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Scrivener Review (2021) Is This Writing Software Worth It?

Scrivener proclaims itself as a  professional word processing tool that acts like a typewriter, ring-binder, and scrapbook.

Novelists, screenwriters, all non-fiction writers are all formatting and structuring their bestsellers on this tool.

But is it really? And what does it do? Is it worth it?

Well… I have covered more than these questions in this post and by the end of the article, you will be able to make an informed decision on whether Scrivener is right for you.

Let’s get right into it then, starting with the pros and cons of this popular tool.

scrivener review is this writing software worth it

Scrivener Pros

1. A Generous 30-day free trial: Before you purchase a Scrivener package, Scrivener has a handsome free 30-day trial that comes with all the tool’s paid features.

2. Customizable setup and interfaces:  Many of Scrivener’s features are customizable, and this gives you (the user) a personalized experience.

3. Pre-set templates: Scrivener “was made by writers, for writers.” Obviously, they understand the needs of different types of writers (Screenwriters, poets, novelists, etc.). Therefore, the tool comes with different already-set templates that you can choose from— Novel, Short Story, Screenplay, Stageplay, Recipe collection.

4. Write offline: Scrivener doesn’t need a working internet connection to work. Once you download it, it’s good to go.

5. Includes tutorials: the tool has tutorials meant to help you understand and master its features.

Scrivener Cons:

1. Separate Licences for each Supported platform: Scrivener doesn’t have a single package for all supported systems; you have to buy separate licenses for Mac and Windows if you want to access the two on both systems

2. Hard to Master: This is a multifunctional tool—it’s trying to be the usual word processor, it’s dealing with genre-specific formatting issues, and there are index cards too, just a lot of functions in one tool. This depth makes it hard for users to master Scrivener’s many features.

Scrivener Overview: What is it, and who is it for?

scrivener overview

Scrivener is a book-writing software program developed by an aspiring writer— Keith Blount—back in 2007. It’s a package consisting of a typewriter, ring binder, and a scrapbook in one tool.

There’s actually a good backstory; let me sum it up for you:

Keith Blount—not the vice admiral—was an aspiring author searching for a perfect writing organizational tool for writers. He had tried and gotten frustrated by tools like Z-Write, WriteWay, LiquidStory, and many others before stumbling upon a tool called Ulysses.

But after a while he realized that Ulysses ‘wasn’t it.’ Then, he decided to make his own tool, not necessarily for the money, but to help him organize and finish his book.

And… Scrivener was born.

Its features and capabilities include a corkboard, preset formatting, templates, file importing, metatags, automated document listing, and many others. These features are perfect for novelists, scriptwriters, academics, lawyers, translators, journalists, and students.

How much does Scrivener cost?

scrivener pricing

Scrivener has separate payment plans for the three supported platforms—macOS, iOS, and Windows.

Scrivener 3—which is the latest scrivener and currently only available on macOS—costs $49. But, for existing users who would like to upgrade from Scrivener 2, the scrivener team have thrown free and discount clauses:  

  • For users who purchased Scrivener 2 on or after 20th August 2017, upgrading to Scrivener 3 is free.
  • Those who purchased Scrivener 2 before the stated date can update to Scrivener 3 with a 45% discount.

Scrivener for Windows and iOS costs $45 and $19.99, respectively. The Scrivener fees are one-time payments; once you have made the purchase, you can use Scrivener for life.

Unfortunately, Scrivener doesn’t offer any free plans. However, they offer a lengthy free trial period—a whole 30 days.


Getting Started: How to Use Scrivener

You can use Scrivener on macOS, Windows, and iOS devices. When you download the Scrivener app, you get a 30-day trial on all the devices.

After that, you have to purchase the tool.

Downloading, Installing, and Registering Scrivener

macOS (Scrivener 3)

You can either install Scrivener from the Mac App Store or directly from the Literature & Latte’s website.

The app store doesn’t offer the free trial version, but if you go to the literature and latte website, you have two options: download a free trial or purchase it right away.

Once the free trial expires, you’ll have to purchase a registration code. After payment, a confirmation email with a unique serial number will be sent to your email.

You can use the serial number to activate the free trial app by clicking the “enter license” button, pasting the code into the text box, and clicking “register.”

Windows (Scrivener 1) Now Version 3

scrivener 3 features

The process is exactly the same as the one for macOS that I just explained. Purchase the app here.

Although Scrivener 3 wasn’t available for Windows initially, the developers finally released Scrivener 3 for Windows after some time in beta.

Scrivener Review: Features and What It Can Do for You?

Key Features

Cork Board

Scrivener’s Cork Board enables you to compile your notes on digital note cards. The notecards sort of look like sticky notes on a wall. This is how you organize your notes.

Outliner (the Binder)

Scrivener has this convenient sidebar that arranges different parts of your project (chapters, notes, etc.) and arranges them into an organized flow of documents, folders, etc.

scrivener corkboard and outliner

Templates

Scrivener comes with a couple of default templates based on genre, style, and other details.

Whether you are writing a novel, a short story, or a screenplay, you can utilize the default templates or from fellow writers.

scrivener templates

The Inspector Tool

In addition to the Binder Feature, there’s a secondary sidebar called the inspector.

For some people this feature is inessential. For most, it’s where they create a synopsis for the section or general notes, references, keywords, and snapshots, among other things.

Goals and Targets

Scrivener allows you to set word or character targets for the project, sections, or a single writing session.

You can check the Writing History to track the progress that you made.

Snapshots

In order to enable you to compare rewrites to original notes easily, Scrivener lets you take “Snapshots.”

The snapshots enable you to return to the original version at your own convenience using the “Compare” feature.

AutoSave

Over and over again, I’ve seen writers wail because they have lost all their work in an instant.

That usually happens when one is using basic writing tools. To avoid this tragic event from ever occurring, Scrivener has an autosave feature that saves your work as you write.

scrivener snapshots and auto save

 Distraction Free Mode

This feature is for those times when nothing else—other than your manuscript and coffee—matters.

In this mode, the app goes full screen and things like menu bars, buttons, and other tabs get hidden.

Linguistic Focus (MacOS) / Dialogue Focus

This is one of the things that Scrivener 3 has brought. On macOS it is called the Linguistic focus, but on Windows it’ll be called Dialogue Focus.

Users can utilize this tool to check the flow of the manuscript’s dialogue and ascertain that the characters have a unique voice.

Scrivener Tutorials

To help users master the tool quickly, the Scrivener website offers some video tutorials that explain various basic and advanced elements of the tool.

Scrivener’s Capabilities Summed

scrivener capabilities

So, with all these features, what can the tool do for you?

1. Be Your Word Processor

Scrivener has features just like a regular typing tool; you can type, edit and format words.

The Scrivener app has a toolbar that allows you to format your text the same way you do with MS Word.

Although the toolbar isn’t as comprehensive as Word’s, you can choose the font size and type; make it bold, italic, or underlined; change the font color, and change the alignment.

You can also tweak line spacing and select bullet and numbering styles. Scrivener also offers styles (title, Caption, heading, heading, etc.).

2. Structure Your Document

Structuring bulky texts—a 100k-word novel, for example—using basic tools like MS Word can be laborious.

Conveniently, Scrivener has two organizational features; the outliner and the corkboard.

Both features provide you with an overview of a chapter, a section, or even the entire project.

The corkboard is a very efficient planning tool; it allows you to break your text into manageable sections.

Every section is attached to a virtual index card—when you move the index card, a corresponding section in your manuscript gets moved along.

With Scrivener’s corkboard, you can jump from one section to another with ease; you just have to look at the title and synopsis of that section. If it’s what you are looking for, just click on the index.

To help with the structure of your manuscript, Scrivener has a very tidy feature called the outliner.

The outliner is a hierarchical sidebar that arranges your text using folders and subfolders. Apart from giving you the overview of a chapter, a section, or your entire manuscript, it enables you to review synopses, check word counts, view meta-data, or shift your epilogue or prologue easily by dragging and dropping.

3. Keep Tabs On Your References and Ideas

Scrivener helps you keep original content, sources, and ideas so that you can go back and compare with or reference your current text.

Tools like Snapshots, the Inspector tool, and the Binder make brainstorming and keep track of research material possible and easy.  

The Binder has a dedicated section for your research. You can fill this section with your own outline of ideas, images, web pages, PDFs, or documents in other file formats.

The Inspector is equally helpful in brainstorming and keeping research material. You can create synopses or general notes, references, keywords, snapshots, and many other things that you can come back to.

4. Track Your Progress

Scrivener comes with a lot of features that help you to track your progress, but I picked these essential three features:

  • Status: This feature lets you mark the level or stage of your manuscript. You can set it to ‘to do,’ ‘in progress,’ ‘first draft,’ ‘revised draft,’ ‘final draft or done,’ simply leave tick the ‘no status’ option.
  • Labels: another way of tracking your progress is by the use of color labels. You can customize different colors to indicate the stage at which a section of your document is at—assigning a purple color to all completed sections, for example.
  • Targets: setting word or character targets helps you keep track of your word and character counts when you are writing. You can also check the Writing History to deduce the amount of writing you have done each writing session or day.

With these three features, you can see how much distance you have covered and how much work remains.

5. Sort Out the Final Output

So now that you’ve finished the writing part, it’s time to focus on publishing your text.

But, in what format?

Well, Scrivener has some stretched publishing options and allows you to publish your work in a variety of formats.

Using Scrivener’s compile feature, you can print your work to paper or publish it on digital platforms in various document and eBook formats.

Among the various formats, you can export from Scrivener projects to PDF, DOCX, RTF, TXT, or directly to your printer. If you are an indie author, you can export your book to Amazon Kindle in EPUB or MOBI formats.

Scrivener comes with many preset formats (or templates) that you can use to publish your document. Alternatively, you can make your templates.

Is Scrivener Worth it?

who uses scrivener

I honestly think it’s worth every cent of that $49.

And that’s a one-time payment. Looking at it from that angle, it seems pretty cheap. Some alternative writing tools cost half that price for just one month.

But, the issue here is not the money, let me remind you why I like this tool:

  • The corkboard and the “binder” are just super tidy, convenient, and perfect for giving your work a good structure.
  • Tracking your progress with this tool can be automated. Once you set the labels and tick the status, you will be able to know where you are at with your project.
  • Effective research features. The snapshots, inspector tool, and the outliner just make referencing and storage of some random epiphanies very easy.
  • Scrivener takes you from the first letter to the final output.

And if I were to take you back to the price, you would see it the way I see it—$49 is a steal.


Scrivener FAQs

What is Scrivener?

It is a professional writing software tool for writers of all sorts. It enables you to see an overview of your writing project and helps you organize your work.

With Scrivener, you can structure and restructure your document whilst keeping your research material readily available.

Is Scrivener free?

No.

Scrivener is not free and doesn’t have any free versions to supplement its paid solutions.

But, the tool does have a lengthy trial period. Scrivener allows you to use all its features for 30 days straight without paying for it. It doesn’t count the days from the installation day, it counts the usage.

In the 30 days, you have ample time to familiarize yourself with the tool and assess whether it satisfies your writing requirements.

How much does Scrivener cost?

The Mac and Windows version—which is currently Scrivener 3—costs $49. Scrivener also has an iOS version which is at $19.99.

How long does a scrivener license last?

When you purchase a Scrivener license, it lasts forever for that version only. As long as Scrivener supports that version, you are going to use it indefinitely.

But if you’d like to upgrade to a newer version, you’ll not purchase it at the full price—Scrivener either gives free upgrades or at a discount depending on the time you bought your current version.

Is Scrivener Available for Windows? 

Yes.

Originally, Scrivener was made available on the Mac only.  But in 2011, a Windows version was developed and moved from Scrivener 1 to Scrivener 1.99.

While the Mac version is 3, the Windows version is still 1 and is expected to jump version 2 and go straight to Scrivener 3 in 2021.

Update: Windows version 3 is now available.

When is Scrivener 3 for Windows Coming?

scrivener 3 for windows

The expected release of Scrivener 3 for Windows was during 2021. Finally, Scrivener 3 is now also available on Windows, so you’re not left out if you are a PC fan.

Why Did Scrivener for Windows Lag Two Versions Behind?

As I said, Scrivener was originally available for macOS only. The macOS version was released several years before the Windows version was made in 2011.

By this time, Scrivener had already released Scrivener 2 for macOS.

But, to avoid this confusion, Scrivener jumped version number and updated Scrivener for Windows from version 1 to version 3.

Is Scrivener The Best Software For Writing a Book?

That’s another resounding yes. I totally was in love with MS Word at first—to a certain extent, I’m still in love with it and use it for some particular tasks—but scrivener organizes your manuscript way better.

If there’s a persistent complaint against Scrivener, it’s the steep learning curve.

But, if you’re willing to invest time and effort mastering the tool, you’ll find out that it’s not just the best, but it sets the standard for tools in its category.

My Final Thoughts On Scrivener

Having seen what Scrivener can do, I think every novelist (and any writer who needs a professional word processor) should at least try it out.

If not for the fact that it’s hard to master the tool, I’d have given it a 5/5. Although I have to lower the rating, it can’t go lower than 4.95/5 because the tool is hard to master because of its functional depth.

And that’s a good thing!

Different writers have different needs, but with the free trial, you have nothing to lose. Give it a try and you might just discover that it’s what you’ve been looking for all this while.

About Jessica Majewski

Jessica started off as an avid book reader. After reading one too many romance novels (really... is it ever really enough?), she decided to jump to the other side and started writing her own stories.

She now shares what she has learned (the good and the not so good) here at When You Write, hoping she can inspire more up and coming wordsmiths to take the leap and share their own stories with the world.