Writing

Scrivener Review: Is it Right for You?

Kevin Kessler
November 11, 2021
7 mins

Scrivener has been used and loved by thousands of writers and remained near the top of the app store for more than a decade. It’s a writing software program loaded with features and capabilities,

At our content marketing firm, we’ve compared and tested the best writing apps so you don’t have to. But, is Scrivener the right choice for your style? Let’s find out.

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PROS
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CONS
  • Only supports English
  • 24+ hour support response
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What is Scrivener?

Scrivener is a word processing app with many of the features and capabilities of a project management tool. Scrivener was developed by Literature & Latte, a software company founded by writers in 2006.

Founder Keith Blount was struggling to write a novel and his thesis and couldn’t find writing software that would help him compile and organize his research, store and sort all his notes, and write, all at the same time.

When he realized that this software didn’t exist, he taught himself to code and created it himself.

Scrivener has been native to MacOS X since its launch but is now also available for Windows.  

Scrivener’s Key Features

Scrivener has several capabilities that combine the traditional tools and systems writers use to manage complex projects. The most popular features of Scrivener are:

The Binder

Scrivener uses a virtual binder that stores your documents, notes, references, and research material together in one place. As a result, you can easily move from different parts of your writing, check notes and references as you write, and work with any part of your writing project at any time.

Split or Full-Screen View

In Scrivener’s split-screen view, you can write while referring to your notes, research, transcripts, lists, and summaries without having to change windows. You can use full-screen mode for writing or have up to four documents open at the same time. There are also typewriter mode and dark mode within Scrivener to help you type with ease.

Scrivening Mode

With Scrivening mode, you can write and assemble the segments any way you want. For example, write chapters, sections, or scenes as separate documents, then organize, assemble, and edit them together.  

Corkboard

Writers used to plan manuscripts by pinning notes to a corkboard and shuffling them around. Scrivener lets you use this method digitally. Each section of your project is pinned to a virtual index card. You can “step back” from your project and get a card-based overview of short synopses, and when you rearrange the cards, your manuscript updates automatically.

Outliner

The outliner creates a structural view of your manuscript, so you can arrange and rearrange, review, summarize, and organize your writing projects. Drag-and-drop to move elements around, check your word counts, update metadata, and more with this powerful outlining tool.

Templates and Formatting Support

You can import documents into Scrivener, set styles for certain text types and update everything automatically, create your own templates, or use Scrivener’s built-in tools for formatting complex documents like screenplays. Then, when you are done writing, export your manuscript from Scrivener into a vast range of file formats for publishing.

Drawbacks of Scrivener

Despite all these great features, Scrivener still has some flaws. The most significant drawbacks to Scrivener are:

Complexity

Scrivener has many features and capabilities, and many people find it complex and challenging to master. There can be a steep learning curve, and some people feel that creating so many templates wouldn’t be necessary if some of the formatting functions were easier to use and replicate.

Sync Issues

If you plan on working on your manuscript from multiple locations or devices, syncing is critical. Unfortunately, Scrivener syncs only through Dropbox (it is not compatible with other standard cloud storage services), and syncing can be inconsistent or buggy.

The Mac, Windows, and iOS versions are separate purchases, and it doesn’t always sync in real-time if the project is open on another device. Sync between the Mac and Windows version is also inconsistent.  

Collaboration

Many people work with writing partners, editors, and clients or otherwise collaborate on their work in progress. Unfortunately, Scrivener does not have any collaboration tools or features.

Is Scrivener Right for You?

Scrivener was designed for large, complex writing projects. It was designed for writers working on novels and screenplays, who need to keep track of characters, locations, scenes, and plot points and control the structure while they write.

It is also an excellent tool for non-fiction writers who need to refer to notes, research, interviews, and other documents while they work.

It is an excellent alternative to creating long, unwieldy document files and using various apps to open different types of reference material. For example, if you need to refer back to something in Chapter 2 while you are writing Chapter 14, Scrivener makes it simple.

If you need to improve your writing skills, then learn from teachers or mentors in MasterClass.

If you work on shorter documents that aren’t as complex, if you want a more straightforward, more intuitive writing tool, or if you need to collaborate with clients, partners, and editors, Scrivener is probably not the right tool for you. On the other hand, if you simply want to improve the quality and professionalism of your writing, consider a tool like ProWritingAid.

Conclusion

Scrivener is a fantastic app for writers who need to stay organized, manage complex projects, and make fast and easy changes and updates to various aspects of their work without hunting through their notes and files.

It isn’t the best writing app for bloggers, copywriters, and other writers with faster, more flexible, and collaborative writing projects.

Our content marketing agency produces over 300+ articles/month, so we use tools like Scrivener, ProWritingAid or Grammarly on a daily basis to ensure high-quality content.