Scrivener 3 for Mac helps writers get the job done their own way for $30

Originally published at: Scrivener 3 for Mac helps writers get the job done their own way for $30 | Boing Boing

Is… Is… The BBStore actually repping something useful? Egad.


Yeah, Scrivener and the occasional Humble Bundle are the only Actual Deals that ever seem to come across the store. I think I actually got my current Scrivener license through one of these deals.

That said, if I hadn’t known about Scrivener already, I would have assumed it was some kind of shovelware purely on the basis of it being hawked in the Shop. In many respects, the BoingBoing Shop is its own enemy.


Hmpf. Last Scrivener I had just kept telling me, “I would prefer not to.”


Genuine question: what is it that Scrivener offers over a decent text editor? The linked PC Mag review reads more like an advert, with vague talk of “features galore” (maybe it goes into more detail further down, I quickly got bored with the marketingese).

Scrivener basically lets you manage chunks of text as separate documents within a larger document. You can manage the separate chunks by ordering them and moving them sequentially, moving them around in a tree view, summarizing them on “index cards” using the card view to visually sort them, etc. There are also features to manage additional non-text resources (PDFs, images, etc) that you might use for reference or research and keep them organized separately. It’s more a text-snippet and research-material management system with light word-processing features than it is a word processor per se.

The snippet editor means you can write out scenes, passages, whole chapters, etc., and reorder them dynamically, which is super helpful for a lot of writing workflows. There are a crap-ton of other features too which I’ve never fully explored – it’s definitely one of those tools where you can learn the three or four killer features for your workflow and lean on them heavily.


I used scrivener when I wrote my first MA thesis. It actually turned out to not work that well for me for academic writing but I can see how it would be awesome if you were writing a novel, a screenplay or a non-fiction book. It’s basically an environment that lets you store and access your research in addition to writing. It offers things like a virtual corkboard and character name generators and the writing features offer distractionless full screen writing (which Word now has as well but didn’t at the time) and chapter systems with individual documents.

All of that can be achieved with other software as well but the advantage is that it’s all in one place.

That said I haven’t used it in 10 years or so, no idea how it has developed. I still hold a license of course, so maybe I should give it another try.


I haven’t tried this feature yet, but I can’t imagine Word ever being truly “distractionless”. Despite whatever good instincts led them to include this feature, I’d bet it takes about 5 mins for some other process to crash through the door and pull you out of your work.

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Interestingly, I find it to be a really good for academic writing - but that might be because because I like to order and reorder things even when I have a well planned document.

In Scrivener that’s just a matter of moving the individual sections around which I can do to my heart’s content.

The only reason I don’t finish documents in Scrivener is because it doesn’t play nicely with reference managers.


I think for me it was because at the time I bought it specifically for the distractionless writing feature which was great until I realised that as an academic I pull up PDFs or websites or databases every 2 minutes while I write. Now, in a world where having 2 screens isn’t uncommon it might actually be good to have a full screen writing canvas on your main screen and do all the research on the side screen.

I’m also a very linear writer, so rearranging things isn’t that important to me.

This is pretty much what I do these days. I have a second monitor on my laptop that I use for writing and the research and everything stays on the laptop screen. I love it, even if all it does is give me a less cluttered space where I’m not always toggling between windows. Being able to turn my head to see research or reference material has been so nice.

I did just upgrade to a much larger monitor (on Friday). My approach is probably going to change a little bit because of this, but not much. If nothing else, but eyes are happier.

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I have used Scrivener to keep my journal for three or four years now. No doubt it is a vast under-use of the software’s capabilities, but it is nice to click, say, the 2019 folder, click this month, and click today’s date to see what was going on in my life two years ago.

I took a class it Scrivener once, and was impressed with the ability to do conditional compilation- just like with code. So if you were writing a novel, you could select various chapters or versions of text to be compiled into a master document. Not that I’ve ever used it.

If you are a OneDrive user, then be careful with Scrivener. The files aren’t able to be backed up by the OneDrive sync client unless you export them or use the backup feature. We recently started migrating users to OneDrive Backup at work and found several faculty that are using Scrivener and are now constantly being warned that their files can’t be backed up.

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