Thoughts from NaNoWriMo 09

These comments are for Scrivener 1.54n on an Intel Quad-Core Xeon running Mac OS 10.6.2 with 21 GB memory.

I used Scrivener to participate in Nano09 this year and liked it a lot. As I used it during the month, I had these thoughts:
For Improvement:
First, I think as a major player in NaNo, Scrivener’s word count should be much closer to the NaNo word counter’s count. I know the NaNo word counter is dumb and illiterate, but Scrivener told me I had 167 more words than the NaNo word counter did. Fortunately, I had plenty of time to write the difference, but why not just “force” Scrivener to give the struggling writer the count NaNo will use to judge success or failure at the end of a long, hard month of writing? The difference of 167 words was not significant but it was still a shock to see that I had more writing to do at the very end.
Second, when control-clicking on a word and selecting Lookup in Google, it uses Safari. In my case, I have my default browser set to Firefox. Scrivener should ask the Mac OS, What browser does this user have as the default browser? Use that one. I think to do otherwise (force use of Safari) is against Apple’s interface guidelines but also it means all the searches I do from Scrivener are not searchable in my history unless I remember to go to Safari.
Third, I would like to see a cleaner implementation of Styles. Staying in the default style was fine, but at one point I needed to define a style as Press Release. I found defining it very convoluted and once I finally did figure it out, going back to Default didn’t change the margins and tabs back to the Default style, they just stayed in Press Release until I manually changed them back. Also, since there are never any check marks next to the style you’re in (in the drop menu, in the ruler) it’s impossible to tell what style Scrivener thinks it’s in. Also, I found that unless you have specifically clicked inside a document, the ruler menu is greyed out. (What I mean is, If you only have a document’s name highlighted but have not specifically clicked inside of the document window so the cursor appears, the choices under Text -> Ruler are not selectable. I found that odd.) Styles, in general, were confusing to work with.

For Enjoyment:
First, I hate blinking anything and being able to turn off cursor blinking was great.
Second, overall I like its ease of use and the full screen view. Also, the pop-up bar at the bottom of the screen to select parameters in full-screen mode was great. I didn’t use it once I had it set to the way I wanted it but that was helpful.
Third: Different colors for high-lighting text. Very nice. I used it everywhere. I should mention on that here: If I ended the hilite with Ctrl-Cmd-0, moved the cursor somewhere else, then returned the cursor back to the point where I’d turned off hiliting, it acted like I hadn’t turned it off and I’d have to press Ctrl-Cmd-0 again. I got used to making sure I typed at least one character so the end of high-lighting would take.

Lastly, I’ll just say in general there’s so much in Scrivener I didn’t use many of its features! I kept saying to my wife, “It has a lot of commands I’ve never seen before but I haven’t had the time to figure out what they do!”

Now that NaNo is over and I’ve won, I look forward to my purchase at the winner’s discount. I wrote my first novel with it. That’s saying something!

WriMo Username: ZenWitch

Hi Rowan,

Many thanks for your comments, and for liking Scrivener enough to want to buy. Much appreciated. Replies to your comments and suggestions are inline below:

Although we offered a Scrivener discount as a NaNo prize this year, and may well do again next year, I wouldn’t like to tie Scrivener’s word count to the NaNo one. You may have seen my explanations about this on the NaNo thread, but essentially, Scrivener’s word count is as accurate as any other. All word counting algorithms differ slightly, as there are edge cases in word counting that computers cannot work out and so need to use a general rule, which will differ between programs. For instance, hyphenated words - some hyphenated words should be counted as two words, others as one. Scrivener uses what the OS X text system considers to be a word for its word count. I’ve tested it against the other major word processors - Word, Nisus, Mellel, Pages - using a 250,000 word document. All of these programs reported a slightly different word count, and Scrivener differed from the others no more or less than they differed from each other. Word counts on computers are never entirely accurate, and NaNo is unusual in that it demands a certain count, but it would be very difficult for any one word processor to exactly match the NaNo algorithm, and even if it did it may not be desirable for any other use.

I’m afraid this is just a standard feature of OS X. If you ctrl-click on a word in TextEdit, Mail, Pages, or any other program that has the “Look up in Google” feature in the control-click menu, you will find the same thing happens. I agree that it should really use the default browser, but unfortunately Scrivener is stuck with calling through to the OS X “look up in Google” method. I may take a look and see if I can write my own version of this method, though, to improve it.

I definitely recommend searching the forum for “styles” - you will find a lot of discussion! Scrivener doesn’t really do styles. The styles that you are talking about are just part of the OS X text system (see TextEdit). They are there only because the text system provides them automatically, not because I chose for them to be there particularly. I agree, they’re horrible. I am looking into different ways of handling this for 2.0, so I do hope that 2.0 will address this in some way.

This is normal. The ruler is, again, something provided by Apple, and it only works when the text has the focus.

Because Scrivener is designed for use with all sorts of projects, it’s natural that you won’t use everything. You can safely ignore anything you don’t need.

Thank you!

Thanks again for the comments and suggestions, much appreciated.

All the best,

Thanks for the feedback. I didn’t realize Scrivener was so dependent on the OS text APIs. Just one note…

I did discover after I wrote the comment about Lookup in Google defaulting to Safari (always, regardless of browser choice) when doing the same control-click in Mail. All I can say to that is,

Bad Apple! That’s playing dirty.

But I see it’s not Scrivener’s fault. Oh well.

Yes, basically Scrivener’s text engine is built on the standard OS X one. This is great in that it means a lone developer can support all sorts of format and have a great text control, but it also means that you have to fight certain limitations that you don’t have as much freedom to change. You’ll find that most shareware companies on OS X rely on the same control. (On Windows many shareware companies will pay for a third-party control; either way, it tends to be only the big companies such as Apple and Microsoft, or companies or open source projects that have been going many years, that have their own custom-built text engines, Mellel being the exception I believe.)

I may be able to do something about the “Look Up in Google” thing. I just need to see if there is a standard URL for creating Google searches or if Apple are doing anything behind the scenes.

All the best,

Simplicity is sometimes best. “q=” is the search parameter. Use + for spaces. URL encode everything else.

Or you could use a the Google API, but I wouldn’t.

NaNoWriMo isn’t using a mysterious algorithm, just wc. The easy way to determine if you’re at 50,000 words is to compile to plain text and run the file through wc. The main issue is that wc doesn’t recognize hyphens as whitespace; the workaround is to take all hyphens out of the text, including em-dashes.

It doesn’t sound like a huge programming project to predict the NaNo wordcount, but I don’t think it’s particularly useful, either. I’d recommend that people just take out hyphens when they’re scrambling their text for validation. If Scrivener had a text-scrambling function for NaNoWriMo–say, as an export format–hyphen deletion could be included in it, and no one would ever notice a discrepancy between the two word counts.