Scrivener: A Better Word Processor for Writers

When I first started using Scrivener, I was skeptical. I thought, What can this do that I can’t already do in Microsoft Word? I’m a true cheap skate, and the idea of spending $45 on a program that was basically the same as a program I already had seemed silly.


Photo by Haris Awang (creative Commons). Modified by The Write Practice.

However, I couldn’t argue with the people who recommended it. Seth Harwood, a novelist I admire, said, “I use Scrivener for writing my novels and a MacBook. I used to use Word, but literally I can’t imagine how I’d write a novel without Scrivener now… There’s nothing that can match Scrivener’s chapter view for seeing where the book has gone and is going.”

So I bought it.

And I’m not going back to Microsoft Word any time soon.

Here’s what I use Scrivener for:

1. Capture More Story Ideas

Scrivener ResearchFor two years, I’ve been doing research for a novel. Nearly every day I read something interesting pertaining to the story, or get a phrase to write down on a napkin, or see a picture on Pinterest that reminds me of one of my characters.

In the past, I had a hard time capturing all those ideas into one, organized place. I had dozens of Word documents strewn around on my computer with snippets of text. I had piles of napkins and scraps of paper all over the house.

Scrivener made all that go away. Now I have one document to capture all my ideas in, whether they’re pictures, snippets of text, links to articles, or quotes from a novel.

I couldn’t have done that with Word.

2. Structure Your Book

Scrivener organization for writersI’ve worked on five book projects with Scrivener, and I’ve been impressed with how much easier it is to stay organized, especially between chapters and sub-chapters.

I’ve had people ask me whether I create separate Word documents for each chapter, and now I say, “Not anymore!” Scrivener lets me keep all my chapters separated but easily accessible, which is convenient when working on a big project.

3. Boost Your Productivity

Scrivener also allows you to create word count goals for each section. So if you need to write five more chapters of at least 1,000 words, Scrivener lets you input each goal and see how close you are to achieving them at a glance.

I love word count goals. They keep me so motivated!

4. Get Published!

Scrivener’s advanced “compile” feature allows you to quickly format your book into publish-ready PDFs, into eBooks, like ePub and mobi (for Amazon Kindle), which you can publish directly to services like Kindle Direct Publishing and Barnes & Noble, and even into documents for agents and publishers.

This can be a huge boost to efficiency. Plus, you don’t have to learn how to convert to all those formats yourself!

Scrivener is a Better Word Processor for Writers

Scrivener can be installed on Macs and PCs. You can purchase it and download it here.

All in all, Scrivener is better than Word for writers. If you’re having a hard time writing large projects with Word, it’s time for an upgrade.

More Articles About How to Use Scrivener

Interested in learning more about how to use Scrivener? Here are more resources:

Do you use Scrivener? What do you like about it? What other word processors do you use for your writing? Let us know in the comments.

(Some of the links above are affiliate links.)

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  • This is so weird. I have been so scattered with Word. I have segregated chapters for a book I’m writing and it has become one hot mess. Just yesterday, I wondered if Scrivener might help me get my act together. I just may do this.

    • Yep. Organizing chapters is the worst with Word. You’ll be so much happier, Susan. I say do it.

      • Thanks Joe. One concern: Is it as helpful with creative nonfiction, do you think?

        • It’s useful for anything you’re writing, but especially for long form where you have lots of material to organize. I’m sure that your non-fiction involves research, no matter how creatively you write. You can organize and store all your research — in any file format — right there with the manuscript you’re using the research for.

          • Karen Clark

            Susan, I highly recommend using Scrivener. Be patient with yourself re learning its features (there’s a lot). But it is so useful for organizing everything in one spot AND finding everything.

    • Me, too. I have so many folders and sub-folders for my WIP, and tips I’ve copied and pasted from other writing sites. I’m hoping I’ll be able to copy/paste them into Scrivener if I decide to buy it.

  • LanceJZ

    I use Google Docs.

    • Google Docs is online, right? I don’t like everything I write being out there in cyberspace. I’ve been getting a lot of emails from other authors about piracy and their copyrighted works being stolen online. Not something I want to take a chance with. Not that I’m that good, but I put a lot of work into it.

      • You don’t have to make it public, but at the same time you can collaborate very easily with someone else.

        However as a novel tool it’s NO COMPARISON to Scriv.

      • LanceJZ

        I don’t like idiots on the internet, yet there they are.

  • I use ywriter. I like the chapter and scene approach and how I can write info about characters, locations and items and use images as a reference.

  • jlifesaver

    I have just discovered PageFour and I am in love with it’s simplicity and layout. I have been using it for free on trial and managed to complete about five chapters. I can not see any reason, right now, that I would not purchase it after trial runs out.

  • Everyone in my writers group but me uses Word. So I’m forced to too for critiquing their work. For myself, I use Scrivener. So almost every day I have opportunity to compare them. Not only can Scrivener perform so many functions Word can’t, it does them quickly, simply, elegantly, opening my 112,000 word novel in under 6 seconds on a 4 year old MacBook Air.

  • kim

    never trried it looking forward to a free version

  • John Smith

    I just use Evernote. It’s free, accessible online, and syncs to my mobile device.

    • I too use Evernote–for keeping notes forever. Its search functions are amazing. I squirrel away everything from one-liners to doctoral dissertations, to complex websites; and years later I can find them quickly, without stress. But it’s not designed for manipulating and organizing that material into long manuscripts or for formatting the manuscripts for publication. When I’m about to undertake a large project, I pull up and study the stuff I need in Evernote. And I noodle around with ideas in Evernote. Then all the relevant Evernotes notes go into my new Scrivener project under research and I begin taking the notes I’ve been noodling and sketch out a rough outline of the manuscript–either chapters and scenes/beats for novels or Parts, chapters, subsections for non fiction books. Scrivener has many functions that help you rewrite, revise. And most users find its ability to export to all the different ebook formats more than acceptable.

  • Kiky

    I started using LaTex: having linux, I find it more practical to write notes on notepads on my pendrive, all in the book directory. Then I thought that I could just write the story on a notepad (I use Geany, which counts words, among other features) and in the end, while editing, write the LaTex preamble around it. I never thought about writing each chapter in a different file.

    • I used LaTex many years–actually many decades–ago, before anyone dreamed of What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get. It was perfect for typing economics papers filled with equations demanding exacting formatting. I’m assuming LaTex is wysiwyg now, but my guess is that it has nothing like the capacity for organizing material Scrivener has, although it probably excels in formatting for publication.

  • James Lloyd Edwards

    I use Scrivener a lot, but when I needed to format my book for Createspace, I used LibreOffice, and it did everything I needed.

  • JesseM

    A spread sheet program was my first computer tool (1985). I use dozens of notebooks for tracking everything: notes, email addresses, website logins, movie lists,….. I currently use Excel, Word, and Notepad. Used to be WordPerfect office with Quattro Pro. I will be again as soon as I can stop providing windows computer support.
    Excel can have as many tabs/pages as needed. They are used for outline, timeline, chapters, general notes, song lyrics,… I move to Word as needed. I have three notepad files always open for quick notes. Notepad does not indicate spelling an grammar errors, so less distracting. Excel does some auto correction but not like Word.
    I have spreadsheets with each tab for a different story. When an idea gets ready it is moved to Word. This way I have one document for dozens of ideas, songs, progrects, instead of dozens of small doc files.
    So, each story has a primary Word doc for each chapter, an Excel sheet for structure, data, notes, and a second Word file for cut/paste, notes. The notepad files are always open for whatever work I am doing. They get added to as ideas occur to me for any project/story, and transferred to the appropriate doc/SS as needed.
    I am starting to learn Fade In for screenplays. Researching screenplay formatting I found a description of Scrivener. Just in time. I am yearning for a new non-MS way of working.

    • Karen Clark

      I started my novel using Excel to gather all my research and to outline. I then went to Word. And I used bookmarking for all my website research. Now ALL of that can be done in Scrivener. I took Joseph Michael’s Scrivener course because the software is a bit hard to learn (lots of features). And I still use Evernote for my urls.

  • Rhûnellin

    The trial link is not working. 🙁

  • Karen Clark

    I love the Search feature. I use it to figure out where I first mentioned some plot point in my novel so I don’t repeat it. And I title every chapter by number AND by character (I use coloring but it’s doesn’t really help). I can then just look at the left column (binder) to follow my novel’s structure. Only thing I don’t like and haven’t figured out is why occasionally a chapter goes missing (happened twice).

  • Mis Isaksson

    To bad never good software for writers who use Linux users. So I entered the competition for nothing. Good luck to you all. It’s always the same crap.

    • David Nix

      Unfortunately, that’s one of the main barriers to adoption of Linux by many people. So much great software & games are incompatible with Linux. I love Linux and there is a lot of freeware out there for it, but I use windows these days because it fits what I need. As for Scrivener…. A wonderful program for a writer. I wouldn’t use anything else for anything longer than a page or two.

      • Mis Isaksson

        It’s pointless to say how wonderfull it is if I can’t use it. I wont ever use windows ever again I use Linux for so long now.
        And I know the program will not be available for Linux ever as it should be free then. As Linux is open source.

        • Mark Binner

          Hi Mis,
          If you use a Debian-based Linux, you are in luck. See this page for details:

        • Jill Alberts

          Scrivener For Windows runs great on Linux. Just run it within WINE or the user-friendly PlayOnLinux (both free).

          As Mark pointed out, there’s also a native Linux version. It won’t receive any more updates after the current version, but it’s totally free.

  • Jennifer Weisbloom

    I’ve used Scrivener for the past three years and find it the best software to use as a writer.
    Formatting is easier than using Word, Open Office, etc. for any market that(s) that you want your writing to appear in.
    Your research, photos, etc are right in front of your eyes.
    Everything is there for you, so you don’t waste time looking somewhere else for your research notes, they are right there.
    The best investment I ever made in writing software.

  • martaz

    I beta tested Scrivener for Windows, and took to it like a junkie. It helped me finish a novel that had been half-finished for years. Afterward, I do use Word (with SyleWriter, a fantastic grammar plug-in ) to check grammar, duplicated words, extra spaces, etc.– which Scrivener is not meant to catch– and simply to read it in another format before printing. But Scrivener is THE writer’s God.

    • Jennifer Weisbloom

      I use Grammarly with word.
      I find that Scrivener does not import Word very well. Maybe I’m not doing it correctly.

      • martaz

        I’m on Windows, and can import Word 2007 to the latest Scrivener with no issues– even italics and curly quotes– either as a direct import or an import & split

        You may want to contact Literature & Latte if you continue having problems, or peruse their Tech Support for Win or Mac

  • Jennifer Weisbloom

    I’ll contact support and see if they can help.

  • Thank you so much for this tutorial. I am impressed with what I’ve seen here. I currently have MS Word, which at times, drives me crazy. For instance, when trying to designate scene breaks with asterisks (3 of them centered between scenes) it makes it a dotted line all the way across the page and it cannot be deleted as it cannot be highlighted. It’s my computer and I want to be in control. Does Scrivener do this also? Also, MS Word occasionally decides where it wants to put paragraph indents and again, I need to be extremely tech savvy (not me!) to be able to figure out how to get the indent where it is supposed to be. If these issues are also a problem with Scrivener then I’m willing to spend the money to switch. I want a program that allows me to be in control of my writing.

  • Heidi Ferber

    This was a great manual. I am really excited to get the full length version. I learned so much in this ebook. Thank you so much for your teaching and advice.

  • stljo77

    At the moment I use Libre Office (successor to Open Office). Is there a Linux version of Scrivener?

  • Davidh Digman

    I have just acquired Scrivener for Linux and I am a convert!

    Brilliant program and it really does do all the things we’ve heard.