Table of contents
- What is Scrivener?
- How much does Scrivener cost?
- Scrivener Discount Coupon [20%]
- Why Writers Love Scrivener
- Scrivener Features
- How does it stack up to the competition?
- Scrivener Review: What I Love
- Scrivener Review: What I Don’t Like
- How to Use Scrivener
- Is Scrivener right for your next book?
- Organizes projects into one file with easy access to countless documents and research in the same window
- Composition Mode erases all distractions and lets you write on a screen of nothing but text, though you can customize the background to be a texture or image as well
- Templates to fit your writing needs (fiction, nonfiction, screenplay, poem, essay, etc.)
- Comments, footnotes, annotations, and synopses simplify keeping track of your stream-of-consciousness brainstorming
- Can export (or “compile”) projects as EPUB, MOBI, PDF, RTF, RTFD, DOC, DOCX, OTD, HTML, TXT, or even FDX, MD, and FOUNTAIN files
- Completely customizable toolbar
- More affordable than comparable writing software
- Offers a full 30-day free trial that only counts the days you actually open Scrivener
- It can be complicated to learn all of Scrivener’s many useful features
- Cannot open DOC files or ODT files (though Scrivener does import DOCX files)
- No real-time collaboration or co-author functionality
- Formatting tools are far too complicated
- Windows version is objectively inferior to Mac version
- No Android app
Bottom Line: For a long time, Scrivener was my go-to writing software, and it is still a good option for most writers. However, I now recommend Atticus instead, with Scrivener as my #2 on my list of best writing tools, since Atticus has better formatting capability and several other features that Scrivener lacks. However, Scrivener is a powerful tool. It's essentially the Adobe Photoshop of the writing tools, with tons of a features and a steep learning curve, but for authors who can master that learning curve, you have a lot of potential. Read on to get my full breakdown, and check out my coupon to get 20% off!
Scrivener is the most powerful tool for authors to write their novels, nonfiction books, short stories, and other works. It’s better than MS Word, better than Apple Pages, better than Google Docs. Scrivener 3 is versatile, sleek, and brimming with useful features. And while I'm a little biased towards Atticus, which makes the writing process a little easier to understand, I can't argue with the power and versatility of Scrivener.
Is Scrivener any good? Yes, Scrivener is a great writing tool for books and scripts. It’s great for organization, large writing projects, research-heavy topics, and the need for a distraction-free writing environment.
- What Scrivener is
- How much Scrivener costs
- Exclusive Scrivener discount coupon code!
- The best features of Scrivener
- Scrivener’s shortcomings
- The difference between MS Word and Scrivener (Video)
- How to use Scrivener
Links in this article may give me a small commission if you use them to purchase Scrivener. Plus, there’s no extra cost to you. And here’s the good news: Because I actually use this writing software, they gave me a unique discount code to knock off 20% of your total purchase.
What is Scrivener?
Scrivener is one of the most robust piece of book writing software you can find. Developed by Literature and Latte, Scrivener is a powerful tool with a vast array of helpful features. It’s loved by writers of all kinds: fiction, nonfiction, academic work, even Jeff Goins, Joanna Penn, and Michael Hyatt.
It’s described as a virtual three-ring binder because it lets you have all the folders, tabs, labels, and flags that you could want for your creative endeavors in an elegant and organized way.
It is not free, and its learning curve is steep. But I and many authors find it to be the best option.
By the way, the term “scrivener” is just an old-timey word for a scribe or notary.
It’s essential to know the difference between Scrivener 3 for Mac and Scrivener 1 for Windows.
- Scrivener 3 on Windows finally came out earlier in 2021. After 4 plus years of working on it, they finally got Scrivener 3 for Windows out and is on par with the Mac version.
- Scrivener 1 for iOS is also on par with Scrivener 2 on Mac. It is a handy tool for on-the-go writing with an iPad or iPhone.
Many writers who use Scrivener will only use a fraction of the features available.
For instance, I seldom change icons or labels on documents, but that might be incredibly helpful for other authors. Also, I don’t need Composition Mode to focus on writing only, whereas this feature might be handy for others.
Who is Scrivener for?
- Best-selling novelists
- Nonfiction writers
- Writers who are tired of Microsoft Word
- Writers who love organization
- Writers of research-heavy projects
- Writers who plan to write multiple works
Why I'm Qualified to Talk About Scrivener
When I was an Apple employee working on my master's degree too many years ago, I received a Scrivener review copy. This wasn't unusual since a lot of companies ask Apple employees to try their software.
However, of all the software I received while working there, Scrivener was the only one I kept.
I've been writing books for over a decade and have used Scrivener for many of them. Plus, through surveys and interacting with fellow authors, I've gathered valuable insights into how Scrivener works for different writers. I don't just regurgitate features – I provide a qualified viewpoint based on several years of hands-on experience (also all the screenshots are mine).
While Scrivener might not be right for everyone, I can offer a knowledgeable assessment for writers considering it. I aim to provide an in-depth, personalized review.
How much does Scrivener cost?
Scrivener costs $49 — a one-time cost. But there are a bunch of particular situations.
First of all, when you download Scrivener, use this discount code at checkout to get 20% off your purchase: KINDLEPRENEUR
If you're upgrading to Scrivener 3, then use this coupon code for 50% off: SCRIV3MAC
It costs $49 to get a license to use Scrivener on either Mac or Windows. However, if you want to use Scrivener on both, you can get a bundle for $80. You would receive a separate license for each operating system.
If you purchased Scrivener 2 for Mac after August 20, 2017, you can upgrade to Scrivener 3 on Mac for free. Anyone who purchased Scrivener before that gets a deep discount on the newest version.
A reduced price of $41.65 is available for students & academics.
Scrivener for iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) costs $19.99. A Dropbox account is required for any Sync features.
Unlike other writing software, there is no monthly payment or yearly license. Scrivener is a one-time purchase*, so you can use it as long as you like.
How long does a Scrivener license last? A Scrivener license lasts forever, for whatever version you purchase. It may cost to upgrade your Scrivener. However, if you bought a license for Scrivener 1 on Windows after July 2017, you will be able to upgrade for free when Scrivener 3 for Windows comes out in 2021.
How can I get Scrivener for free? Scrivener is free for the first 30 days after purchase. You can’t get a permanent license to Scrivener for free.
*Note that Scrivener does not have a true lifetime account like Atticus does (#humblebrag). You will still have to pay for future versions of the software.
Scrivener Discount Coupon [20%]
Like I said above, Scrivener does offer a discount – this is here just in case you skipped the above and jumped right to the claim of a coupon. Using the link below and the coupon code at checkout, you can reduce the cost of Scrivener by 20%, bring the total cost of Scrivener to just about $40.
All you have to do is use the link below, and then use my code, KINDLEPRENEUR, when you're checking out.
Why Writers Love Scrivener
I know I love Scrivener because of its innovative organization capabilities as well as its robust cornucopia of useful features.
Its Binder feature vastly changes a lot of authors’ writing process. In a Word document, you can’t upload multiple documents, images, and research files into the same window like you can with Scrivener.
This amazing writing tool is totally customizable. You can change the appearance of nearly everything. You can ignore features if you don’t care about them and even take them off the toolbar. To view documents side by side, you can Toggle Split or use Bookmarks. There are so many choices!
Scrivener autosaves all the time. Not every 10 minutes, not every 5 minutes. When you stop writing, you stop worrying. Rest assured, it has autosaved your precious brainchild.
Many writers love its distraction-free Composition Mode, where your window goes full screen and nothing is on the screen except the words and a customizable background.
Not only is Scrivener great for novel writing, but it’s also a great writing app for scriptwriting as well.
As far as the scriptwriting software goes, you can generate professional, top-notch scripts using Scrivener at a fraction of the cost of Final Draft!
Let’s look at some of Scrivener’s features, complete with brief descriptions and screenshots:
- Composition mode
- Customizable toolbar
- Linguistic Focus
- Writing goals
- 3 view options
Note that these screenshots will be using Scrivener’s beautiful Dark Mode. You don’t have to use this mode. In fact, a lot of Scrivener’s aesthetic can be customized in Scrivener > Preferences > Appearance.
The Binder in Scrivener is honestly my favorite feature. On the left-hand side of my screen, it holds everything – my chapters, documents, research files, web pages, pictures, audio clips, and anything else I toss in there.
Although Scrivener didn’t invent the idea of the sidebar, I dare you to find any software that allows you to edit text in the same window as you can consult a web page of research, then listen to an audio file. (And Google Docs on a browser doesn’t count because it can’t handle large documents, like books.)
As you can see, you can create subfolders, change icons, rename files, add a new file with the push of one button (Enter), and even view your Trash, just in case you didn’t mean to delete that file.
Scrivener’s Bookmarks are a little strange at first but incredibly helpful once you realize what they’re for.
When you create a new bookmark, it is only bookmarked in that document — the strange part. If you split your documents up by chapter, that means only this chapter has the bookmark you just created.
But the cool thing is, I can drag and drop as many files as I want into the Bookmarks tab, and it's super speedy.
Also — and here’s the fantastic bit — when you look at a bookmark, it opens a small window on the right side of your screen, allowing you to view and edit the bookmarked document while still in the Main Editor for whatever other document you’re in.
This means you can edit a character reference sheet while writing a chapter that adds new details to a character. Or you can edit a previous chapter while you’re writing a new chapter retelling those events, demanding the previous chapter be changed. You can do that with Bookmarks!
Another useful feature that I like in Scrivener’s writing software is the ability to create character sketches within your Binder.
There are Character Sketch templates you can find. Or create your own from scratch, as I did in the screenshot below. It’s helpful if you view a character sketch subfolder in Corkboard View.
You can add memorable details (which side of the neck was that tattoo on?), character background details (which obscure village in that far off kingdom did they come from?), and a sketch or image that serves as inspiration for a character.
You can also go through this same process for scenes — uploading an image or sketch, writing down important details, etc.
When you’re ready to export, click File > Compile or Option+Command+E.
Scrivener’s Compile feature puts together different sections/chapters from your Binder into one document. You can choose to export to any of the following file formats:
Watch this video for detailed instructions on compiling and formatting your final product in Scrivener.
Like a couple other writing tools, Scrivener comes packed with Composition Mode for distraction-free writing, which is a handy feature for me, as I need everything completely free of distractions to write.
All you see is the text and a customizable background image or texture. The default background is grey, but as you can see in the screenshot below, a calm rainy landscape is what really gets me in the mood to write.
To customize the background in Composition Mode, click Scrivener > Preferences > Appearance > Composition Mode.
One of the coolest features of Scrivener is that you can customize the toolbar with the easy interface you see in the screenshot below.
Most authors who have used Word will know that you never use half the buttons that are automatically on the toolbar. Though other word processors have customizable toolbars, Scrivener’s customize feature is sleek and intuitive.
Scrivener’s Linguistic Focus feature is really interesting. Many writers will be interested in seeing the different aspects of language highlighted in their book or script.
For instance, you can highlight all the direct quotes. This can help you check if your dialogue tags are distracting or if you’re relying too heavily on dialogue in a scene that should be more visual.
Another example: Highlight your adverbs. You’ve probably heard that adverbs are the antithesis of mature prose. If you’re looking to reduce your adverb count, use Linguistic Focus to highlight your adverbs (as seen in the screenshot below) and aim for stronger verbs that render the highlighted adverbs obsolete.
This software offers multiple intuitive Scrivener templates for all types of writing like fiction, nonfiction, scriptwriting, and so much more. When you select a helpful template while creating a new project, Scrivener gives you templated suggestions on how other authors make that type of project work.
While Microsoft Word has templates for resumes, flyers, and research papers, it has nothing for writing books — probably because MS Word is not designed for longer texts.
Project Targets basically means you can set word count goals for your writing session, each week, or the entire life of the project.
When you start a new project, perhaps you want to write 1,500 words every time you sit down to write. Project Targets automatically tracks your progress toward your overall goal. It resets itself each time you open it up for a new writing session.
This helps you stick to a daily writing goal and actually see a representation of your progress toward finishing that book.
Project > Show Project Target:
Project > Show Project Target > Options:
You can see the blue bars above and below “Bohemia” representing your total word count goal progress on top in this screenshot. Your session’s word count goal progress is displayed on the bottom.
3 View Options
These 3 different view options are used to organize your writing. In addition to the main editor for a single document (like what you see when you use Word), Scrivener has 4 distinct view options to match any author's writing preference.
Main Editor — This is the default view, where you see your Binder on the left and your file content in the center. The Main Editor view option looks somewhat like other word processors.
Corkboard — All sub-documents are seen as index cards on a corkboard. Each index card can have a summary of that document, as well as custom colors and labels.
This is great for visualizing, rearranging, finding gaps, and storyboarding. You can easily drag and drop and add or delete notecards.
Outliner — See sub-documents as rows of text, like an outline, and columns of other information, such as status or label.
This is great for those who want to see the outline in a linear fashion. You can rearrange easily with drag and drop in this view, too.
Scrivenings — This combines separate documents so you can view them as one.
This is great for combining separate chapters to see how they flow without having to open several different files and fuss with copying and pasting.
How does it stack up to the competition?
In my opinion, Scrivener stacks up pretty well against its competition (with one exception that we recommend). Check out the table below to see how Scrivener compares to 13 other word processors.
Is Scrivener better than Word? Yes, Scrivener is far better than Word. Although MS Word can do more than you probably realize, Scrivener is more versatile, more powerful, and better for organizing large projects. To be fair, Word is excellent for memos and quick corporate content.
Want more videos like this? Then click this link to subscribe to my YouTube channel.
|Multiple Files in One Window?
|Exports to EPUB & PDF
|Works on Mac & Windows?
|Organization of large projects
|Write, collaborate, and format books all in one place.
|Corporate writing needs
|At high word counts, EPUB only
|Make every page beautiful
|Free alternative to MS Word
|Data compiled from your book
|Multiple tabs of info, not files
|Planning out your book
|Yes, because of Ulysses’s Sync feature
|Multiple tabs of info, not files
Scrivener Review: What I Love
Here are the Scrivener features that I love. Since it is one of my favorite writing tools, it’s no surprise this is a significant section of the review.
- Innovative organization. Organizing your book is easy and versatile with Scrivener. Instead of opening a single document, Scrivener opens a project, which you can fill with unlimited text documents, research files, images, comments, and more. This way, your book, and all your notes and research, are in one window.
- Break up your big project into smaller pieces. Scrivener is great for breaking up that colossal project into more consumable parts. In Word, you’d have to create unique files for each chapter or scroll for ages to eventually find your place in a huge doc. Whether you write fiction, nonfiction, memoirs, screenplays, or anything of length, the ease with which you can break up a big task into smaller parts is probably my favorite feature.
- Drag and drop like magic. As you’re working, you might realize the flow is off, and it only takes a split second to drag and drop one part of the book to a new spot. No excessive scrolling. No losing your place amongst the hundreds of pages of text. It just works like software for writing your own book should.
- Helpful templates. This program offers intuitive templates for fiction, nonfiction, scriptwriting, biographies, and more — a game-changer for authors, screenwriters, bloggers, and poets. I even know bloggers and podcasters who use it for writing and organizing their work.
- Customizable toolbar. This software lets you customize your toolbar with nifty icons that best suit your project. And the user interface for customizing the toolbar is sleeker and more straightforward than most other word processors.
- Composition Mode. Scrivener offers its calming, distraction-free Composition Mode, so you can focus on writing and nothing else. In Composition Mode (Command + Option + F), all you see is text on a background. By default, the background is just a dark color. However, you can change the solid background to a texture or even a high-quality image.
- Toggle splitting. Splitting your window makes viewing multiple documents a breeze. In Scrivener, you click one button in the upper right corner to split your window into two, so you can view two chapters side by side or a block of text next to a research document. You can split left-right or top-bottom.
- Exporting made simple yet versatile. Exporting your book for publishing, whether an EPUB, MOBI, or PDF, is super simple in Scrivener. Just click the Compile option at the bottom of the File menu, or push Option + Command + E. Select all your chapters and preferred file format. And that’s it!
Scrivener Review: What I Don’t Like
Even for my favorite writing program, I don’t like some aspects — mainly a lack of certain functionalities.
- Steep learning curve. Scrivener is incredibly complicated if you want to learn everything it has to offer. If you read the negative Amazon reviews, most people didn’t understand how to use it or spent too much time on tutorials they didn’t need. Check out this affordable crash course on using Scrivener, expertly organized for your convenience and benefit.
- Lack of collaboration abilities. If you're a co-author or collaborator, you might think Scrivener is a hassle. It doesn't have a clear cut feature for collaborators to work together yet. You may find sticking with a Google Docs or hot-potato Word file to be a better option.
- No Android app. Although you can purchase a separate license for iOS devices, there remains no Android version of Scrivener.
- Separate licenses. You have to buy a separate license for Scrivener on Mac, Scrivener on Windows, and Scrivener on iOS. Each one is a separate one-time cost, though you can buy the Mac and Windows versions for an $80 bundle. However, this seems unnecessary — an outdated way of selling software.
- File formats to import. Although you can export Scrivener projects in many forms, it doesn’t let you import DOC or ODT files into your projects. Of course, you can convert these files with Calibre or an online converter, but it would be nice not to have this extra step.
- Scrivener on the go. Scrivener's cloud backup can seriously be a lifesaver. And it's super convenient when pulling up your manuscript on your primary writing device. But if you're looking to make revisions on the go, you're not going to be able to access your Scrivener files unless you have a full copy installed on your mobile device. You can always download their app, but that's going to cost more. I wish the mobile license came included with the initial cost.
- Formatting. Some authors will prefer Scrivener’s formatting system (like me), but it is not designed as a “what you see is what you get” word processor. This means when some writers go to publish, you’re going to be spending a little more time figuring out how to properly format your book. Also, when you import a TXT file into Scrivener, it doesn’t seem to retain the italics. That is the main reason why we recommend Atticus as a writing program instead.
How to Use Scrivener
The basics on how to use Scrivener:
- The Binder sits on the left side of your window. It organizes your files and documents, including different chapters, research pages, audio files, and images. You can label these files with different icons and colors. The Binder is the most innovative feature in Scrivener.
- To import documents and images into Scrivener, you can import (Shift + Command + I) or drag and drop files into the Binder. Organize them in whatever order is most helpful to you.
- Type into the text editor the same way you would almost any word processing software. Font and Style options sit at the top of the window.
- When you want to export your book, Compile different documents in the Binder into an EPUB, PDF, Kindle’s native format, or other file formats.
Of course, there is so much more to Scrivener than those rudimentary steps. But those are the basics.
The key to being a successful author, like the professionals who reveal their secrets in MasterClass courses, is having the right tools and knowing how to use them.
A writer’s tools have transformed from pen and paper, to typewriter, to computer word processor, to customizable book writing software.
You can save yourself quite a bit of time and pain of figuring out all the features by learning from those who know the program inside and out.
The software itself boasts a comprehensive manual with links to YouTube video tutorials. There are also multiple books available to purchase that can help you get accustomed to Scrivener’s robust library of useful features.
But I prefer to see Scrivener explained, like in Joseph Michael’s fantastic Scrivener course.
Check out Joseph Michael’s Learn Scrivener Fast video courses, even if you’ve been using Scrivener for a little bit. I’m a big fan because:
- The short 1-3 minute videos are easy to consume.
- You can watch each video in order, or jump to the lessons you need most.
- It has separate videos for Mac and PC when the software differs.
- Upgraded course levels have ninja tips & tricks and work smarter sections, including videos like how to make it mesh with Evernote.
- Bonus content includes templates, working with an editor, writing backgrounds, how Jeff Goins and Joanna Penn use it, planning a novel, and much more!
Is Scrivener right for your next book?
Scrivener is right for your next book or screenplay if you are a writer who loves organization, customization, and distraction-free writing.
If you’re the type of writer who can sit down and write an entire book from beginning to end, or if you’re happy with Word, then you may not need Scrivener. And if you need formatting capabilities as well, you might want to use Atticus instead.
You will love Scrivener if…
- …you are frustrated with Word.
- …you research and compile notes.
- …you are looking for something more powerful that doesn’t crash.
- …you jump around in your timeline or chapters while you write.
- …you enjoy customizable, distraction-free writing.
- …you rearrange the scenes or flow of your work.
- …you want easy-to-use templates designed for unique writers.
- …you want the ability to export your work into ready-to-publish formats.
- …you don't need formatting
This writing software allows you to write books in your own customized, organized, unique way. When properly used, Scrivener can take the jumble of thoughts in your brain and help you create magic.
I will never use Word again to write my books, and hopefully, thanks to this Scrivener review, you won't either.
Frankly, using Word to write your novel is like the Hobbits not using the Eagles to fly to Mordor. They still got there, but seriously, it would have been so much easier and a lot less death.
If you’re ready to see how it can work for you, download Scrivener for Mac, Windows, or iOS. And be sure to use my special Kindlepreneur code: KINDLEPRENEUR for 20% off your purchase.