Scrivener: A Pretty Cool Writing Tool

Scrivener (software)
Scrivener (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For years I’d heard of Scrivener, a piece of software touted as the “ultimate writer’s tool.” Not just a word processor, more than a plain text editor; Scrivener helped you organize all the stuff you wrote, all your research and goodness knows what else. Only problem was the durn thing only ran on Macintosh — the only PC operating system I didn’t know!

That detail changed some years ago, as Scrivener for Windows joined the party. It also runs on Linux via Wine, but that’s for another post. But there was still a small barrier: the $40 price tag. Frugal guy that I am, I wondered what Scrivener could give me that I didn’t get from the free LibreOffice suite.

Then a few months ago, the tech deal site, AppSumo, sweetened the pot for me; they cut the price to $20. I snapped this deal up, and now I’m a fan.

What makes Scrivener so cool?

Now I’m not typically crazy about proprietary, closed-source software. I do make room for a few exceptions, though. Scrivener is one of them.

Here’s what Scrivener looks like on Windows.

Scrivener for Windows
Scrivener: More than a text editor

The main window is the editor, and by default looks just like a typical text editor, but with some basic word processing features; that is you can bold, underline and italicize text if you’re so inclined. Soon you find a Heading style and other word processing features. But that’s the boring part. Where you discover Scrivener’s power is in each of those sidebars.

On the left side is the project binder, where you can collect multiple files: scenes, chapters, journal/diary items — pretty much anything you want to include in a writing project.When the time comes to publish your book, choose what files to include from your binder and export to any of a bunch of file formats:

  • Word (rich text, DOC and DOCX)
  • Open Document (OpenOffice/LibreOffice)
  • PDF or raw PostScript
  • Web pages (HTML or XHTML)
  • Final Draft (for scripts)

The binder also holds a Research file, where you can store links to other files, web pages, or just notes to oneself (though you can also use Comments to include reminders).

Decide something is completely not working, and want to cast it aside? Throw the file into the Trash folder in Scrivener. Decide later that you want to salvage it? No problem; just restore it — Trash is just another folder, not the system’s trashcan.

On the right side of the editor, you have your Synopsis file, where you can quickly define what this file is about (a help when you’re organizing your outline, or writing your novel “out-of-order”). The General Meta-Data section is where you can give a file a label, and define its editorial status (what draft you’re on).

A lot of this stuff is customizable, and you really can control so much of your experience and your content while you write.

This is just a description of the editing screen. I haven’t even gotten into the outlining features in the Scrivener Corkboard.

Learn Scrivener Fast

Such a powerful piece of software typically means a learning curve, and the makers of Scrivener (Literature and Latte) offer a tutorial session the first time you launch the application. They also give you access to some free video tutorials in the Help menu too, along with a pretty good PDF manual.

But if you spend any time with Scrivener (or post about it in social media), you’ll also keep hearing about the Scrivener Coach, Joseph Michael, who runs an e-learning video site at His program is a series of short videos that share his experience with the Scrivener learning curve, and tries to climb that ladder in just a few hours. Let me tell you: he succeeds.

AppSumo also offers a discount on LearnScrivenerFast that appears periodically. You can get lifetime access to his courses for $39. If you’re serious about your writing, and find that Scrivener can make you a more productive writer, Joe can help.

Friday’s Deal

The good news is the folks at AppSumo are offering the same deals that I got for one day only: Black Friday, November 28 (I absolutely hate this term, but whatcha gonna do?). If you’re reading this on that day, you can get Scrivener the software for just US$20, and the Learn Scrivener Fast course for $39 (ordinarily nearly $200). But just for 24 hours, from 12:01 am US Central time Friday to midnight US Central time.

They have a number of other deals during that period, but I can vouch for and recommend both of these. FULL DISCLOSURE: I don’t get any financial benefit from either AppSumo, Literature and Latte, or the Scrivener Coach for these recommendations. As they say, “just a happy customer.”

I would be interested in learning more about other people’s experiences with Scrivener, AppSumo and video e-learning. Drop a comment below if there’s something to share.


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