Pros: The best thing for long projects; works how writers think;
nothing it doesn’t do; currently free!
Cons: It’s still in beta; we found importing existing Scrivener projects harder than it needed to be
It wasn’t so long ago that if you asked among novelists and scriptwriters, you’d hear them all swear by Microsoft Word or one of its proprietary clones. It’s easy to see why; much of the literary old guard cut their teeth on typewriters and handwritten notepaper. The ability to approach a project at any point and rewrite the parts that sucked without having to rewrite entire pages must have seemed miraculous in its day. Times change.
Previously only available on Mac OS X, last year a Windows version of Scrivener finally saw the light of day after a lengthy open beta. Such is its superiority to Word that many (including this reviewer) previously spent large sums of money on Apple products just to be able to run it. Now, thanks to Literature & Latte, Scrivener is coming to Linux, and we wouldn’t be overstating things to say that Scrivener is to word processing what word processing is to the quill and inkwell.
Novelists and scriptwriters don’t think in a straight line, yet traditional word processors operate on the assumption that they do. They posit that words form sentences and sentences form paragraphs and that one thing going after another must equal linear thinking. Not so. The final product may be linear, but the process is a hotchpotch of back and forth: rewriting, drawing maps and character backgrounds, assembling settings, outlines, synopses, research, photographs, video, audio, the contents of entire webpages.
Writing a single scene may require dozens of files associated with it and those files need to be close by for easy reference so a writer can write without leaving the confines of the project. What Scrivener does primarily is allow you to organise your work. Got a webpage you need for that info on 14th century Anchorite monks? Create a subfolder for your chapter and drag the whole thing in there for offline use. Scrivener’s project file keeps everything in one place.
More than that, Scrivener will automatically compile your work into all popular eBook formats, provide you with daily word-count targets, and hyperlink your characters to their bios and your settings to your research (essentially creating your very own project wiki).
When you’re writing Chapter 14 and something you need to happen needs foreshadowing in Chapter 3? Stick it in Chapter 3’s scratchpad without breaking your flow. It even has a dictionary that actually wants to learn your project’s unique vernacular (very handy if you’re writing sci-fi or fantasy) rather than underline everything in red. In short, it quickly becomes indispensable.
Beta Verdict: 5/5
Without mentioning the hundreds of other features packed into Scrivener, each a superb piece of writer logic, we still feel we’re selling it short. Right now it’s in beta, so it’s currently free. If you’re working on any kind of long writing project, Scrivener is the only choice worth considering and the beta is stable enough to make it an essential download now.