Scrivener: a word processor that makes you smile
It’s rare software makes people smile. Rarer still that it makes them want to hug their computer and never let go. Scrivener will do this, because Scrivener will change your life. And not half-heartedly, like having a child or getting married, but properly change it. It will open your head and spoon feed happiness directly to your brain. This will naturally make you more attractive, charismatic and fun. I confidently predict that by the time you’ve read this article and downloaded Scrivener you’ll be a 67% better person.
Bombast be damned, Scrivener is brilliant.
It’s a word processor. No wait, that’s like describing a waterfall as big, wet and noisy. Scrivener is a fundamental rethink of what a word processor should be. The idea is that instead of trying to plop all your text onto one page – like word diarrhoea on an endless sheet of literary loo roll – you create a series of smaller documents within Scrivener, then arrange these how you see fit, according to how you write.
Personally, I write random paragraphs whenever they occur, usually starting with a conclusion so I know where I’m going, followed by an astonishingly tasteless joke that will never be included, so I know what to avoid.
To each of these scraps you can attach tons of additional information, including notes, links to research and a synopsis of what’s going on in that chunk. Different viewing modes allow you to display these scraps as a single document, or view them as flashcards pinned to a corkboard –the synopsis showing for each – so you can instantly see if you’ve successfully led readers through your prose maze, or tossed them into a Kafkaesque abyss of conflicted meaning.
Research – including videos, text files, pictures and web pages – can be imported into the Research Section of Scrivener and opened within the program. These items can also be cross-linked to the individual scraps, so that opening the section that deals with tasteless jokes immediately leads off to an article on Manchester City… for example.
There’s loads more. Scrivener is a big, tasty word pie seasoned with great ideas. My favourite is the ability to set a word-count target, which then appears as a progress bar that creeps up as you work; nothing like a bit of software bullying to shame you into finishing a chapter. There’s also templates and tools for every sort of creative writing, from screenplays to poems, giving you a scaffold in which to assemble that masterpiece.
Scrivener does what the original Firefox did so many years ago. It takes something you thought you knew, and shows you how much better it could be. Even more impressive, it’s the work of a handful of people, which makes supporting it essentially the same as adopting an orphan, or rescuing a drowning kitten.
Scrivener has been knocking around for the Mac for ages, but it’s now in a free beta for lovely PC folk. I suggest you go play with it, and see how much happier your life could be.