Scrivener Review: Is it worth it? [+20% Discount!]

I've been using Scrivener since 2007. Over the years, I've seen them improve to 2.0, and finally to their current version Scrivener 3. I've written both nonfiction and fiction books using it. Needless to say, I've seen what it can do, and what it can't. Where it has problems and where it shines. It's because of this, that I not only wrote this Scrivener review, but have worked to keep it updated since I first published it.

But, contrary what you might think, this won't be a fully happy review. Through all those years, Scrivener has barely improved, and based on its design is constantly limiting. So, be sure to check this review out and see whether or not this is the best book writing software for authors.

UPDATED: I no longer use Scrivener to write my books. This was because they raised their price, haven't improved in years, and charge authors for new versions (so not really a one time cost). Furthermore, the ability to format a book or ebook is too convoluted, and authors have to end up paying for a formatting software as well. It's because of this reason that I created a book writing and formatting software that I now use for all of my books.

Links in this article may give me a small commission do purchase Scrivener at no extra cost to you. This did not affect the way I reviewed, and that money will just go to my coffee fund and keep me writing.

In this article, you will learn:
  1. What Scrivener is
  2. How much Scrivener costs
  3. Exclusive Scrivener discount coupon code!
  4. The best features of Scrivener
  5. Scrivener’s shortcomings
  6. The difference between MS Word and Scrivener (Video)
  7. How to use Scrivener

Why I'm Qualified to Talk About Scrivener

Dave Chesson getting his masters using Scrivener

I first started using Scrivener back in 2007 when I was in the Navy working on my thesis. It was then that I found the usefulness of its organizational tools and structure, and assistance in long writing form to be helpful.

Since then, I've been writing books for over a decade and have used Scrivener for many of them. I've also spent HUNDREDS of dollars on courses to learn how to use Scrivener over the years (an issue I have with the program that I will discuss later).

However, in preparation for this Scrivener review, I conducted surveys and talked with fellow authors, helping me to gather valuable insights into how Scrivener works for different writers. I don't just regurgitate features – really worked hard to provide a qualified viewpoint based on several years of hands-on experience (also all the screenshots are mine).

I've since had to keep updating this article since it first came out since pricing, and capabilities as well as the general landscape of book writing software has changed over the years.

What is Scrivener?

Scrivener was one of the most robust writing apps back in the day. Developed by Literature and Latte, Scrivener is a powerful tool with loads of features aimed to improve your writing process. It’s loved by writers of all kinds: fiction, nonfiction, and even academic work (like I did back in my military days).

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. As I will show you in the features section of this review of Scrivener, you'll see that it is like Word, except designed with long form writing in mind, and a bevy of tools at your disposal to write your novel.

Who is Scrivener for?

  • Best-selling novelists
  • Screenwriters
  • Nonfiction writers
  • Academics
  • Lawyers
  • Writers who are tired of Microsoft Word
  • Writers who love organization
  • Writers of research-heavy projects
  • Writers who plan to write multiple works

Now, as you can see, that's a bit of an “everyone's list.” And I think that is where some of the problems lie. Scrivener, as you will see, is so jam packed with so many features for so many different types of writing needs, that it can be seriously hard to learn how to use. To exemplify this point, there are courses out there that sell for 4x the cost of Scrivener, just to teach you how to use it.

It is beacuse of this reason that ‘book' centric writing software has really taken off the past couple of years, making Scrivener not as strong as it used to be for novelists.

How much does Scrivener cost?

Scrivener now costs $59.99 (increased back in 2022) — and is a one-time cost*. However, that is for one operating system: PC version and Mac Version. If you want to use Scrivener on both a Mac and PC, you can get a bundle for $80. You would receive a separate license for each operating system – which is kind of archaic, but necessary based on how they made this software. Just for note, back in the day, Scrivener Mac updated to 3.0

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.

*Note that Scrivener does not have a true lifetime account. In the past, Scrivener has charged for the use of new versions.

Scrivener Coupon and Discount!

Good news! 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%.

All you have to do is use the link below, and then use this special code, KINDLEPRENEUR, when you're checking out.

Click here for 20% Off Scrivener – Code: KINDLEPRENEUR

See the animated gif below so see how and when to redeem it:

My Scrivener Review:

Now that we understand what scrivener is, and what its price is, I'm going to start with my overall opinion on the software. Then under things I will breakdown the different features of scrivener so you can see which parts are most important to you.

So, with that, let's start with what I like about Scrivener…

What I Love About Scrivener

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.

  • Incredible way to Organize: 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 writing 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 writing environment, 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.

What I Don’t Like About Scrivener

Even though it is powerful, there are some some aspects that hinder the program as an author — 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. Truth is, if you buy Scrivener, be prepared to pay for a course on how to use it 🙁
  • Lack of collaboration abilities: If you want to work with a co-author or collaborator, then good luck. Scrivener does not allow for it, and the creators have said to not expect it ever having this ability. If you do work with someone, you'll need to export to word and email it back and forth.
  • No Android app: Although you can purchase a separate license for iOS devices, there remains no Android version of Scrivener – so authors cannot use it on their Chromebook or other non Mac or PC computers.
  • 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 autosaves all the time – however, it doesn't have automatic backups to a cloud. So, heaven forbid your scrivener file gets corrupted (which check the Scrivener FB page and see that this does happen) 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.
  • Poor Formatting Capability: While there is a way to format your work into a book or ebook using Scrivener, it is complicated and doesn't give you key abilities to make it look great. Heck, someone even sells a $99 course on how to use Scrivener's formatting feature alone. Therefore, Scrivener users are usually stuck having to buy a formatting software to work with this, or hire a formatter which can be expensive.

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. I still think that Scrivener has the most robust writing capability. However, it is too complex for its own good. Plus you still need a formatting solution. That's why a ‘book writing' software that has excellent formatting capabilities as well, is a much better option for authors. But for those authors who can master that learning curve, and unlock its full capability, then this would be the tool for you. And again, be sure to use the discount to get 20% off!

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List of the Most Important Scrivener Features to Authors

Okay, so now that we know my thoughts on Scrivener, let’s dive into some of the top features for authors for Scrivener – complete with brief descriptions and screenshots:

  • Binder
  • Bookmarks
  • Compile
  • Composition mode
  • Customizable toolbar
  • Linguistic Focus
  • Templates
  • 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.

1. Binder

The Binder is what they call the left sidebar on the program and shows you chapters, parts, and research and it is one of my favorite features. It holds everything – my chapters, documents, research files, web pages, pictures, audio clips, and anything else I toss in there. 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 binder feature


Scrivener bookmark feature

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!

3. Character Sketches

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.

4. Formatting to Books and Ebooks

Here is where things get sticky. Like Iv'e said, Scrivener has a way to format books through their ‘compiling.' However, it isn't easy or intuitive. Watch this video for detailed instructions on compiling and formatting your final product in Scrivener.

It is because of this reason that mass majority of Scrivener users will export to word after writing it, and after working with their editor, will then upload the final version to a book formatting software.

Scrivener Compile feature

5. Composition Mode

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.

6. Customizable Toolbar

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.

7. Linguistic Focus

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.

Scrivener linguistic focus

8. Templates

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. The same goes for google docs as well.

Scrivener templates

9. Project Targets

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:

Scrivener project targets

Project > Show Project Target > Options:

Scrivener project targets

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.

10. 3 View Options

In addition to the main editor for a single document (like what you see when you use Word), Scrivener has 3 other distinct view options to match any author's writing preference.

A. 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.

B. 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.

Scrivener outliner feature

C. 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.

Scrivener scrivenings feature

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.

ProgramCostFormatting CapabilityMain PurposeDistraction-free ModeWorks on Mac & Windows?
$59.99 LifetimeLimitedOrganization of large projects
atticus logo icon
$147Write, collaborate, and format books all in one place.Coming Soon
Microsoft Word
$139PDF onlyCorporate writing needs
Google Docs 
FreeRestrictedReal-time collaboration
Final Draft

$249.99PDF onlyWriting screenplays
$5.99/monthLimitedDistraction-free writingMac only
Focus Writer
FreeDistraction-free writing

If You Buy Scrivener, then be prepared to buy this…

If you do decide to get Scrivener, there are some Youtube videos out there that will show you how to get started and running. However, you'll quickly notice that many of the Youtubers doing those videos then sell you a full course on how to actually unlock the capability of the program.

If you are seriously looking at working Scrivener, then just be prepared to buy a course on using it. 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.

One of the courses I've purchased and used is Joseph Michael’s Learn Scrivener Fast 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!
Check Out the Course Here

Is Scrivener right for your next book?

As you can see from this full scrivener review, this word processing software can really improve your writing process…if you know how to use it.

I absolutely believe that Scrivener is a better word processor for writing books or large writing projects than both Word or Google Docs. It is a great writing tool, that will help with large writing projects such as academic papers, novels, and more.

However, while it has formatting tools, it isn't great at formatting. Instead, Scrivener users will export their work, work with their editor, and then re-upload their work to a formatting software like Atticus.

However, with how much Atticus has improved as not just a formatting tool, and a word processor book writing tool, many authors are saving their money and writing within tools like Atticus. Furthermore, with Atticus coming out (very soon) with collaboration capability, author can not only write in Atticus, they can collaborate with other writers, or even their editors, and then format within it. Basically, never having to leave the program.

So, give it som thought and see which path you want to take: Scrivener plus Word/Google Docs to collaborate and a formatting software OR something like Atticus.

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30 thoughts on “Scrivener Review: Is it worth it? [+20% Discount!]

  1. David Fitz-Gerald

    Hi Dave,
    Thank you for the discount. I can’t wait to get started.

    David Fitz-Gerald

    1. Dave Chesson


Comments are closed.