That which we love demands our greatest affection while simultaneously inviting our most demanding scrutiny. I won’t explore here how that affects my interpersonal relationships, but I will delve into how it impacts my relationship with computer software, particularly Scrivener.
Scrivener is a program created in 2006 by a small UK-based company called Literature & Latte. It is “by writers for writers,” and it’s engineered for long form writing and publishing.
I’ve written 4.5 novels using Scrivener, and I wouldn’t trade it for any other tool. However—and this is a mountainous however—I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to other writers. Scrivener is deep but obtuse. As a software developer with an unhealthy infatuation with technology, you’d think I would figure out all of Scrivener’s quirks with ease. Yet time and time again, Scrivener behaves in unexpected ways that defy explanation or logic. For example, I once copied and pasted each chapter of a novel into an entirely new file because I could not persuade Scrivener to indent my paragraphs when exporting the text to Kindle. This example is but one of dozens I could list.
In 2015, Apple released its first computer with a “butterfly” keyboard, which Apple insisted was far superior to the traditional scissor mechanism (used on almost all other laptop computers). For years, Apple only released laptops with butterfly mechanisms. I happen to be partial to Macs, and when my old laptop died, I purchased a new MacBook Pro in 2016. Not only did the butterfly keyboard break multiple times, but also it frankly hurt my fingers. The butterfly keys have little give, and typing on them is akin to tapping your fingers into a solid glass table. But why am I discussing this in an article about Scrivener, you might ask?
In early 2018, I sold my MacBook Pro and purchased a Lenovo Thinkpad with an excellent keyboard. I also purchased Scrivener 3 for Windows, though that version was not yet released. Fast forward nearly three years, and Scrivener 3 is STILL not released on Windows. Scrivener’s developers are kind enough to allow users to download the regularly-updated beta version of the software for the past few years, so that is nice. However, as a software developer and product manager myself, I have rarely seen such massive incompetence as displayed by the developers of Scrivener 3 for Windows.
And yet… I love using Scrivener. I love how the software allows me to organize my book however I please. I adore the compile function, which can export my novels in a dozen formats with near infinite flexibility. I enjoy the full screen typewriter mode, which eliminates distraction and keeps my text centered on the screen. I prize the ability to work across my computers, iPhone, and iPad by syncing my work to Dropbox. I even sympathize with the minuscule team of developers who work hard to deliver such a sophisticated tool into the hands of imaginative authors.
At the end of the day, there’s no other writing software that provides Scrivener’s combination of versatility and value. If you’re prepared to invest time and patience into Scrivener, you’ll be rewarded, but if you seek simplicity, you’ll find only frustration.