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Scrivener

This brilliant piece of sofware makes Word look like a stone-age tool

Scrivener

Image: Hugh Threlfall

December 16 2011
Jonathan Margolis

I recently bought the 2011 Mac version of Microsoft Office. I only use Word, but I do so all day, so it’s best to have the latest; plus the heinous “Ribbon” feature in Word 2008 was getting just too irritating. There are nice new features in Word 2011, and the Ribbon can be hidden, so hats off. Followed, sadly, by hats on again.

The bugs were soon creeping out like woodlice. The program crashes continually. And just as in Word 2008, documents keep slipping out of language gear; you set UK English as default, then wonder why it’s red-lining familiar words, only to find that it has reverted to “no specified language” mode.

There are ingenious new tortures, too. First, it started scrunching up random parts of the text and making them look as if they were written on a bad typewriter. Then it began turning selected passages into what I think may be Martian.

I was Googling all this to see if it was somehow my fault, when I came across repeated references to a writing program for Macs, and lately PCs too, called Scrivener, designed for anyone who creates lengthy documents – from articles to books to reports – from a variety of research sources. Scrivener seemed to have some passionate fans, a lot of them well-known writers.

The maker’s website, though, did not augur well. Scrivener comes from Cornwall, and I’m afraid the company seemed painfully provincial in some ways, such as sporting the world’s most pretentious name – Literature & Latte. I persevered nonetheless, and I’m very glad I did, because Scrivener is the best writing software program ever.

For about £30 – yes, it really does cost so little – Scrivener answers every requirement anyone who writes long documents has ever dreamt of, plus some that are beyond imagining. Just think of having one rock-stable document in front of you combining text, PDFs, audio and video and enabling you to split the screen and flick between each. It’s well thought out and brilliantly executed.

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Scrivener