First Impressions: Scrivener for Windows

I am just settling in to my first week of actual real work using Scrivener for Windows. I’ve written my last six books either wholly or partially in Scrivener for the Mac but over the past couple of years I have found myself drifting away from Apple’s machines and onto Windows and Linux. Scrivener was pretty much the only thing keeping me on OSX and I am wondering whether the Windows version will make it possible to cut the cord.

I am approaching all this with some trepidation since I am paranoid about things like losing work because of software bugs. Such things mean a very real loss of time and income. Nonetheless I have decided to bite the bullet and work solely in Windows for a month. It’s early days yet so all I can give you are my initial impressions.

First up, this is quite definitely and recognisably Scrivener. The keyboard shortcuts are not the same but the interface is. Most of the features are there too. Indeed there are more features on this version than there were on Scrivener v1 on which I wrote many of my books. It is not quite as lovely or as polished as the Mac version, and I suspect it is still a little bit less stable although that is just an impression I picked up looking at the bug fixes in the updates! I have not had any problem with the software itself, except for activating it on my second machine, of which more later.

For the those of you who have not read my previous ravings about Scrivener, it is, in my humble opinion, quite simply the best software ever for composing novels on. It has a superb interface that allows you to write in discrete chunks such as scenes. Every scene gets its own file. You can move around in any way you like. Each scene can have a synopsis attached and notes and a mass of meta data. Scrivener allows you to view the scene as part of an outline, as a file card or as itself. You can also clip together a number of scenes and view them altogether. This is known as Viewing Scrivenings. It sounds clumsy but it works beautifully.

A side-effect of this process is that gives you a word count of all the components. You can tag scenes in any way you like. The View Scrivenings feature also allows you to clip together the scenes via the meta-data, a process I am making sound a whole lot clunkier than it is. For example, let’s say you have tagged your scenes by point of view, by date and/or by location. This feature  allows you to view all of the scenes from that point of view or date or location in order. You could even view all of the scenes from the point of view of a certain character that take place in that location on that date. This is very useful if you write, as I do, books with multiple storylines told from multiple points of view.

Scrivener also allows you to track which draft of the story you are on. It allows you to take snapshots of any or all of your text so you can revert back to a previous version if your revisions turn out to be misguided.

The program tracks your word counts for the project and for the day and has a handy progress bar so you can see where you are. The Windows version is not quite so sophisticated as the current Mac version but it allows me to see how I am doing and that is the main thing.

It has a superb, clutter free, no distractions Full Screen View which cuts everything down to the basics and lets you get on with just writing.

One of the simplest yet cleverest features of all is the way it separates your writing from your formatting. You can set up the editor view so that it reflects the way you want to work at the level of zoom you want to use. In my case, Cambria 12 point at 1.2 line spacing at 200% zoom and that’s what you’ll see when you work. When your ready to send your manuscript in Scrivener will compile it into a different format, lets say 12 point Times New Roman double-spaced for your editor. It will even compile it into an eBook for you if you like which can be uploaded to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.

You can import all manner of documents and pictures into your Scrivener file so you can keep your research in one place.

I could go on but you get the picture—pretty much anything I could ask of a program when I am writing Scrivener can do well—and not just well, elegantly, and with the minimum of fuss. Anyway, as tends to happen to me when I talk about Scrivener I have gotten carried away. I was giving you my first impressions.

So far everything I have tried has worked. As I’ve said it’s not quite as lovely or as polished as the Mac version but that’s to be expected. The Mac version has had more than half a decade of polishing and I find the Windows interface less visually appealing  in many ways than OSX.

And there’s the last bit, the problems. Literature and Latte, the developers have a superb and friendly support forum and they are both fast and responsive. I had a problem installing Scrivener for Windows on my Acer Travelmate. It was two o’clock in the morning. I shot them an email before I went to bed. They had a solution back to me when I got up the next morning. Now, that’s customer service.

Anyway, hopefully in a month or two I will have something useful to report.

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