Product Review: Scrivener

I have recently purchased Scrivener. I think it’s a big upgrade from Word. I use a PC, running Windows 7 with MS Office Pro 2010. This is why I back up my work excessively (on an external hard drive, a DVD-RW and 2 USB thumb drives), and how I became very, very skilled at removing rootkits and other nasties from my hard drive.

Why I bought Scrivener

I liked the idea of having an all-in-one program to use for my writing. That way I don’t have to toggle between Word  (self-explanatory), Excel (I use spreadsheets  a lot. Blame those accounting courses), Visio (I also like to make flow charts and diagrams. I’m just weird that way), and OneNote (for all the stuff I want to save but don’t want to waste the paper to actually print. Like that tutorial on kusudama – which is a Japanese paper folding technique similar to origami. I’m sure I’ll need this information some day). Scrivener can also save photos and web pages. It’s a computer version of my beloved 3-ring binders.

The Details

I purchased my copy of Scrivener from literatureandlatte.com with the NaNoWriMo discount, so the price was right. Even at regular price ($40 for PC. For another $12 they’ll send you Scrivener on a CD), it’s pretty affordable. I won’t get into how much I paid for MS Office Pro 2010 when I purchased that a couple years ago.

Cool Features

When you write in Scrivener in the full screen mode, it offers what it calls “typewriter scrolling” which means you type in the MIDDLE of the screen instead of always at the bottom unless you scroll down over and over and over. This means your neck will likely hurt less after a session at the keyboard.

If you delete something from your current project, it stays in the trash bin until you choose to empty the trash. I’ve been doing this for years with Word, only there it involves multiple steps. Highlight what I want to remove, copy and paste to another document, name new document “trash” and save it in the folder with my WIP. Scrivener makes electronic dumpster diving much easier when you need to retrieve that line of dialogue that needs to stay in your story.

Scrivener comes with a handy tutorial, so if you’re like me and suffer from brain corrosion from too many years of using too many Microsoft products, you can flatten the learning curve considerably by taking the time to go through this. It took me less than an hour. Scrivener is pretty easy to use, and I probably could have managed without the tutorial. But I knew I was going to write this review, and wanted to include the tutorial as well.

Index cards and a corkboard are part of Scrivener. I would love to have a wall where I could pin up bits and pieces of my story, but I have too many annoying relatives who appear at my door without notice. Fortunately, these relatives are computer illiterate, so I can have my corkboard in Scrivener. I love index cards, so what’s not to love about index cards inside a computer program?

The Bottom Line

I recommend Scrivener for large projects. I will continue to use Word for my freelance work, and possibly for short stories as well. These are the projects that don’t require all the bells and whistles of Scrivener.

Right now, I am working with Scrivener to outline an idea for a new novel. I don’t have any intention of starting another novel so soon after NaNoWriMo. I started planning because I had the idea on the day I downloaded Scrivener and wanted to play a little.

Be prepared to take your time learning your way around Scrivener. It’s definitely worth the initial time investment. I suggest waiting until you’re between projects to make the switch (or at least finished with your current draft).

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