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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.

yesno's picture

When I say that I “use the

When I say that I "use the Finder" to organize project information, I just mean that I use the directory structure. This allows me to access and modify my data with any program, through spotlight, through the terminal, over a network share, etc. This seems to me to be far more flexible than keeping everything in a particular program's bundle, and it seems very different to me than using an all-in-one task-oriented program.

I appreciate the fact that it might not be Scrivener's fault that Pages and Word don't understand RTF footnotes. Nevertheless, I must use one of those programs at some point in my process. It would be great if I could just write in Scrivener and take care of only minor little details in a word processor. Unfortunately, even if footnotes ended up formatted correctly, the text that I end up with out of Scrivener is just flat.

As for some commnets below:

MultiMarkDown: I've tried using it to create structured, footnoted documents, with similar problems when exporting. I use TextMate & MarkDown for web writing and note-taking. But not for complex documents that have to end up as printed documents and PDFs.

It's great if you, as a writer, never have to worry about formatting, so it doesn't matter to you that RTF footnotes aren't read correctly, and styles are not used. Unfortunately, at my place on the totem pole, everything is my responsibility.

Ideally, I'd be smart enough to use LaTeX. I did for a while as an English major, after spending weeks getting the templates for MLA styling just right. Unfortunately, there are no templates that are even close to the kinds of documents I need to produce nowadays (that I can find), and I lack the chops to create my own. (And having to manage a separate font system than OS X's built-in fonts is kind of awkward.)




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