Scrivener for Windows Review

After hearing several people, including James Fallows (” the single best bargain ever offered in the software world”), praise Scrivener, a software program for writing, I tried it again. I had tried it a year ago, but there were so many bugs I quickly stopped. There were fewer bugs this time, but my experience was not good.

The free-trial copy says you can use it for “30 non-consecutive days”. I didn’t know what that meant. I was told it means “30 separate days before the trial expires — the trial is measured in “days of use”, rather than elapsed time since installation”. Someone thought that would be clear? I suggest “30 not-necessarily-consecutive days” plus an explanation of what that means.

When I imported material from Microsoft Word — the most common possible import — links were lost. I filed a bug report. I got an answer: “Unfortunately that’s the reality of importing: some information can be lost when you move from one file format to another.” Well, yes, but how about fixing the bug? I asked. In reply, I was told that Scrivener for Windows was the work of one person and that the import software was third-party. “We are constantly striving to find new [import software], and to make improvements on our own, where we can,” said the spokesperson for Scrivener.

I used Scrivener for about two weeks. Then, trying to put a quotation block in my text, I found that particular formatting is not available. It has been a long time since I came across writing software that did not include quotation blocks. The final straw. I went back to Microsoft Word.

In a way, it’s a miracle I lasted two weeks, given the difference in resources invested in Microsoft Word and Scrivener for Windows.





11 Replies to “Scrivener for Windows Review”

  1. What surprises me is the high degree of tolerance that some users exhibit toward crappy software. At my workplace, we use a cloud-based database management system. The software is clunky, poorly designed, slow, and hard to use. The company that makes it is only interested in adding new features, not in fixing problems with the existing features. And yet… many of my co-workers love the program.

    It makes no sense to me.

  2. I’m a full time freelance writer, and have worked exclusively in Scrivener for Mac for about five years. It doesn’t seem buggy at all to me. ESPECIALLY compared to Word for Mac.

  3. Slightly off topic but I highly recommend learning Markdown and a short spell forcing yourself to create documents in it exlusively.

    Using Markdown you can create documents in any simple text editor and it has the added bonus of discouraging you from using extraneous (and time wasting) formatting.

  4. Try OpenOffice or LibreOffice free/open source word processors.They have most of the features of MS Word and save files in many formats. Upgrades are always free and you’re encouraged to share the program. Versions for Windows, Macintosh and Linux operating system. Works for me. Check it out. Free as in speech and free as in beer.

  5. I’ve only used Scrivener (Mac) for one project — a big legal research paper — and I thought it was great. All my work originated in the program, so I didn’t have to import anything. Also, I know a number of different writers who swear by the program. Fallows aside, non-techy types seem to love it.

  6. I tried it for a couple of days and hated it, but for different reasons. Everyone’s process is differnt, and I tend to the organic and paper notes, Also, I didn’t need another learning curve in my life, and Scrivener is both buggy and not entirely intuitive. Last is the import from word issue, which is no problem at all in InDesign or even WordPress. I’ll stick to notebooks and paper.

  7. You have the word science twice and experiment once in your blog title and you’re still with windows??? I switched to linux ages ago and have not looked back for even half a second. It’s faster, better, easier and these days has a great community to help with the learning curve.

    Seth: An R program I need is only available for Windows. I also need to use Windows because my students use it..

  8. Along the lines of Alex Chernavsky’s comment, I also noticed, starting in the mid 1980’s that many people, rather bizarrely, don’t mind buggy software. At the time I thought it was because people who hadn’t much computer experience were likely to blame themselves more than the software.

    In 2013, it seems that explanation is implausible because people have had decades to become familiar with computer use and to better attribute blame. My revised explanation is that buggy software doesn’t bother many salaried workers because their salary is in the short-run unaffected by inefficiency.

    As for Word and Windows, both of which I find quite reliable, I wonder if the fact that parity memory and ECC doesn’t seem to be present in the computers most people buy may have something to do with the residual level of dissatisfaction we may be left with. Big programs face more memory error risk. Failures I’ve encountered in recent years seem less repeatable and so I have revised upward my estimate that they are caused by flipped-bits.

  9. Scrivener is meant for novelists and screenwriters. It’s not going to provide a big advantage unless you’re making book-sized documents (or trilogies) out of elements that group naturally into scenes and characters.

    Flipped bits due to ECC are not yet a major cause of bugs. I run large bioinformatics program on a computer without ECC. A typical run requires every bit out of 50,000,000,000 bytes in the files to be correct, and fails about once a month due to a flipped bit.

    Seth: I agree about Scrivener. I am puzzled that James Fallows, who is not a novelist or screenwriter, likes it so much.

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