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Author Topic: [First look] Scrivener Beta 017 - Mini-Review  (Read 7225 times)
tomos
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« on: March 05, 2011, 05:00:27 AM »

Basic Info

EDIT / NOTE: this is a review of the Beta as of 2011-03-05. Version 1 for Windows is now released (Nov 2011)

App NameScrivener (for Windows) [Beta]
App URLhttp://www.literatureandl....com/scrivenerforwindows/
App Version Reviewed017 aka Beta 1.7 for Windows  [note: there is also a linux version available at the above link]
Test System SpecsDual core 2GHz, 2GB RAM (XP SP3)
Supported OSesXP, Vista, 7
Support MethodsForum, bugs can be reported per email (windows(at)literatureandlatte(dot)com.), or via the programme itself (menu: Help)
Upgrade PolicyUnknown. Beta valid for less than a month. Release price below.
Trial Version Available?Unknown
Pricing Scheme$40 full, $35 educational
dc donation Link Donate to support the site during the March fundraiser
Screencast Video URLembedded video towards the bottom of this post
Relationship btwn. Reviewer and Product none


Intro:

Scrivener is a tool for writers.
It's basically an rich text outliner with a very nice gui, and the ability to show/edit summaries of a folder's content (the corkboard), and of course the ability to export/compile all those entries as one document (images not supported)

It is still in beta. Initial impressions are good, but I have been able to crash it by importing an image (I have yet to see can I reproduce that), and I have found a bunch of minor bugs. In general it seems well behaved though and very usable.

In this "First-impressions" mini-review, I just want to give an overview of what the windows version can do (I'm not yet very familiar with the programme - so if I leave something major out please let me know!), and also how usable it is in current state. NOTE: this programme is new to me; I'm not familiar with the mac version beyond having seen a couple of video reviews.

There's a very good tutorial file comes with the app (menu: Help). It's defintiely worth working your way through it.



Tree on the left is called the "Binder".
~
Clicking on an entry in the tree (called a "document") will show it's text in the main pane (the editor).
For each entry, there is an associated "Indexcard"/"Synopsis". This is shown in the info pane as an indexcard. It  has the same title as the entry and you can also add a text/summary to the "card". You can see/edit this in the info panel on the right. Larger amounts of text will scroll within the "card".
~
Clicking on a Folder in the tree will display the famous Corkboard (see screenshot below). This board will show the Indexcards for the entries contained in that folder. These are also editable in this view thumbs up
Obviously this is a good place to work on an overview. Also note that sorting is always manual and that this can also be changed on the corkboard using drag n drop. In the tree it can be changed using keyboard (Ctrl+Arrow Keys) or drag n drop.



There are four views in the main pane:

  • Text Editor view (shot #1 above)
  • Corkboard (shot#2 above)
  • Outliner mode (shot#3 below), as the tree, but with columns for details which can also be seen in the info pane
  • "Evernote style" view of folder contents - this will show, at one time, the text of all the entries in the selected folder. Editable of course.
_____


_____

Other info:
  • full-screen/minimise-distractions mode, with "typewriter" scrolling (text moves up)
  • You can easily split entries
  • autosave (default is every 2 seconds)
  • good find & replace
  • folders in the tree can be easily converted to entries (with associated text) i.e. the tree/binder is an outliner
  • take snapshots of your entries/documents or of all the text and can roll back. [!] This didnt work for me - see "Bugs" below [/!]
  • You can have different files/"Projects" open - they open in new windows. You can drag n drop (copy) entries between windows thumbs up
  • dualpane vertical/horizontal
  • Collections (virtual folders) can be created by selecting multiple entries in the tree; via their context menu you can add them to an existing collection or to a new one. If you add them to a new collection, focus then goes to the collection. It's title can then be edited. They are automatically saved and can be displayed via menu: View>>Collections>>
  • add keywords - cannot handle more than single words in my attempts
  • ability to add footnotes (compiled as 'real' footnotes - or as endnotes) and annotations (can be excluded on compiling etc.) (Minor: these should be automatically formatted differently IMO, but arent)
  • "bibliography" was not mentioned in the tutorial
  • easy to add internal links to the text. I dont see how to add a url link to the text (!)
  • In the info pane for each entry, you can add references with url links, internal links or links to external files (I dont honestly know if these can be used when exporting/compiling)
  • Live Search - fast thumbs up
  • Projects/Files are saved in a folder with a .scriv suffix to the name. Takes me a while to get used to this - I keep looking for a file instead of a folder...
  • import: txt, doc/x (only with MS Office installed), RTF, PDF, html, Quicktime(?), image files. Text based files are converted to rtf
  • + AFAICS, anything with images contained must be imported into the "Research" folder
  • + you can import audio files and e.g. transcribe using dualpane layout to play the file (I tested with an mp3.)
  • You can export selected entries, with or without notes & metadata. Will be exported to a folder & will create a folder hierarchy with one file per Scrivener entry/document. Formats: see list below for compile. Buggy - especially PDF, but it mainly worked.
  • set a target wordcount - shows up to 100% in the statusbar (see first screenshot above) - no notification unfortunately though, then you have to check the actual wordcount to see if you over the limit.
  • colour code entries, this not implemented yet in the tree (due this weekend)
  • You can compile your project into one file (you can pre-set entries to exclude them from the compiled version - or deselect from a list when compiling, you can also change formatting universally - unless this is previously disabled for individual entries). Save as: RTF / TXT / DOC / PDF / PS / HTML / EPS / WMF / EMF / SVG / JPEG / TIFF / BMP / GIF / PNG / TGA / PCX / PCL (NOTE: I only tested RTF and PDF.) "It is expected that .EPUB or .MOBI e-book formats will be freely supported after the initial release"
______

Some compiling options:



Who is this app designed for:

Writers of any kind:

  • fiction
  • non-fiction
  • poetry & lyrics
  • scriptwriting (good keyboard support for changing "script element"/style)

there are various template files for the items in the list above.


The Good

For me, it's the attention to detail in the GUI, and the editable overwiew using the corkboard.
It's obviously a very evolved piece of software on mac so it's coming into being for Windows as a very mature programme. It's relatively easy to learn I found. Drag n drop is generally supported, including for import.


The needs improvement section

(Note currently in Beta)
~
Outliner pane shows the synopses (from the "indexcards") - which is great, but it shows the complete synopses, so long synopses really disrupt the outline overview.
~
copying an item via the tree or the outline pane (e.g. using Ctrl+drag-n-drop) is not possible (currently anyways).  
[!] What would really interest me, would be the ability to show an entry in two different locations, i.e. changes to the entry in one location would be reflected in it's other locations (in an ideal world, the related notes [info pane] could be different in different locations)
~
Related to above idea, virtual folders would be nice. Select items and save that selection for displaying, same as a normal folder could be displayed (you can select various entries and display them on the corkboard but this cannot be saved). The mac version has something called "Collections" which could be something like this but I cant find any info about it. This is already implemented embarassed I missed it smiley Select multiple entries in the tree; via their context menu you can add them to an existing collection or to a new one. If you add them to a new collection, focus then goes to the collection. It's title can then be edited. They are automatically saved and can be displayed via menu: View>>Collections>> This is great!
~
Creating a new file confused me initially. You have to add a name - logical, but first I noticed that the [create] button was greyed out, got distracted with thinking that was a bug, and didnt connect the two. Maybe that's a mac thing, Windows normally keeps the [save] button active.
~
Keyboard navigation between the different panes does not seem possible - or if so, not documented that I could find.
~
editable shortcuts would be great - or at least less unusual use of keys (e.g. "{") - I use a German layout keyboard and some of the shortcuts dont work e.g. media keys.
~
Current poll (till March 9th): from the forum:




NOTE: Version 019 has just been released (downloading as I write) with these improvements:

Bugs:
I have discovered a handful of bugs already (that dont seem to be reported in their forum) but none of them would stop me using it.
~
Snapshot ability seemed to work first time. On trying to rollback, it sensibly recommended I take a snapshot of current version - unfortunately the second snapshot seemed to replace the first (both exactly the same in the viewer) and restore to previous version didnt make any changes to the document.
~
Scratchpad had various minor bugs with transparency, and text not being readable when selected
~
Export was very buggy in my attempts, but it mainly worked.
~
I dont know if this a bug or not: I was unable to print an entry/document directly


Why I think you should use this product

It's not that I think you should, but I'd certainly recommend trying it though! It is very polished. In spite of the problems listed, it doesnt usually feel like a beta. I guess that's partly because of the maturity of the programme (via the mac platform), and also cause it's been in development for windows for around two years now. I think final release was initially planned for February, there is a beta version 18 that I couldnt find anywhere, beta #19 has just been released (March 5th - announcment & more info here).

I've personally been looking for an app where I can just add notes/ideas and link/connect them and gradually build up a network of items. I dont think this is that app for me (maybe if it gets those virtual folders...) embarassed now that I've discovered virtual folders (collections), this could be that app for me. If you have a topic and want to write an article, or something bigger, I think this would be very suitable thumbs up


How does it compare to similar apps

Not my strong point here...
40hz compares it to Storybook:
Note: You can get very similar functionality (plus some extra features) with a free open source app called Storybook available here.

Scrivener is not as Novel/Character/Scene orientated as I think Storybook or e.g yWriter are.
Page Four is comparable, but much more primitive (also not updated in a good while, 2009 I think)


Conclusions

this is a first look at a beta software. I have worked my way through the well made tutorial file (menu: Help) and tried things out, but I havent yet had time to really use the programme. So, I'll just conclude that I'm interested in continuing the relationship!


Links to other reviews of this application

2007 review from 43 folders

2007 review from D*I*Y Planner

here's an introductory video from the windows author:

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdwnHo23Ub8" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdwnHo23Ub8</a>



[edit] added info about collections (virtual folders) [/edit]
« Last Edit: November 22, 2011, 02:31:13 PM by tomos; Reason: note that version #1 has been released » Logged

Tom
tomos
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« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2011, 05:02:26 AM »

[reserved]
in case I try a linux install cheesy (it is also available for linux)
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Tom
Ath
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« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2011, 06:40:08 AM »

Thank you tomos, for this fine [First look], very well done!
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cranioscopical
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« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2011, 08:37:11 AM »

That's an interesting read, Tomos.
It might be a 'mini' review but I bet it took a fair amount of time.

In general, this approach appeals to me.
It's not an in-depth "I know everything" expert review but a much more relaxed stroll around the features.
You point out areas that are worth examining in any trial of my own, that's a useful starting point.

There's more than enough here for me to decide whether or not I'm sufficiently interested in Scrivener to invite it onto the dance floor.
Now I'm off to polka round with it.


[I'm allocating some credits to the site, as you suggested.]
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Chris
tomos
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« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2011, 10:47:59 AM »

thanks for the 'votes'

@Chris, I reckon there's pros & cons to doing a "review" this way.
This was actually very time-consuming cause I had to familiarise myself with the programme from scratch - luckily they had this great tutorial file so I could learn within the programme and try everything out along the way.

I'm usually the sort of user who just dives in there and ignores tutorials, after this I can see the benefits of the tutorial approach - I always knew there would be benefits to tutorials but I seem to have some kind of psychological barrier there embarassed  
Just diving in there you can miss out on some great aspects of a programme...

If I had been using the programme a while, this review would have been less labour intensive I believe.

OTOH first impressions are helpful, in the sense that, if I was already very familiar with the programme I might no longer notice if some aspect were implemented in a quirky way.

And finally thanks for the credits and those for the site thumbs up
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Tom
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« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2011, 10:48:23 AM »

Nice review tomos, thank you. I'll be pointing a few people in its direction.
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40hz
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« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2011, 12:43:52 PM »

Very nice review tomos.  Thmbsup and +1 w/Crainioscopical on the style you used.

Also wanted to say (now that I've had more experience with Scrivener) that I agree with you that my earlier comparison of it to Storybook isn't all that accurate.

While there are functional similarities between the two programs, the underlying "vibe" and workflow is quite different. Storybook has a definite approach in mind. Scrivener is more easygoing and less "in your face." Storybook challenges you to buckle down. Scrivener invites you to play.

I haven't tried the NIX version yet. But I intend to since multi-platform is a major plus for me and anyone else who straddles two or more operating systems.

Very cool app with a lot to like - and some serious under-the-hood power. With luck, this just might be the one app I can eventually standardize on for all my writing tasks. If it weren't for Scrivener still being in beta, I might have done so already.
 smiley

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Don't you see? It's turtles all the way down!
tomos
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« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2011, 04:39:35 PM »

thanks timns & 40hz!

if you've actually installed it and had a look, it would be worth looking at this post in their forum 24TH FEB - LEE'S UPDATE - BETA 1.7 IS HERE. It gives a list of new features for this beta.
I see that collections have been implemented, yes, they are virtual folders, AND they are automatically saved thumbs up (I had looked at this post before I installed it, but it didnt mean much to me then...)

Select multiple entries in the tree; via their context menu you can add them to an existing collection or to a new one. If you add them to a new collection, focus then goes to the collection. It's title can then be edited. This is good!


[edit] there's also a 'visual' roadmap in that post link there [/edit]
« Last Edit: March 05, 2011, 04:56:15 PM by tomos » Logged

Tom
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« Reply #8 on: November 22, 2011, 11:03:52 AM »

Thank you, tomos, for this very helpful review - like the style, also - much appreciated. [ smiley :Thmbsup:Sending some creditz.
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tomos
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« Reply #9 on: November 23, 2011, 08:30:46 AM »


^ thanks Lindzus thumbs up
I added a note to the review about version 1 having been released
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Tom
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« Reply #10 on: January 22, 2012, 09:22:09 AM »

Are there any DCF members who have been using Scrivener since the Windows v1.0 was released and would they be able to comment on their experiences with using it?
I am considering trialling the thing - after surveying the market for a while - but would like to build on other users' experiences if possible, rather than starting from the ground up.

@tomos: Belated thanks for kicking off your review of this. Very informative.    Thmbsup
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