Issue: 9.2 (January/February 2011)
Author: Dave Mancuso
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Article Length (in bytes): 4,169
Starting Page Number: 19
RBD Number: 9204
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IN BRIEF Product Scrivener 2.0 Manufacturer Literature and Latte Ltd. Price $45.00 (upgrade from 1.0 is $25.00) Contact Info http://www.literatureandlatte.com Pros Great interface; easy to use; impressive documentation and help videos Cons Syncing needs to be more automatic and consistent Rating (1.0-5.0): 4.5
Between Macintosh and Windows, there are numerous tools for writing, from simple text editors through high end special purpose tools. Scrivener, from Literature and Latte, was designed to be a writer's tool. As such, its interface design attempts to take very complex features and present them in as clear and simple a way as posssible. It's something that most developers strive for, but for Scrivener it's a necessity.
Scrivener uses a multi-phased interface, for lack of a better term. The central part of the program is the window you write in, just like a text editor. Scriveners adds panes to the right and left side of the main text editor pane. The left pane houses several organizational items, most notably the multiple text "documents" that form your work. If you're writing a novel, for instance, you can divide it into a number of chapter text documents. Or you can make folders in Scrivener for your chapters, each containing as many (or as few) text documents as you'd like. Scrivener gives you several options for organizing your work. No matter how you decide to divide your work into Scrivener's text documents, your project is stored as one document on your computer's hard drive. In reality, Scrivener stores your collection of text documents and project files in a package (at least on Mac OS X).
In the right pane of Scrivener's main window you can keep reference files and links for your project. These can be hypertext links, pictures, PDFs, or other files that you use for background information for your project. This became much more valuable that I'd thought at first in my test projects.
Both the right and left panes can be hidden, collapsed into the main writing pane of the main window. This is Scrivener's design goal, to become as simple or complex as you need to write your projects. In fact, you can go to full screen view, hiding the Mac OS X screen, leaving only your Scrivener writing window surrounded by black. It's a concept implemented in a number of programs, but it's nice to see that Scrivener strives to provide you as complex or as non-distracting an interface as you need to work.
Being able to work on multiple devices is becoming an expected feature of writing software today. Scrivener doesn't have an iPhone or iPad version, but it will synchronize its component text files with a solution like Dropbox. On the iPhone, apps like SimpleNote or Plaintext will read the files on Dropbox. You can then work on your files, adding or deleting as necessary, and synchronizing back to Dropbox. The changes show up in Scrivener the next time you launch it on your Mac. In my use, syncing sometimes resulted in duplicate files, but I never lost any information. I did have to manually use the desktop syncing command each time I wanted to use it, sometimes an annoyance.
Scrivener's website is a model of how developers should support their product. Video tutorials, a FAQ section, and impressive documentation.
Scrivener is currently a Mac OS X product, but this all changes early this year. A Scrivener Windows version is in beta and due out early this year in 2011. If you're a writer, fiction or nonfiction, Scrivener is a great tool to use.
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