Scrivener 3 – An Honest Review

Srivener 3 screenshot

Is Scrivener 3 any good?

Readers of these posts will be aware I’m a great fan of Scrivener as a writing tool. Whether you are writing novels, short stories or non-fiction, it enables detailed planning and has a really good system of structuring folders, text, research and notes. The writing target options help keep track of progress on a document by document and on a project basis (Scrivener 3 even allows targets on a session basis, to keep you at the task).

Because of all this, it’s never been a quick system to learn, though there are lots of videos and massive assistance on the web, but, in my opinion, it’s worth sticking with for the benefits to writing. I’ve written six novels using Scrivener and my biggest regret is I didn’t have it as a tool when I was writing reports and non-fiction guides – it would have been invaluable.

Mac users have always had the advantage of a wider range of features than in the Windows version, so it was with great excitement when an update, to be called Scrivener 3 for Windows, was announced. The birth has been long and arduous, I guess for developers as well as users, but we now have full commercial availability. A trial version is free to download on the Literature and Latté website.

As I’ve said, it wasn’t ever a quick program to learn, and the developers have struggled trying to marry what’s possible in Mac with what’s possible in Windows, so users of the earlier version will see a completely different screen layout (see below) and this could be daunting. I’m not sure this will be a problem if someone is coming at it new.

Scrivener 3 new screen layout

There are still, unfortunately, lots of hidden features which need mining of the menu system, and possibly searching through forums and Youtube, to unearth. So it ever was. I have to say, I’ve never found the in-built Scrivener manual to be enlightening.

There are new features in Scrivener 3 for Windows, (listed on the Literature and Latté site here) particularly the ability to work with metadata, and the whole layout looks a lot cleaner when you get used to it. I assume this is due to replicating the Mac. It’s also possible to change how it looks if you don’t like the default but, personally, I do.

The biggest headache is the redesigned Compile function. And it’s not just me saying this, the forums are full of complaints and confusion. Compile has always been a bit confusing, in that it takes the layout you’ve used to produce the document, then rejigs it for final production and this needs tweaking to get the result you want.

However, in Scrivener 3, it seems much more complex – even though the changes are intended to make it simpler. I’m afraid I can’t offer any solutions at present – I’m trying to write, rather than being distracted into the dark depths of compiling before I have to. I’m confident, from past experience, there will be help out there when I get to that point.

STOP PRESS: What has become clear, to me at least, is that the compiling is a bit counter-intuitive to users of Microsoft Word – In Scrivener 3 for Windows you can basically write in any paragraph structure, font or size you want in your manuscript, then set your styles and formatting at the end. There are now several good videos out there (like the one from Writer’s Territory, so the journey shouldn’t be too rough.

My verdict? Scrivener is great, and remains great in the new version, but the transition may not be an easy ride.

One response to “Scrivener 3 – An Honest Review”

  1. I have used this software for a couple months now and I absolutely hate it and for good reason. You cannot format text like you can in a free word processor like Open Office or in paid software like Word. They like to say you can but I’m here to tell you that you can’t. Forget formatting lists in this garbageware. Scrivener 3 will format it as it sees fit and you will like it and just for fun, Scrivener will format it completely different under the exact same settings the next time you want a list. The format font is courier or Times and good luck trying to change that. Oh, you can change it alright, but it won’t matter as every new line you type will be in the Scriver 3 font – not the one that you set and have been using for the rest of the document OR in the defaults settings which you changed originally. No, Scrivener 3 will type in the font it chooses – either Courier or Times and you will like it. Fake reviews and YouTube videos tell you to set up your styles in the “styles” pallet but good luck getting Scrivener to actually set the style consistently in the style you saved in the palette. Ultimately, you will be fighting formatting constantly.

    There are no functions for increasing or decreasing indent unless you want to go back to using the tab key constantly and if you do this in a list? Fugitaboutit. Scrivener 3 will remove the line from your list altogether as it assumes you didn’t want it there anymore anyway. How kind of this awful vomitware. Try to set the margins on Scrivener like you would on ANY free or paid word processing software. Go ahead, I’ll wait…can’t figure it out? That’s because you can’t do it. Scrivener 3 will set your margins as it sees fit and you will like it. Yes, the YouTube ladies will tell you that you can but good luck getting Scrivener to consistently set them and leave them. You’ll be fighting page setup constantly with this software. How about leading on the text or “line spacing” as many word processors call it? Can’t do that either. The whole document defaults to this weird 1.5 line spacing which is nearly impossible to change and keep changed. You’ll be fighting line spacing for your entire document.

    This is an absolute travesty of an experience, I’ve never hated software this much since I was forced to switch to Apple Final Cut Pro X from version 7 in 2014. Scrivener is trying to be smart about all the ridiculous carnival features it thinks you would actually use and in reality, none of its developers have ever tried to write a long form project using their own software…that is obvious. I could go on and on about the failure to process inserts like tables and pics and how these are a nightmare to format in your work or how you can’t just add page breaks in a given paperback format or how you have to “complie” and can’t just print/export but that would be another two paragraphs. Suffice it to say, Scrivener 3 sucks and I highly recommend you avoid it at all costs. Currently there are still no decent alternatives to Word and maybe thats the idea behind this awful idea?

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