Which is better with Scrivener: MacBook Air or 27-inch iMac?

I am currently using Scrivener on the 13-inch MacBook Air, which I purchased just a few days before the new model came out. The Mac version of Scrivener is working wonderfully on the Air, though I am curious how many people are using it on the 27-inch iMac? I am thinking of returning the portable computer and getting the larger desktop once the stores reopen.

I use Scrivener to “silo” my literary portfolio, create work as a copywriter, and serve as the main tool for my ghostwriting practice.

You can never have too much screen real estate. I’d get the iMac unless you have a clear need for portability.

My own setup pairs a 27" iMac with an iPad Mini with external keyboard.


I believe I have the best of both worlds.

I have a 16” mbp that is maxed out so more powerful than most iMac models that I have connected to a Dell 27” 4k monitor. While the dell is not quite as nice as the 5k iMac display, it’s pretty close. I have a 5k iMac sitting on the floor that needs to be moved to a new home. It has a 1TB fusion drive that just cannot come close to the speed of the nvme drive in the MBP. The 5k can’t be used as an external display as the previous iMac could, so just wasting space.

I also have a new 12.9 ipad pro I use with sidecar for extra screen space when travelling in the motorhome.

For myself, I have a home setup with an LG Ultrawide (2560 x 1080) which I connect to my Macbook Air 11.6 (5 years old and still going strong.) For writing out in the world (if I ever get to again) I can connect my iPad 6 to my MBA as an external monitor using YAM Display (a lot of people use Duet Display. Or if your Mac and iPad are both powerful enough, Sidecar.)

My own feeling is that a separate display is much cheaper than getting a desktop computer and still lets me roam free if I want to. But if portability isn’t important, as Kewms said, go for the big screen!

Had not it been for the copywriting part, I’d’ve recommended going for the portable option. Scrivener adapts wonderfully to most screen sizes and in my experience the medium or small screens don’t have that haunting quality when on full screen mode. But if by the time the stores reopen you’re still capable of returning your current machine and getting a new one go for the iMac.

iMac for upstairs, laptop for downstairs… You can’t beat the big screen when it’s time for planning and refactoring - the bigger the space for index cards, multiple windows and so on. But that big screen is too big to fit on your knee when you want to sit downstairs with headphones on while your partner watches some drivel on the TV, so you need the laptop as well.

If you have to choose, it depends on whether you need the freedom to roam or not. If you don’t, I would go for the iMac – there are times when that extra space and power avoid a lot of inconvenience and that’s true of many programs, not just Scrivener. Otherwise, get a laptop and a cheapish monitor for the extra screen space when you need it.

You’ll eventually begin to think you want two screens.
I am in the lucky position that I have booth setups - a 13" MBP laptop with a 27" extra display at home and a 27" iMac with a 27" extra display at work. Portability is sometimes more important than screen size, but sometimes the 27" display is really handy. If I had to make a choice and could only keep one setup, I’d go for the MBP and the extra display. It beats having only one 27" display (i.e only one iMac).

I have a newish MBA and plug in a 27" monitor when at my desk – best of both worlds. Use of macOS’s desktop feature helps a lot, but when you need apps side by side, additional real estate always wins. Personally, I’d never give up the portability of the MBA.

First up if it is still within 14 days of purchase and you purchased direct from Apple, Immediately call after sales support and advise you wish to return for change of mind. If its after 14 days, still call and see how you go, but no guarantee. There is no right of return for change of mind but Apple do have that worldwide policy. If you purchased from a reseller you are at the mercy their returns policy.

That appears to be a matter of personal preferences. I do happen to have a 27" iMac but prefer writing on my 12" MacBook. It gives me more flexibility to write in places where I don’t normally sit (and may unconsciously associate with “work”). Running Scrivener in full screen mode hides all the distractions yet gives me enough screen space to have everything I need at a glance. YMMV.

My favourite ever was my 2011 13" MacBook Air, which I traded in in part payment for a 2015 13" MacBook Pro, which I didn’t like nearly as much. That, I traded in for an ex Apple display late 2015 27" 5K iMac with loads of RAM. I’m back to using my 2011 17" MacBook Pro, which I really love, though it’s luggable rather than portable. the iMac is running Catalina, which I’m beginning to loathe as I find it flaky and throwing up weird problems—including with Scrivener! The MBP is running 10.13.6, and that is rock solid…

I run Scrivener on both those, but nothing has rivalled the 13" MBA for comfort, ease of use and portability.

I also run the Windows Scrivener Betas under Wine, and it runs OK, but I’m not used to Windows key-combos, and find it somewhat difficult to find things with the Crossover/Windows file system running on top of the Mac file system where I know exactly where everything is.



Ahm… me too…
I have a 12" Macbook as well, and although the keyboard isn’t the best, the absence of fans and the very low weight makes it my favourite for moving around. It’s completely silent, has a fine retina display, weighs only 0.9 kg (2 pounds) bit is still a Mac running OS X, not an iOS device.

I must agree.

I have the 13" MBA. I also have the 27" iMac. But what I write on is the 12" MB. It works better.

Is that a paradox? That I choose the device with the smallest real estate? Not at all.

Unless you think you need two screens, screen real estate is a complete myth. For example, a 32" television from about 2 feet away is identical to the experience of a 60" television from 7,5 feet away. Each fills your field of vision identically.

So it is more a function of distance than it is real estate.

This means the other factors, such as the keyboard, the portability, etc., become much more important.

Thank you all for your thoughts. I will be switching to the 27-inch iMac when the Apple Store reopens. Apple is extending the return period to 14 days after reopening, so I can do a simple switch (and voila! an extra grand disappears from my checking account) and get started writing.

I do have an iPad, the most recent model, and can use it as a secondary screen in a pinch.

To the users who like their 12”, I have to admit I’m hoping for a replacement with the first rumoured ARM powered in 2021 (fingers crossed).

The current iPad Pro has i5 level grunt. Think what they can achieve in the next 12 months with an A14x chip. If their handling of the transition is as great as they did PowerPC to Intel.

A 12” MacBook with no fans and an i7 class A series processor has to be every writers dream. Make it 1/2mm thicker to fit the new keyboard.

Answer: 27 inch macbook air

My vote is the Mac Air with an external 27" monitor. You can then use the Air as a second monitor to display info from other sources.

Just as an update… I wound up getting a 21.5" iMac and swapping the MacBook Air for a 13" MacBook Pro. I started a literary agency and use Scrivener for all of my work. It really helps, especially when I am trying to breakdown a long story into individual scenes prior to editing.

Allow me to wish you the best of lucks in your new endeavors!!!

I prefer plotting and outlining on my 27" iMac which has a 1TB SSD and 32GB of Ram, so it’s blazing fast no matter how many Apps I have open. The iMac has a pair of 27" wing monitors so I can have flow charting, google earth pro, and all manner of other useful apps open at the same time and it never slows down.

I prefer writing the first draft on my 15" MacBook Pro. I do editing on either of them.

Through pure coincidence I bought a new 15" mid 2015 MacBook Pro on sale that would turn out to have the last good keyboard until the late 2019 16", It also was the last of the 15" MBPs that had a user upgradable SSD - so I replaced the 256GB original with a 1TB after market unit. The speed and crisp response, excellent keyboard, terrific screen and portability make it my favorite for writing.