Scrivener and iPad (and iPhone?) workflow

Now we have seen the iPad, at least remotely, and learned that it will run all iPhone apps. And—it will support blutooth keyboards as well as have its own optional docking keyboard. In my view that will open up new opportunities of not only note-taking, but also actual writing on the move.

I am among those who bought a subnotebook Acer Aspire to fill this need, and I also bought the PageFour Windows application for organising my writings-on-the-move. Unfortunately I never actually had any success in importing exported texts from Scrivener to PageFour on the Acer. It worked well for the same software Windows Vista running under VMware Fusion on my iMac. To make a long story short: I am sick of the annoying Windows machine and saving up to get an iPad ASAP.

So, with a keyboard and a bigger screen, typing with a 1.5 lb./700g tablet will expand my writing opportunities, as well as not linking me as often to my desk (I hate my desk too often). I have used my iPhone much more often to jot down notes than my subnotebooks, and carried my 17" inch MBP much more often than I like (I have installed Scrivener on it). I would still use my iPhone for those short notes when ideas occur, but as I am writing non-fiction, it would suit me very well just being able to sit down anywhere and type for a half hour or a half day when on the move.

And then I haven’t even mentioned the opportinity of carrying all those reference books and articles with me without adding a single ounce to my burden.

So, am I alone thinking like this? If not, where does that leave us? What do we need to create a simple and workable workflow with Scrivener, an iPad and possibly an iPhone? I know that Keith is not into iPhone development (and I am much more interested in a sound development of Scrivener itself). But I for one would certainly love a transparent way of just grabbing my travel bag with an iPad in it, open it at the airport or on the train (I travel more than 100 days a year) and instantly being able to continue writing—preferrably directly into my Scrivener project structure.

One possible and simple solution that comes to my mind is a way of using the iDisk or another WebDav solution to sync the Scrivener data. It would serve as a backup solution and at the same time open up for accessing the structured document remotely as long as there is a web connection available. Of course that means we would need an app that could read and write into a Scrivener document, but it doesn’t have to be a full or even a light version of Scrivener itself. In case of sync errors I presume some kind of transparent versioning would be needed.

Would anyone else like to take part in a brain storming around these needs? With current apps or ideas for new functionality from current or non-existing apps?

Much of my magazine writing hovers around the edges of travel, and thus I’m always looking for a way to write where I am, instead of waiting until I return from where I was and trying to interpret cryptic notes after the fact.

Years ago I used a Radio Shack Model 100 (four lines of pocket-calculator type) for this, transferring files via its RS232 port to an IBM XT. Later, I hauled around a Newton with a plug-in keyboard, and still later a Compaq iPaq with a plug-in keyboard. All had their advantages and disadvantages, but all were far better portable solutions than even the skinniest notebook computers.

Even though I don’t travel as much as I used to, writing on an iPad would have tremendous advantages for me–sitting down on the wharf, on a midriver rock, beneath a spreading oak in the burying ground, my reference books a handy keystroke away. But I’d look on this as preliminary writing, and I wouldn’t need the massive organizational abilities of a full-bore Scrivener. I’d need only a brain-dead simple and utterly effortless way to zap files back and forth between the iPad and my office Mac.

Keith’s efforts are far better spent on Scrivener itself–and his novel. But it would be lovely to have a bidirectional transporter of some kind, between, say, the Notepad in Scrivener and iWork (or WriteRoom) on the iPad.

That’s just what I need, too. But I also need to see the structure of the chapters and the files, as I am laying down my text according to a planned structure and so I need to see where a topic or a new idea fits in. Just having access to the content of the Binder would suffice for me, plus picking the single file that I want to access, import it (I would never dream of writing across a network, not to say the internet), and export it again.

Exactly. That’s why I posted this topic here, to see if anyone already knew of a solution or an easy way to solve the simple challenge as you clearly describe it.

It should be a couple years since I started writing with netbooks when away of my studio. My workflow with them and Scrivener has always been unidirectional: write on a text editor (I used JDarkRoom and WriteMonkey), exchange data via DropBox, then import the text in Scrivener. A simple text document, or a MultiMarkdown document.

When working on things I already edited in Scrivener, I “compile” an RTF file from Scrivener and move it to my netbook. It will be my reference sitting in the background while I write. If I must re-edit some passages with the netbook, I copy the passage from the RTF file to the text editor, and edit it.

Since I break my projects into short pieces of text (a few paragraphs each), this seems to work well. I don’t need a two-way synchronization, since all I have to do is use the ordinary Copy & Paste operations.

I’m starting to feel attracted by the iPad. My problem with the netbooks has been how little reliable they have been: with the Linux one I had unpredictable UI behaviors (like battery indicators multiplicating at each boot) and sudden restarts; with the Windows XP one, I’ve had a recurring “reset to the previous state” on startup, up until the network services recently stopping to work (with the hardware clearly working well).

So, an Apple machine, if you can really work with the touchscreen keyboard for a few hours, could be the solution to my idiosyncrasy with PCs.


One possible solution is Auteureist, an iphone app of which you may have read of in these forums, under the name of “scribbler”… the developer wanted an app that could partly replace Scriv on the iPhone, and he developed a sync app just for the mac, and the app itself can export your writings as MultiMarkDown files, complete of chapter, synopsis, etc… mind you, I haven’t all this time to write during my day job and it’s far from perfect (something in the UI could be better refined) but works fine and it never let me down or lose work… The developer on his blog said he 'll begin soon to work on a version specifically built for the iPad, even if the app itself could work well the same.
So, if one is going to buy an iPad has another possible choice…
Just my two cents

I can imagine times when it’d be nice to have access to my Scrivener docs, stored in the cloud, via iPhone or iPad. Perhaps rather than, or in addition to a webDAV sync, Scrivener could sync with a new or existing web presence like WriteRoom/SimpleText, SimpleNote/Notational Velocity do. Those apps work with discrete notes, not structured collections like SCrivener, and they’re text only (I think), not rtf, so how would those differences affect the setup?

Like others, I’ve been intrigued by the iPad, particularly for on-the-go reading and writing. Every iPhone forum I can, I talk up Scrivener, suggesting that someone with iPhone programming talent should create an iPad version and give a slice of the (probably very ample) income to Keith.

Scrivener on an iPhone has never made sense. The tiny screen isn’t up to handling the complex interface. Better to use an iPhone for ideas and very rough WriteRoom drafts that get imported into Scrivener. But Scrivener on a iPad, done right, would be quite a delight. Imagine it selling for $10 like Pages, and for $510 writers could get a very excellent and highly portable way to write rather than a ‘piece of junk’ netbook.

For what it is worth, I’m also trying to get a peripheral maker like Logitech to create an iPhone-sized, iPad-compatible, Bluetooth thumb keyboard. Carrying along Apple’s stock Bluetooth keyboard makes little sense. It’s over half the size of an iPad. But something that fits between two hands and types like a Blackberry would be quite handy. It’d be handy with an iPhone/touch too if Apple finally gets around to adding Bluetooth keyboard drivers.

–Mike Perry, Seattle

Although I really am genuinely grateful for the enthusiasm, I’d rather you didn’t encourage any iPhone developers to copy Scrivener’s features - they would be under no obligation to give us anything and we’d really like to keep control of Scrivener and where it heads. We’d rather keep our options open and make our own decisions than have our hand forced. Although I know your have the absolute best of intentions, if someone took you up on your suggestion, it could have a negative impact on us rather than a positive one.