Renewed respect for Scrivener after really trying to move to Ulysses

(Partial crosspost from the Mac Power Users forum)

As one should say when things do not work, one should also praise things that do.

I had been really disappointed by the handling of the iOS 13 sync issues with Scrivener (even though it was an Apple issue, I really got the feeling the problem was not taken to heart by support) so I have been decidedly endeavouring, over a few years, to try and move away from Scrivener to Ulysses on a multi-year testing journey, giving it increasingly complex writing projects to manage with the very clear objective to ditch Scrivener. Short story: writing, check. Short story revision: check. Non-fiction short book: writing, check. Revision…

Fell apart.

I have really loved writing that book in Ulysses and not worry with formatting thanks to Markdown; I have loved its snappy sync and cross-platform feature parity, which are points where the app clearly wins over Scrivener. However, jumping into revision has made me realise Ulysses cannot handle serious revision workflows. At least for the way I work, the app’s UI paradigm makes it nearly impossible to get a bird’s eye view of a manuscript, while Scrivener is entirely and wonderfully flexible in that regard.

So it’s back to Scrivener for good for me, with renewed respect and love for the sheer power and flexibility it allows my creative projects. It scales no matter what you throw at it, and it’s simply the best and most flexible tool for writing on the planet. I know I’m preaching to the choir with that last line but hey, saying it never hurts. :slight_smile:

I love them both - Scrivener for long-form fiction, and Ulysses for basically everything else. Personally, when it comes to writing novels, I can’t live without Scrivener’s advanced customisation of the binder and the novel layout / outline options that it gives.

I tried to move everything to Ulysses, as you did, and similarly came back as quick as I left :smiley:

Both are wonderful tools for specific use-cases though, and to be honest I couldn’t live without either.

Hi there.
I left Scrivener years ago when the developers could not deliver an IOS version and I was heavily invested in using my iPad. I moved to Ulysses and came to love markdown, but what you said above about Ulysses

“the app’s UI paradigm makes it nearly impossible to get a bird’s eye view of a manuscript”

is where Ulysses breaks down for me as well. In Ulysses I simply cannot get a sense of my mind’s diarrhoea output. I can’t easily rearrange and rearrange and rearrange in the way I work. Ulyssess seems to acknowledge this and they recommend other apps: to help. But it’s not just the overview, it’s the ease with which I can rearrange in Scrivenings that I also cannot do in Ulysses.

Which leaves the markdown “advantage”. While I have really come to love this I don’t recall being stopped by formatting before. And now that I have found the Drafts app I can write on my iPad and just paste into Scrivener so even the cross-platform issue is less important to me now.

I also do have a sense that Ulysses is really investing in their app. Their latest update in revision checks with a grammar and style check is really appreciated. I don’t have sense that Lit&Latte is able to keep up but I’m willing to move back to Scrivener given that I can’t write my intended manuscript in Ulysses (at least with the way I process text) . At least I’m going to have another go with the trial and see how I feel now I can use both side by side.

Be well.

I’m trying, I mean really trying to use Scrivener for my book after having written it in Ulysses and transferred it across. I love Ulysses, adore it; it’s just a joy to write in and look at. The best thing is that it is the same wherever you write, it’s intuitive. The syncing is effortless and doesn’t cause me anxiety. I’ll always pay a subscription because I appreciate the amount of work the developers put into it.
Diving as deeply as into Scrivener this past couple of weeks, I’m beginning to get it. True, it’s a mass of features - most of which I will never use - but I can see just how it will assist me for a planned, complex book, down the line. The iPad is a companion app rather than full featured, like Ulysses, I loathe the Dropbox syncing, despite never having an real issues with it.
We’re lucky to have the choice, we really are.

Thanks all for the thoughtful comments and for the kind words about Scrivener’s relative advantages (and for the insights into where you think Ulysses has the advantage).

Some random comments:

  • Apps such as Ulysses have done a lot, I think, to show the advantages of a simple writing environment. It’s much easier to keep the writing UI clean when you don’t have to have all of the many formatting tools of rich text readily available. But I’ve never liked working with Markdown, and prefer to see formatting in the editor over asterisks. I think there is a way of getting the best of both worlds, though, with a mostly styles-driven text system…

  • I do understand that syncing is one of the major issues for Scrivener. Fixing that would require a ground-up rewrite of Scrivener, which of course would also be an opportunity to rethink a lot of things.

  • Just because we’ve been a little quiet on the update front over the past year or so, doesn’t mean that there’s not a lot of investment and work going on behind the scenes. But with Scrivener 3 not yet out on Windows, it’s difficult for us to talk about future plans beyond that.


All the best,

Thanks for the reply there, Keith.
As I’ve mentioned before, I moved away from Scrivener for workflow reasons.
I looked at Ulysses, but it didn’t do exactly what I wanted, and the lack of the overview was one of the principal things that put me off.
I am considering coming back to Scrivener for my next novel and seeing if I can just grit my teeth and bear it and make the workflow between Scrivener and ProWritingAid work for me.
As usual, I will not mention the name of the piece of software I am using because they don’t deserve free advertising.
Unlike the staff here, they rarely interact much, and they certainly don’t do a lot to update the program or fix the minor bugs that pop up. I think it’s been two months since we reported some capitalisation issues and they are still there. It took them over a month to enable the program to produce Amazon specific e-book files after KindleGen went off line. They don’t have a cork board either and don’t think anyone needs one. Ahem. Yes, they are on a subscription model and quite happy to keep just raking the cash in.

I always loved Scrivener and used it for years before I changed my work method.

I think it’s time to give it another go.