Programs for Writers: Scrivener

Did you know that there are computer programs designed especially for writers? If you look at the list of goodies from the NaNoWriMo sponsors, you’ll see several deals on programs such as Scrivener, Ulysses, Storyist, and Evernote.

I have only tried Scrivener, so I can’t describe how the others work; however, I figure that if you hadn’t heard about any of these programs, then maybe Scrivener’s features will interest you enough for you to look into the different options. Or you could just buy Scrivener. Or none of them. Whatever.

So… Scrivener.

For some writers, the main advantage of Scrivener is that it does the formatting for you. You can write in whatever font/sizing you like, and once the story is done, you can convert it to manuscript format by clicking on the word compile. You can choose what type of file you want (rtf, pdf, etc), and you can even choose between different format options. Besides standard manuscript format for novels, there are formats for online publishing and book publishing (and more), as well, so you can easily convert the story to several formats without having to go back through and change it all yourself.

The rest of Scrivener’s features focus more on how you want to write.

People who travel, don’t like clutter, or prefer doing all their planning on the computer may like the features for tracking and planning your work. For visual people, there is a corkboard option, where you can lay out the story on 3×5 cards. A click of the button changes that to an outline with the same information. And there is a folder for research that stays separate from your written work (it doesn’t compile with it) but that you can view at the same time.

So your story, research, and planning are all together in a single file and program.

Additionally, Scrivener lets you break up the story into chapters, scenes, or whatever size you want, and by dragging each bit’s icon to a new position, you can reorder them at any time. You can work on them as isolated scenes or see the whole work. And if you don’t want to get distracted by other programs, you can write in full screen mode, which blacks out everything but your writing.

Outside of writing tools, I like the fact that it comes with several example files for different kinds of works (screenplays, poetry books, nonfiction books, etc), and I like that it has lots of videos about how to use it. (If you want to check them out, they’ll talk a lot more about different features and things I skipped.)

Having spent the last few years writing in Word (my free trial for Scrivener expired a while back), it’s been a bit of an adjustment to switch back to Scrivener but not a bad/frustrating one. I may use it simply as a word processing program for the book I’m currently working on and try out the planning and scene features for a different piece. I may never be comfortable doing that part in the computer (I like paper…), but if I only use it to compile and format, the cost will be worth it for me.

What about you? Do you use a program designed for writers? How do you like it?


  1. I don’t use programs like that. Though, I know it’d be interesting to try someday. For now, I just stick with Word.

    • Hey, Word works, right? If Scrivener had been more expensive, I probably would’ve done the same thing. And I know that I’ll still be using Word for some stuff. 🙂

  2. Love to give Scrivener but they’ve yet to make it compatible with Chromebooks. Used Word’s One Note before and quite liked it. And have used Evernote. Just use Google Docs now.

    • Good to know about the Chromebooks. I thought it was nice that it worked with both Apple and IBM computers, but I hadn’t thought of the other options out there. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I normally just use Word but have been meaning to give Scrivener a go for a while, and after reading your post I think I will!

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