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Scrivener for iOS Review, a Roaming Writer’s Best Buddy?

Fellow writers, bloggers and authors – may I have but a moment of your time to cover surely one of the best word processors to grace the shelves of the iTunes Store, Scrivener? This Scrivener review will cover all the things you need to know about this word processor, built by writers, for writers.

Scrivener for iOS, v1.1.4
8.2 Reviewer
Pros
• Polished interface
• Tailored for Writers
• Multi-platform (iOS, Mac, PC)
• Project based writing
Cons
• Bit pricey
Bottom Line
If you already utilise Scrivener on the PC or Mac then this version for iOS compliments that nicely. For those who don't yet own them, this iOS version is a capable standalone tool for Writers who need a project based research and word processing solution.

Scrivener Review Introduction

Writers have always taken pride in their tools in the same way a master craftsman would. Those tools have changed with the times but the attachment that writers feel towards them, is timeless. And in some ways the feeling is mutual. I have heard that a well-worn fountain pen can have but one master. When used consistently by one person over time, held in their particular way, it wares in one particular plane. When wielded by another, only inkless scratches across the page result. I have no idea if this is true as I have never personally seen it, but I like to believe it is.

Writers have always taken pride in their tools in the same way a master craftsman would


These days writers inevitably have to resort to word processors at some point to peddle their craft. While not exactly the squat pen resting between the finger and thumb, when executed well, it can provide an intimate link between the author and their words. This is one requirement of such word processors. Another challenge that confronts writers is the handling of information needed for their work. That could be research, associated documents, pictures and so on. Normally, writers deal with this by either storing such files locally with their work or saving the information with it in note taking programs such OneNote and Evernote.

Scrivener, the subject of today’s review, aims to tackle both challenges. When writers are writing, it gets out of the way of the writer and their words. When the writer is researching, it provides the tools and structure to handle that information within their writing project. Moreover, it is available on not only iOS, but also Windows and Mac OS. With cloud sync you can then pick up where you left off as you go from one platform to the next. Cool.

All of this sounds pretty enticing to writers who write longer form articles with reams of background material. This Scrivener for iOS v1.1.4 review will cover all of these features in more detail. With that in mind, let’s get started with the user interface.

Scrivener User Interface

You will have a learning curve with Scrivener, let there be no doubt

You will have a learning curve with Scrivener, let there be no doubt. If you are coming from the likes of MS Word or even other minimalist word processors like iA Writer, Scrivener will seem a little complicated at first. This is because you are not dealing with one file which contains all your writing, but rather a “Project”, which may contain rafts of files. Moreover, you will be confronted by terms such as “Binders”, and “Corkboards”, and to see your complete creation, you will have to “compile”, it. Right, now that you are mentally prepared to be dazzled, lets continue with my assurance that your bewilderment will be short lived as you get to grips with Scrivener. I will cover the details behind these functions in detail in the next section – features and functions. For the moment, lets cover the eye candy. There are three main screens that you will be confronted with in Scrivener.

  • Projects overview
  • Project view
  • Editor

Projects overview

The project overview window shows all of your writing projects at a glance. To start a new writing project, then simply hit the plus sign which will create a project with all of the associated accoutrements – which I will cover in the next section of this Scrivener review. The left of the screen provides a simple list of your writing projects.

Scrivener for iOS review: Project view

Scrivener Project view

On creation of your project you will see something like that below. The cork board to the right side is somewhat more populated than you will have as I have been using Scrivener for this review. The cork board contains the different sections of this review. You can also break up your writing in this way and seamlessly combine them later into a full document when you “compile”, your writing.

The left side of the screen is the “Binder”. This is a collection of your writings – contained under “Draft”, a research folder for background material and the ever overflowing Trash basket. When you create new material, it will be added to the Drafts section and be displayed in outline form, as indicated in the screenshot below. When you compile the document, all of the sections under Draft will be combined in the order shows in the outline and exported to your desired format – PDF, MS Word and so on.

Scrivener for iOS review: Corkboard

Scrivener Cork board

Scrivener Editor

This is the bit where you create your masterpiece( or Scrivener review!). The screenshot shows what it looks like when expanded. It is fairly minimal, especially if you use an external keyboard. The top shows a word count and you can access some commands such as formatting, search and other recent documents. The bottom gives you some shortcut keys and the some functions for adding comments and hyperlinks. Your work will take up the centre part of the screen and you can zoom in on this section to make it as big as you wish.

Scrivener for iOS review: editor

 The Scrivener editor

Scrivener Features and Functions

As minimalist word processors go, Scrivener is quite fully featured. Here are a few of the notable ones.

On Screen keyboard

Scrivener comes replete with a host of quick access keys along the top of the on screen keyboard. So, you only need to stab at the top of your on screen keyboard to access different symbols, formatting options and some navigation keys. They are fully configurable so you can set it up to contain whatever keys you frequently use. If you use an external keyboard as I do with my iPad, then rest assured that these keys are still available at the bottom of the screen.

Scrivener for iOS review: keyboard

An example of the additional keyboard keys

Project structure

One of the major differences between Scrivener and most other Word Processors is that it works on the basis of a project, not a single file. The project in Scrivener not only can contain your writing in a file, or multiple files, but also whatever background material you want to add. When you embark upon a new writing project, you create a new project in Scrivener and it will create a project folder for you with several predefined elements,

  • Drafts – this is where your work will be saved. You can have one file or many files if you want to break your work down into smaller chunks.
  • Research – a repository for supporting material. You can save pictures in here, web links, pdf files etc.
  • Trash – it is exactly what you think it is.

    You can download files to the project from cloud providers, add web page links and so on. So, image files and PDF documents can be added to your research folder for example. I did not see any search feature for such files during this Scrivener review though which could be a bit of a nuisance if having to find information in long PDF files.

    Scrivener Compilation / Export Options

    Compilation and export are synonymous in Scrivener. To export it, it must first be compiled and translated into a format that is readable by other programs. “Compilation”, within Scrivener, can refer to first combining multiple pieces of your work together and translating them to another format or can also just be translating one section of your work for export.

    The export formats supported are PDF, MS Word, Rich Text and plain text. I think the first two should satisfy most people’s needs.

    Scrivener Cloud sync

    It seems that Scrivener only supports Dropbox for cloud sync. Somewhat limited but invaluable if you utilise Scrivener on it’s different platforms – iOS, Windows and macOS.

    Scrivener Writing Targets

    Should you need that extra bit of motivation you can also set word targets for yourself in Scrivener. Simply hit the word count at the top of the screen and a little indicator will show how many words have been typed in that session. You can also set targets for yourself and the graph shows your progress towards those targets.

    As you can see, I have a long way to go to complete this Scrivener review!

    Scrivener review: Word target

    Set word targets with Scrivener!

    Other Scrivener features of note

    A few last comments on other miscellaneous items I noted during the course of this Scrivener review. Scrivener supports comments, footnotes and hyperlinks. These will remain intact when you export the file to other formats like MS Word. It is also possible to add pictures directly to your writing file, but I have struggled to find out how to resize the images. If Scrivener folks are reading this, let me know!

    Another thing I struggled with is Headings beyond Heading 2. As you can see front he formatting options below, it only lists Heading 1 and Heading 2. What about the others?

    Scrivener for iOS review: text formatting

     Scrivener Text formatting options

    Finally, if you wish to get a very fast flythrough of all of the features and how to use Scrivener for iOS, there is a great YouTube video from the makers of Scrivener, Literature and Latte, to get you up and running in ten minutes.

    Scrivener Pricing and Scrivener Alternatives

    Scrivener is available from the iTunes App Store for $19.99. Click here to get Scrivener now.

    In terms of alternatives, there are a few available. Ulysses is also tailored towards authors and offers more functionality. It is somewhat more pricey though, as it is offered on a subscription basis of $39.99 per year to enable it on all platforms.  On the opposite end of the scale we have Microsoft offerings such as Word and OneNote, both of which are free on iOS. They are somewhat more industrial than Scrivener and are less writer oriented but have a huge user base which brings advantages if you wish to collaborate with others.

    If you only seek a minimalist iOS word processor, then iA Writer is worth a look. iA Writer is keenly priced at $3.99 – you can check out my full iA Writer review for more details.

    Scrivener for iOS Review Summary

    Scrivener is a writing tool, built by writers, for writers. It treads in no man’s land between monster productivity application like MS Word and minimalist word processor like iA Writer. For writers that already use Scrivener for Windows or Mac, and who own an iPad, then getting this App is a no brainer. Waste no more time reading this Scrivener review and get it to enjoy editing on the go with your iPad. Here’s the link to get Scrivener, enjoy!

    So, what about the rest of us who don’t yet have Scrivener for either Windows or Mac? If your work tends to span multiple documents, especially for research, then I think the project based approach utilized by Scrivener would be a good fit. In such cases you may also be contemplating more dedicated note taking apps like Evernote or OneNote. I would prefer Scrivener for writing but for research, Evernote and OneNote undoubtedly have the edge.

    At $19.99 from the iTunes store, it is not the cheapest option, but what you will get for your money is a polished, dedicated writing app that is satisfying to use and sufficiently featured to take your work on the road.  I hope you found this Scrivener review helpful and if so, make sure and share on your choice of social network using the little buttons on the left of the screen.

cheers!

Brendan Toner

Let me welcome you to this alcove of the internet. In this little productivity blog, I detail the trials and tribulations of trying to use my time more effectively utilising the latest productivity tools and techniques. I hope you enjoy the articles, cheers!
Brendan Toner, author of Done Before Brekky

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2 Responses

  1. Here’s an idea: Indicate what version of this app you are talking about.

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