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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.

bvdeenen's picture

Dream program idea: hack of OpenOffice


I have the same dream program; I've often thought about thoroughly hacking OpenOffice.org, and just removing all the junk:

  1. styles are mandatory; everything is styled only via the associated stylesheet.

  2. pictures are placed "as character".

  3. dtd like structure (maybe docbook like) is enforced.

I like Lyx a lot, but find it's output too limited (basically only pdf/ps). Customers often want/demand .doc files. I also find formatting to my preferences impossible.

For large documentation I've tried these:

  • manual docbook + dsssl stylesheets. Pros: very good integration with our version control systems. Cons: Impossible to have a mental image of the document while editing. drowning in angle brackets. Hard to format output to my liking. Hard to output .doc files

  • XMetal. Docbook editting with some stylesheets for the looks. Same pros and cons, except better overview while editing

  • Word: Cons: has absolutely no structure. styles are optional and often problematic. Documents get corrupted, especially when using multi documents

  • Restructured Text: Pros: very simple nonintrusive tagging of plain text Cons: output layout impossible to control. Loose overview of documentation, really only for small documents

  • OpenOffice Same as Word really, except it's less likely to corrupt your document, and the document navigation works much better.

I find this idea of using OpenOffice.org as the basis for a real writers tool intriguing, I wonder if I'll ever get around to implementing it.




An Oblique Strategy:
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