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Scrivener vs Word: Which Is the Better Book Writing Software?

We cannot talk about the best software tools without the “Scrivener vs. Word” argument slipping into the conversion.

 The “Scrivener versus Word” discussion won’t and can’t die down, although most of the writers that I know prefer either tool purely based on emotions—they’ve fallen in love with either Scrivener or Word and are afraid of falling out of love.

But sentiment isn’t part of the criteria used in this post; I’m looking at facts and what a tool can do or not do.

Of course, MS Word is the OG writing software tool and there was a time (a very long time ago) when it was the only tool for writing. Now, we have a lot of other tools, and Scrivener is a big deal at present.

Tout de suite! Let’s start dissecting Scrivener and Microsoft Word and find out which one is better.

scrivener vs. word which is the better book writing software

MS Word Overview

Microsoft Word, the Godfather of word processors, has been here since the 80s. As a matter of fact, a lot of the features that we like about other apps were originally invented by Microsoft.

Word as a writing tool has come a long way, and it’s no longer as basic as it was 20-30 years ago. Now word excels at technical writing and comes with a bunch of advanced features for adding and configuring images and graphics, an excellent assortment of text styles, mailing features, and a lot of other excellent formatting tools.

But it also has its shortcomings. Let’s look at both the good and the bad.

microsoft word

MS Word Pros

1. Simple and easy to use. Microsoft Word is for the “first love” for most people; it was the first word processor for almost everyone, and it’s simple, convenient, and easy even for new users.

2. Flexible. When you use Word, you can make a deliberate mess knowing that the tool allows you to track changes. You can see what changes you made and decide to accept or reject the changes or revert to the initial stages.

3. A great tool for collaborating. Everyone knows Word. That is a very big advantage because you can work with anyone using a word document—editors, co-authors, or competition judges.

4. Excellent formatting. Word comes with convenient formatting features. And…  the good thing is, the document comes out on paper exactly the way they look on your screen.

MS Word Cons

1. Lacks some book writing features. Word lacks some specific features for handling bulky writing such as books. Formatting a large book isn’t as cute as writing a college dissertation paper.

2. Single document per instance. Some writing tools offer you the option of opening several documents in one instance. You can access these documents by switching tabs. However, Word requires you to open each document on its own (in a different window).


Scrivener Overview

scrivener overview

Unlike Word, Scrivener is not necessarily a word processor. I could describe it better by calling it a card-carrying member of the “book writing software” society. As a matter of fact, it’s the best in that group.

With features that make it a typewriter, ring-binder, and scrapbook in one tool, it’s the app you should use for writing large pieces (books, in plain English).

Scrivener is ideal for writing a novel, DIY eBooks, screenplay, large academic papers, and more.

This book writing tool can take you from the brainstorming stage, through the document structuring process and referencing, up to the actual typing.

More in the features section, now, let’s look at the pros and cons.

Scrivener Pros

1. Offers a free trial. Scrivener gives a 30-day trial period, giving you ample time to decide whether you want to purchase the software.

2. Templates. Scrivener comes with templates for a lot of genres, including Novel, Short Story, Screenplay, Stage play, Screenplay, Stage play, Recipe collection.

3. Works offline.

4. Scrivener offers video tutorials meant to help you master the tool easily.

5. Customizable features and interfaces.

Scrivener Cons

1. Scrivener doesn’t have an integrated pricing plan for all supported systems. Instead, they have separate licenses for Mac, iOS, and Windows.

2. Has a steeper learning curve compared to other software tools like Word.  


Pricing

Microsoft Word Pricing

You can buy Word as a separate Microsoft Office package for $139.99.

If you want it as part of the Microsoft 365 package, you have three options.

You can Purchase:

  • The Microsoft 365 Family package (for up to 6 people) for $99.99 per year or $9.99 per month.
  • Microsoft 365 Personal package (one person) for $69.99 per year or $6.99 per month.
  • Or Office Home & Student for $149.99. This is a one-time purchase for both PC and Mac.

Microsoft also offers a free online office package called Office on the web and a one-month long trial period for Microsoft 365 family.

Scrivener Pricing

Scrivener has separate pricing plans for iOS, macOS, and Windows. It also has a bundled plan covering macOS and Windows.

scrivener pricing

Scrivener for iOS

This package costs $19.99

Scrivener for macOS

  • Standard License for macOS—A license for the full version of Scrivener for macOS. It costs $49.
  • Educational License for macOS—a plan for students & academics only. It costs $41.65.

Scrivener for Windows

  • Standard License for Windows—A plan for the full version of Scrivener 3 for Windows. It costs $49.
  • Educational License for Windows—This license is only available to students & academics and costs $41.65.

Bundle Plan (macOS & Windows)

This is the bundle that gives you 2 separate licenses: one for macOS and one for Windows.

Scrivener vs Word: Features

Scrivener’s Features

Cork Board

scrivener corkboard and outliner

The Cork Board feature in Scrivener allows you to organize your notes on digital note cards. The digital cards are just like sticky notes and assist you in organizing information about your writing project that you want to keep track of.

Outliner (the Binder)

This is an easy-to-use sidebar for organizing important aspects of your project (chapters, notes, etc.). You can use the outliner to organize these elements into a logical flow of documents, folders, and so on.

Templates

scrivener templates

Scrivener offers a variety of templates based on genre, style, and other details to help you get started with your writing.

There are templates for a novel, a short story, a screenplay, and other useful documents. Other writers can also provide you with customized scrivener templates if you’re not satisfied and want more than the tool’s templates.

The Inspector Tool

Scrivener has another sidebar called the Inspector in addition to the Binder.

It is used to create and save sources of critical information about your document. Some of its uses would be to create a synopsis for a section and general document notes or use it to generate references, keywords, snapshots, and other items.

Goals and Targets

Tracking your progress in Scrivener is a fully automated process.

You can set goals for the entire manuscript, sections, or a single writing session in Scrivener.

After you’ve set your goals, the app gives statistics to help you track your progress. These stats include words, characters, and pages are examples.

Snapshots

scrivener snapshots and auto save

If you rewrite a passage, you can always collate the original content with the edited parts.

The “Snapshot” feature gives you the option of returning to the previous version before the rewrite.

If you want to go back and look at the contrasts between the two versions, you use the “Compare” feature.

Linguistic Focus (MacOS) / Dialogue Focus

This Linguistic Focus (MacOS) / Dialogue Focus is used to check the flow of the dialogue in the manuscript. It is also used to ensure that the characters in your story have a distinct voice.

Microsoft Word Features

Text Styles

Word has a bunch of text styles for almost anything.

It has pre-configured styles for normal text, headings, captions, subtitles, titles, list paragraphs, et cetera.

Word also allows you to customize these styles to fit your formatting requirements.

Review Features

ms word review feature

MS Word comes equipped with review features, including spell check, grammar, Thesaurus, word count, language, translation, comments, and others.

These features aren’t as deep as those by legit grammar checkers like Grammarly, but they are sufficient for initial checks and editing comments.

Referencing

I think many people overlook this, but the referencing capabilities of MS Word are top class.

It can handle small things like footnotes and endnotes.

But it is also able to handle about 13 referencing styles, create an automatic table of contents, create a table of authorities and table of figures, and other important referencing elements.

Design

Some of the features that help you create a document that exactly looks like the beauty you imagined are found under the design tab.

There are a lot of options—for designing the appropriate appearance of your document—that offers you variety.

Whether you want to tweak colors, configure font styles, choose the best paragraph spacing, select page borders, or pick a nice-looking theme, you’ll find the design tab to contain everything.

Page Layout

ms word features

The page layout tool is for tweaking the look of your document. The Layout tab has a great potpourri of formatting features, including margins, orientation, columns, lines, indentation, spacing, and many more.

When you create a document for publication on distribution sites like Amazon and Kobo, you’ll find yourself using these features a lot. Things like page margins, size, breaks, and indentation are always specifically given by publishers.

Inserting Media and Objects

Word is an excellent tool for writing infographic pieces. It has tools for creating and inserting tables, shapes, images, charts, graphs, et cetera.

Once you insert the objects, there are more options for tweaking them to fit the size of the document and add to the sweetness of your piece.

Things to Consider When Choosing Book Writing Software

Supported Platforms

The best book writing software needs to be compatible with many operating systems. Let’s see what systems are supported by the two tools.

MS Word is pretty much compatible with all major platforms excluding Linux. It is compatible with Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android.

ms word supported platforms

Ease of Use

If you’ve used both tools, you know that Scrivener is a tough nut. Contrarily, Word is a tool with a very intuitive user interface and very easy to use.

How Much It Costs

I believe when looking for good things, price shouldn’t really be the main focus. Sometimes, price tags can be very misleading. Higher prices don’t always translate to value, nor do low prices indicate less worth.

You might end up buying some expensive junk. Always do your research about what a book writing software can or cannot do.

But in some unique cases, higher prices do mean higher quality.

Does It Offer Any Extra Features?

What’s the use of having a book writing stuffed with extra features that you won’t use? If an app has been generally accepted by writers but you feel like it has a lot of white elephants, don’t bother buying it.

Distraction-Free Writing

Writers already have enough distractions, even before they sit down. A book writing software should not add its own chaos to this madhouse. Instead, it has to eliminate possible detours once the writer sits to write.

Features like focus mode and full-screen typing are essential for this type of task. A good writing app has to have at least one of these features.  

Accessibility

It is very convenient to access your writing projects from multiple devices—desktops, smartphones, and tablet computers. This way, you’re able to write from anywhere, using any device.

Group Collaboration Features

As a writer, you rarely write a book on your own. Usually, there are editors, proofreaders, and co-authors involved in the process.

With all these collaborators, you need a book writing software that makes it easy for you to share your manuscript, whether it’s a cloud storage option, in-app group collaboration features, or email capabilities.

Scrivener vs. Word: Which Offers Value for Money?

microsoft 365

They both offer great value for money, but with Word, you get greater value for money when you purchase it as part of the Office 365 package, not on its own.

Which Famous authors use Scrivener or Word to write books?

Word is a popular book writing software among famous authors. Writers like Stephen King, J.K Rowling, and Steven Kotler use Word to write their books.

Scrivener is also loved by many bestselling authors, including Todd Henry, Mark Manson, and Jeff Goins.  

who uses scrivener

Verdict: Scrivener or Word?

It has to be Scrivener. Scrivener is the dandiest book writing software.

Yes, Word is easier to use. It has intuitive features. Clean.

But…

Scrivener is efficiently structured, author-focused, specifically made for writing books, and puts everything in one place. It’s even way more excellent for fiction writers.

Conclusion

Word and Scrivener are both excellent book writing tools. If you want your book finished quickly and don’t have time to spend on learning a good app like Scrivener, go with Word, it’s not like Word is the worst book writing software there is.

But if you’re patient enough to learn and master Scrivener, you’ll enjoy some great rewards.

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.