Software (and OS) suggestions?

I’ve been haunting several writers’ forums for a week or so, looking for 1/ kindred spirits, and 2/ help in selecting software. This one seems perfect on the first issue, so I’ll ask you about the second one.

The situation. I’ve been a free-lance for a long time, and now am cutting back, at least on the commercial stuff. I’ve been posting on the Internet for about a dozen years, for which I’ve never needed more than (now that I’m on a Mac) Ecto and TextWrangler. I do occasional Op-Ed pieces for the local paper; again, TW is more than enough. I keep a journal of musings and observations and quotes, for which there’s Journler. I’ve written a couple novels, and have (re)started work on a couple more: the two early ones are finished – though they undergo constant tweaking while waiting for a sympathetic editor – and I’ve imported them into Ulysses; the next two (or more) lie scattered in bits and pieces across two hard drives, a pile of notebooks, and inchoate images in my fevered brain.

The maguffin: I’m on an iMac with 10.3.9.

The doubts: U 1.2 is nice, but it seems, well, cumbersome for the way I work. Don’t misunderstand. It was terrific when I was transferring and revising the two novels that were already set with plot and character and arc of action, etc. But now, into new work – which will include a large number of essays and short stories as well as the new novels – I feel bogged down trying to get a handle on the whole enterprise in Ulysses.

The basic questions: 1/ Is it worth getting Tiger now, so I can upgrade to U 1.5 and can try Scrivener, or should I wait for Leopard? 2/ Is Scrivener or Ulysses the better choice, given that from now on I’m not just – in essence – moving near-final-draft stuff from one app to another? I’ll be trying to organize and assemble disparate chunks from here and there, and will want to be able to refer to (not incorporate, but have handy for reference) such items as street maps of Amsterdam and Vienna, the undercarriage configuration for a 1983 Mercedes, and Emergency Medical protocols for digital intubation. You know, the stuff that fact-checkers kill you with late in the game.

You’ll get some great advice here, as soon as some of the regulars see the thread. :slight_smile:

My advice: Do whatever is necessary to get your Macintosh capable of running Scrivener and try it out. You’ll buy it within 48 hours, probably less if you’re like most of us. Scrivener is special; special in a way you’ll see immediately, and you’ll reinforce that opinion over and over as you use it. :smiley:

I am 85% done with the second draft of a non-fiction book, but the research possibilities in Scrivener that I am currently enjoying sound like something that would be useful to you as well.

My research was in the form of PDF’s, web pages, and pictures, all of which was seamlessly tucked away in the Research folder of my project. I can copy an interesting web address, paste it into a request window in Scrivener, and have Scrivener import it into my Research folder for me. Then it is constantly at hand for reference and I don’t have to search for it or open another program. And did I mention that one can search web archives for text right along with one’s own work? A great way to see if you have mentioned that bit of research yet, and where.

I can confidently state that Scrivener sped up my writing process. Tough structural problems were solved again and again because of the way Scrivener lets me move stuff around, or create blank documents that act as placeholders, or just take a bunch of my scribblings and actually put it together coherently. You mentioned “trying to organize and assemble disparate chunks from here and there,” and I’ve never seen any program handle such a task with the fluid ease of Scrivener.

As far as computer upgrading goes, unless what you are waiting for is the only way to go, don’t wait. If you need it now, why wait? There’s always something thrilling just around the corner. Always. I recently replaced my aging iBook with a used 12" PowerBook G4. Just so I could use Scrivener on a laptop, the way I prefer to write.

There’s rumors that Apple is going to bring out a subnotebook with flash memory. Sounds dreamy. But it’s not here now, and if I were waiting for it… I wouldn’t have it, still.

If you haven’t used Scrivener yet, you really don’t know what you are missing. It’s the best word processor I’ve ever used; and I’ve been writing on word processors for almost as long as there’s BEEN word processors.

One last thing I’ve found wildly enjoyable… there are different colored highlighters that you can label your text with, and then search by. I use orange for Research, blue for Needs Expansion, that kind of thing. So when I’m in the Research mode, I can find all the stuff that needs researching.

Sounds cool to you? Then you will love Scrivener, because it’s stuffed FULL of little things like that. Which can make a big difference.

Kastorff: Thank you. You’re right, I’m sure. There’s little reason – and WereBear is even more insistent than you – for putting off the upgrade. (Except that, if weren’t for procrastination, I wouldn’t have anything to look forward to.)

WereBear: Thanks. Your observations about the assembly process are exactly what I’m looking for. Like you, I’ve been using WP as long as it’s been around, and been writing longer still. (First piece ever I published was written in pencil, then copied with a manual typewriter.) Despite the years of WP experience, I sometimes feel my brain lacks the cyber-savvy meta-data-orientation necessary to fully appreciate modern programs. Like, say, Ulysses or Scrivener. But I’ll go in again and hack away at it. You can teach an old dog new tricks, but it usually takes longer. BTW, I think I’m only a couple hours south of you, in the CapDist.

Yes, you would be! Remember to avail yourself of the lovely recreational possibilities in what I think is the most unspoiled Park in the US! (Obligatory plug for tourism. It’s all we have.)

I have only tried Ullysses briefly, at the same time I was test-driving Scrivener, and Scrivener seemed much more full featured for what I need, which includes having italics and bold in rich text. (As someone who has dragged different works into and out of plain text and lost all my needed italics too many times, this had definite appeal.)

It’s really a case of realizing that meta-orientation can actually be more like one’s brain works than a straight linear dump like Word. If you’ve ever loaded multiple chapters to find that elusive description or fact, if you’ve ever been back and forth from your outline to your manuscript to keep them aligned, if you’ve ever made a bunch of index cards or sprawled on the floor with markers and a big sheet of butcher paper to get a handle on your structure to figure out what should go where when it’s not doing so now…

You’ll love how Scrivener thinks.

Here’s a previous post of mine where I explain how Scrivener helped me greatly: … php?t=1787


As the creator of Scrivener, obviously I’m a little biased. :slight_smile: Ulysses is a wonderful app, too, though, and it sounds as though really what you want to do, when you upgrade, is try out U 1.2 and Scrivener to see which works best for you. I would hate for you to shell out money upgrading your computer especially for Scrivener only to find it doesn’t work for you, though. I definitely recommend poking around the Apple site to see if you would rather wait for Leopard. As a paid-up developer, I’m running the Leopard beta and visually I find it much more pleasing. However, I can say that there is no real difference between Scrivener on Leopard and Scrivener on Tiger. And I daresay it is the same for Ulysses.

The main point, though, is probably this: the fact that you are asking this question at all suggests that you are not yet 100% happy with your current software workflow. So, given that your current software of choice (Ulysses) requires Tiger for its latest upgrade, as does Scrivener, then it’s just a matter of deciding whether or not you need any Leopard-only features of the OS (Leopard is very, very nice, but I personally don’t think there are any killer features over Tiger - and I’m not breaking my NDA here, because by “killer features” I just mean the ones that were announced at the past two WWDCs; that said, I do very much prefer Leopard). Bear in mind that most of the users here will tell you that Scrivener is better, but you would get a different answer on the Blue-Tec forum. :slight_smile:

At any rates, good luck and I hope you find the software that works best for you.

All the best,


Wait for Leopard? That’s November or so at latest check, plus waiting for feedback and reaction, plus waiting to get clear of the holiday madness. Six months miniumum. So I went out and bought Tiger, installed it, upgraded Ulysses, downloaded Scrivener.

First reaction: U 1.5 is more sleek and efficient in some ways than before, and more flexible, though I’m still uncomfortable with what seems like needlessly complicated exporters. Also – and a big reason for wanting to try S – I don’t need italics very often, and bold even less, but when I do use them, I want to see them in the ordinary work flow, not easy to do in U.

S is interesting and (admit it) a bit odd out of the dmg. What are all the buttons and tabs and panes and gizmos for? With trepidation born of painful experience, I ventured into the tour/explanation/documentation.

What a relief.

Well-organized, well-written, and clear. If software manuals had been written that well twenty-five years ago… well, it probably would not have produced universal amity and goodwill, but it would have made entrance into the cyberworld a hell of a lot easier for the ninety-five percent of us who are not genetically hard-wired for code.

But to the immediate issue. As the instructions were clear, and the machinery functioned as promised, and the functions all seemed valuable and – perhaps, now that they’re avaialable – even essential, I’m sure I’ll be sending you money soon.

Do give me a few days, however, to play around first.


  1. Upgrade your OSX to the latest version (10.4.10)

  2. Download and discover all the magic of Scrivener. Remember Keith is still creatively steaming over the new Help file. The tutorial and the forum are excellent sources of learning.

The latest version is on the Beta Testing thread (v 1.07). It is about a final beta as a beta can get. You can trust it completely.

Keep posting if you need help!


I’m happy you are intrigued by Scrivener. I had previously had two programs which were cross compatable, an outliner called Flow, and a word processor called ProWrite, now sadly deceased along with the Amiga platform.

I switched to the Mac in 2000 because I knew it would have more creative software, and I was right! Scrivener has done nothing less than revolutionize my working process, and we all know what zealots revolutionaries can be :slight_smile:

As KB, the developer, points out, writers have all sorts of processes, and Scrivener might not be right for all of them, but there seems to be lots of us who find Scrivener, like Baby Bear’s bowl of porridge, just right.


I’ve been using Scrivener for several days now, and seem to be over the hump of new-tool confusion. The learning curve is less steep than I expected (feared), and the only real problem (not troublesome, really, more in the realm of disconcerting) is that I’ve found myself, a few times, wondering just why Scrivener doesn’t have… oh, I see, it does have, or why won’t it let me… hmm, apparently it will let me.

One small example, offered with as much humility as I’m willing to evince in public: I put the ms of a finished novel into S, broke it down into chapters, and set up the outline. Started playing with the outliner, and discovered that on Wednesday, August 18, 1982, my protagonist had managed to be in two places at once.

Inevitable conclusion: S alone has been worth the expense and bother of upgrading to Tiger. Thanks again to all.