Scrivener Review


About 6 years ago, when I was an Apple employee and working on my Master’s degree, I received a Scrivener review copy.  This wasn’t unusual since many companies would ask Apple employees to try their software.

However, out of all the software I was given while I worked there, Scrivener was the only one I kept and still use to this day.

I even used it to put together my 128-page master’s degree thesis – which you can find here if there are any insomniacs out there who need something to help them sleep.

In This Article You Will Learn:

  • What the Scrivener hype is all about with writing a book
  • The difference between Scrivener and Word Document
  • See my favorite features in action
  • The tool I used to help me learn how to use Scrivener

Also, if you’re looking to get a Scrivener coupon code, you can access that by clicking my link here and using the discount code of:

Get 20% off of Scrivener by clicking here for Mac or here for PC and enter the special code of WORDSWITHJAM when purchasing.

Also, please understand that any links to Scrivener in this article are affiliate links but will not cost you any extra using them – actually you’ll save thanks to the 20% off coupon code.

What Is Scrivener?

Ah, Scrivener…the program that’s been dubbed the tool for writers.

The three words that come to mind when I think of Scrivener are:

  1. Powerful
  2. Customizable
  3. Organized

organized binderScrivener is software that lets you compile all your research, character notes, and anything else you need to write your book within one project, within one program. It’s often described as a virtual three-ring binder because it literally lets you have all the folders, tabs, labels, and flags that you could possibly want for your creative endeavors in a sleek and organized way.

It was created as a novel writing software for both Mac and PC users to help writers organize long-form content. Now that word has gotten out on its awesomeness, Scrivener is loved by writers of all kinds: fiction, nonfiction, academic work, even bloggers like Jeff Goins, Joanna Penn, and Michael Hyatt.

Because it’s an advanced word processor that manages your projects all in one, there is a learning curve. There are tons of ways you can use and customize Scrivener to fit exactly your needs as a writer. But with a small time investment up front to learn, and a scant $40-$45, this tool quite possibly could change your entire world as a writer and self-published author.

I know it’s changed mine. And I’ll show you some of my favorite features in a video later on.

Scrivener vs Word – What’s The Difference?

This is a common question I get. Most people are familiar with Microsoft Word as a word processor, and they want to know what’s the difference? Is Scrivener really that much better?

And my answer is always, Yes!

In my opinion, Word is a tolerable word processor for writing short content. Scrivener is an advanced word processor and project management tool with tons of capabilities, including formatting, which makes it the best software for writers who write longer content, like books or dissertations.

But before we get into some of the key differences between Scrivener and Word, and why I truly believe every author should make the investment, let’s look at them side by side:

Scrivener vs Word Chart: What’s the Difference…

Word Scrivener
Word processor – can write and format text x x
Grammar and spell check x x
No distraction writing mode x x
Track changes  x x
Export as PDF or .doc x x
Format for ebook publishing (.mobi or .ePub or .docx)  x
Format for selling boxsets  x
Project management tool – can hold research files  x
Automatically saves your work  x
Frequent crashes or needs force quit  x
Set project target (words and deadlines)  x
Templates for writers and authors  x
Designed for writing long content  x
Excessive scrolling, copying and pasting needed to revise long texts x
Easy drag and drop capabilities  x
Simple way to break up large project into small chunks  x
Can mesh multiple texts into one with one click  x
Split screen view horizontally or vertically to view two texts as one (e.g., research and writing)  x
Corkboard view with index cards  x
Can use beautiful backgrounds while writing  x
Add labels, flags, and status updates to individual texts  x
Easily sort all scenes with a certain character or location  x
Sync work on multiple devices x $99.99 per year or $9.99 per month to get it on 5 devices x with a license for each platform. Sync through Dropbox or iTunes
Cost $69.99 Per Year for one computer $45 for Mac or $40 for PC one-time purchase price
*BONUS* For 20% off, buy Scrivener through my link and use the code WORDSWITHJAM

If you’re happy with Word and it’s doing everything you want it to do, then by all means don’t fix it if it ain’t broken.

But if you’re frustrated with Word, you want to break up a huge project of writing books into smaller, easier tasks, you’d like to completely customize your writing experience, or see if writing can be more enjoyable, then Scrivener seriously might become your favorite program for writing a book.

The table above shows the basic differences between Scrivener and Word, and here’s a little more detail about some of my favorite Scrivener features:

Break up your big project into smaller pieces: Let’s say you’re writing a 20-chapter book. In Word, you’d either have to create 20 different files for each chapter and go back and forth between them all while trying to write your book, or you’d have to scroll for ages to find your place and try to get your text to mesh well. Whether you write fiction, nonfiction, screenplays, or anything of length, the ease at which you can break up a big task into smaller parts using Scrivener is probably my favorite feature.

Formatting: Yes, self-publishers, once you’re done writing your killer book, you can format it right through Scrivener! You can “compile” your finished document into a variety of formats for Kindle or ePub, as a Word .doc or PDF, or even as an academic thesis that match academic standards. This could easily save you the money you invested to buy the software by not having to hire a formatter or buy a software just for formatting.

Templates: Scrivener has templates for fiction, nonfiction, scriptwriting and more. These are a game changer for those who want a software to help write their own book. I even know bloggers and podcasters who use Scrivener for writing and organizing their work. While Word has templates for resumes, flyers, and research papers, it has nothing for writing books–probably because it’s not designed for longer texts.

scrivener project templates

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 spot amongst the hundreds of pages of text. It just works like software for writing your own book should.

Set writing targets: This little feature lets you set targets for your entire project and your individual writing sessions. When you start a new project, say you’re looking to write a 25,000 word nonfiction book, and you want to write 1,500 words every time you sit down to write. It automatically tracks your progress toward your overall goal and resets itself each time you open it up for a new writing session. This is incredibly helpful for sticking to a daily writing goal and seeing your overall progress toward finishing your book.

project and session target scrivenerCharacter and scene sketches: Another perk for those looking for a novel writing software is a place specifically for your characters and scenes. These are still within your project binder. You can add memorable details, like which side of the neck a tattoo was on, background details, and you can even upload a picture if you have a sketch or image online that was an inspiration to a character.

scrivener character sketch boba fett

Store your research files: Scrivener has a special folder in each project specifically for your book research. This might be photographs, audio files, video, notes from Evernote, notes from your editor, or inspirational art; Scrivener can hold all of these files that help you as you’re writing your book. You don’t have to go between different programs or windows. It’s all right there in your project “binder.” Word has nothing like this.

iOS and Andriod Scrivener on the Go: If you love the idea or ability to use scrivener on your mobile device, then I’ve got good news for you.  Scrivener delivers.  To check out these newer features and options, check out this review on syncing with simplenote and the ios Scrivener review.

Working view options: In addition to the main editor of viewing a single document (like what you see when you use Word), Scrivener has three more view options to fit all the working styles of authors as you’re working through the writing process.

1. Corkboard – all subdocuments are seen as index cards on a corkboard. Each index card can have a summary of that document. Great for visualizing, rearranging, finding gaps, and storyboarding. Can easily drag and drop, add or delete.

scrivener corkboard view2. Outliner – see subdocuments as rows of text, like an outline, as well as columns of other information, such as status or label. Great for those who want to see the outline in a linear fashion, can also rearrange easily with drag and drop in this view.

scrivener outliner view

3. “Scrivenings” – combines separate documents so you can view them as one. Great for when you’re writing to start combining your separate parts or chapters to see how they flow, without having to open a bunch of different files, copying, and pasting.

scrivener scrivenings view

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.

Scrivener Discount Coupon Code

I’m super stoked to let you know that I have a special set of Scrivener coupon discounts for you.  If you click my Scrivener for PC, or Scrivener for MAC link and enter in the coupon code of WORDSWITHJAM, you’ll get 20% off.

If for some reason that doesn’t work, then you can access more Scrivener coupon codes here.

Let’s See a Side By Side Comparison of Scrivener vs Word

Courses To Help You Use Scrivener to Write a Novel

A key to being a successful author is having the right tools. Another key is knowing how to use them.

A writer’s tools have transformed from pen and paper, to typewriter, to computer word processor, to book writing software (i.e., Scrivener).

You can save yourself quite a bit of time and pain of figuring it out yourself and supercharge your use of scrivener by learning from those who know Scrivener inside and out.

The software itself has a comprehensive manual and links to YouTube video tutorials, but I also found it super helpful to take the popular course by Joseph Michael, the “Scrivener Coach.”

Scrivener-CourseI’m a fan of Joseph Michael’s Learn Scrivener Fast course because it has:

  • A series of short 1-3 minute videos
  • Easy to consume and well-organized
  • Can watch step-by-step or jump to the lessons you need most
  • Has separate videos for Mac and PC when software differs
  • Lots of extra tips and tricks for authors
  • Upgraded course levels has ninja tips & tricks and work smarter sections, which include more videos like how to make Evernote and Scrivener mesh
  • Upgraded course also has modules Scrivener for Blogging, Easy eBooks, and Power Templates
  • Bonus content: templates, working with an editor, writing backgrounds, How Jeff Goins uses Scrivener, Sean Platt’s outlining & planning a novel with Scrivener, and how Joanna Penn uses Scrivener

I also found a course by Gwen Hernandez, author of Scrivener for Dummies, called Learn to Use Scrivener with Confidence (and Joy) for Mac or Windows for $99, but I haven’t personally taken this course. I just like to provide my readers options if they’re looking for more.

A quick search on Amazon showed at least 10 books about Scrivener, but I find it most helpful to see the tool in action in quick videos, then apply it. That’s why my go-to method for learning the powers of Scrivener is Learn Scrivener Fast.

learn scrivener fast logoTaking an hour or two to learn, and it will save you hours of frustration later.

Why I Use Scrivener To Write My Books

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.

But if…

  • You are frustrated with Word
  • You are looking for something better
  • You jump around in your timeline or chapters while you write
  • You research and compile notes
  • You like to work one section or chapter at a time
  • You rearrange the scenes or flow of your work or
  • You want to do things like single out a certain character or locate all the scenes in a particular location
  • You want easy-to-use templates for writers
  • You want the ability to export your work into ready-to-publish formats

Then…you will love Scrivener.

Scrivener allows you to write books in your own customized, organized, yet beautifully-chaotic way. For me, it’s important to write smarter not harder — and for me, Scrivener is smarter.

I will never use Word again to write my books.

If you’re ready to see how Scrivener can work for you, grab your copy of Scrivener for Mac (or for PC) here and use my special Kindlepreneur code WORDSWITHJAM for 20% off.
  • 2deuces

    Probably the most important element is Scrivener documents can be easily exported to Word (or at least in .docx format for other WP programs). So, if there is something a writer likes about Word – familiarity, track changes for edits, publisher or employer requirement – it is easy to get it all.

  • Joseph Donnalley

    Can Grammarly be used in Scrivener?

    • That would be cool. But I like pumping text in and out of Grammarly rather than as an add-on.

      What I really love is drafting, running it through the Hemingway App, then Grammarly then back to Papa Hemingway.

      I don’t do this every single time, but when I do, the outcome is much, much tighter. 🙂

      • 2deuces

        That is a very clever idea. Tighten, Correct, Tighten again.

        • I’d love to read a before and after from you if you give it a try! 🙂

          • 2deuces

            It took longer than I thought, but the writing is better. Should I send it to your Memory Method email address? I’m on your mailing list from Udemy,

          • Wow – small world!

            Yes, by all means send it along to me there. And let me know how things are going with your memory training. 🙂

    • Sadly, at the moment, no. Or…well I don’t know of a way yet. However, this has prompted me to reach out to Grammarly and ask them about it. Maybe I have enough clout to convince them to make that happen – haha. Because I too am a fan of Grammarly.

  • 40+ books in on Word – I’ve taken the leap at your recommendation. Excited to see what I can do with it.

    I agree with 2deuces that Word isn’t entirely out of the picture though.

    I also sometimes use Pages. In fact, I took my last Mac to a reseller who rigged it so that I can still run Pages and Keynote 09. The updates are just too Kindergarten for serious publishers.

    I don’t know if others have this concern, but I sense that with software development choices being made based on user behavior, they’re going to completely fly over the data created by the real players and only make tools for the dabblers.

    Obviously, this isn’t the case in many cases, but it is a writer’s nightmare I sometimes indulge in …

    Thanks for the great post and being the tipping point! 🙂

    • Hey Anthony, glad to help. Seriously, I’ve been using it for years and its stood the test of time. I think it was actually a beta or something when I tested it. At the time, I was working for Apple as a salesmen and read about it in one of the Apple training. I was like, “huh…that might help with my thesis.” There was a bit of a learning curve, but seriously, it makes writing SOOO much easier.

      Granted, like I showed in the Scrivener vs. Word video, there are so many things that Word does that people don’t know about or use, but considering I spend 2-3 hours in Scrivener per day, I’m happy using a program that is more specialized and geared for the “real players” you mentioned.

      • Thanks, Dave.

        I can definitely see how it would have been useful for when I wrote my dissertation … what a mess that was to scroll through, especially with all the footnotes and 20+ pages of citations.

        I’m sometimes tempted to turn the dissert into a book, but … nah. Have you thought of publishing your thesis?

        Or have you ever read any of the research on the consumption of academic writing? Apparently most books and articles have less than one reader on average. My takeaway from that: We all have far better chances on Kindle! 😉

  • Jordan McDowell

    This is a really helpful side-by-side look at these two programs. I’m surprised though that Scrivener doesn’t have a Track Changes function. I use Track Changes to save stuff I’ve deleted so that I can come back to it later if I want to. Is there no way to do that in Scrivener?

    • Whoops! That was a typo. I’ll correct that right now. Nope it totally does and it is BEAUTIFUL! Here’s how: do: on a Mac, you just head on over to Format (in the top menu bar) and choose Revision Mode > First/Second/(etc.) Revision. Then it breaks it into awesome colors. 😀

  • Great review Dave and thanks for the mention! Much appreciated. The use of the cork board and outliner along with the ability to label and tag almost anything makes for an extremely customizable Scrivener experience. In addition to writing I now use Scrivener to outline my courses, organize my blog, and keep track of all my business documents. So many amazing uses.

    • Thanks! Yeah I’m using it to put together a couple of courses right now – LOVE the organization. I also used it to write my Masters Thesis 7 years ago. Back then, when I worked for Apple, it was a sort of new program that they gave the Apple employees. The idea is that if we got used to it, we’d promote it…well it was the only one where that worked.

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