An Honest Review of Scrivener 3

Readers of these posts will be aware I’m a great fan of Scrivener as a writing tool. 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 five 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’re now at something called the ‘Release Candidate’ stage i.e. it’s almost ready for full commercial availability. Free copies of the beta and RC versions have been, and are still, available for testing here.

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.

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, (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.

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

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