5 Reasons Why Scrivener is better than Word

Scrivener is extremely popular among writers. What makes it so special? Is it really better than Microsoft Word?

Let’s be honest: humans are close relatives to sloths. Most of us would do anything to make our lives easier and more comfortable. Thank Odin, there’s a variety of tools available to let us cope with our laziness.

Scrivener is one of them.

Being a writer based in London, everything feels so fast and frenetic, and time has quickly become the most important resource of my day. When I noticed that I spend more time on the Tube than at home, I decided I had to optimise my productivity somehow. I grabbed an iPad and I convinced (aka: gently forced) my dear sister to give me Scrivener for my birthday.

And I discovered a whole new world.

5 Reasons Why Scrivener is Better than Word

I had heard about Scrivener before, as I browsed through the App Store looking for fancy writing tools. The price of the desktop version (roughly £44,00 / $45,00) was unsettling at first, especially thinking of a starting writer who may be short on budget; but then I read the reviews.

Almost any writer who had the chance to give Scrivener a try has emerged from his personal cave completely satisfied with the App. It is well-structured, author-focused, and ultimately efficient for all those who like organising their own stuff in folders, files and research documents. It is gold dust for everybody attempting to write a good work of fiction.

But enough with the chit-chatting: here’s 5 reasons why Scrivener is better than Microsoft Word.

This article will focus on the iOS version, although most of these points apply to the desktop one as well.

1. The Binder: A Writer’s Dream

Have you ever spent precious minutes of your life looking through your folders for that document you just can’t seem to find? I did and, as organised as my hard drives can be, there are things not even Siri can find on my Mac.

This might sound like something with no true relevance when it comes to writing, but as a matter of fact it can become a big issue, especially if you like splitting your novel into chapters. The Binder is what every digital writer has always dreamt of: just like a physical binder, it enables writers to create multiple files and place them into multiple folders, to organise stories or chapters the way you want.

The keyword here is structure: the Binder gives structure to your works, allowing you to shape them as your heart desires. You can make a Project and divide it into folders, or in plain text files; or you can make folders within the folders and put some additional material in the Research section.

The sky is the limit — something you won’t find in many other writing tools.

2. The Corkboard

Behold my unfinished collection of short stories. Which is probably gonna be unfinished for a while.

There are days when things just don’t add up. You have a clear roadmap in mind, but you may have started your novel from the ending (as I reckon some writers do), from the middle, or from somewhere else in the meanders of your story. And it may be hard to pull it all together.

Luckily, the Corkboard will come to the rescue. If you nest some text files inside a folder (or even inside another text file, as Scrivener lets you do), you can then access the Corkboard to look at your “chapters” in the form of cards. Just like this picture over here.

This adds up to the concept of ‘structure’, which is clearly something dear to Scrivener at its core — although I’m aware not all writers would jump on the same boat. And, if you choose to visualise the status of each file, you can see at a glance which ones are completed and which ones aren’t. Even the most twisted of novels can be easily pieced together in the Corkboard.

3. Research & Import

Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, we writers love to do research to make our works consistent. You may want to reference a web page, or look at a picture as you write to be inspired. Maybe you want to research the most painful ways to die, and apply them to your characters. It’s okay. We’ve all been there at some point.

Whatever the reason for your research, it is handy to have all the files you need at hand. Every project in Scrivener has a ‘Research’ folder that can let you import pictures, text, web pages, PDFs and more. This way, referencing a file (especially on mobile) becomes easier than ever!

Just make sure you wipe your browsing history afterwards.

4. “Quick Reference”

Oh, non-fiction writers will love this. Sometimes, you may want to quickly glance at a file as you write, maybe to quote a passage or to translate a whole story (that last thing happened to me, in fact).

On mobile, with just one tap of your finger, Scrivener lets you open a “Quick Reference” to whichever file you may need, and it does so by opening it in a kind of ‘Split View’ on your screen, keeping your main file on the right and the referenced one on the left.

This way, you can avoid switching back and forth between files. This will make you work so much faster whenever you’re writing your next article.

5. Typewriter Mode

Now, for one of my absolute favourites. I speak as a couch potato, someone who’d much rather reflect on the meaning of life than stand up from the couch and pick the damn remote from the table. Some writers may be like me, others may not; but we all hate it when we get to the bottom of a Word page and we have to scroll back up to keep the text in a more comfortable part of the screen.

It’s a bit hard to show it with a picture this time, so just take my word for it: Scrivener has a tiny little thing called ‘Typewriter Mode’ which is definitely genius made software. By activating it, no matter what you do or where you are in your file, the line where you are writing will always be in your preferred spot on the page, be it perfectly centred, at one-third, or else. You choose where, from a list of several other alternatives.

Just like a typewriter, the text will automatically scroll up as you move to a new line. Which may easily be the next big revolution for the writing and publishing industry (matter of fact, a hell of a lot of other writing tools are using it now, including Ulysses).

Bonus: Screenwriter Mode, Templates, Compile, and more!

Scrivener’s Compile screen on iOS

And what about you, fellow novelist who wants to write a short film too? Scrivener’s developers didn’t leave you out; there is a wonderful built-in Screenwriting mode, with tons of keyboard shortcuts just like Final Draft. This way, you’ll have all your novels and scripts just in one, comfortable place. I wrote an entire play with this feature and it works like a charm!

And finally, if you actually finish your novel or script on Scrivener, you can even compile it and export it in the format you like — A4, A5, Paperback, you name it. Scrivener has got your back.

As you can see, the possibilities are almost endless — all it takes is a bit of practice. But writers should be well acquainted with practice, after all.

Scrivener: the Best First-Draft Word Processor

The list above has a lot of stuff, but Scrivener has so much more to show, and so many other features that I just couldn’t write here. Features for non-fiction writers include efficient comments, footnotes, references, and much more; to speak of all that Scrivener can do would require way more space, perhaps even an eBook.

Luckily someone did it, and Scrivener’s website is already full of written guides and tutorials you might want to check out. Extremely useful if you end up buying the software.

Just don’t rely on Scrivener when it comes to actually getting your book ready for publication. As the developers often say, Scrivener is great for your first drafts, but InDesign is still a better tool for pagination and layout. Nonetheless, I assure you: you’ll never find a word processor in the likes of Scrivener. Ever.

A little note on margin: I tried writing this article with Microsoft Word, just as an experiment. But it was just another confirmation that, once Scrivener gets into your life, you can never go back.

You can find Scrivener on the iOS App Store for iOS and iPadOS, or you can head to the official website if you’d rather write on macOS and desktop Windows.

The first draft of this piece was originally published at http://anthonywolfwriter.com on September 25, 2018.



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