Workflow Advice

I’m in the process of moving from a PC to a MacBook for my fiction writing. As I start to figure out the cost, I’m trying to understand what the best workflow would be. I’ve learnt a lot from lurking round this forum, but I would be very grateful for some more specific advice.

In the Windows world, my workflow has been:
Browser (or scanner or notes) to Database/repository to Outliner/mind mapper to Writing tool to MS Word.

In the Mac world I will of course build my new workflow round Scrivener as my writing tool. :slight_smile: But in addition:

  1. DevonThink seems to be a good and popular database/repository. Is it the best for the price?
  2. If it is, which version of DevonThink is best for fiction purposes? DT Personal?
  3. Currently I use a scanner to scan newspaper clips into PDF format on my Windows machine. Will I be able simply to transfer these PDF scans from my PC into DevonThink on the Mac (or is Mac PDF a different, incompatible flavour - you can tell I’m not a computer whiz? :confused: )
  4. Is an outliner/mindmapper really necessary as well as Scrivener?
  5. If it is, is Tinderbox really worth the price for fiction purposes? Or OmniOutliner?
  6. Will it be necessary for me to buy Office 2004 for the Mac to word-process my (lower case) final drafts? Or will I be able to transfer the RTF output of Scrivener to Word on my Windows machine (or, again, are there different incompatible flavours of RTF for Windows and Mac?)? Or if I can’t transfer this output to the Windows machine, is there a Mac word-processor suitable for fiction that’s on a par with MS Word, but cheaper than the Mac MS Office package? (There are many things I don’t like about Word, or need, and the price of the Mac Office package is daunting, but I do like its revision tools.)

I would be most grateful for any insights on these issues.

BTW, it is the universal acclaim for Scrivener - and nothing else - that is driving me to change platforms! :smiley:

  1. Yes, definitely.
  2. I’d say DevonThink Pro, because it accepts more variety of files.
  3. DTPro reads PDFs. I believe they are compatible; I’ve worked very little with Windows apps.
  4. Probably not. The Binder and Corkboard give you two different views of an outline, and you may add all sorts of additional data as notes, comments, and keywords.
  5. OmniOutliner is very good for its purpose. I especially like the ability to work in columns. I never could afford TinderBox.
  6. You may word-process for free on a Mac by using Abi or OpenOffice. They create Word-readable formats. But yes, Windows Word will read the RTF files produced by Scrivener.
    Congratulations on your switching to Mac. You won’t be sorry!

I don’t really have much to add to the thread, but I wanted to note that I switched to the Mac about three years ago, purely for Ulysses. And now I use Scrivener. My point is: I hope no one comes up with an even better writing tool for Windows, okay?

As for the PDFs, they will definitely work fine on both platforms. I’ve used DevonThink Personal and enjoyed it, though I try to put research online (on 37Signals’ Backpack) now instead. But go ahead and download both DT personal and pro; I think they both have generous uncrippled trial periods.

  1. PDF works on all systems and looks the same on each. The “P” stands for “Portable” and adobe actually lives up to that.

  2. If you do want to try OmniOutliner, it comes for free with the mac. (Maybe not the Pro version, but you should get a version with your computer.)


From someone who has owned Macs since 1985 and also (been forced) to use Windows extensively over the years, I think you will find there is MUCH more to love about switching to Mac than just Scrivener. Though Scr. is certainly the MOST lovable part! :slight_smile:

So, welcome to a whole new (Mac) world.

  1. I’ve been using DT Pro for a couple of years. I’ve tried most of the other more popular programs it might compete with and I keep coming back to it… It’s powerful, utterly stable (in my experience), and able to handle the thousands of files I have in it with ease. My current primary db is over 400 MBs and I know of users who have dbs much larger than that. It does a fair job of automating some functions and I can always find exactly what I need when I need it. It also does a fair job of making associations and offering new ideas. I like this feature, since often I have put things into the program I have long since forgotten and I’m often pleasantly suprised when DT finds them for me.

So my vote is yes to your question. It is the best value for the money, in my opinion. It depends on your storage needs, however. I think DT is really the best for heavy storage needs. You might find others that work better for you if your needs are less intense and you don’t need the heavy-duty features DT offers. It’s not a huge learning curve with DT, however, and you can really use all of DT’s features or not use them and still get a lot of out of the program.

  1. I don’t know about fiction versus non-fiction. I do a fair amount of warehousing of information for both kinds of projects. I don’t do any writing at all in DT, just storage. So it’s really neutral for me in terms of purpose. It’s a ‘one program serves all’ for my uses.

  2. PDFs should be cross platform compatible. I’ve never seen one that wasn’t (I send a lot of things as pdfs to Windows users). So DT should read them just fine. You may want to consider putting pdfs in a folder on your finder then indexing them into DT Pro. You can do all the searching and viewing, just as you would if they were in it directly, but you can also reference your pdfs in other programs, like Scrivener. There is a lot of information on this already in other threads. You can also check on the DT forum. It’s another wonderful helpful community of users and the developers are very responsive.

  3. Not for me! I use DT for warehousing info and Scr. and Scr. alone for all idea creation and outlining. But others use other programs as well. I think that’s really up to you and how you find it best in your idea development process.

  4. Given the above, I know nothing about Tinderbox or OmniOutliner, sorry.

  5. This is a trickier issue. It is possible with Scr.'s rather powerful export options to create output as rtf that Word can read just fine, including footnotes and comments/annotations. You’d need to experiment to find out how to work that in the best way, I think, by trying different ways to export and seeing how it appears on your Windows Word program.

As to whether there is a difference reading rtfs on Windows and Macs, others might be able to speak to this more fully. I have not experienced any issues with going back and forth, but normally if I’m sending to someone who has Word for Windows, I’ll use my Mac version of Word to polish it off and save it as a Word file. But not always. I have sent rtfs directly from Scr. to Windows users they were able to read just fine. So this one might require some experimentation on your part.

I used Mellel to write my dissertation (just turned in, thank goodness), but I did need to do my final polish in Word to be sure all the formatting worked out okay. There were a few minor issues. If you plan to do a lot of complex footnoting and the like, where Scr. is more limited, you might want to take a look at Mellel. It’s a powerful word processor that has amazing outlining capabilities and the ability to easily manage multiple footnote/endnotes streams. It’s a bit clunky in regards to the user interface and does require some time investment to learn.

I myself doubt I’ll be using much more than Scr. from now on. I don’t think my footnoting/endnoting needs will exceed what Scr. can do for me and I love Scr. more than I can say. I know it sounds weird to be so enamoured with a computer program, but writing, reading, and researching is just about all I do all day as work, and Scr. handles it all in a way so well suited for me I sometimes still can’t believe my luck in finding it (bless Keith!!). I tried EVERYTHING I could find and nothing was flexible or powerful enough to do the job. It’s been about 9 months now and I’m still ecstatic about finding this amazing program.

So, I hope this helps. Keep asking questions. This forum is filled with the best people. Lots of good advice and good energy here.

The DT forum is great too, btw, so that’s another good reason to have Scr. and Dt as a working team.



As a Windows user for my daily work I switched to the Mac for writing some time ago. I bought Tinderbox, Devonthink and Ulysses long before Scrivener came out. And I must confess: I do not use TB, DT nor Ulysses today, I moved my current novel project into Scrivener - that’s all I need on the Mac (except for NeoOffice, in particular the calculation module).

Why not give Scrivener a try and find out how far you get with Scrivener only? If you find you need a huge data repository, get the Devonthink Pro or the Hogbay Mori trial. And if the outliner feature in Scrivener does not meet your needs, try Omnioutliner.

As far as exchanging RTF files between the Mac and your Windows machine is concerned: I haven´t run into troubles in 2 years, and I moved a lot of data first from Infoselect on Windows to Devonthink Pro, then back from DTPro to Infoselect and Ideamason on Windows and from there into Scrivener. Even diacrytic characters (German umlauts such as Ä, Ö and Ü) were transferred correctly.

As an alternative to Microsoft Office, give NeoOffice a try. It is a free edition of that runs natively on Mac OS X (there is also a Mac OSX but that requires the X11 subsystem on the Mac - meaning that it does not integrate well into Mac OS X; however, this will change in the next few months). NeoOffice is slower on the Mac than on Windows but it runs smoothly and is as compatible to Word DOC and Excel XLS as possible.

Regards, Franz

I use DTpro and like it well enough. I do have one note, however. If you start with DT personal and upgrade to pro, back everything up before you make the transition. I can’t remember exactly what the problem was when I switched (perhaps I blocked it out :smiley: ), but I remember the move being a mess, much more difficult than you would think from a company that advertises upgrading. It’d be best to pick the right version from the beginning.


A note to say thanks to you all for the generosity of your time and thoughts. I’m very grateful. You’ve greatly helped me in my decision-making.

I was interested to learn more about DT from its forum (which I hadn’t found before) - and see incidentally the process by which DevonThinkers whose usernames I recognised from here had migrated to become Scrivenistas as well. Thanks for the reassurances, Alexandria. Yes, I do have high hopes and expectations of the Mac world, above and beyond Scrivener.

Much of my material currently resides in IdeaMason, so I’m also reassured by your experience, Franz.

Now I’m off to flash the plastic at a MacBook! :slight_smile:

Oops, I should have provided that DT forum link. I’m guessing you found it easily enough, though! :slight_smile:

Re: DT - I have DTPO, which includes an OCR of PDFs that I find useful. I use it to hold my research (way too much for Scrivener) and then do what I think Alexandria mentioned in a post once and that’s to just pull in to Scrivener what I’m needing at the moment.

OmniOutliner Pro is a useful program, especially if you do extensive outlining. As has been mentioned, your MacBook should have the regular version (not Pro) on it when you buy it.

Can’t speak to Tinderbox as I have yet to try it without ending up befuddled. :confused:

I’ve never had problems with PDFs toing and froing between Windows XP Pro and Mac OS X. (I have an Opticbook scanner that only runs on Windows :frowning: so I do a lot of transferring between the two systems.)

Frankly, I agree with what’s been said: try Scrivener by itself and then add what you need. If you don’t have an enormous amount of research or info-bits to keep track of, then a combo of Scrivener and a good folder hierarchy and Spotlight for search might be all you need.

Ditto that. I happily used DevonNote, the cheapest version of Devon (which you might want to try before DTP etc.) for two years before trying just a few weeks ago to do everything in Scrivener. So far, I’ve not needed Devon’s admittedly superior categorizing, AI and other functions. Then again, I’m writing stories with only a few dozen sources at most; it may change when I go back to my book project. But I hope not – Scrivener works too well to use anything else!

I loved OmniOutliner and in some ways, for simple projects especially, it might even be easier than Scrivener. Certainly it’s worth giving it a try. But I’m so used to Scrivener now, and it’s so well designed that it makes me more efficient (minus the time I spend on these forums) than anything else.

As for formatting – try TextEdit (or the slightly beefed up freeware iText Express) before NeoOffice or AbiWord or Pages or Mellel or MS Word. They’re extremely bare bones, but, with rare exceptions, they’re all I need these days for post-Scrivener formatting. Free is good. I expect TextEdit to get a boost in the new version of OSX, coming RSN.

Finally: congrats to Alexandria for turning in that dissertation! When do we get to read the book you’ll make out of it?

:slight_smile: :slight_smile: Soon, I hope!! Thanks!