One of my first posts for ChurchMag was about how you could use Scrivener to organise your bible study notes and why this might be worth considering, especially if you might one day want to publish them. That was a long time ago now and since then I’ve used Scrivener many times for different projects. However, recently I’ve been using my iPad more and more to do everything as I find it is better at doing my regular tasks. With that in mind, the news that Scrivener has finally come out with an iPad app (having been working on it for many years) was joy to my ears.
But would it live up to its desktop partners great reputation or would it be another case of a lightweight companion app to a more powerful brother.
Scrivener by Literature and Latte is designed with novel writers in mind. When it was first released in 2006 it set out to do away with needing a host of software or a complicated file system to get your writing in order. It does this via a variety of features and layout tools including the ability to store your research within your project file (be that a character profile, a picture for inspiration or a PDF document with important details). The ability to easily rearrange sections of writing with separate documents within your giant project and the helpful cork board view. And the ability to share your finished project via a selection of common formats including docX, PDF and ePub/mobi. This has made it a great tool for writing longer form projects that need involve research, writing, organization and publishing.
So with this new iOS app, it has to hold up to the previous standards and expectations set by its desktop brother as well as making the most of the tablet form factor, one which some have found very beneficial for writing.
Scrivener for iOS
Up to this point the iOS offering for Scrivener have all been hacked together methods which only address the writing aspect of Scrivener with no access to the research or publishing tools. With that in mind were first going to look at the writing system, then the research and finally the publishing options within Scrivener.
Obviously, writing is important for an app like Scrivener and is an area where there is a lot of competition in the iOS App Store. Luckily Scrivener manages to tread the fine line between minimal and highly functional in a word processor. Unlike some minimal writing apps which can default to markdown (or bust!) Scrivener need rich text editing options for novel and academic writers to lay out their text in the correct style. Furthermore it also need to support features like footnotes and comments.
Scrivener has cleverly added some extra keyboard shortcuts which you can access at anytime to add comments, footnotes or use a variety of common punctuation symbols (sorry semi-colon. I don’t mean you). For rich text editing, there is a style icon similar to pages on iOS which access formatting. This adds speedy writing options while avoiding a distracting interface.
Still, if you love markdown, you can have the publishing options convert your markdown to html, plus the presence of a typewriter mode adds the option for the text you’re working on to stay central while those old words wonder off into the distance.
An extra aspect worth mentioning are the outlining tools. These are ways to help you draft and arrange your ideas. A good outlining tool should let you be flexible, see a big overview and also adjust things round later on. In novel writing this can be great for adding in an extra scene or chapter to further explain why a character might do something. In fiction it allows you to make sure you follow a logical flow and argument. For my very long posts on the best email app for you and task management app, I’ve found the outlining view of Scrivener irreplaceable to help make those posts flow logically.
These features include:
- the cork board view (like using flashcards)
- the use of folders
- document synopsis
Writing is an area where Scrivener faces stiff competition but research is where Scrivener starts to pull away from the crowd. I feel confident in saying this (and I welcome any comments that prove me wrong) but there is no other app quite like this at the moment for keeping your research with your writing.
Scrivener for iOS accepts:
- sound files
- and more
This means you have everything relevant to your writing in one place, not in a separate app and file system. This also syncs with your desktop (via Dropbox)making it easy to research on the go and then get back to your writing at home or vice verse. This makes it so good for the academics or pastors who need to keep lots of data together and review it while writing.
Publishing is the final area where Scrivener on the desktop really shines. It has made publishing well formatted ebooks on amazon and elsewhere simple. Unfortunately the publishing features set on iOS isn’t as powerful (yet?) so far you can publish to:
- docx (Microsoft word)
- rtf (rich text )
- txt (plain text for the win)
- final draft (when scriptwriting settings are used)
That’s still a great and powerful selection that will suit most normal projects, it is just one big feature of the desktop version which hasn’t made it across (yet). When compiling, you can choose how you will edit certain things, as such you can publish with notes and again without notes (great for bible studies with notes for people running a study), converting markdown, or you can choose to drop out certain documents you don’t want to include.
Ulysses has modeled itself as a bit of a Scrivener alternative with a more simple interface and feature set. This is true on iOS and OS X. Like Scrivener, each price of writing can be made up of separate documents making it easy to arrange and cut out different files when exporting. However, the research features aren’t present and Ulysses uses a form of markdown rather than rich text meaning you have to write in their special markdown.
With that being said, Ulysses also has ePub and medium publishing options which Scrivener does not.
There are clearly some areas where Scrivener for iOS can grow into which isn’t a bad thing, however for a first offering, Scrivener for iOS is incredibly powerful and very user friendly. Of course it does take a bit to get to know how to navigate the software but you can keep learning about little extra features the more you use it.