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NYT Magazine covers Scrivener, other OS X writing apps

An Interface of One’s Own

I was delighted to see my favorite OS X writing app, Scrivener, turn up in today's "The Medium" column of the New York Times Magazine. I reviewed Scrivener about a year ago, and still use it whenever I have to research, plan, and draft anything more complicated than a blog post. In fact, as luck would have it, I was actually working on my upcoming Macworld talk in Scrivener when I took a break to read the paper and saw this article. Kismet or something.

Columnist, Virginia Heffernan, notes the app's beloved full-screen capability:

To create art, you need peace and quiet. Not only does Scrivener save like a maniac so you needn’t bother, you also get to drop the curtain on life’s prosaic demands with a feature that makes its users swoon: full screen. When you’re working on a Scrivener opus, you’re not surrounded by teetering stacks of Firefox windows showing old Google searches or Citibank reports of suspicious activity. Life’s daily cares slip into the shadows. What emerges instead is one pristine and welcoming scroll: Your clean and focused mind.

High fives to other great apps mentioned in the article, including Ulysses, WriteRoom, and Nisus Writer. Slightly lower fives go to Microsoft Word, which, once again, takes its usual drubbing as The Application Everyone Wants To Get Away From™. Poor Microsoft Word, the mascara-smeared Gloria Swanson of word processors.

In the year since I wrote my own review of Scrivener, I still find myself relying heavily on it for housing the research, braindumps, and very early draft shapes of most longer pieces I do. Falling somewhere between OmniOutliner, DevonTHINK, and the aforementioned WriteRoom, Scrivener is still, in my opinion, the go-to app for all-in-one research and writing.

As ever, YMMV. This app is absolutely not for everyone (especially if you don't have the need for lots of complicated research and organizational hooks), but if you struggle to find a writing environment that maps to the way your own writing brain operates, I still highly recommend checking out the free Scrivener download.

AmberV's picture

The dream program for me

The dream program for me would be a standard word processor, but one that REQUIRES the use of styles for all text. No free-form. No manually applying and formatting, ever. Add a mode for easier drafting/rearranging/outlining and good full-screen, and I’d be very happy.

Same here! I find Scrivener with MultiMarkdown is pretty close to this idea. Next in line would be LyX, which is a fully semantic word processor. LyX isn't as good for creative writing though, in my opinion. It lacks the outline organisational features, full screen, and Edit Scrivenings mode.

The nice thing about MultiMarkdown is that it is very easy to modify with a little learning. You can use or create a converter which will take the semantic markings and turn them into other word processor formats, as long as those word processors are using open formats, naturally. MMD is just a simple way to make XML out of something very human readable. Going from standard XML (in the form of XHTML) to other formats is often very easy. By default though, it produces very beautiful PDFs, using pdflatex.

The potential of a semantic XML format, coupled with Scrivener's creative tools are a potent combination. Not for everyone of course, but I do think it is the way of the future. I hope anyway. I'm tired of proprietary formats and data going obsolete in a decade.




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