Scrivener – A Game Changer for Writers

Despite what some say, I like Microsoft Word. Last year after hearing some good feedback from my university cohort, I decided to try a different word processor called Scrivener. This has been a game changer for writing my PhD thesis and this post explains why.

I should mention that I do own a Windows and Mac license, which I purchased myself after trialling the software. I have not been paid or sponsored to write this nor am I affiliated with Scrivener (or the company, Literature and Latte) in any way. I’m also not going to go into too much depth about all the features of Scrivener, as the website and the tutorial videos are pretty explanatory. The YouTube video below provides an overview, and there is a link to the website at the end of this post. Instead, I aim to highlight what I like and dislike about Scrivener and why I think all writers (academic or non-academic) should give it a whirl!

To add a bit of context I’m probably not a typical user – depending on where I am and what I am doing I switch between a Windows laptop, Windows PC and an Apple Mac. Being able to open documents on each of these devices and pick up where I left off is critical for me. I’m also used to trying out different pieces of software and it doesn’t often take me a long time to become familiar with something new. I’ve got some technical writing experience, so I often approach writing projects with a specific structure in mind (an almost single-sourced methodology).

I should also add that I’ve also not completely abandoned using Word. It still has a place and Scrivener doesn’t replace Word. Instead I use Scrivener for a very specific use case, which is writing my PhD thesis.

For me, writing is a very iterative process where you find yourself going in a cycle; writing, editing and if you’re anything like me, rearranging. In Scrivener, it is a lot easier to see the structure of your writing as a whole and if you want to quickly split sections up and drag and drop them into other areas you can. Now I know you can do this in Word, but I don’t find the process as straightforward as it is in Scrivener.

What is an absolute game changer for me is the on-screen notes section and the research area. These two combined allow me to not only have notes on the screen alongside my writing but also store research memos, ramblings, images and links to useful literature and websites in the research area. I like switching between viewing my writing as one long document to only seeing specific sections. I have a habit of heavily editing my work before it’s finished, so this helps me focus on specific areas without too much temptation to scroll back up to a previous page.

I also really like being able to export specific sections of my work at a time. This is really helpful because I often work on different sections at a time. Rather than having to copy and paste Chapter 1 into another document and send this to my supervisor, I can just export that from Scrivener and send it straight away, without touching the rest of the document.

I didn’t find it too difficult to move my thesis into Scrivener and after watching the tutorial videos I felt quite comfortable using the software. Some people might find it a bit of a learning curve, but it really is worth preserving.

It’s not all rainbows and butterflies though. The spellcheck/grammar check is not as good as Word – I find it doesn’t always pick up spelling mistakes and on my mac it doesn’t automatically run on it’s own. I’ve also found that when I switch between my mac and my Windows laptop, the formatting and fonts often get jumbled up. This might have something to do with the default fonts on Windows vs mac, but it is extremely annoying to have to reformat everything again. While these are irritating bugs, they don’t bother me enough to stop using it.

In summary, Scrivener really does allow you to keep everything in a single place, which is easy to access and organise. Scrivener has a really generous trial period, which I personally found really useful, so if you think Scrivener might be for you, there really is no excuse not to give it a try. If you like Scrivener, it’s comparatively priced and they offer an educational discount which doesn’t break the bank.

References

Scrivener | Literature & Latte. (2019). Retrieved from Literatureandlatte.com website: https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener/overview

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