What is the generic name for Scrivener-like software?

OK, so I’m hooked on Scrivener, banging away on the content, trolling far and wide for research material, corkboarding myself crazy. Then my friend asks me what I’m working on. So, I try to tell them. And hit the wall.

How to describe Scrivener in as few words as possible? I have searched this forum for a generic word to describe the function of Scrivener and its ilk. To no avail. “Content Manager” comes up here and on Google, and to me fits the best, but I don’t see it used in thsi context, only as a software or update tracker. “Project Manager” fits loosely, but Scrivener won’t do what the real project managers do. “Pre-word processor” works, sort of, but is too mysterious. “Outliner” handles only about a tenth of its power.

Folks, what is the one-, two-, or three-word bite that you use to categorize Scrivener to professional text generation and word processor diehards?

Writing Productivity Tool(kit)

integrated writing environment.

Derived from the integrated development environments that programmers use, and which Scrivener resembles.


Word is a word processor. Scrivener is a document processor.

I usually present it as an authoring software, as opposed to desktop publishing software like Word or Pages.
Scrivener is built to aid in the authoring process, whereas Word was built as an alternative to Page Maker, a layout software, primarily to enable anyone to produce their own publications.

Surely Word was built as a rival to WordPerfect and/or Wordstar, which at the time had the largest share of the word processor market. It still remains nothing more than a word processor. Complex documents are difficult to handle even after all these years. Publisher was Microsoft’s attempt at DTP but it has none of the necessary functions that a DTP has to have. It competes with other cheap aspirational DTP tools like PagePlus. They also canot cope with complex documents and layouts. PageMaker is no longer in development; last updated in 2001. It has been superceded by InDesign which Adobe hoped would be the Quark XPress killer app.

Scribus a nice open source DTP package (available for all platforms here but you’ll have to fight with their wiki-isation) is useful for real typesetting of Scrivener output. Does much of what one needs in a DTP package. Of course, there is still LaTex which Scrivener compiles too with little effort. Want very high quality typeset final version of your document then use File > Compile and select MMD to LaTeX. If required (and a true typeset aficionado will require it) tweak the resultant LaTeX output until it is the best.

But by no stretch of the imagination can Word ever be called a desktop publishing system.

Word Perfect was initially a classical word processing software, only for writing text. Word was in it’s original MS-DOS version a similar program, but Microsoft early developed Word’s layout capabilities, and presented it as a simple desktop publishing software when the first Windows versions were released.

My point is that Scrivener, Storyist, Ulysses, etc, are designed not only for writing text, nor for layouting text, but for the process of qualified authoring of text. To me, authoring is the process in which you not only type the text or arrange it, but create structure, organize your thoughts, refer to reference documents, etc.

I agree with you whole-heartedly about Scrivener. In fact I rarely use anything else. With few exceptions every thing I write starts out in Scrivener and remains there. On the few occasions when I need typeset material I File > Compile via MMD to LaTex and create beautifully typeset copy. But you can guess I disagree over the capabilities of Word in its current incarnation it is not a desktop publishing system and never will.

I actually agree!
Word has become more complex but it’s desktop publishing capabilities have not evolved since its early days. When the first WYSIWYG versions of Word emerged I remember that we thought it was fabulous, as it actually enabled arranging layout on a PC before printing.

But again, being a rather bad, old-fashion, not very capable DTP doesn’t mean that Word is suddenly something else. If you just want something to type text you don’t need Word, if you want to author qualified text, you can’t use Word, and if you really work with publishing and layout, you also need something else.
In my opinion, Word tries to be a universal tool, like a Swiss army knife for everything related to writing. And who has ever seen a carpenter or a car mechanic use a Swiss army knife for qualified work? You use it as a last resort if you don’t have any specialized tools at hand.

Scrivener is a specialized tool.

I very much agree with kewms; Scrivener is an “integrated writing environment” … which is a rare term, because there are so few of them (only one, that I’m aware of!)

The concept of “IDE” is quite common; that’s the programmer’s integrated development environment for a programming language. Actually, the requirements are basically the same: using a language to write & assemble a complex document … in both cases. So Scrivener is either an IDE, or more appropriately for a visual text product rather than a binary application, Scrivener is an IWE. A “word processor” is only one small fraction of the writing environment; Scrivener goes far beyond that confine.

As for “page layout” or more appropriately, “desktop publishing,” there is only one professional grade product remaining: Adobe’s “In Design.” It is excruciatingly expensive, and is now being moved to a “rental suite” in the so-called “cloud.” I used DTP software for years in professional publishing environments. Very few so-called Desktop Publishing apps met the exacting industry typographical and pre-press requirements. For a long time Quark Express was the app of choice after Aldus PageMaker failed to evolve.

Quark imploded and fell out of favor. Adobe struggled to evolve InDesign, and finally succeeded (or survived as the last one standing?) Now that InDesign is a monopoly product, the price is extreme.

HOWEVER … there is a long-time survivor which fled offshore and became the pro-level DTP app of choice for English and Arabic publications. It was a contender with PageMaker back in the day, but due to corporate shuffling and product neglect, it fell away … until some years later it was acquired and now thrives in a niche area. (I hope this historial overview isn’t off-putting.) We (as a newspaper and printing business) used this product for years in producing material for page layouts and pre-press preparation. It had (and still has) all the professional capabilities required.

Ready-Set-Go is still available. The Mac version is being phased out, but for those who run OSX-10.3 to 10.6, the full version of RSG is on sale for $25 (!).

diwan.com/index.php/products … -macintosh

The Windows version of RSG is called RSG-Ruby. If someone needs a fully-licensed, not on the cloud! copy, then the $150 price is competitive (actually, a bargain). Go to diwan.com for further info. They’re also extending the Windows version for multi-mode output (tablets, phones, web, etc.)

I have absolutely no connection with Diwan or RSG, other than being a long-time user. I have my original OSX-10.4 copy installed on my Mac PowerPC equipment, and it performs magnificently.

It’s a shame that superb software gets shuffled off into obscure niche corners by the forces of corporate marketing. Since software and industry publications are so heavily advertising-influenced, niche products are rarely, if ever, mentioned.

I hope this will be useful to someone … especially that $25 RSG for Mac bargain (for 10.3 thru 10.6).

I was thinking that Ready-Set-Go predated Pagemaker and was the prevailing standard in its day, but I admit it is all getting a little fuzzy now.