Last week I chronicled my ongoing search for the perfect Mac word processor. Writers choose their writing tools with a variety of experience, needs, and qualifications in mind, and that explains the wide variety and large number of tools.
Parallel to a good writing app or the perfect word processor is a writer’s system called Scrivener, which I’ve used for years because it manages projects far better than a mere notes app of even Microsoft Word. While my search for a perfect writing tool continues, Scrivener might be a nearly perfect writing system.
Stream vs. Details
What I expect of a Mac writing tool– Bean, Word, or anything in between– is the ability to stream words from my mind through keyboard to the screen without distraction. Word has too many tools that distract from the writing process, whether creative or research based. Yet, there’s an ongoing need for nearly every writer to organize thoughts, facts, snippets, quotes, and all the elements and components in a writing project.
It’s the disparity between the two that led me to Scrivener, and while it can be used as a word processor– there’s a built-in editor that is commendable and not overloaded with clutter and features– it’s really more of a digital writing system that enables not just writing, but effective organization and utilization of all the elements that go into the structure of writing.
Scrivener starts much like Pages. Templates.
Writing projects vary as much as writers and their tools but Scrivener helps get you started with useful and well formatted templates. They’re general, yes, but a good place to start.
Scrivener’s toolbar may seem a bit daunting because it’s not the usual array of word processor tools. But they are somewhat self explanatory to the point of being obvious. Only the workflow– which is flexible but needs to be user defined– will seem odd.
Everything in Scrivener is project-based, and all the tools flow into creating and managing a writing project. Once a template is selected then familiarity grows.
One aspect of Scrivener’s tool set is the Corkboard. I consider it a primary feature because it looks and works much like a real cork board, but managing virtual index cards is a pleasure because you never run out of room and re-organizing elements is easy as clicking.
Also built in to Scrivener is a full-featured outliner which expands and collapses as normal digital outliners, but works as a drag and drop tool to organize project components. Scrivener’s text editor is the basic writing component and looks and feels like a basic word processor, except you have quicker access to project elements, and it’s matched to the type of project you’re working on at the moment.
Any good word processor has statistical options and Scrivener has plenty, including target word count, session targets and counts, and much more.
Almost anyone who slings words for a living or personal pleasure will appreciate Scrivener’s Snapshots feature which makes it a breeze to go backwards in time to an earlier version of your document. And, yes, there’s fullscreen distraction free built into Scrivener so it’s 2016 buzzword compliant.
Is this the perfect word processor? Certainly not. But it might be a nearly perfect writing management system because it helps to maintain and organize all the components which go into a project or document, and that’s one feature which escapes most Mac word processors. There’s a try-before-you-buy option, and if you’re wedded to Windows there’s a version of Scrivener for the dark side, too.