Scrivener is a software application that is essentially a writing tool, developed by Literature and Latte, that allows you to keep organised whilst working on a large project. Whether it’s a novel you’re working on or just a report, Scrivener allows you to store all of your research and sources in one place – in some ways similar to that of the Evernote online “remember everything” service.
Unlike quite a few of the applications we review here at Zath, Scrivener is part of quite a niche market, with few programs aiming to provide the user with a similar experience. How does it perform for academic and professional users? Well let me explain…
Installation and Setup
Installing Scrivener itself on to your system is similar to most other Mac OS X applications, as you simply have to drag and drop the icon in to your applications folder. Also in the DMG image, however, is another installer, with some extra features such as templates that can be installed. Simply double click this icon, and it installs itself.
User Interface and Functionality
From the main screen, you can choose to create a new project, open an existing one or open the interactive tutorial. When you select to create a new project, you can choose between a whole host of presets (these are installed with the ‘extras’ package I mentioned earlier). You can set up a screenplay template, create a comic script or even to choose a novel format. Most of the time, I use Scrivener for personal projects, so I tend to use the empty project option. After giving your project a name, you’re taken to the main project screen.
From this window, you have all the contents of your ‘binder’ visible in the sidebar on the left hand side of your project. By default, it’s split in to three sections: Draft, Research and Trash. The ‘draft’ section houses all of the pieces to your project, which will eventually be put together and printed. This section can only house text documents for precisely that reason; when you complete what you’re working on, it will all be compiled together and printed as one document. Whilst you’re still working on your project, however, you can keep as many drafts as you’d like.
The research section of the binder acts as a central location for all of your research files. You can choose to import files such as PDF’s, images and text documents, and they’ll be placed in your research folder for easy access. These files are placed on a ‘corkboard’, almost like you’d pin up photos and documents on a wall. When you delete a file from either your draft or research folder, it’s placed in the ‘trash’ section of the binder. From here, you can recover any files you want back in your project.
If you’ve already been working on a project prior to installing Scrivener, you’ll probably want to import all the necessary files and pick up where you left off. To do this, simply drag them in to your research folder and then relocate any text files into your ‘draft’ binder. You can split anything you import in to various sections to keep things organised to your liking, too.
The great thing about Scrivener is that you can keep things organised exactly how you like. Add folders to house certain sections of text, split research up depending on how you work best, you can make Scrivener perform just how you want it to, so that you can be as productive as possible.
Of course, the most important part of this is the content that you write. You can manage font just as you would in a word processor, and you get a live word and character count at the bottom of the window. You can even view snapshots of previous versions of your project, so if you prefer something you wrote earlier and removed, you can simply highlight it and restore it back to your draft.
After using Scrivener for any amount of time, it becomes clear that there are far too many features to cover in a review such as this. It really is a dream for writers who have been using word processors to complete their work. Professional users shouldn’t hesitate to switch to Scrivener for their projects, as it offers a plethora of tools for their specific needs. Likewise, it’s an application that could be easily utilised by many students, making it simple to keep all research documents and images in one place, so you don’t lose any crucial information.
The best way to see if Scrivener fits your needs is to try it for yourself. You can download a free 30 day trial before purchasing for $39.95 (approximately £26) from the Literature and Latte website.