Scrivener. And, contrary to what you say about “the developer will keep adding to it… until the instruction manual will be bigger than OED and Scrivener will have the power to solve world hunger”, which I find a little insulting, that’s actually not the case. Users will tell you that as Scrivener has evolved I have constantly tried to simplify anything that has seemed too complicated; the next release in particular is more about refinements than feature additions, to make things less confusing, too. Still, it is also true that software that tries to integrate a whole workflow will necessarily have some learning curve if you are to know it in and out; as the OP says, though, this is not always necessary.

Ultimately, however, Scrivener is certainly not the tool for you. Scrivener is not a note-taking tool, and xPad will certainly serve you better. Scrivener is for those who wish to put together a large text, referring to research as they go, and working with smaller segments. There are a number of working screenwriters and best-selling novelists using it, along with academics and lawyers, but I certainly never claimed it was for everyone. In fact, I am still a little surprised that anyone liked it other than me.

Oh, and I’m glad you heard good things about Scrivener, though I doubt you have been hearing such things for “years”, as it has been out less than two. :slight_smile:

Best regards,

I sympathize with non techie. I’m so busy I seldom have time to invest in the research needed to use or understand potentially useful new devices, or even subjects. (It’s one, though not the main, reason I’ve put off getting an iPhone.) And I almost never RTFM. Scrivener has so many features that it can seem overwhelming at first glance.

That said, I just jumped into Scrivener, went through the excellent tutorial, and tried using it, and found I could do most of what i needed right away. When I needed to do more, I would try a command or look for a function that I kinda hoped would be there (following general Mac app principles), and most of the time, it was right there, and performed as expected – the sign of a well thought out app. Sometimes I’d resort to the Help file or these forums, and found quite useful advice there, but I’d say 90% of my Scrivener use I just figured out by going through the tutorial and jumping in.

So, don’t be discouraged by what’s possible – just focus on what you want to do and learn the minimum necessary, which as Keith noted above isn’t really that hard. You can always learn more later.

All I can say is that for someone who earns his entire living from writing, the investment of time (and money, although that’s a comparative pittance) I’ve made in Scrivener is far, far outweighed by its value to my productivity.

I’m sure there are plenty of writers for whom that investment isn’t worth it, and for them, it’s great to have TextEdit, xPad (which I used for awhile and is indeed a sleek little app), iText and my current favorite, Bean. (You might want to give it a try, non techie.) Others swear by journaling apps and such like journler, voodoopad, et al. I use Bean all the time (as I previously did TextEdit and the others) when I just need to write and don’t require Scrivener’s info organizing capabilities. I wouldn’t use a power drill to put a picture tack into the wall, and you shouldn’t take the time to learn Scrivener for purposes for which its manifold virtues aren’t needed. But for those of us (screenwriters, journalists, novelists, etc) who do need them, it’s by far the best tool for the job.

It’s been a real balancing act for Keith, walking that line between comprehensiveness (often prompted by the begging for just one more feature from people like me on these forums) and simplicity, and I think he’s done a great job of finding the optimal combination, making Scriv useful for the most users without discouraging too many others. (He’s the first developer I’ve ever encountered who may be TOO responsive to users!) The ugly shadow of Word looms over this discussion, of course, providing a constant example of what happens when you go too far in the direction of comprehensiveness. I’m so glad to hear that he’s simplifying menus etc for the next update and focusing on usability and simplicity. I’m hoping Apple will do the same in its next OS update.

Anyway, I hope you find the right tool for your needs. For mine, Scrivener is ideal.

And what a looming shadow it is… I spent ten minutes this morning trying to find the un-highlight command in Word 2008. I finally found it, but am not sure I could do so again. And it isn’t in the help file. Blargh!

Scrivener would be worthwhile even if all it did was keep me away from Word most of the time.


Well, to clear up some things, I certainly did not mean any slight to the developer - quite the contrary - it takes a lot of thought, ingenuity, smarts and hard work to design any good app, and Scrivener by general acclaim is one of the best apps out there. I simply detailed a reaction you are not likely to get - this is a forum which by nature will be frequented only by dedicated fans.

My reaction is that of a virgin user - someone who used the software for the very first time. Among such users, you’ll get the ones for whom Scrivener is the wrong tool - this cannot be helped, since before trying it’s hard to know what will fit and what not.

Once you’ve been using an app, it’s very hard to imagine how a first-time user reacts; and I maintain that’s virtually impossible for a developer of the app in question. Therefore, I am not surprised that you find it unbelievable that anyone could be puzzled by Scrivener. Yes, it is possible that I am mentally deficient, but in my defense, I have used computers for many years (Mac before OSX,and OSX, Windows, Linux) and I regularly try out new apps and most of the time I manage to wrap my head around using all kinds of software. I guess I think of software working like this: it should let you do the main task immediately (in this case writing), and only require manuals for the more complicated tasks. What threw me in Scrivener is that I saved-named a document and the next time I opened it - IT WOULD NOT LET ME WRITE in the document opened. That to me is instant “FAIL”. I realized that I should at this point read the manual, but really, it was a disheartening experience, failure at the most fundamental level - writing… this should never happen. OK, not able to do any number of complex things without reading the manual - that’s a given. But failure to put down WORDS? No go. Upon investigation, I noticed that the icon “Outliner” was selected (somehow I must have inadvertently selected it before I quit the app), and that probably somehow had something to do with the document OPEN IN FRONT OF MY EYES not accepting any keyboard input. Yet, what a horrendous state of affairs. To further upon the car analogy someone mentioned - it should never be possible to have the car stop running by accidentally brushing against some control or another. Sure you can blame the user, but designers of cars understand the reality of how cars are used - which is why they design with real users in mind… dangerous controls are well placed so that it’s not possible to easily accidentally do catastrophic things. Now, when you are living with the software day in and day out, it is extremely hard to put yourself in the place of a virgin user, so I appreciate the task. To sum up - writing software must allow writing above all. Anything which makes it easy to be trapped in some mirror world of loops where writing is impossible = represents failure of design. Yes, detailed maps are available, but should not be necessary for the primary function - writing - though they may be imperative for more complex tasks.

Anyhow, it is not my purpose to come here and slag the app. I just thought that maybe it may represent a rare opportunity for some feedback from a virgin user - or a moron virgin user :slight_smile:


As I said, I do value your opinion, and it’s definitely good to get the perspective of users who find Scrivener difficult or are put off by it, because that helps me see where potential problems lie.

I’m not sure there is anything that can be done in the case in point, though. One of the main features of Scrivener is that each document acts as a text document, outline and corkboard, so if you switch on the outliner by mistake, of course it will still be there when you reopen the app. On the other hand, a blank outline is all white, as is a blank document, so I can see where this would be confusing, and perhaps there should indeed be a better visual distinction to indicate that the outliner is open; perhaps grid lines or some sort. I’ll certainly think about it.

All the best,

I am a new user of Scrivener…(I downloaded the free demo but plan to buy it…soon before my free trial expires) and once I went through the (excellent) video tutorial, I was set. (except for minor things like figuring out how to move the pins on the outline cards) For the basic stuff like creation of projects/writing/exporting etc. I found scrivener very easy to use and pretty intuitive.I don’t think you need to be aware of any of the ‘powerful’ features of scrivener to begin using it. Atleast thats my humble opinion…:slight_smile:.

That’s so true – once you use an app, it IS very difficult to recapture that first-time user perspective. I’m sure I encountered a few frustrations with Scrivener, though I can’t recall them now. I’m no developer, just a fellow non techie writer, but I imagine that citing specific instances (like the one you named) where the experience broke down for you might be quite useful for Keith. I certainly can’t speak for him, but if you can think of more examples, maybe you should report them to him – before you learn too much. Anything that makes it easier for more people to use Scrivener is a good thing in my book.

For me, anyway, it’s good to hear your perspective. I bet we’re all a little worried about seeming thick in these situations, but my old writing teacher used to say (and I passed on to my students): “Good writing doesn’t make you feel dumb – good writing makes you feel smart.” Shouldn’t we say the same about software?

If you normally close your apps by pressing cmd-Q you may have hit the 1 as well (cmd-1 switches to outliner).
To further your analogy of the car: the break and gas pedal seem awfully close to me. Nobody has every slipped and hit the break/gas-pedal instead of the desired one? (rhetorical question, I have experienced such a thing :wink: )


Nice to see I’m not the only one. It’s like any other craft, I guess. You perfect the use of your tools, and you become a craftsman.

Every craftsman must learn their tools. When they obtain new tools there is a time it takes to “train” on said tools but once one becomes familiar with their tools use of them becomes second nature…