Unhappy beginner

Hello, Scrivener users,

I’ve always heard great things about Scrivener and used to feel frustrated that it only came in a Mac version. So I was very pleased to hear last week that Scrivener now comes in a Windows flavor as well.

Having downloaded and installed and taken several peeks at it, however, so far I’m feeling nothing but unhappy. I’m a fairly experienced software user so I’m puzzled as to what to do to get comfortable with this software.

Ordinarily I can just start using new software and stumble my way into some degree of utility. That is just not proving to be the case at all here. I can’t even make out what anything is – file, document, folder, collection, project - what are these? what is the difference between a document and a file? between a file and a folder?

Yes, I’ve looked at the Interactive Tutorial. It isn’t really interactive, is it? I’ve looked through it and it just seems so much longer than anything I need right now. But it doesn’t indicate what I need and what I don’t. When, at the very end, I read that the “beginner’s manual” has just told me way more than I’m ever likely to need, I know that I’m in bad pedagogical hands.

If anyone here has had a similarly unhappy beginning, can you please advise me? what is the best way out of the newbie hole? So far I’m really hating Scrivener and I’m sure it doesn’t have to be that way. :frowning:

Hello Anne_Arbor, it sounds like you might be looking for software with a more basic interface and less features than Scrivener.

Before I had decided on Scrivener, I researched available writing software exhaustively. Visually speaking, there were others with simpler interfaces that presumably allowed for more focused writing but, typically, under their basic appearances were basic features. And, don’t forget, Scrivener has methods of minimizing visual clutter as well. :smiley:

The part you find overwhelming may not be visually-related, but rather its structure or functional depth. Usually feature-rich programs are not set-it-and-forget-it simple (e.g., Photoshop vs Microsoft Paint). There’s a bit of a learning curve; obviously more so for some than others.

While reading your post I kept thinking how I’d direct you to the tutorial and that would solve your problem but, upon reading more, it appeared as though you’d actually already located it. Although, it wasn’t clear if you’d completed the whole thing or not. :question: While I found its instruction to be lacking in some of the finer points, I think it did a wonderful job of familiarizing new users, especially on the general/essential topics.

Apart from, what I consider to be, a rather clunky user interface (I think it looks like it’s designed for Windows 95), I’ve always found Scrivener to function rather intuitively, and occasionally discover better ways to do things.

Hi, syclone. It always surprises me that people will reply to a poster seeking support by saying “Gee, I didn’t have any problem with that” and think that that is somehow helpful. :smiley:

What I’ve done that has been moderately helpful is to print out the “Quick Tour” from manual. That has helped me to get a small project started. Once one has done that, I guess that one picks up new small bits here and there.

I’m still surprised that there isn’t a better introduction. Other features that I would have expected to find are missing from the software itself. I would have thought that it would be possible, for example, to open a link in Scrivener in much the same way that one can in a word processor or in Gmail. Such missing functionality is surprising at this late date.

Yes, but in fact most newcomers are not so unhappy, so yours is not a common plaint.

It would help a lot if you told us what KIND of writing you are trying to do. If it’s nonfiction or fiction, there’s nothing about the software that makes such projects difficult. If you are writing a scholarly essay or book, the only complication there is working from research notes to draft, and laying in footnotes accurately.

Also, what sort of writing software did you use previously? If you are very used to a certain set of conventions (Word), that may cause some difficulties.

To me, the interface of Scrivener is quite clear: it uses the iTunes-like layout of a left index frame (Binder), which resembles the Finder in that you may create nested folders and documents. Select a Binder document, and you instantly see its contents in the center frame, or Editor. That alone is a miracle for which I am grateful every day. You can break up long pieces of text into smaller bits and quickly re-arrange them. Split the window, and you can refer to notes while writing draft. Finally, if you click the blue I button, you see the Inspector, with all kinds of metadata available, from writing synopses to storing project notes and URLS.

On the subject of links, they are easy to write and very useful. You may link to a Web site, a file on your hard drive, another part of your project, even a file in a DevonThink database. So don’t assume “missing functionality” until you really know the software.

I think the best tutorial is to take a long piece of writing and import it into a Scrivener project. Then use Cmd-K to break up the parts and label them. Then enter some metadata in the Inspector panel. Then display as Corkboard cards and play around with the structure. The more you do these basic tasks, the more you understand what makes Scrivener special. I call it an “idea processor” because it makes brain-storming and outlining so readily possible.

I hope that you will in time get over these early qualms and feel more comfortable. You may work easily with Scrivener and never master more than its basics. And if you ask very specific questions of this forum, you will get focused help or advice. Good luck!

Hey again Anne_Arbor. Sorry if there was nothing usefull for you to glean from my post. Your questions were vague and opinions quite harsh for a “newbie.” They seem atypical for the forum; I haven’t seen anyone as confounded as you. (Sorry, that too is anecdotal commentary.)

You say you were “seeking support” but it sounded more like you wanted a short-cut because you were impatient and not willing to spend time learning the program properly.

What questions did you ask? Beyond the ambiguous:

did you have specific questions that you could ask? I’m fairly certain all of that is covered in the tutorial.

I was trying to tell you that you may be using the wrong software to meet your needs. Consistent with my example, one wouldn’t typically buy Photoshop and, as a newbie, post a comment/question on how much they “hate” it because it seems overly complicated compared to Windows Paint and that there was no brief way to learn it. :question:

Like Anne I also have been experiencing a lot of frustration, but for different reasons: My initial enthusiasm quickly subsided as I delved deeper and found Scrivener lacking features that I had taken for granted from a writing software, and therefore never even considered worth checking into before buying.

With all due respect, druid, this is something that EVERY software I have ever owned, was capable of. From the very first versions of Word (Outline view, later document map) to yWriter to ConnectedText, to whatever, you name it.

BTW, it doesn’t work the other way round in Scrivener, the binder won’t reflect the current document unless you click “Reveal in Binder” which will wreck your binder layout permanently, but I don’t want to get into that, since it is by design and won’t be changed.

Scrivener for Windows is foremost a Mac-clone, Windows users are expected to think out of the Windows-box and do things differently, and why not? Give it a try.

To help you avoid further frustration: Steer clear of tables (they are buggy) and Alt-Shift keyboard shortcuts (they collide too easily with Windows features).

Read the whole “interactive” tutorial for newbies, and if you have concrete questions, post them here.

Druid, thank you for this suggestion. I’ll give it a try.

Please tell me how to do this, if you are willing. That would be a very good step forward.
(Alternatively, just telling me where this is addressed in the various support resources would be at least somewhat helpful.)

On edit: Okay, I just read in the Manual that there is a “Link” feature in the Edit menu. So now I know how to link to the Web. In order to link to another part of my project, I gather that I use the Scrivener link feature.

Here is another specific question:

At the moment, on the left side of my screen there is a list of no fewer than five “collections.” They are all labeled “New collection.” I have no idea what they are, how they got there, whether or not they serve a purpose, whether or not I should delete them or how to do so.

Can anyone help?

Here is a problem that strikes me as quite strange: every time I click on “Close project” under File – the entire program closes. Surely it is not supposed to do that?

To all the respondents: I failed to notice that Anne is a Windows user, as the rest of you are, and I am referring to Mac conventions throughout, so my bad and I apologize.

I quit on Word about 8 years ago and only dimly recall it now, but Word’s outline or document view never came near to what the Binder can show me. In the Research folder, I can bring together many kinds of file-types, all for instant or split-window display. That’s impossible on Word, I’m fairly certain.

As for links creation, on the Mac I use Cmd-L to bring up a window that gives me a choice of four types of external links, and yes, Scrivener links make internal links within the project. They also create the chapter links in e-book projects. (I may have specially key-mapped Cmd-L; it works for me.)

My overall advice is: in the early stages of learning, just work mainly with text chunks and segmenting or arranging them. The books by Kirk McElhearn and David Hewson are also valuable introductions, as are the Help files and User Manual. The latter is very thorough and up to date, a remarkable achievement for such a small but highly responsive company.


You may find the tutorial videos a less painful way to get a running start:



I’ve just printed out most of the Interactive Tutorial and will begin making my way through it later this afternoon.

What I do think would be a good idea would be either (1) a quick tutorial that tells you How to create a project and put some documents in it; plus How to import and segment an existing project; or (2) a map of the various support materials. There are a lot of them - where should one start? how about an overall index to them?

Perhaps this is not true for other people, but when I am trying out software I really don’t want to have to spend 2 or 3 or 5 hours in studying the software first. I want to get a quick idea of whether it seems to hold promise for me. I want to get a fairly quick idea that it does the kinds of things that I want, and that it might even be fun to learn. If I can get that far, and the results are good – then, sure, I’m willing to put in some time learning the finer points. To me, however, when I have to print out the entire 40-page tutorial – that, but its own admission, is 50% unnecessary for a beginner – I’m likely to feel frustrated.

At the very end of the Tutorial, the author states: “on a daily basis, you will probably only use the most basic features of writing in the editor, creating new documents, and moving documents around in the binder.” That’s probably not quite accurate, but let’s assume that it is. If that’s what most people will do most of the time, why not have a tutorial that focuses on them?

Dave, that’s a very nice idea.

Thank you for your kind reply. It is much appreciated.

To me they resemble Smart Folders or Saved Searches (Mac terminology)
You run a search for a word, image, name, place; that search becomes a Collection.
You may rename the tab, then click on it to see the Collection again.
If they are confusing or not needed, conceal them with View: Collections: Hide Collections.
It might be easier if they had + or - to add or delete, but often show/hide is a safer option.

Druid, thank you for your reply and for your help. I expect that hiding them is, for the time being, the better option. :slight_smile:

But I didn’t post that. :frowning:

Sorry syclone,

you are right, it was druid who discovered this “miracle”

I marked the sentence and hit Quote, but obviously something went wrong. No one else to blame but me, unless this is a known forum bug. :stuck_out_tongue:
Will modify my message to correct the mistake.

I can certainly empathize with anne_arbor’s situation. SfW seems to have been ported to the windows OS architecture, yet not adapted to Windows operating standards or GUI conventions. The Apple environment has historically been relatively closed and most developers assume that everyone usung a program will fully understand the architectural and GUI nuances common to every program. I’ve been an IT professional for a number of years, yet still faced some challenges with this and other ported applications.

I loaded a trial version of SfW thinking initially that it would do what I needed e.g. Maintaining research info, notes, character sketches, etc in a single package. However, my primary reason for even looking at SfW – integration with iPad tools like Index Card – won’t be available for some time. Other functions that I, incorrectly, assumed would be included like import of tags, scene POV field, and about a dozen others, aren’t included at all.

So – still undecided on my part. Hang in there Anne_Arbor once you get Appleized a light will come on.

Actually yes it’s supposed to do that. There’s an option to have the Start Panel show up when there’s no project open. You can change this: Tools → Options → General tab, under Startup Options tick "Show Star Panel when there are no projects open.

I think to remove the Collections, you select whichever collection tab you want and then click the “-” to get rid of it. To hide all of those completely you click the blue folder up in the taskbar.