Tried Scrivener; dealbreaker? Not anymore


Thanks for Scrivener; I have been through the whole interactive tutorial (yes, dedicadedly :slight_smile: ). Then I decided to try it out, and decided I wanted to create some formatting presets. Web research showed it could be done - then I found out: but not on the Windows version.

I only got clarification from the romance author Anne Macfarlane’s blog on Scrivener She tried Scrivener as thoroughly as me it seems, and a lot more.

She says in her third blog on Scrivener, quoting from the Scrivener website:
[i]- No page layout view in the Windows version (that is, you can’t view your text as virtual pages).

  • No “Preserve Formatting” feature in the Windows version (in the Formatting menu).
  • No “Revision Mode” in the Windows version.
  • No “presets” available from the format bar in the Windows version. (And likewise no Format > Formatting options for presets.)
  • No line numbers ruler in the Windows version (an option available in Format > Options on the Mac)[/i]

Then Anne Macfarlane goes on to say:
Coupled with the difficulty in changing formats this was the deal breaker for me. I can’t write a book without pages.

So Anne Macfarlane gave up on Scrivener for Windows, after putting so much into learning about it.

The deal breaker for me is: no ability in the Windows Scrivener to create my own formatting presets, as can be done in the Mac version. It’s difficult to discover this sort of information up front, and I assume Anne only found out by coming to the forum here.

I understand, from the first post on this forum by KB “differences between Mac and Windows versions” that there are no firm commitments as to when these missing features will be implemented - early, or maybe not until version 2.

I am disappointed; but for now having no ability to create my own presets breaks Scrivener for me.

I loved Scrivener, and I will certainly come back to it when it has the necessary upgrades.

Well part of the problem is that everyone who isn’t satisfied with the ensemble has their own “deal breaker”. Some little thing here or there doesn’t work for them, so they move on. We can’t predict what that will be. For you it is presets, but there are lots of people working without them. I think we’ll all benefit from them once they are implemented, to be sure—even I use them, and write using plain-text, I don’t format at all—but it’s not a deal breaker for everyone, obviously. Some people have other spots. Page view, to some is vital, to others they have no need for it and leave it off permanently even if it is there. So not only is it difficult to predict what is important, because very little universally is, we wouldn’t be doing ourselves any favours pointing out each and every little tiny difference on the homepage. Keep in mind the Windows version has more features overall (in some places dramatically more) than the original Mac iteration which authors were using for years, happily. So I don’t think we should come out and say, “It’s not complete yet and here is why!” on the homepage, when in fact it does present a complete writing tool, using a formula (and then some) of features which received accolades for years prior to Mac 2.x.

What we do take pains to point out are the philosophical deal breakers. Some people just can’t see working in pieces, or they don’t see the benefit of focussing more intently upon words instead of final look and feel. There are other things of this nature, and we do point these out because they will likely never change and one should be clear on the boundaries of what the software sets out to do. It’s a different matter when you come to things that will change and have very specific plans for changing, but just aren’t there yet. For those we have the list on the forum and that strikes me as a good balance.

Some things should be done sooner than later because they were a part of the original package and aren’t yet. Formatting presets are one of those. The original version on the Mac had a way of doing this. It was, to be clear, an obstinate and inelegant implementation. We just used what Apple provides to every text editor on the Mac. The revamp which is much more useful and powerful was something that took a while to develop. So that might help you see why it didn’t make it into 1.x for Windows. The Mac version only had it because it came for free with the OS. Matching the new version from scratch would have taken too long for the initial Windows release, and there was nothing “for free” to make use of as an interim.

We don’t like to say when because then we have this deadline we have to hit, and that inevitably means quality compromises. We’d rather get it right and release it when it is good for everyone to use, rather than a half-baked rushed version that went out because we said “October” a few months back and are now stuck with it. So we don’t say when things will happen, that’s why. We do have a “sooner than later” category for things which should have been in 1.x but couldn’t make the cut for reasons of sanity. At the time of its release, it had been in development both privately and in public beta for years and it would have gone on for years if we tried to jam everything into it. So we had to draw a line, and unfortunately a few things didn’t make it like presets that would have otherwise been nice. So those things will be sooner than later.

The best I can tell you is to just keep tabs. If you like the formula, the overall philosophy of the application, then absolutely keep up with the news on it. You have more than hints of where it is going to evolve over the years. There is a very clear roadmap, and it is the result of a long history of trial and error on the older version. The Windows version will cut straight to what we’ve found works best in most cases. That’s a kind of assurance you don’t normally get with software.

Thank you, Amber, for your detailed and heartfelt response - which I deeply appreciate.

Firstly, you made me better understand, from a writer’s point of view, where Scrivener comes from, philosophically. I can now see to the core purpose of Scrivener: to enable an author to play with, organise and write ideas.

Second, I also see that it does not focus on the mechanics of how the words are formatted and presented for, say, a reader - instead doing in this area, while one is writing, some minimum, and then some more, for some authors to feel comfortable on the presentation side.

In other words, you pinpointed what the true focus of a writer should be. For this I am grateful - because you clarified for me where my priorities as a writer are.

I will now use Scrivener for my writing :slight_smile:.

May I suggest that what you have written as a considered and comprehensive response to me, after it has been edited for relevance, should then appear, at least as a blog entry, on your website.

Yes, exactly.

While Scrivener’s formatting features have evolved a great deal over the years, it was never intended to replace Word or another full-featured word processor. It was – and is – intended to support the development of raw text. Precisely because that text might eventually end up in any number of places – a web page, a magazine, a printed book, an electronic book, a radio, film, or stage script – bringing the formatting component in too early in the process isn’t necessarily helpful.


While there are something I wish Scrivener did better or differently (I want the corkboard to work like it does in the Mac version), I haven’t found anything that’s a deal breaker. Other authors I know feel the same way when they try it. We all have our particular writing habits and things that are critically important to us, but may not bother another writer.

When it comes to formatting, I’m really not looking for Scrivener to produce a final, formatted manuscript. Al long as it can export a file that can be consistently and easily reviewed and formatted in MS Word, I’m happy. If I need pages, I’ll worry about them at that point. But before I send anything off to a publisher, they all want it stripped down to an RTF.

Scrivener or no Scrivener, I haven’t thought about page numbers in years. Word count I have to track. Publishers look at word count when you submit.

Oh, and I really want a backdoor to the cards for an Android phone. Or even on a work PC that won’t run Scrivener. (it’s not always possible to explain in a work situation why you need novel writing software on your computer.)

What exactly do you qant to do with the information MarieDees? We maybe able to find a workaround…

That’s why you pitch it as “office solutions for leveraging symbiotic memorandums and increasing synergy software”.


That sounds glossy and relevant. Think you can get “cloud” in there somewhere?

Well, with the work situation, problem is that I’m not supposed to be “noveling” during work. Not that I have a whole lot of time or a situation where I can settle into the novel. But sometimes a solution to a problem dawns on me, and it really would be nice to just jump on and make a quick note or two before i forget it. Or perhaps do some quick proofing of a section during lunch. The previous developer was looking at Scrivener and yeah, he’d have installed it for me without asking questions. As long as it didn’t hurt the network, he’d be fine. But we’ve gone through a staffing change.

Here’s the thing - I know where the cards are on my dropbox system. I can find them. The problem is that there’s no way to figure out what’s on them without opening them. I once tracked a chapter down because I knew it was the longest chapter somewhere near the middle of the book. So I looked at file size and found it. I can be creative when it comes to solutions, but I do worry about messing up an entire novel.

Like I said - this isn’t a deal breaker. But it does mean I’ve stopped lusting after a tablet because I can’t fun Scrivener on one. There’s no excuse for me to purchase a new computer toy that doesn’t work for writing. But, that problem is actually saving me money, which is probably good for me.

Note that you CAN install WinScriv without admin rights. You’ll probably be in breach of your work’s IT policy, but you can install and run it.

Not that I advocate such things, or do them myself.

We strongly discourage people from poking around in their Scrivener projects with other tools. That’s an excellent way to badly corrupt your project, leading to mutually frustrating conversations with the support team.

However, clever use of Scrivener’s Import/Export features will allow you to get work done when away from a Scrivener-capable computer. See this thread:



I have two solutions I use:

Firstly, if your work uses Office 2010, investigate OneNote. This can sync to a Skydrive account (free), so you can sync between you computers automatically. Adding a little something you have thought of can only take seconds (and the boss won’t mind a minute or two!). I use OneNote to keep tabs on Characters and locations because I can put pictures, easily draw, etc. Excellent for the research side of things. Also, Skydrive allows you to access your OneNote ONLINE - for free!

My other solution was to get a netbook (Acer Aspire One D270) when it was on sale (NZ$310 after cashback). I just bring it in my bag to work and pull it out during lunch to do my work. Battery life 8-10 hours means I have great flexibility as to when and where I work - like at the beach while the kids play. Dropbox easily allows me to sync to the bigger laptop at home. Simple.

Having said that, I did install Scrivener at work to help with new product specification documents and user manuals - good for initial document construction that is painful with Word.

I wouldn’t go messing with the Scrivener files as this will upset any indexes the program sets up.

Hope this helps.


You don’t even need OneNote installed. If you can get to Office Live, it’s there to play with for free.
But as someone who has used OneNote since it’s first inception, I can tell you…I wouldn’t be without it.
Everything I find goes in there.
It’s fantastic, and if they ever drop development of it, I’m gonna still install the last version I have of it. (Hey, it’s MS after all…)
BTW – it’s part of the “Student / Family” edition which really isn’t all that expensive, and you can run it on 3 different computers.
Well worth it.

P.S. I’ve tried Evernote too, and while I like it, OneNote is just…so much better. :slight_smile:

I have OneNote. Have had it on various computers. Frankly, it’s not a substitute for Scrivener. Gave up on it. Novel notes are lost somewhere on old versions of OneNote on old computers or possibly on the dead netbook and I can’t get to them. So OneNote is dead to me. I can’t keep losing story stuff. I use Evernote when I need to make notes because I can get to it from anywhere.

Which really doesn’t address the actual issue - I really want to be able to access my actual work, not just notes about my work, from multiple devices. I can live without full functionality, especially if we’re talking access from a phone, but right now, limiting where I can get to my files slows down my working speed. I know there are many note taking programs out there, but see, part of my reason for choosing Scrivener is to be able to keep notes in the same place the project is and to not have to track notes in one file and text in another and research somewhere else. And then try to figure out where I put things. Scrivener is great but currently the Windows version limits WHERE I can work. If it’s a problem for me, I know it has to be a problem for other authors juggling a day job and writing fiction.

I pay the bills by writing, so the ability to get to my work when I need to translates to money. Right now, I’m moving things from Scrivener over to Word sooner than I’d like because I can get to Word on any computer and even my Android phone. I’m dragging an ancient 13inch laptop to work so I can access Scrivener on it during lunch.

(I’m in and out of the forums depending on my writing schedule and whether or not I need help with Scrivener itself. I’m still getting used to Scrivener but I’ve convinced a couple of other authors to buy it.)

If you pay your bills by writing, then you need to invest in appropriate tools.

If you pay your bills by writing, what’s the day job for?

Not to be snarky, but there is a Windows version of Scrivener that successfully shares files with the Mac version. If you’re unable or unwilling to install it for some reason, that isn’t really Scrivener’s fault.