Scott D. Parker
Today I want to talk about piece of technology that was years in the making but well worth the wait.
For many writers who use the Macintosh, it is quite possible that Scrivener is their word processor of choice. This writing program, which came out in 2007, is, in this writer’s opinion, nothing less than the best writing program available. What makes Scrivener unique is that your document is not one long file. Instead, it is broken down into individual components that are compiled into a final format. This makes it easy to change items in multiple places as opposed to working with one 400-page document. The multitude of other features—including a virtual corkboard with index cards, being able to export to just about any file format, and a bunch of other features that I frankly don’t use too often—make Scrivener all but essential for professional writers.
But the one drawback has been a dedicated iOS app. Up until this summer, there were only certain programs that you could sync with Scrivener. One of them is my favorite notetaking app, Simplenote. But even though Simplenote was able to sync its contents directly into Scrivener on the Macintosh or into the Simplenote app on my iPhone, it was never meant to be the place where you actually wrote content. I always used this synchronization feature for the brainstorming sessions, the research part of a novel where I would write out the beats and the scenes and the character descriptions. This was an effective workaround, but it was still a workaround. My on–the–go writing process was to use Google Docs. This process included me writing on the Macintosh in Scrivener, copying the newly written text into my Google Docs file, writing on my iPhone or my iPod touch in Google Docs, coming back home, and then copying and pasting the new text back into Scrivener. It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t. The only issues I ever encountered were is when Google Docs wouldn’t sync with itself and I would actually get some missing text every now and then. But that was the way I worked.
The day before we took our trip to Big Bend Texas, the good folks at Literature and Latte released the scrivener for iOS app. They must’ve heard all the grumbling from dedicated Scrivner users who were pining for an iOS app. They kept users software as up-to-date as possible with the progress of the iOS app development, but the nuances of the program, the iOS environment, and how users interacted with the app both made the process delicate. But all that waiting is now over. Scrivener for iOS is magic. I have only had a smart phone for about three months now and some of the features still seem like magic to me. Scrivener iOS app is one of those.
Seamless. Invisible. Those are two words that come to mind when I think of working with the Scrivener for iOS. Now my process is much more streamlined. I write in Scrivener on the Mac. When I launch the iOS app, it asks me if I want to sync the content. Click sync now. The iOS app then reads the Scrivener file, which is stored in Dropbox, and determines what is updated. Within, say, 10 seconds or less, the app is ready for writing. Then, I simply open up the last working file, and move forward. All of my segmented chapters are available. All of my research notes and the scene breakdowns are available. And perhaps the best feature of all is when I need to go back to an earlier scene and put in a detail that only came to my mind after I had passed that point. In my old system, I would only keep a note in the Google Docs file but didn’t bother going and adding the new content in the Google Docs file. It was just too much of a hassle. Now, it is, well, seamless. When I open the Scrivener file on the Macintosh having worked on the file on the iPhone, there is no sync involved. All the new content is simply there. All the magic technology gets out of the way, and what I’m left with is simply writing. It is a dream app. It may have taken them years to develop this piece of software, but it was so worth the wait.
The price is $20. For some people, that’s probably a deal breaker. Not for me. The retail price of the Macintosh software is $40, and I would have been willing to shell out an equal amount to get this iOS app. What’s even better is that the main Scrivener file in Dropbox also works on my PC. Yes, I have all three versions. That is how much I like this piece of software. The only thing I’d like to add to the Mac/PC versions is the ability to dictate directly into the program via Dragon NaturallySpeaking.
So if any of y’all are wondering what software to buy and use on your iPhone or iPod touch, I cannot recommend Scrivener for iOS highly enough. It has increased my productivity and made the craft of writing as straightforward as possible. Nothing stands in my way of writing a good story. Well, other than time, and there’s never enough of that, is there?
Here's the overview video.