So the word’s out: Scrivener 3 hit the interweb on the 20th of November. Oceans will boil, grown men will weep, children will speak in tongues…
No seriously, that’s what’s going to happen.
It’s been a long time coming for most of the user base, but a lucky few of us have been given the opportunity(!) to beta test the latest version of what is arguably the greatest writing tool known to man.
I’ve been Scrivener fan since version 1.0 (a little before that actually) and so I like to think I shaped its evolution in some very small way – even if it was just to have some of my feature requests flatly refused. Keith Blount, the app’s main developer, has always maintained that Scrivener is primarily a composition tool: you write your stuff pretty much stripped of formatting, compile it into a finished document and then drop it into word for the final polish. It’s main selling point was organisation: you could write your piece as a hierarchy of folders and documents, move them about, chop and change them as much as you want, and then when the world was ready for your masterpiece, churn out a first draft.
Scrivener 2 built on this, reorganising the user interface and simplifying the compilation process so it was less daunting for beginners … but once again it fell short of the end-to-end solution. Still, as far as I was concerned, it was still the best way to get your first draft done.
And now, many seasons and four novels later, we arrive at Scrivener3, and this is definitely not your mama’s upgrade. To begin with, a lot of the internals have been rewritten to support the latest Apple technologies, and the UI has been completely revamped. It looks a lot better, a lot less distracting to the eye. The biggest change though, really represents a change in philosophy. Keith seems to have relaxed his “we’re a composition tool only” stance and has reimagined Scrivener as your complete long form development kit.
Now before we go any further, let’s be clear on two things:
Scrivener will always be missing 30% of MS Word’s functionality
No one actually uses that 30%
Okay, so what’s changed? Well let’s start with the biggie:
I rarely cover tech stories, but Ulysses is used by so many writers (myself included) I thought it was worth chatting about what is becoming an increasingly popular revenue model for software developers.
You can find the announcement and pricing on the Soulmen website, but the short version is that you can no longer buy Ulysses as a one-off payment; you now pay every month/year if you want to keep on using it.
Okay, first a disclaimer: I’ve been a Scrivener user since day one (that must be going on about ten years now), and I’m also one of those people who didn’t believe you could write a whole book on a tablet, much less a mobile phone. So, skeptical me promised the developer I’d give it a damn good try…
This is where I was when I finished Novel Number 4, the last two chapters written on my mobile phone.
So it’s fair to say I’m something of a convert.
Scrivener for iOS should probably be called the Messiah Release: millions waited for it, and as time soldiered on it seemed less likely that it would ever arrive. But Literature and Latte battled on making missteps and hitting setbacks until their developer – who said he wasn’t go to write it himself – decided to write it himself. A surprisingly short year or so later, the beta arrived, and straight off the bat, I can tell you it was well worth the wait.
I got my notification, and taking great care to ignore all the warnings and instructions, I downloaded it and cracked on. Getting my work in progress on to iOS was pretty easy: Scrivener uses Dropbox to store its files (it can’t use iCloud – more on that later), so it’s simply a case of copying your stuff to a Dropbox folder and then syncing across to iOS. Unsurprisingly, things didn’t look quite right; everything was there: the manuscript, my research notes, character bios, photographs, story plans – but the fonts weren’t right. I got straight on to the developer who pointed out the spot in the manual where it explains how to sync fonts into Scrivener. Two minutes later, I had a project that looked eerily like the one I have running on MacOSX.