Scrivener is a novel-writing app (which is also usable for non-novel types of long-form writing) for macOS, iOS and Windows. It once had a beta version for Linux, but they ended up dropping it due to perceived low demand. It’s been around for an extremely long time, so is very well-known among the kinds of people who look into novel-writing apps. A lot of people swear by it.

I feel very familiar with this app. I think I must’ve used the NaNoWriMo trial about three years in a row in the late 2000s, as well as its standard 30-day trial (with enough OS reinstalls/new computers during that time that the software never twigged I’d already used up my trial, lol). I’ve also used its abandonware Linux version, and eventually the modern macOS version (enough that at long last, after years, I finally paid for it). It’s software that you pay for upfront, but I believe you have to purchase it separately for macOS, iOS and Windows. You can get it at a 20% discount as a NaNoWriMo participant, or a 50% discount if you win NaNoWriMo.

Its main appealing feature, according to me, is its “corkboard” view where you get to arrange your chapters/scenes (and scenes within chapters) as index cards, colour-coded if that helps for your project. You can write short descriptions on the index cards, making it really easy to outline your novel before you write it. An alternative app that I’ve used for this “index card” style of outlining, but not to write the novel itself, is Gingko.

Scrivener also has a versioning feature, where you can take a “snapshot” of a scene and keep it as a copy of how it was at that moment in time before you embark on further changes. You do need to remember to take the snapshot, though; there’s no auto-versioning (or at least wasn’t last time I used it).

It uses a rich-text editor, much like a word processor. Personally, I prefer Markdown to faffing about with fonts and margins and line spacing and all that crap. This is one of the two main reasons why I stopped using Scrivener, tbh. The other is that it wasn’t exactly easy to work on the same project across multiple devices. One of my computers runs Linux, so that was already a non-starter. The iOS app was going to cost extra on top of the not insignificant amount I already paid for the desktop app. You can technically open up your Scrivener project as a folder and see all your chapters as RTF files, but I’m always a bit wary of directly editing files that an app has created and might expect to have remained in the same state it was as last time the app was opened.

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