Trying to decide between iPad / Macbook Air for Scrivener

Hi - I wasn’t sure of the best place to post this so please feel free to move as you think fit Administrators!

I am in a real quandary about the the best way to move forward with Scrivener for Mac and would appreciate any advice that other Mac/iPad users might have.

For years, I have used Scrivener on my Macbook Pro and it’s great. However, I am increasingly out and about and have decided to bite the bullet and buy something smaller and lighter specifically for writing. My two options are an 11" Macbook Air or an iPad+bluetooth keybaord.

Obviously, there is a large price difference but putting that to one side, I wonder what people’s thoughts are in light of the release of a Scrivener iOS version next year? Ideally I would wait until I see the iOS software and then decide, however any new hardware purchase has to be made before the end of year, so alas that isn’t an option.

So really, it would be great to hear the thoughts of any 11" Air users, or people using an iPad with one of the interim sync solutions.

Thank you!


Hi Claire

I have both an 11" Air and an iPad (I know - gadget lust!) so maybe I can help?

I’m currently using Scrivener on the Air synced with Notebooks on the iPad, and in conjunction with a Logitech Ultrathin keyboard I find that the iPad fulfils my basic writing needs pretty well. Of course I can’t easily rearrange the binder or add metadata, but hopefully at least the basics of that will be covered in the iOS version. I’ve used the iPad fairly regularly for drafting my current novel, so it can be done!

I guess what you have to ask yourself is, how much “power usage” are you likely to need on-the-go? If you want to be able to do serious editing or project organisation, then I think an Air is the way to go, because it sounds like Scrivener for iOS will be (understandably) somewhat reduced in features compared to the OSX version. If on the other hand you’re mostly going to be using it for drafting and light editing, an iPad is cheaper and the current sync solutions are good despite their limitations.

Does that help?

I wrote for a couple of years with the 13" MacBook Air. It was a wonderful time. Looking at is strictly from the standpoint of Scrivener and writing, it was the best I’ve ever had.

I didn’t think the 11" screen on the smaller Macbook Air was big enough for me, but if that doesn’t bother you, then the Air would be a superb solution for writing.

I also have an iPad, with an Apple bluetooth keyboard and an Origami for holding keyboard and iPad for writing. This sucks. The simple fact is that I have not found a single keyboard+iPad setup that was physically adequate. Shifting on my lap, iPad falling out, and for all but the Apple bluetooth keyboard, the keyboards sucked badly. The closest I can come to a comfortable writing situation is to set the iPad on a table at an angle, and put the keyboard either on the table (adequate, but kinda high up), or on my lap (awkward at best).

So I view writing on the iPad as an emergency method only, unless I can find an optimal physical setup (e.g., a table at a Starbucks). I need everything perfect to write - my mind goes into some fantasy land and I can’t be disturbed by things like non-standard keyboards or the whole setup coming apart in my lap.

I’m ignoring all other aspects but writing here; there are a zillion other reasons to choose an Air or an iPad. But for writing, by FAR the Air is the better overall in nearly every dimension I can think of.

The iPad will, for a while yet, simply be for those situations where you can’t take your notebook. But with an Air, of any size, how often would you be in that situation??? In my case, never. Now, however, I had to move up to the 15" retina Macbook Pro, which is a pound or more heavier than my Air was, and I will on occasion, write on the iPad, but only when I really can’t stand to take the 15".

I’ve got 2009 iMac, Air 13, Pro Retina 15, and new iPad with ultrathin keyboard (yes, gadget lust, too! :smiley: )

Let me say, sometimes I’m interested in my toys more than my works now. Good news of having mobile devices for writer is it’s convenient to bring your works with you anywhere. Bad news, it’s very convenient to bring your friends with you anywhere, too.

Straight to the point. Ultrathin Keyboard is small. Not a standard device for natural typing. It means you can’t type long without pain. But if you are willing, you may bring your standard keyboard with your iPad. Camera Connector lets you hook any wireless keyboard receiver to your iPad. I myself have Logitech solar wireless keyboard and it works fine.

If money is the key matter, I recommend iPad. It can be a notebook with some nice things more than that!

Well, it’s never going to be a notebook, at least not with its current OS restrictions and super sandboxed applications, but I suppose that depends on what you expect to be able to do. I for one like being able to switch to any running or closed application with four or five keystrokes, being able to manipulate small interface components with a precision pointer using the Wacom tablet/mouse/trackpad of my choice, having full access to the system’s foundations (and by extension, having a wide variety of software that can take advantage of that flexibility), being able to write automation to do menial tasks for me, having a superb keyboard built-in that I can type on for hours without strain, being able to process high resolution graphics by the hundreds with industrial strength image editing software, having the ability to run virtual machines with a half dozen different operating system versions and multiple accounts for broad spectrum testing, being able to chain three or four programs together into a cohesive workflow to reduce repetitive tasks like uploading web site revisions or accessing keyboard expansions in any program with a text input field or a pasteboard that stores 9,999 of the last things I’ve copied (over many multiple reboots), running three browsers side by side for web site testing and making it so they all refresh with a single command, select copy and paste text without ripping my hair out, able to link together several computers into a network and share files between them, plug them into virtually any printer and press Cmd-P, and well… I could go on.

Point is: tablets cannot replace computers, and probably never will. But that’s not to say they are incapable of addressing a smaller subset of some of the things we do with computers. I don’t mean to completely contradict you, I just don’t think it is fair to say without qualification that a tablet can be a notebook, even if you jailbreak it.

Definitely tablets cannot replace computers. And even if you are willing to give up the extra power of computers for a tablet, it’s hard to choose an iPad over the MBA 11". They have pretty much the same size, so that can’t be a factor. While I do love my iPad, the only feature I can think of in which the iPad wins over the MBA 11" is battery life. If you need to work ten hours using only the battery, then the iPad may be your best choice. But who does need that?

I’d go for an MBA 11".

Well, tablets do have some significant advantages in form factor for certain types of use. You can’t walk around on a job site with a laptop and still interact with it (without looking like a doofus anyway), and it’s a lot easier to read the news in bed, or walk around the house while going over the last revision with a “pen” and lounging on a sofa (I particularly enjoy that latter use). These are things that a flat top device are great for that no computer can really effectively do. To make them good for long-form input you pretty much need a keyboard, and then you are starting to get into laptop territory. But again, if you want to have your manuscript beside you at all times, so you can add notes and do some editing, then Scrivener on the iPad is going to be fantastic. It’ll be fantastic for those using a keyboard with it as well, I just wouldn’t recommend anyone get that combination over a computer, unless they are will to really rethink how much of a computer they need (which extends deeply into how much programs actually can do, like say, publishing your paper to a strict style guide or collaborating with your editor?) With a computer, absolutely—but then we aren’t talking about making decisions by price any more. :slight_smile:

oh, yes, i agree on all those great uses of the iPad, that’s why I like my iPad a lot! :smiley:

I know you didn’t ask about the 13 inch Air, but I’m going to plug it’s one major advantage over the 11: battery life. I’ve so far been able to use my 13 during a 6 hour writing marathon (it’s a marathon for me, anway) without plugging in. I can also consistently use it for intermittent use over the course of two days without being overly concerned that I’ll run out of battery power. This means that I’m rarely carrying my power adapter, which makes the weight difference almost nil, since the 11 will usually require an outlet if you’re using it for more that 4 hours.

Of course, I have my old power supply at work, so if I’m running low I can just plug it in there and it’ll charge up for any evening away-from-the-desk writing I have to do. The other advantage is that it’s screen resolution matches–EXACTLY–my old MB Pro 15 inch’s screen. The physical dimensions are 2" smaller, but there are the same number of pixels, so the same saved Scrivener layouts worked on my new MB Air. I do have to set the zoom higher in the editor to let my eyes relax a little, but that would apply to a greater degree with the 11 inch.

One of the advantages of the tablet over a laptop is, in my view, the freedom to place the keyboard away of the display. The bunch of keyboard-cases for iPad you can see around insist on a laptop-like configuration, but I find it a bad idea for a writer’s body: eyes are forced to look too much down, and arms are forced to extend too much. Your neck will start to suffer in a few hours.

A more comfortable configuration seems to me to be a display placed a bit farther, so that your eyes can look more straight in front of you; and a keyboard next to your body, so that you can leave your arms in the more comfortable ~90° angle suggested by doctors.


What kind of writing occurs when we’re away from the home office?
For me, it’s notes, bits of drafts, and sometimes revisions.
So instead of buying an expensive piece of hardware, think software first.
You can do much with online apps: say SimpleNote, Evernote, or Springpad.
Even better, the Office-like suite available on a Google Drive.
And a Chromebook with full keyboard is $199 to $249, or 20% of an MB Air.
No, it won’t run Scrivener…yet. But neither does an iPad.

Well, for what it’s worth, I bought my iPad last year in order to synch with Scrivener and get some serious writing done. Guess what? I’m now trying to figure out of I can afford the MBAir so that i can do the same thing. rwodaski wrote, and i agree wholeheartedly, that the keyboard configuration sucks. For writing, I think you’ll be happier with the Air.

While we’re waiting for the iOS version of Scrivener, may I suggest Textilus for the iPad? It syncs neatly with Scrivener via Dropbox, and it is the best of the iPad text editing apps I’ve seen (and I have seen a number). It is very nice indeed and helps streamline the writing process when you’re using the touch screen.

Personally, I’m hoping to move to a dedicated desktop computer with the iPad as my drag-around-- even the 13" MacBook is a little too big for someone with arms as short as mine are!

EDIT ooh ooh ooh Textilus happens to be on sale just now (2nd March 2013). Bag it quick for $.99!

EDIT EDIT No, they did not pay me to say that. I just think it’s a neat app.