A Beginner’s Review of Scrivener

Hi everyone! It’s been a few months since I’ve been active in my writing. I took a break after July Camp, and once I was ready to hop back into my novel, we got swamped at work. While I’m not actively writing just yet, I did make a change in my writing process.

One of the prizes for reaching my goal at the July Camp was a discount on Scrivener. I’ve heard awesome things about this program, and I see it everywhere, so I wanted to give it a try before my discount expired (at the end of October). I went ahead and purchased the program and have spent part of today going through the tutorial and importing my novel so it’s ready when I get back to it.

I had a few people ask for my opinion of the program on Twitter, so I’m going to post a very preliminary and basic review from my experience so far. I haven’t dug in very deep, so please keep that in mind.

Pros
  • Lots of features!
  • Can be used for many types of projects
  • Keeps many of your writing tools in one place for easy access (research, pictures, videos, etc.)
  • Lets you take screenshots of your project so you can revert to a previous version after making changes
  • Hot keys allow for hands-free maneuvering
  • You can add meta data to make searches and stats more in-depth
  • Corkboard and outline features let you organize your work in different ways so it works for you
  • Lots of customization in toolbars, appearance, and exporting
Cons
  • The tutorials can be confusing due to some of the new terms and the way they mention features before they’re ready to explain them
  • The abundance of features means there is a learning curve
  • Not everything feels intuitive, so remembering hot keys or the locations of features takes time
  • The overall design is reminiscent of an older style program… at least that’s the feel I get
  • Because it can be used for a lot of different projects, there are many features that you probably won’t even use

Tutorial

So there are basically three levels to the tutorial that Scrivener offers. They provide an interactive file that walks you through most of the features. This is the first page of that file.

Scriv Tutorial

Within that tutorial, they provide a Quick Start option and an in-depth option. I went through both just to see how each of them felt and how much I learned. This was my first time even seeing Scrivener, so I’m a complete beginner.

I decided to do the Quick Start tutorial first, then compare it to how much more I got from the full tutorial.

The Quick Start gives you a very basic introduction to the program. Basically, if you just want to open it up, start a new project, and maybe use a feature or two, this will get you there. It would also probably be a good refresher if you haven’t used the program for awhile. I could already tell, though, that I was missing huge pieces of very useful information and features. This option was also somewhat confusing, as there are a lot of new terms that get thrown out, included some that you’ll “learn about later,” but because of the basic nature of the quick tutorial, you don’t get as familiar with the terms, so it’s harder to follow. This tutorial didn’t take long, and I jumped straight into the full tutorial afterwards.

The full tutorial goes much more in-depth into a lot of the features. There were several that I found very useful that weren’t mentioned in the quick tutorial, so I am glad I looked through the full version, as well.

The main tutorial can still be quit confusing with the new terms, but as with any feature-heavy program, it just takes lots of practice to get used to how they have everything set up. I know there will be many features I won’t use, and several I will forget about, though. The full tutorial didn’t take all that long. I can’t say for sure how much time it was as I stopped several times, but it may have taken around an hour.

A plus side is that you can keep the tutorial open while you’re working on your projects so you can go back in and relearn features as you go.

The third level of tutorials is from the Help feature. From what the tutorial mentioned, there are many more features that weren’t covered and can be learned by going through the help articles. I haven’t done this part, though.

Function

After I finished up the tutorials, I went ahead and started a new project then imported my WIP. One of the features I really liked is the ability to select a section of text and split your document with that text as the title. This was particularly helpful as I was easily able to separate my entire manuscript into chapters in just a couple of minutes.

Darkness Scriv

The corkboard is also a really cool feature that provides digital index cards which can include notes, synopses, or other information so you can arrange and remember each file easily. If you prefer an outline over cards, that function is easily available, too.

The overall features are many! Because of that, though, the process of using all of them can be complicated and confusing. For those who might not be super tech savy, you might find that using the program to its fullest potential is difficult until you get really comfortable with knowing where everything is.

As mentioned, the tutorials can also be confusing when they mention features that they’ll expand on later, too, so it can feel overwhelming at first. You can use it as just a word processing type of programs, but then there are other free programs that you could use, as well.

A great thing about Scrivener is that it keeps all of your files for each project in one place. You can add pictures, links, videos, audio files, and much more to this one program so you can easily access everything you need for both research and writing.

Overall, I’m really looking forward to diving into this program and seeing all of the features in action! If you’re looking for an all-in-one program to help with you’re writing, I think this is a great one. Because it does cost money, I recommend looking at walk-throughs and all of the features before buying, just in case it’s not something you’ll find helpful. Keep in mind, as well, that this program focuses more towards writing a first draft rather than editing and formatting a finished manuscript.

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