Scrivener is why I'm buying a MBA. Advice?

I’ve been writing in Word long enough. My writing buddies are raving about Scrivener, so I’m taking the Mac plunge. I travel a lot and am spoiled by a tiny two-pound Sony VAIO that fits in my handbag. SO…

I’m looking for advice on transitioning to a Mac. I’m especially keen to hear from anyone using a MacBook Air because I can’t carry around a weightier model. Is MBA powerful enough to handle multi-tasking? Is the lack of a CD drive a real concern? (I don’t want to carry an external drive.) I’d like to buy the MBA this weekend and am contemplating carrying it with me on a long business trip, scheduled to depart next week. The trip marks the beginning of a huge writing project, which is why I’d like to start creating this content in Scrivener. Would I be a fool to leave my PC-comfort zone and travel with only the Mac and Scrivener, not knowing how to use either one? I know Scrivener has a terrific tutorial, but how long does it typically take a Windows user to ramp up on the Mac OS? What was your learning curve on Scrivener?

Many thanks for your comments. :slight_smile:

I can’t talk specifically about the MBA (other than to reassure you that yes, it will easily handle multitasking!) but on the general front:

Macs and PCs aren’t so different in their capabilities, just in the quirks of the user interface. A few pointers:

  • “Right-click” is achieved by holding down CTRL while you click. (Unless you actually have a multi-button mouse, which are fully supported in OSX.)

  • Mac apps can be open and running even when there are no documents open. Your guide to the current, frontmost app is the menubar at the top, which has the app name in top-left.

  • Alt-Tab is Command-Tab, but otherwise is just the same. Also a guide to which apps are open.

  • Being based on Unix, Macs are very “idiot-proof”. Not saying you’re an idiot :wink: But don’t be afraid to do things, press buttons, etc. If you’re about to do something inadvisable, the system will always ask for confirmation. You won’t screw anything up just by clicking icons.

  • There is no such thing as the registry. Praise the lord.

  • The Mac system help files are actually helpful. I mention this one because it always seems to surprise PC switchers :slight_smile: You can activate help at any time by pressing cmd-shift-? And likewise, most app help files are also very good. If you hit a problem, that should be your first port of call.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you get stuck, either here or elsewhere. A lot has changed since Macs were less than 2% of the market, but most of us are still pretty evangelistic, and always willing to help a new user :slight_smile:

  • Likewise, a lot really has changed (and Windows has copied^H^H^H^H adopted increasingly Mac-like behaviour in the same time). You may be surprised that there are more similarities than you think.

Above all, welcome to the fold! :smiley:

If you are going to do your work on the MBA and the work has deadlines I would suggest you forgo the pleasure of being the cynosure of every office and coffee shop when you take it out. If you’re under deadline the variations in interface behavior will drive you crazy since you’ve probably built up “muscle memory.” If, however, this is an easy-going trip, I would go ahead. What Antony says is true—there’s very little difference in the daily basics of the two systems just interface gotchas. Be absolutely certain to go through the full Scrivener tutorial maybe even twice before you go. It will save you endless confusions.

Have fun!


Actually, the MBA has the multitouch trackpad. You just need to touch it with two fingers to “right-click”.


I am definitely going to do work—and plenty of it. But the work is not so much creating content as it is collecting (research) so I can write when I get back home. I’ll be visiting 8 resort properties, each of which will become a big chunk of content with chunklets of content for individual restaurant reviews, entertainment, activities, interior design, etc.

I’ll want to dump photos, video, and my text notes into Scrivener in some sort of organized fashion, batching it by property. I won’t be working from Starbucks, but rather from my room or the hotel lobby, depending on connectivity.

Do you think this is doable for someone who is brand spanking new to Mac and Scrivener? I consider myself an advanced Windows user, so I’m not green, just never worked with Apple. :slight_smile:

Indeed, but I believe that option isn’t set as default, and I didn’t want to confuse matters. Let the poor man* get used to the OS before we start moving him on to multitouch gestures!

*Assumption, insert gender of choice as appropriate

I see no reason why not. So long as you know what you’re doing inside Scrivener itself, these are easy tasks.

The only thing you might want to check before you set off is whether the video format you’ll be shooting in is natively compatible with Quicktime and/or iMovie, otherwise you may have to install a codec plug-in. (I recommend Perian, which handles all the most common codecs with aplomb.)


Another user very kindly converted Scrivener’s Help file into a PDF. Before you take the plunge, it might be helpful to take a look at it, especially the first few introductory pages, to get an idea of what you are thinking of diving into. I’ve uploaded the PDF here: … erHelp.pdf

Hope that helps.
All the best,

But surely, surely everyone turns off the (infuriating) ‘tap’ behavior of touchpads!

Yes, but the two finger secondary click feature is separate from the tap to click feature. You can have the former on without the frustration of the latter.


Hi, All–

Got the MBA today. It’s a beauty. I had the Apple rep set it up for the two-finger right-click, so that’s done. I bought MS Office for Mac, so I’d at least have a Plan B for pounding in text if I fail to get Scrivener-savvy in time, which is still my goal. Still need to install it. Wish me luck. I have a wireless home network so I think it’ll work fine.

Thanks for the PDF FAQs. I’d already looked that over before I registered for this board. I always like to do my due diligence and not just presume the friendly forum members will take pity on me and offer soup-to-nuts. :wink:

I bought the Flip Mino, so I will look into the vid format as suggested. Have never used the Flip either, but I hear it’s super simple. I have to go back to the Apple store to pick up an Ethernet dongle in case my hotel doesn’t have wireless. I bought a cableless USB media card reader that’ll take the Sony memory stick from my digital camera. Hope I’ve thought of everything. Since I’m traveling internationally I can’t count on being able to pick up stuff on the fly.

Thanks for all the great input–keep it coming! And BTW, it is she… :blush:

Flips record in AVI format, which I believe Quicktime will now display natively (if not, the Perian plug-in will definitely give you that functionality - the only reason I can’t remember is that I always have Perian installed :slight_smile: ). So they’ll import into Scriv, and play back, just fine. If you want to get them into iMovie, though, you’ll have to convert them first using something like iSquint or VisualHub.

Sorry about the pronoun :wink:

Thanks, Antony. Short-term, I plan to just keep the vid files for my own use as a memory jogger–a visual reminder of the details from places I go–a Flip Moleskine, if you will. Once I get up to speed with the video stuff, I’ll incorporate some vid in my blog posts, probably using Vimeo.

I’ll have to check those FAQs to see if Scrivener will hold video clips.

It will. Hence my saying you’ll be able to import them into Scriv :slight_smile:

Since you’re traveling internationally, on business, with a brand new computer, and hardware problems tend to show up in the first month, I think you should also provide yourself with some peace of mind—backup. If you don’t have one already, get a USB portable hard drive or several large USB flash drives that can can go in a different bag than your computer. If you’re visiting places that have high-speed internet access you may want to use an online backup service like Mozy to backup your documents for even better security. You may not want to backup your video online since you’re just using it for reference and the files can be very large but if the connections are fast enough, maybe you should. :slight_smile:

Most professional photographers on long shoots are absolutely manic on this. They have copies on their laptop, two external drives, the original multiple camera cards, and on and on . . .


P.S. A Jobo Spectator might be a nice solution for you.

I have similar requirements to purpleplume, for similar reasons (although I’m sticking with my trusty 12" Powerbook, and my locations won’t be as exotic), and took a look at the Jobo Spectator. Is it man-looking-for-butter-in-the-fridge syndrome, or does that blurb fail to mention the size of the drive?


Ditto on the online storage, and one option besides mozy might be taking advantage of apple’s free 60 day trial of mobile me, which would give you an iDisk --virtual hard disk on apple’s servers – for storing files. I know mobileme has suffered from a bumpy start, but I haven’t heard of any problems peculiar to the iDisk. It would also of course give you a chance to see if you want to actually pay for a mobile me subscription.

another quick and dirty online backup option is simply to email important chunks of info to yourself.

Hee, hee!

It comes in 40, 80, and 120G sizes.

Available at Amazon and many pro photography stores.


In addition to all this great advice, you might also find the musings of James Fallows interesting. He was a big PC guy and recently bought a MacBook Air. Fallows writes for the Atlantic Monthly, mostly on politics, but he also is considered somewhat of an expert on technology.

Hubbardton, Vermont

Thanks, dafu. I’ll look into the Spectator. Do you use one?

I use JungleDisk to back up to Amazon’s S3 servers. I’m relying more on cloud backup these days, especially with the MBA’s limited hard drive space.