I’m finding Scrivener to be a fascinating and useful – and potentially VERY useful – program. The chances that I won’t wind up buying it are next to nothing.
At the same time, I’m finding its command structure disappointing. Two examples.
Deleting an item is one of the most critical things a program can let you do. In Scrivener, this is done with Shift-Delete, which sends it to the trash, from where if it’s not rescued it will go bye bye the next time the trash is emptied. So doing a delete isn’t a trivial thing.
Yet that same command, Shift-Delete, is used to remove an item from a Collection, which does not in any way “delete” the item from the project, and so inadvertently or even unknowingly removing an item a from collection is fairly low on the list of worst errors a user can make.
Having the same key combination perform both a “real delete” and a relatively inconsequential command that (when you come down to it) shouldn’t even be called delete, doesn’t make much sense. Throw in the fact that the Binder (where real documents get deleted) and Collections (which are just alias lists) share the same pane, and look highly similar (color options notwithstanding), and that the word Binder is used to refer to both the full pane and to one of its internal items, and you’ve added both unnecessary steepness and some degree of risk to the learning curve.
Then the second example.
Saving a currently opened file or project under a different name is one of the most basic tasks of file management. File-Save-as is as second nature as File-New. Far more often than not, the key sequence to Save as is Alt-F, a.
But in Scrivener, Alt-F, a Closes all open projects – which due to constant background saving are unlikely to trigger a prompt to save before closing (does Scrivener even have that? I don’t think I’ve ever seen one), which means that attempting to do a Save as in the same way it’s done virtually everywhere else guarantees that you’ll be dropped to desktop without warning – until you learn that this is how it works. It shouldn’t be necessary to learn something as basic as that specifically for one program, but until you do you’re flirting with forced user-error from an unnecessarily non-standard key sequence.
I know this is all very picky. But I keep finding things like this as I work my way through and try to familiarize myself with Scrivener space… which I really want to do… because I really like the paradigm. But a good paradigm deserves a UI that lets its goodness shine through, especially when these kind of ad hoc-feeling UI characteristics aren’t in any way necessitated by the the paradigm itself – though I suspect that cumulatively they account for some of the rejection of that paradigm by those who mistake a bumpy UI for paradigm weakness, and don’t want the frustration.
So I’m really really liking Scrivener. But there’s some disappointment. I don’t know if it’s like this over on the Mac side – truth is I sometimes think that UI features/stumbles like these are (directly or indirectly) due somehow to the influence of the Mac UI being historically more mouse oriented, with keyboard access, and therefor keyboard navigation and command sequences, suffering as a afterthought. (Photoshop is a classic example of this, having its deepest roots in Cupertino.)