Should I pay $900 for Scrivener? Newbie needs help!

Hello! I’ve been lurking and reading for a few days. Now delurking to ask you lovely people a question…

Should I pay $900 for Scrivener?

Er, that will include the Macintosh, of course :slight_smile:

I am a lifelong Windows person but I am on the verge of going over to Mac, just to get this software. So, before I take the plunge, I wonder if someone could confirm that Scrivener will fit my requirements:

  • Supports a simple text editor function like Typewriter or Q10 where you CANNOT go back and edit as you write

  • Can make notes in a side window, while you use the Typewriter function, that are anchored to points in the text

  • Enables the “index card” thingies (great idea this) to be arranged in the order you choose, and you can “save” these orderings as if they were linear outlines, or save them in thematic or character-based groups; can you also “fade out” or somehow “background” index cards that may no longer be relevant, but you don’t want to bin them?

  • I understand Scrivener does not have a “timeline” function, but is there any similar function where you can stick a date on your index cards and see them in chronological order?

  • I am in mid-book. Will it be possible to import a 160K-word MS Word file into Scrivener and just continue working on it? Actually this should have been question #1, shouldn’t it :smiley:

Any and all help will be appreciated! I really want to try Scrivener but I’d feel quite silly if I plonked down the money for a new computer and then the software did not serve my needs. Thank you!

Hi and welcome.

I’m not going to answer your questions individually, except to say this: some of your requirements can be satisfied by Scrivener as it is, some maybe as it will be in Version 2 and some not at all. The developer KB is qualified to comment on this; I’m not. The software documentation (videos, Help, tutorial, Wiki, FAQ) is worth looking at, in detail, before making your decision. And of course you can import your novel from Word.

All I’d say is: yes, it is worth moving to the Mac from Windows. I did. Not only is Scrivener very good, with no direct Windows equivalent at the moment, but also (in my opinion) for wider operating-system and other-software reasons the Mac is a better long-form writing platform than the PC. And of course you can always use your Windows software on a Mac, whereas the reverse is more difficult.



Thanks for your interest in Scrivener - to the extent that you are considering moving to a Mac. Of course, I can’t say whether you should or shouldn’t, although I will say that I switched to a Mac about six years ago (I started developing Scrivener not long after, following abortive efforts on Windows) and haven’t looked back… Obviously I feel it’s a better platform, but it’s up to you to decide for yourself. I would say that I would never recommend switching platforms just for a single application (even though a number of Scrivener users have done exactly that, and many thanks to them!); you should go test out a Mac at the store and decide whether you like it enough. After playing with an iBook I was hooked enough to make the switch. Also bear in mind that we don’t rule out a Windows version, but were one to go ahead then it certainly wouldn’t be programmed by me personally and I can’t really say anything more than that at the moment.

So, to answer your questions directly:

Should I pay $900 for Scrivener?

Er, that will include the Macintosh, of course :slight_smile:

There’s nothing like this in Scrivener nor any plans for anything like this. Scrivener’s text editor is fully editable at all times.

Coming in 2.0. Currently you can make inline notes and general notes on the whole document in the side view.

The corkboard and ways of making different groupings will be more powerful and flexible in 2.0, but for now I recommend going through the online video tutorial to get an idea of how Scrivener’s corkboard works.

I’m looking into this for 2.0; it’s already partly implemented but there is more work to be done.

Yes. You can import Word documents and use the Split functions to chop them up easily.

I really recommend going through the videos on our videos page:

This should give you a good idea of what Scrivener does and enable you to get a feel for how it looks and works without needing to find a Mac to try it.

Hope that helps.

All the best,

Excellent! Thanks for your replies, Keith and Hugh, this is extremely helpful information.

I suppose I really should go and have a look at those videos. I have a deepseated aversion to video tutorials (what was wrong with user manuals?) but that’s just me being a young curmudgeon, and it would behoove me to be as familiar as possible with Scrivener before switching to Mac for it, wouldn’t it :confused:

I can’t really see any difference between the two platforms except that Macs cost more and support Scrivener :smiling_imp:

However, what you say about the margin notes function, Keith, convinces me I ought to wait for 2.0, anyway, since that is a really indispensable function for me. (I currently use Comments in MS Word which is unsatisfactory for a bunch of reasons but better than nothing; inline notes would destroy my flow). What’s the word on 2.0’s probable release date?

Thanks again for all your help :blush:

I fully agree about margin notes. The margin notes in Jer’s Novel Writer (now in hibernation or worse) were a revelation and I really do miss them in Scrivener 1.x.

My latest work around, while waiting for Scrivener 2 (due sometime this coming summer, I think I’ve seen mentioned) is to export chapters to Nisus Writer Pro, which I really like as a replacement for Word. The Nisus margin notes work very well for me, are easy to handle and hide and allow me to jot down spontaneous observations and impulses, anchored to specific locations in the text, just like in Word but better.

Still, I have no doubt that Keith’s implementation will smoke Nisus and JNW, if past experiences are anything to go by… :wink:




Yes, it will be coming out in summer 2010.

You can see the 1.x user manual here by the way: … erHelp.pdf

It’s a big ugly as a PDF because it was designed as HTML for the built-in Help book, but a user kindly converted it to PDF so that it could be printed off (2.0’s manual will be designed as PDF from the get-go).

All the best,

Not to enter into a tedious, well-worn debate, but, having used Windows since 3.0, I’ve found:

  • not to have to download security updates and virus definitions ad nauseam to the Mac is a timesaver;

  • the Mac platform enables different programmes to work more harmoniously and inter-operably together (through the Services menu, for example) and there is more cross-familiarity of user-interface — at the cost, perhaps, of a certain uniformity

  • there are several Mac programmes such as Curio, Tinderbox, DevonThink and, of course, Scrivener which are useful for long-form writing and have no exact Windows equivalent.

Of course there’s a greater choice of programmes running under Windows. But as I noted above, this is one of those circumstances where you can have your cake and eat it too…

Not to hijack the thread into a Mac–Windows shooting match, but how can you take an OS seriously that can’t (= isn’t programmed to!) tell the user that there isn’t space enough on the external flash drive/HD you’re initiating a backup to? :unamused: Lame, isn’t it?

Haven’t heard if MS got around to rectifying that blooper yet…

I have to use Windows for some work related tasks every now and then but, brother, am I glad when I come back home.


Suggesting that OSX and Windows are not different is like saying that a ferrari and a peddle car are not different. If you want to get into the nuts and bolts there are a ton of differences and enough zealots on both side to provide as much biased information as you could ever want.

At the end of the day the real question become “want do you want to accomplish?” Once you answer that you need to ask “what am I willing to spend ensure it is accomplished?” Then you look for a solution that will meet your requirements. If you want to use scrivener [b]today[/i] then you need to buy a mac. If you search the forums you will see the response to the “is there a windows version?” question.

If you have specific questions regarding the differences between OSX and windows PM me and I will answer them. I will admit that I am not a fan of windows, but I am not an apple “fan boy”. My info is decidedly anti-windows biased but is not necessarily pro-mac.

Anyway, have fun.

You could go to a mac store whose demo computers have internet access, download and install scrivener, and play with it a while. They generally don’t mind, as long as you don’t monopolize the computer when other customers want to take a look at it.

You’d get a feel for how the mac operates in general, as well as how easy it is to install programs and how scriv works.

I don’t want to turn you from Scrivener, when I switched to my Mac - it was the only writing program I found that worked for me. However, that was because I came from a windows machine and yWriter - Scrivener was a unwanted replacement at the time, I had wished I could stay with yWriter (I even went so far as the darwine route before giving up totally). Now having worked with Scrivener for a similar amount of time as yWriter, I MUCH prefer Scrivener to yWriter, and would pay for it if both were available under the same OS - I would suggest if you’ve never used writing software before to try yWriter on you PC. If you like it, know that Scrivener is hundreds times more functional and the layout is nicer (I especially like the full screen mode, I can pound out a scene in 20-30 minutes if I’ve got no interruptions in that mode. Plus since the author receives payment for it, he is much more likely to take suggestions seriously (when I first switched there was a feature that yWriter had that Scrivener did not, whether it was already on the list or not, it showed up in the next version). yWriter’s author does on occasion, but it’s used for his books, he just makes it available for others, so the features you get are what the author likes, not always what you request. I did have problems switching, features are different, their two different software writers. But I would suggest switching to a Mac because it works for you (and just so happens to be a better OS/machine), and allow Scrivener to be a bonus (if you don’t end up getting published then you can’t blame the invenstment on Scrivener :wink: ) . yWriter should give you an idea of what writing software can do to help you and you should be able to understand if the switch will be beneficial or if writing software isn’t why you want to switch. I don’t use it so much for the writing, although the full screen view allows that, as to make sure I’m organized, that my chapters are similar lengths, to quickly preview and review scenes if I’m questioning things, instead of having to search an entire word document.

$600 or so will get a mini, but ability to change venue with laptop needs to be considered.

I have grew up on DOS/Windows. Keyboard commands may take some adjustment if used to Windows/Linux: (Command key is where Alt is, Alt is called Option, Command does much of what Control does). If you are accustomed to think, “Control+Z! Control+Z!” (Undo) when you make a mistake, train yourself to think “Command+z.” Snow Leopard’s US International PC keyboard layout and/or the special character viewer / keyboard viewer help with accented characters.

I’ve tried a lot of writing software on Windows and Linux. In my experience, once past the learning curve and/or the tedious import process, you start running into the limitations. Usually there’s a sacrifice somewhere, either in text features or note features or structure features. If it handles support materials like sketches and such, you might be writing in code (wiki). If it has great scene features, it probably doesn’t allow for getting the flow of a whole chapter. You often end up duplicating your efforts, putting the plot in one place and the writing the story in another place. Maybe the images are in another place. Importing is often very tedious. Your mind is trying to hold all the locations of notes and reference materials. You end up working with six programs at once and struggling to fit them all on your screen real estate in a way that you can glance at your reference material without being distracted from your writing. Comparing a scene in one chapter with a scene in another chapter is a similar struggle. Computer performance may begin to deteriorate, especially on Windows.

I listed features of other software offerings on the Windows side, and compared to Scrivener. I couldn’t find anything to match Scrivener’s feature set.

I prefer the Scrivener Full Screen because formatting is not lost, smart quotes and dashes are preserved, unlike many of the full screen plain text editors I tried, but that’s my preference. I’ve never tried a no-edit feature, but if you want to disable delete, you could use Ukelele to add a Mac keyboard layout without a delete or backspace key.

My chapters were in documents totalling 120K words. Import was as easy as dragging them all from the file manager. They imported in seconds. I still am amazed when I remember it. Day 1 (Mac commands, sink or swim), Day 2, writing chapter 20. If I’m not mistaken, it utilizes Apple for the import so results would be similar for Word files.

For me, it is a breath of fresh air to have all the information moving into one managable system. (Spreadsheets are not importable (yet? :wink:), but at least I can create a link to the file.)

I worried about that a good bit, after experience with Windows apps. My experience with Scrivener has been quite different so far, even from just being able to get writing day 2.

As an added bonus to your Scrivener investment, you get a new computer and a solid OS with fine performance and stability and other features that enhance the Scrivener experience. :slight_smile: Right-click/control-click selected text for handy shortcuts like search google and look up in dictionary.

Seriously, though, the earlier suggestion to try the mac in store is a very good one. Make sure you like the mac. The keyboard commands I found to be the hardest part of the switch, but now I am write at home. :wink:

I’m not sure of the reason for your need for the “no editing” mode, but it is easy to turn off grammar and spell checking in a given program, so you don’t get the colored squiggly lines because of typos. That has helped me get stuff out of my brain faster, since I use the backspace key less frequently. Later, I can use the full-document spell check plus a read-through to fix obvious errors.

KB: I’m interested in the in-line notes option. How will this be different than annotations? Is there a central place to look for features planned for 2.0 where you’ve already explained this? if not, would you mind people adding a section to the wiki?

Along with the current inline annotations/footnotes feature, 2.0 will have a more traditional (sort of) comments system where comments and footnotes can be stored in the inspector. There is no central place for 2.0 features just yet, as everything is pretty much under wraps. I hope to post some screenshots and announce some features in the next couple of months, though, once 2.0 is a little closer to release.

Thanks and all the best,

I use a control pane to defeat the capslock delay, and remap my Command and Control keys when working under Windows. It is named KeyRemap4MacBook, but should work on any Mac:

There is a “Delete to Forward Delete” remapping option - they call “Backspace” “Delete”, but it is it.


I’m a longtime Mac user, but am just as ‘comfortable’ using Windows software - I know a LOT of workarounds and what hoops I need to jump through to get the PC to do what I want it to do.

Then I started writing my book. I went through several word processing programs, including MS Word for Mac before finding Scrivener. I went through the videos, and downloaded it. After trying the built-in tutorial, I had a pretty good idea that I was about to buy it, but I had a long manuscript to try to import first. Took ten, twenty minutes to split the whole thing into the appropriate chapters, chapter segments, and all. I use it almost exclusively… except now that I’ve started exporting my manuscript. The world uses Word, and it’s been handy to have

Laptop vs Mini: they’ve both got their own strengths. For writing, the portability of the laptop can’t be overvalued.

For what it’s worth:

  • depending on your financial situation, the Mac is worth the price on its own.
  • the promise of being able to use Scrivener on the Mac should serve as the icing on the cake.
  • the portability of a laptop is worth the extra over the Mini.

Short version: Yes.

Just to put in my pennyworth, as a writer with not too much money, my decision to move to Mac for Scrivener took a long time of research and I eventually bought a Mac Mini only a few months back. Using a Mac is like a breath of fresh air after Windows. Snow Leopard is a far simpler and more intuitive system once you get used to it, the relative absence of virus problems is wonderful (but I still use the free but efficient and unseen iAntivirus), there is a greater feeling of solidity about the system and with the absence of a Registry I have far greater confidence in installing and uninstalling programs to test. I haven’t looked back . . . and Scrivener? I just love it though I am looking forward to 2.0 Go for it!

The Scrivener approach with a binder - like a whacking great file binder in which you have plastic partitions with thumb tags on them and all in different colours is such a powerful chapter/text organiser that it alone convinced a medical colleague to buy an iMac to do his PhD on. I prepared a Scrivener PhD template for him that mapped every chapter and sub heading in each of the twelve chapters of his thesis and he keeps sucking in his breath going “Awwwww!” He now has data, text, bibliography, PDFs, pictures, movie snippets and a whole lot more all under perfect control all the time. His previous Windows environment had already cost him two years of faffing about and it looked like the junk room for a child’s life time of toy collecting. He was sinking fast.

That is the Scrivener experience and I have seen it over and over from academics, screenwriters, novel writers and comic writers. Two days of earnest engagement learning about the magic of the splits (where you can see and iteratively edit two entirely different documents side by side - or one above the other) and the Outline and the Index cards and the import functions and the … the videos, watch the videos.

On and on it goes.

Do it. Your life will change - for the better. Sell your children to medical science to pay for it - just do it.


You can’t ask for a better endorsement than that. :slight_smile: Thanks LL!

Hi there:

I did, and have never regretted it. I bought a Mac so that I could have Scrivener, and have been delighted with both.