This week I started using Scrivener for Windows. I’m working on a large non-fiction book that will include pictures, tables, captions, cross-references, an index, etc. etc.
I quickly discovered that the Windows version of Scrivener still has plenty of bugs, so I went out looking for an alternative.
I found this pluggin for Word, which emulates a bunch of the Scrivener functionality, but has the benefit of being built on top of Word’s robust formatting / editing engine (it uses SQLite to store the project’s data):
“All I can do is give you my word that I’m looking for real, honest feedback about WritingOutliner.”
Then limit your question to that. The original taint was in how you opinionated about Scrivener before asking the question. Leave out declarations of instant expertise (“This week”) and inflammatory language (“still has plenty of bugs”). Apps have different focuses and strengths and weaknesses. And bugs. And developmental resources. And Scrivener not meeting your need and/or not resonating with you isn’t a crime. It’s a clue to consider alternatives or workarounds, before committing to a given app. Or whether you are looking for a single standalone all-in-one app vs some collection of apps that you assemble into a production pipeline.
Better yet, start from the question of what are the best apps for creating “a large non-fiction book that will include pictures, tables, captions, cross-references, an index, etc. etc.” Free or inexpensive evaluation is available for most apps, including Scrivener. Thoroughly test what seem to be the best candidates, via small representative proof-of-concept projects, before committing to one.
I have tried other apps, including Writing Outliner. And continue to try other apps, though I’ve yet to find anything else that comes close to my need (granular minimally formatted novel outlining and writing) AND resonates with me, as Scrivener does.
As far as Writing Outliner… it didn’t resonate with me, its apparent lack of market share and community seemed cautionary, and its use of/reliance on an SQL database left me uneasy. I’m no more interested in having to salvage material from a corrupted SQL database than I am from a corrupted Word document file or Scrivener project folder. Word Outliner offers a free trial version. Try it.
By the way our user manuals are created with Scrivener, typeset with LaTeX, using the MultiMarkdown system of writing. They have captioned figures, cross-references, footnotes, complex lists, tables (could have an index, but we never hired one to be made), stylesheet formatting to common elements and there are many other things I don’t even take advantage of with that system, like typesetting equations. But then the whole idea of that writing system is that you could do it in Notepad++ if you wanted to. What specific formatting and other features the program has itself are irrelevant when your cross-ref is just the name of the subsection with square brackets around it.
Tim, I accept the evidence of your integrity - I’m just not so sure about your wisdom. Just imagine that you had invented a product and started a website that invited contributions from all comers about your product - a website moreover that cost you significant resources and effort to maintain. Hypothetically, would you feel happy about a post that not only kicked your product but also invited contributors to talk about a potential rival, one that in some respects looked very similar to your own, and arrived on the market after it?
The parallels are not exact, but something similar applies here. Isn’t the place for such a discussion on Writing Outliner’s own forum, if it has one?
Greeting o introspective one … greetings.
As a HAW of some 30yrs. standing (albeit, mostly sitting these days), the aura of infallibility, oft ascribed to me and my kind by the more astute and perspicacious members of Scrivener’s crew, is an act of graciousness on their part, and undeserved on my/our part. In all humility, we would aspired to nothing more than the epithet: Near-Infallible. So, InquireWithin, rest assured, that, cognisant as I am of my short comings, it would never occur to me, on the basis of such a fleeting acquaintanceship, to seek to impugn your integrity. You opened your thread in the forum entitled Software by Other Folk put at our disposal by Keith and L&L … where else would it be.
The purpose of my post, was to express my wonderment at apparently being invited to spend $49 on what appeared to be … see above … a cork-board app.
With your integrity intact … not tatters,
I still want to find a way to use Scrivener. I’m going to try the Mac version.
A couple follow-up questions came to mind:
If I wanted to accomplish something similar to what you described (“They have captioned figures, cross-references, footnotes, complex lists, tables…”)–including building an index–would that set of requirements limit me to using the Mac version of Scrivener?
If I want to include things like “Tip Boxes” (see image below) my sense is that those things can be accomplished only in a package like In-Design (or some other page layout program). If that’s the case, does it make sense to code the cross-references and footnotes in Scrivener? I’m guessing there’s no way to get them to carry over and still remain dynamically linked?
The Mac version is going to give you more options with regards to creating a document that looks right, though still as opposed to a document that acts right. Neither platform will, out of the box, give you a document you can drop into Word with live caption codes and cross-ref fields all set up. The Mac version can do a little more of this, probably not to the extent you would require, and it can do a lot more if you don’t need live fields and such, in that you can create instanced numbers that can be referred to elsewhere in the text. “Figure 21”, “See fig. 21”, etc. It’s still going to just be the numbers “2” and “1” printed in the file though, not a live field.
For those that need a document that “acts right”, neither the Windows nor Mac version can do a thorough job of that. Most people using Scrivener for technical writing are either using another system (DocBook, LaTeX, etc.) that can easily convey complex formatting commands through typed text (and thus using Scrivener more like a text file construction tool), or they are using a placeholder method, where captioning, referencing, table design, and really everything that goes into making a book is deferred until after the text of the book has been written in Scrivener—one might use formatting to create subsection headings for example, but without the intention of that being the final formatting, rather merely a unique and easy to search for style of formatting that can be bulk replaced to stylesheets later on. If you need InDesign in the production workflow, then the latter way of working is probably a better bet. If you’re in control of the production process and don’t mind learning some of the systems used to make solid technical documents, then one of these “mark up” style systems like LaTeX could be just the thing you’re looking for.
Well to be clear what I was referring to is a writing method that one does in the text editor (if you’re familiar with Markdown, it’s just like that but with extensions useful for non-fiction writing, such as footnotes), which is then compiled using Scrivener’s MultiMarkdown to LaTeX compile option. As I said, that all by itself could be done in Notepad or TextEdit, you don’t need special software with dedicated features to make a document with these listed features, is what I’m getting at. So yes, this method I’m describing works about as well on Windows as it does on Mac. The MMD capabilities of the two programs are very similar these days, but even if it wasn’t, the premise of these systems is that you don’t need special software to produce high-quality documents.
That leaves the software you do the writing with a preferential choice based on what it gives you as a writer, rather than what it gives you as a production tool. If you are picking software based on its production value, in terms of “making a book” (as opposed to making the words in that book), then Scrivener might be a tough sell—it’s just not meant for that task in any way, it’s meant for the writing alone. It would be like trying to sell InDesign as a writing program, who would want that?
With a program like Scrivener, where most of its design and development goes into making the “IDE” if you will, when add an industrial strength document production method into it, like LaTeX, you get the best of both worlds. You get solid output at the end of the process and an environment built for handling a 250,000 word document with all of the research and ephemera such a project accumulates.
I am not myself familiar enough with InDesign to answer all of that for you. A Scrivener user created a system for transitioning to InDesign at the conclusion of the writing process. I don’t really know anything about how well it works or if it is still being maintained, but here is the link. My guess though is that there will be some things that make sense to use (footnotes may work fine for example, Scrivener generally has no problem with endnotes, footnotes, or even a combination of the two) and other things that make sense to defer and simply mark down for later refinement, like:
Results Rule, Period
You have the text you need to style it quickly in InDesign, and a hook to search for so that you can easily jump to the next spot that needs to be styled. Cross-references, even on the Mac, may be better deferred if you want them to be dynamic for the InDesign phase.
I think the crucial point here is not that this a superior way of making a tip box (although a plain-text junkie like myself would in fact argue that, I don’t care one bit how thick the line around it is or if there is a picture in the corner, when I’m coming up with the phrase itself that will go in it). The point is that the rest of Scrivener should provide enough of a boost to your way of working that it simply doesn’t matter if you have actual tip boxes and captions yet. If the rest of Scrivener doesn’t compel you enough to reconsider the technical aspect of the writing process, then there you go—that’s your answer. A program can’t be for everyone, and someone that needs live field tags throughout the writing process, from the first sentence to the last indexing pass, this ain’t the program for you, and that’s okay. Best of luck finding that beast though. The industry is pretty firmly divided between pure writing tools with minimal or simple boilerplate production features, production tools with minimal writing features (if they are even software with a GUI to begin with!) and then jack-of-nothings like Word.
For me, the difference in experience and capability, between writing in Scrivener and writing in something like Word or InDesign is so clearly, vastly, superior that I wouldn’t care if it only had a couple of compile options and meant a week of post-production design and layout work. I only have to do that stuff once anyway, after months of writing.
Holy smokes, Amber, thank you, thank you, thank you for that reply!!
I can’t even tell you how enormously helpful it is. This is exactly what I needed… it clears up so many things I was confused about.
This will sound pretty silly, but I actually got choked up reading this! I know, I know! But still, someone takes this much time and puts this much thoughtful consideration into their reply, it’s just an awfully kind thing to do.