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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.

Ian Beck's picture

Journler vs. Scrivener

Journler and Scrivener are not really applications that deserve a direct comparison because they fulfill such different functions:

Journler is an excellent tool for keeping a diary/journal (it's original purpose), or just for collecting piecemeal information that you one day might want to use. I've used Journler on and off as a place to toss my story fragments and ideas that surface every now and again.

Scrivener, on the other hand, is focused on creating a single cohesive project. Although it has features that allow you to collect information similar to Journler, the things you toss into a Scrivener project are associated with only that project. If you're sticking text into Scrivener, then it's probably because you're trying to arrange it into a paper, presentation, novel, etc. and any MP3s or PDFs that you toss into the project are there for quick reference because they related directly to the project.

Journler is like the junk drawer where you just drop whatever random thing is on your mind, while Scrivener is the filing cabinet where you arrange things into logical groupings for later reference.

Off topic, I personally prefer Avenir (soon to be renamed StoryMill) for writing fiction. Scrivener's index card metaphor is cool and better for general use, but it's one of those programs that tries to include everything and the kitchen sink, which doesn't work for me (and I really dislike its lackluster annotations). Avenir is more structured, but if the structure makes sense to you then I think it actually is more effective at keeping you focused on writing. If you're looking for software to help you in your writing, definitely try both.




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