Logophiliacs Rejoice! Scrivener 2.0 is Here

November 5, 2010

Logophiliacs: lovers of words — from the Greek logos for words and phileo for lovers of the brotherly kind.

I can’t promise you that a Greek linguist would say there is such a thing as a logophiliac, but I know there is such a thing as a lover of words. And right now, they are so blinded by their joy that they are willing to overlook my misappropriation of a language for a clever title. A rare kind of joy indeed.

highres-scrivener-logo.pngAnd why do they rejoice? They rejoice because of the arrival of Scrivener 2.0, the second coming of a writing app that might have a more loyal (and possibly more groomed) fan base than the Grateful Dead.

It’s no accident that Scrivener has been released this week, because it is the perfect writing app for the ambitious, and sequestered, masses who are undertaking NaNoWriMo this month — the quest to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Scrivener isn’t the only writing app of course. Two years ago, I compared the original Scrivener with StoryMill, and last year I followed up with a review of Ulysses. And now, we get to continue the trend with a look at Scrivener 2.0.

Like most of my favorite apps, Scrivener does a lot of things very well. But what it does best is give you a focused place to gather, organize, and craft your words into ideas. It is packed with tools to do this, but they stay out of your way until you need them letting you focus on the words most of all.

Beyond this focus on your words, Scrivener’s other greatest feature is it’s flexibility, being able to adapt to whatever kind of writing project you have in mind. I have three active projects I’m using Scrivener for right now: a developing outline for my presentation at WordCamp Austin next month, a multi-week teaching series I’m doing in our church community, and a longer form article that I’m slowly developing to submit to a magazine or share here. But I’ve also used it for writing research papers, an 8 week teaching curriculum, blog series, and a failed NaNoWriMo attempt a few years ago. (I’m not the only one, right?) Scrivener’s website has links to a number of case studies showing how others use it too: novelists, screenwriters, lawyers, and more.

Among the many new features and refinements in Scrivener 2.0, there are a few that hold the most promise for my workflow:

  • Full Screen view: The full screen view is not new in 2.0, but it offers news levels of customization. You can add your own background images, move the writing area to one side of the screen or the other, and bring up more display windows for reference or extra notes. Truth is, though, I don’t use the full screen mode as much, because I do so much of my focused writing on my iPad. And that brings me too:
  • Sync, sync, and more sync: I had gotten out of the habit of writing in Scrivener in recent months, mostly because I was capturing so many words on my iPad. But the sync features of Scrivener 2.0 make the workflow between the iPad and Scrivener almost seamless. My preference is syncing with an external folder in Dropbox, and editing or adding to my project with PlainText. I can pull out my iPad or iPhone anytime, and have immediate access to the drafts and research for any of the projects I mentioned above. This folder sync will also work with Elements or Notebooks. You can also sync your projects to SimpleNote or Index Cards.
  • Smart Collections: Smart collections are a convenient way to keep track of topics, characters, settings, or anything else that is spread across your document. You can assign drafts and research to a smart collection, or have them automatically show any documents that include certain words or phrases.
  • Page Preview: If you have to need to see how your words will appear on the printed page, a new page preview gives you a look so you can estimate length or gain motivation from a glimpse of how the final product might look.
  • Note Cards: The note cards now have a more free form option, so you can scatter and drag them around like loose cards on a desk top, rather than an aligned and ordered grid. But if you need alignment and order, you can still do that too

To get a good feel for all of these new features, and Scrivener overall, watch the helpful screen casts they have created. Thirty minutes spent reviewing some of those won’t make you a better writer, but it might lead you to thirty hours of developing your ideas in Scrivener. That will probably make you a better writer, but no matter what, it will be time well spent.

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