ScrivNote for iPhone - feedback requested!


There have been several requests for some sort of “Scrivener for the iPhone” that could be sync’ed up with Scrivener, so that users can take notes on their iPhone whilst out and about. I have said repeatedly that I don’t really have much interest in developing such an app, and it’s true that I have no intention of spending a lot of development time on something like this. However, after 1.5 is out (not until next year, since you ask), I might be tempted to have a quick break by messing around with the iPhone SDK.

This is what I was thinking - something dead simple:

• Firstly - and categorically - something like this would most definitely, absolutely NOT have a corkboard or try to emulate the interface of Scrivener at all. It wouldn’t be a place to move around documents or take your whole project. Not at all. It would just be a way of taking notes that you could get back into Scrivener easily.
• The idea is this: just an area for a title, a synopsis and some notes. And a button to create a new “card” or whatever. And that’s it. You would then be able to bring these ideas into Scrivener as documents with a title and synopsis, and the notes could either go into the notes area or the text area - Scrivener would need a little import interface for this (sort of like downloading photos from a camera into iPhoto).

And that would be pretty much it… (In this form it would be a free app, as it would just be an extension of Scrivener rather than something that stood on its own.)


I should emphasise that I’m just thinking aloud here - I may decide not to mess around with the iPhone SDK at all…

All the best,

It’s a slippery slope, Keith.

Scrivener 1.5 started out as Scrivener 1.2, and should really now be Scrivener 2.0!

You know if you start on this app, you will have to buy yourself an iPhone (or is that the whole idea… have you crossed to darkness since you posted your rant thread?) and once you have an iPhone and a chorus of users singing “just one more thing” like they have just watched Colombo, a little viewer with a binder and a corkboard won’t seem like such a big leap.


I’d like to suggest a sort of “Hipster PDA” version of Scriv for the iPhone. The metaphor is simple and perfect for Scrivener: A stack of notecards held together with a binder clip. Period.

The cards can work in the landscape aspect. You can type your topic/project name/whatever on the top line of the notecard, and jot notes on the rest of the card. The cards should be drag-and-drop compatible with Scriv’s notecards – you can drag them into a dedicated notecard folder in the binder, and move them throughout the document from there.

And that’s it. That’s all it should do.

Look at how cool the icon could look!

The iPhone part is easy, it’s the synchronization/transfer part that’s hard. The UI can be as simple or as full featured as you want I think, the backend is where most of the work will have to be done. You’d have to add wireless sync logic to Scrivener on the desktop. A simpler method would be to let you just mail the card/content and then drag/drop the email onto Scrivener to incorporate it. If that’s all you need then you can already drop an email into Scrivener and get a link by dropping the email. If you want the text you can copy/paste or drag/drop selected email text in.

If that’s all you want to do then you don’t need a Scrivener iPhone app, you can just use the iPhone notepad right now to do all that. I haven’t played with the other iPhone writing apps such as “writepad”, “writeroom”, etc to see if they offered a simple export to the desktop that you could easily integrate into Scrivener.

Hope that helps.

Disclaimer: I don’t own an iPhone and I’m not sure if I ever will.

But I imagine the useful functions would be:
–write and save a text note
–copy and save a URL
–copy and save a text clipping

These to go into a ScrivNote file, for synching to another server/computer.
Placing them in various S projects at home/work would be manual.

PS: I wish the Scrivener Services were expanded, and functioned via a contextual menu.


Druid - I don’t really envision the service-type things as something for a ScrivNote app, to be honest - that would be heading down the route of doing too much, as it’s stuff you could easily save already, I think.

Matt - nah, I’m not getting an iPhone. But I am thinking of getting an iPod Touch to test some of this stuff out.

Sean - I like the Hipster idea.

Wizlord - You have a point. The synchronisation thing is what people have been after from what I gather. That would be what I’d take a look at if I downloaded the iPhone SDK. If it’s too much work, then the whole idea will get scrapped anyway. :slight_smile: I’m just thinking aloud and getting some feedback, really…

Thanks for your responses!
All the best,

I only just caught up on this thread. I don’t understand why this would be worthwhile. You can export scriv files to rtf and read them anyway. The idea anyone could edit material on an iPhone or Touch I find quite fantastical. I don’t think it would be practical in any way. In short: if you want to read a document you can do it now. What else is needed?

Just got an iPhone (love it) and wished right off for a Scrivener-capture app.

At bare minimum, the hipster PDA, with a simple list of card titles. The iPhone SDK offers a list interface with drag/drop built in, so it should be straightforward. Horizontal mode is also a good idea.

It would be even better if the app could read a existing Scrivener document, like OmniFocus for the iPhone does.

As an outside possibility, SCREENPLAY FORMATTING! Charge us a couple of bucks for it, but give us basic script formatting that we can import back into Scrivener. There are NO screenwriting apps in the app store. You’ll have a monopoly, and probably sell a number of Scrivener seats besides.

It would be amazing to be able to jot down a scene , or to edit a script draft while away from the office.

Call me old-fashioned but… the idea of watching a film on a phone is bad enough. Trying to write one…???

Heh… My justification for buying myself an iPod Touch is rapidly waning.

popcornflix - I’m afraid what I had in mind would certainly have none of that.

All I had in mind was a project that would take me about a week or two and that’s that; nothing that would divert any development away from Scrivener…

bodsham - I agree; I can’t ever imagine using a Touch or iPhone over my Moleskine notebook and it-writes-upside-down-bullet-style-space pen. You’d be surprised at how many requests I get, though.


Well I’ve had a Touch since it came out and it’s really useful as an iPod and for mail and web when there’s wifi around. I don’t use any of the few apps I bought for it (such as Omnifocus and Things). It’s just too much faffing and frankly I don’t find the sync terribly reliable or worthwhile (particularly if it involves the dreaded MobileMe. Mind you if I lost my Moleskine I’d be b&^^*ed (and it’s the special Rome edition too).

So if you want a neat iPod and the mail and web for wifi I’d say go for it. But I honestly can’t see it as a reading or editing tool - not when you can buy a netbook for £170 in Tesco that will read anything dumped out as rtf or Word. I got the cheapest Acer Aspire One that way, bunged on Ubuntu 8.10, which is a sight smaller than my MacBook Air and quite interesting too. If I need something for a quick train journey or the dreaded Easyjet it’s the best option (the keyboard is fine).

Oh - so can we have Scrivener for Linux then? :wink:

For me, the whole idea of using my iPhone with Scrivener is about ideas within a structure.

I write non-fiction, and my writing is rigidly structured (while my ideas are often not). That is not to suggest that fiction writers are less structured (I wouldn’t know anyway). The structure and text of my present book project is something I want to have with me all the time, because they help me, or are more or less necessary, in developing ideas while I am not sitting at my desk (which I am frequently not).

So, my wish is a simple application that can read a structured view of my Scrivener project’s texts (or a format that Scrivener can export); that is, each and every document (or chosen ones) and where they fit in, just like an outliner:

  1. Chapter 

1.1 - Subject
1.1.1 – Document
1.1.2 – Document
2. Chapter
2.1. - Subject
2.1.1 – Document
2.1.2 – Document
2.2 - Subject
2.2.1 – Document

And so on. Then I would click on a chapter, subject or a document, and read the same text as my Mac’s Scrivener project has stored, and/or input my notes and ideas.

Neither I am convinced that I would use my iPhone for actual writing, only for note taking and idea recording, like I would not use the e-mail app for serious reading and writing of lengthy emails or emails with serious attachments.

But that may or may not include typing of short notes. The iPhone has two other input methods I find really useful: Picture snapshots and voice recording.

Just as I would not dream of using my iPhone for pictures to publish, I would not use it for dictation (or lengthy writing). But I would love to be able to take a snap of any place or subject that triggers an idea, of a written note (a Moleskin page for instance), a printed extract etc. Or record a reminder, or the exact phrase of a person that wants to share something important. And then import these, together with my written notes, into my Scrivener project.

To me, this is what the iPhone is all about: A communication device for short messages and ideas.

To sum up:

If I could access the text of my Scrivenings, and where it fits in, and input keywords , snapshots or short voice recordings into that structure, It would use it all the time. I would even gladly pay for it.


Shame the iPhone can’t actually edit Word documents or you could do this through an export. I don’t know if this is possible or even desirable Keith but I throw in an idea anyway. Would it be possible to have Scriv export a specially tagged rtf document that could be read and edited in other programs, say Word or OpenOffice, then reimported into Scriv and have all the fancy Scriv stuff - scene breaks and everything - automatically recreated. Sort of a portable compatibility format. That way we could edit our work in different places and be able to bring it back to Scriv for polishing without having to go through any work dividing it up into chunks again?

If you had that then anyone with an iPhone could edit to their heart’s content using a simple iPhone text editor, I could do the same on my little netbook, and when I got home I could pull it all back into Scriv on the Mac? Sort of have Scriv put in special tags that denote separate scenes and document breaks etc? Obviously I expect you’d lose extra info though such as notes…

I hope what I’m suggesting is clear. If not do ask.

It’s funny, when I had a Psion Series 3a, I wrote a lot on that tiny thing. I could pour down my thoughts on it wherever I was, and really fast despite those tiny keys. It was the perfect keyboard for tumbtyping. I wrote papers for school, scenes for some plays, and later wrote papers on it when I was at the university. I thumbtyped on long trains rides. Battery seemed to last forever, and it was really light. When at home, I just hit sync and I could work on it on my PC. When that thing finally gave up, it was like I lost a limb.

I tried to find a replacement, but wasn’t able to find the feel of that solid old Series 3a. I don’t know, the interface was just remarkable, so well thought out, and it didn’t even have a touch screen! Maybe it was because everything could be controlled with the keyboard that was the wonderful thing, because you didn’t have to switch between the keys and a stylus. The Series 5 felt too big, and I just couldn’t thumbtype comfortably on that thing. And switching between keyboard and pen, that’s not intuitive. I tried handwriting with a Newton, but those MessagePads 2000 are big, and it’s still slow to input text. It didn’t came close to the rapid thought train that was the Series 3a. Tried a Palm, but it’s really not fast having to use Graffiti, and an external keyboard makes it big. I also just don’t like having to use a stylus on small computers. I didn’t try any PDA with hardware keys after that. Maybe I should have bought a Blackberry, or something like that. I used paper notebooks for the last couple of years, but retyping my text does take long. Also, I don’t have pretty handwriting. And searching through my notes also takes a long time. Enter 2008, and I bought an iPod touch.

I thought long about buying it, and finally cave in just a couple of weeks ago. The device is everything I hoped for. And I did have my reservations about that virtual keyboard, but it’s not that bad. For me, typing on a glass pane actually feels quite good. Yes, there are occasional misses, but the auto-correct catches a lot. It’s just the whole interface that makes a good experience: it’s simple, functional, and I just totally get it. It’s the same feeling I had with my Series 3a. Everything is controlled with my fingers. No switching between two different interface types, meaning a pen and keyboard. It just makes sense, even more than keyboard and mouse on the PC. The keyboard slides up when I need it, and moves away when I don’t. I just type in my thoughts wherever I am. Sometimes, I don’t like sitting behind my PC. I walk around, and type a few things on my iPod touch. For now, the available software is still immature. Syncing my text to my Mac is a bit of a hassle. But man, I really think Apple has made a wonderful product for the future. For me, the iPod touch is just a wonderful tool for my brain, and I do hope that good software is developed for it.

ScrivNote might not be for everyone. Heck, the iPod touch might not be for everyone, certainly not for those who hate the virtual keyboard. But I was born in the age of the PDA. I like to carry a pocketable PC with me, instead of a paper notebook. I think the touchscreen interface is the future. I like the concept of a unified interface, meaning one way to control the interface. Like the Series 3a was a great tool that I could carry with me all the time, I’m positive that the task will now be carried over by my iPod touch. If in the future there is a way that I could enter a couple of thoughts on it, or even work out scenes on it during the day, and finally sync it with Scrivener on the Mac, that would be wonderful.

Oh, and the Netbook is not the equivalent of the paper notebook in the digital age. It’s small, but it doesn’t fit in the palm of your hand. Yes you can carry it with you in a small bag, but you still need to put it onto a table or your lap when you want to use it. So there still is a place for the pocketable computer.

I’m constantly trying to tie my iPhone into every little aspect of my life just 'cause it’s fun to use. Sure, typing on it is a nuisance, but I think lots of people would be tempted into using such a thing just because it could be done.

So, whether or not people use it, it would probably be good marketing. And I think I would actually use it a bit, since my endless “Future Writing Notes” file is now in Together on my laptop, and not much use for capturing ideas when I sit bolt upright in bed with my brain buzzing.

Well, you asked. :smiley:

I use my iphone (and my PDA before) for jotting ideas all the time. At bare minimum, I’d like to see ScrivNote:

• Work in vertical & horiz modes
• List documents by headline
• Sync to Scrivener in some way, so transferring from iPhone to Mac is easy and fast.

Next most important feature would be at least one level of folders.

(You could also make the entry screen look like an index card from the Corkboard. 8) )

You can already read Scrivener projects on your iPhone.

It’s not a perfect setup, and I haven’t tested the method thoroughly, but it works for me.

  1. When you’re ready to export your project to the iPhone/Touch set the font in Preferences to something like 36 point. Leave everything else untouched.
  2. Then Documents > Convert > Formatting to Default Text.
  3. File > Export > Files and choose the HTML option
  4. Drag and drop the folder to your iPhone using AirSharing or other file browser.
  5. You can then change the font size back to normal, or just change the view to 50%, which is usually good enough for my purposes.

It’s certainly NOT the perfect solution, but I find this does not destroy your text formatting, and you can then read the text on the phone at good size. It also doesn’t affect your Compile Draft formatting, which is really where you don’t want to play with the formatting. The HTML format allows you to read without getting that pesky horizontal scroll.

Of course, a proper solution would be much better, and a ScrivNote that incorporates at least some organizational features would be my request.

I don’t have an iPhone, I don’t intend to buy one, I don’t even own a mobile phone anymore. (I had one, once, when it still was something special to have one, and kids were looking at you with big eyes when you were using it… remember? :laughing: (Yes, I’m that old :frowning: ))

So, count me out as a customer. While on the road, I rely on notebook and pen.

This whole idea strikes me as an example of technological imperative: we can do it, therefore we should. Is this a needed step, an interesting step, a cute-but-marginally-practical step, or an utterly useless let’s-show-off-our-new-toy step? It strikes me as closer to useless than to needed, but as I can’t imagine ever using it myself, I have no interest in it; probably my opinion should not count for much in your deliberations. But you did ask.


Like PJS I am not sure this is needed by “most” folks. But…

If I were on a short trip, say to the market, and I see/experience/dream an event which demands inclusion in my work as a resolution, then it might be nice to whip out my non-existent iPhone, hit the sciv icon, tap the “new note” button and give it a quick write up hence alleviating my distraction. Since my writing is not my “job” I do not carry my 3x5 when I do a 15 minute (which turns into 60 minute) errands. It is almost inevitable that some idea will strike and I miss a significant part of it.

That said, my current mitigation (I have no iPhone anyway) is to haul a kid who always carries a notepad. My son always expects some all important secrete to fall his way, so he always carries a little notepad. He is getting quite good at dictation.

anyway, I think there are those who could use this, but I see it as nothing more than an index card stack. I would not even make an association of the card to a project in the iPhone. Have the integration engine do that. In scriv let me pick what projects I want to sync with the phone, then ask me to assign existing cards to these projects. New cards require manual assignment in scriv. Allow me to export all existing index cards from scriv to the phone. Just the card. Nothing else.

If that makes sense, great (it would be a first I think). If not … well we should be used to that by now.