Researching for Possible Project


So, as you’ll see if you look at my previous post and profile, I LOVE Scrivener. I have it on Mac, Win, and iOS, and I’ve run the Win version on WINE some in Linux.

I’m a full-stack web developer (HTML/CSS/Javascript/PHP/MySQL) looking at possibly diving into desktop app development, and am leaning heavily into deciding to become a Java Developer.

I’m a very practical-based learner. I have a task I want to accomplish and I learn what I need to learn to accomplish that task. It helps with motivation for me.

To that end, if there was one thing I would like to learn to code, it would be a way to natively run a novel-writing program on Linux the way I enjoy this one in others OS environments.

I know at one point L&L had a Linux version in mind, but it was abandoned long ago. What I’ve never seen is a detailed response as to WHY. I can think of so many possible reasons, but only one of which would deter me from this project (I know it’s a MASSIVE undertaking, but hey, that’s the kind of stuff I enjoy doing, like teaching myself how to become a full-stack web dev or making my own Fantasy universe).

Possible reasons I can think of L&L abandoning the official Scrivener for Linux program, from highest likelihood to smallest (by my own blind guessing):

  1. Not financially worth the hassle. Linux obviously has a tiny percentage of people who use it as their main OS platform even when you combine all its distros. The amount of people who do that are long-form writers would be even a fraction of that already tiny fraction. Add onto that that much of the user base is a rabid GNU-loving free-computing-for-all fan base (which is great, just not profitable), L&L just decided that this would just be a resource bleed and abandoned the project.

  2. Bandwidth/Company size. As we all saw for years waiting for Scrivener 3 for Windows, L&L’s chief focus will always be on the MacOS version, with Windows and to a lesser extent iOS following in its wake. Already the Windows version had to be completely built from scratch. Sure, the GUI looks very similar to the end user and the files they produce are completely compatible with each other, but the code, not so much. For the Windows version, L&L had to hire new developers with completely different backgrounds, and find some willing to stay for the long run. This whole process would have to be done all over again for a Linux version, and L&L is a small company and it would completely make sense to just go, “Nope, not going to do that again.”

  3. This is a possible concern that worries me, even though I find the other two far more likely: Is there something about Linux as a platform that makes the idea of maintaining a project like Scrivener a nightmare? There are SO many outdated programs that have been made for Linux, some of them are not even seemingly that old. It’s hard to know if they worked flawlessly when released and updates to the various Linux distros just made them age out quicker than most programs do on either MacOS or Windows, or if they were just poorly designed from the beginning. But at the same time, wouldn’t a Java-based program be largely insulated from that since all Java programs run in their own environment that is essentially a VM? Oracle definitely maintains the Java platform on Linux, and any Java program would just run on top of that.

Just curious if there is anyone out there (preferably a member of L&L who would definitely be able to speak authoritatively or someone in the community who remembers and can show an old communication from the team).

ALSO - and I cannot stress this enough - I HAVE NO DESIRE TO COMPETE WITH L&L. If, and that is a very big IF, I am actually able to get something akin to Scrivener working in Linux, I have zero plans to try to sell it and run afoul of potential IP theft and getting sued. Not only would that go against my integrity, but even from a practical standpoint, risking getting sued by making and selling and unlicensed version of Scrivener when points 1 and 2 show I’m aware of how unlikely there would be any substantial profit means it would also just be plain stupid to risk in addition to being unethical.

If I am able to make something like this, I would probably try to reach out to the L&L team to see if they were interested in distributing it and, if not, just enjoy the lessons in programming I could learn from it and then use it for my own writing projects and show it off in interviews trying to get a job as a Java developer.

Just trying to figure out potential hurdles I may encounter trying to make a Linux Scrivener-like program by understanding why the project was abandoned by L&L in the first place.


I would say your guesses are pretty accurate.

The Linux version first came into being as a fairly straightforward port of the then-current Windows version. The toolkit used for Windows allowed cross-platform compiling, so why not?

But then the Windows version went in a different direction for Win Scrivener 3, and the team had to decide whether to bring the Linux version along. Bandwidth was definitely a consideration, and the challenges of monetizing Linux products simplified the decision.

I’m not a developer, so I can’t speak to the technical challenges of maintaining Linux software. It does fine in large corporate environments where people are being paid to maintain the web server, the development tools, and so on. For consumer-oriented projects, though, it’s hard to build a financial base sufficient to pay full-time people. Side projects are inherently subject to being abandoned due to life changes, lack of time, boredom, etc. (Not all of these issues are unique to Linux. There are lots of abandoned Mac and Windows applications out there, too.)


There are number of pretty mediocre Scrivener-like programs already on Linux (bibisco, etc.) and they’re … pretty mediocre. The thing about Scrivener is that it’s mature, both in functionality and in GUI. (It’s amazing how much a mediocre GUI matters when you have to stare at it, hours per day, week after week.)

Just a note.


Thanks, kewms!

I’ll keep doing some digging to see if there are any potential negatives on the technical side.

@thomas.neuburger - yes, I’m aware of Bibisco, Manuskript, etc. But finding an alternative to Scrivener to use is not my goal. It’s to work on programming. I’m not trying to abandon Windows or MacOS in favor of Linux and so do not need a replacement for my novel-writing needs. Even if I did, not only are there the (problematic) alternatives, I have, as I said, run Windows Scrivener on Linux and there are plenty of web-based ones that are far superior to any Linux-based app that I could still use (I have to admit, I’m not sure how Living Writer hasn’t run afoul of any IP issues… though web-based and therefore different code, the UI and UX are literally ripped right from L&L, but if I was actually wanting to replace Scrivener because I was leaving the Windows and MacOS platforms, that would be what I used.

The main thing I’m wanting to do is learn desktop app development. Making a novel-writing software on Linux that I would enjoy is just the motivation. One that could sync via Dropbox (which is available on Linux) with my Scrivener projects on the more popular OS platforms, even if it had fewer features, would be just the cherry on top.

I would say that maintaining an app over multiple platforms is an exponentially huge drain of resource. Even for a company as big as Microsoft. KISS.

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What about the other option?

Again, my goal is to make a program because I want to make a program. I just happened to pick “make a Scrivener or similar program for Linux” because I’m a novelist and that’s what interests me. I’m not looking for the most efficient way to get Scrivener to run on Linux (I already have - it runs perfectly fine in WINE and I use it).

My question was purely a, “Hey, were there any actual issues with the Linux from a coding standpoint that deterred L&L from making an official Linux version, or was it just an issue of economics.”

My Linux machine has updates almost every day, whereas my Windows and Mac machines only update every few weeks. Basically, my question was merely, “Is maintaining an app, from a development standpoint, more difficult for Linux than for Windows or MacOS.” Because I don’t want to create an app that is unstable due to constant changes in the OS.

FWIW, Scrivener itself exists because Keith couldn’t find a writing application that let him work the way he wanted to. You are walking a well-trodden path in that regard.

However, 2022 Scrivener is a much more complex beast than Scrivener 1.0, and is very much not a beginner-level project. From a pedagogical standpoint, it might help your learning to choose a short list of “key” features and tackle those first.

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Interesting. I got Scrivener 3.0.1 to work perfectly on Linux Mint and Wine, but 3.1.1 broke in an unusual place:

  1. Open Compile.
  2. Click to edit a Section Layout.
  3. Try to make a change. It crashes.

Two questions:

  • Do you see this problem?
  • What’s your configuration?