Scrivener: the Best Writing App Ever Made

Screen shot 2010-08-17 at 3.05.45 PM.pngBuy Scrivener (Regular Licence)

Can writing software actually make you produce better work? Can it anticipate your needs and conform to your desires as though it’s reading your mind? Can it make you think of your own work in a totally different way?

If any writing software can, it’s Scrivener. The sole project of the evocatively-named Literature & Latte, Scrivener is a powerful, capable, and unbelievably useful word processor. And it will probably change your life.

Oh, and it’s also less than fifty bucks.

“But I don’t need a word processor!” you shout. “I have one, it’s called Microsoft Word, and I think it’s fantastic!”

Well, firstly, it’s not. No one sits down at their computer and cranks out a novel, starting at page one and continuing until it’s done, beginning to end. (No, you don’t either.) Yet Microsoft Word, and all word processors, are designed around the idea that writing a novel is akin to folding the laundry–you start here, you end there, the bulk of it involves a lot of repetitive motion, and eventually you make a first draft. Which you need to go back and edit. And edit. And edit. But there is a better way. A much better way.

Why not just use Word?

I’ll pause here for a moment to briefly mention how Microsoft Word remains one of the least-productive and overloaded programs ever written:

  • its hundreds of functions, which clutter every dialog box and menu visible, are used by less than 5% of its users;
  • it is bloated with dozens of “auto” features– “auto squiggly lines”, “auto-numbering lists whenever I don’t ask”, or my favorite, “auto-talking paperclip that dispenses totally useless advice”.
  • as the app has grown, it has also grown to consume 10-25 times the memory and hard drive space of previous versions, while offering an almost identical experience to the user.
  • Word also has its very own viruses. Which only affect Word. I rest my case.


Fine, Well, What’s Different About Scrivener?

Into those (admittedly massive) shoes steps Scrivener: a lean, fast, and distraction-free device for writing. From “typewriter mode”–which keeps the current line in the center of the screen as you type– to its truly awesome ability to visually rearrange your sections and chapters at will, Scrivener is made to be helpful.


  • It can split your view and allow you to work or look at multiple chapters at once. It graphically shows you how close you are to your word-count targets:

graphical wordcount

  • It collects and display all your research material–PDFs, photos, other documents–alongside your text.
  • It stores snapshots of your text, allowing you to experiment and undo as many times as you like.
  • And, perhaps most useful for a chronic procrastinator, it has a gorgeous full-screen and distraction-free mode. You know, for when you have to write. Check it:

Where I worked as a Genius at a flagship Apple Store, a startling number of customer complaints involved Microsoft Word (which, it should be noted, Apple can’t help you with– it’s not their product, and no one there is trained in fixing it). I always felt bad for those people, many of whom had deadlines and major projects on the line.

I often recommended that writers give Scrivener a 30-day trial if I felt it might work for them. I did this because, rather than trying to cram in every feature imaginable, Scrivener was built with the needs of writers first and foremost.

Every design decision is rooted in a deep sense of purpose. Things make sense.

And I’m virtually certain that every person who downloads this software eventually buys it: it proves its worth within seconds.

script writing modes

For screenwriters, Scrivener also talks to Final Draft like it’s a long-lost sibling, and there are helpful formatting modes for writing a script. I haven’t used them, so I don’t know how well they work, but I’m sure they’re fantastic.

Screen shot 2010-08-15 at 12.17.35 AM.png


Now, Scrivener may not be perfect for everyone– I, for one, found the way it makes footnotes to be simultaneously practical (since there are no “pages”, and thus nowhere for footnotes to really go) and very distracting (since the footnotes appear in-line with text and shift to their proper places when you export). A much better solution in my mind would be a simple designation of a footnote, which could be expanded or collapsed if one wanted to view it.

But for the vast majority of people, Scrivener will not only suit you, it will change the way you write.

corkboard view

I can’t tell you how freeing it is to liberate your sentences from their places on an endless page, to remix and reshuffle them, to review six different sections and two pages of notes at the same time. Our brains are not linear, and our software shouldn’t be either– especially with such a cerebral process as writing!

Dubbed “the biggest advance for writers since the word processor“, Scrivener is Mac-only software, for several reasons.

This is unfortunate precisely because there are already so many pretty and practical Mac word processors: the very people who need this the most are likely running Windows/Word.

But Scrivener is unquestionably the very best writing software being made. Give it a test run. It comes with my highest recommendation.

There is a 30-day trial available, as well as aneducational discount if you qualify. Download it right now, and be writing that novel in seconds. (Of course, now you won’t have any more good excuses…)

Buy Scrivener (Regular Licence) Buy Scrivener (Regular Licence)

Appculture Rating

Ease of use/simplicity: 4/5 – the only issue I have is with Scrivener’s handling of footnotes.
Interface design 4/5 – there are occasionally unmarked icons, which take a second to figure out, but all tools are at-hand and accessible: interface design is near-perfect.
Thoughtfulness:  5/5 – some of the best and most intelligent features I’ve ever seen.
Value:  5/5- $39.95 is a damn steal.

What do you think of Scrivener? Have you used it? Do you like it? Let me know in the comments!!


1 Comment

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