5 Reasons I Switched to Scrivener for All My Writing

As a full-time writer, I take my tools seriously. With a blog, a podcast, speeches, and a new book in the works, I have to maximize my productivity. I have a daily word count goal, and I can’t afford to let the tools get in the way.

5 Reasons I Switched to Scrivener for All My Writing

But, unfortunately, they often do. Until a month ago, I had nearly half a dozen word processors in my active tool kit:

  • I wrote my blog posts in ByWord and then transferred to MarsEdit for tagging and uploading.

  • I wrote the “show prep” for my podcast and my speeches in OmniOutliner.

  • I wrote my e-books and other shorter documents in Pages. I wrote my books in Word.

Keeping the functionality of each tool straight was challenging. All I really wanted to do—and needed to do—was write.

Recently, I switched to Scrivener for everything. Though it’s advertised as a manuscript and script-writing tool, I found it works beautifully for all kinds of writing, from blog posts to podcast prep, from sales copy to speeches.

5 Reasons I Switched to Scrivener for All My Writing

I now begin every piece of content—no matter what it is—with this tool. It has simplified my life and enabled me to focus on the most important aspect of my job—creating new content. I am more productive than ever.

If you are a writer (or want to be), you might consider switching to Scrivener, too. Here are my top five reasons:

  1. It provides a hierarchical file structure. Some people love to brainstorm with a mind mapping tool of some sort. The company that created Scrivener even offers one called Scapple. While I have used mind mapping from time to time, it is not my go-to method.

    I naturally think in outlines and lists. I need a tool that shows hierarchy, so the ideas and the sub ideas are readily apparent. I loved OmniOutliner for this reason. However, it was a single-purpose tool. I found it difficult to get content in and out of it.

    Scrivener solves this problem, because it provides just enough outlining functionality to keep me organized without becoming overpowering. Most of my workflow is now within this one tool.

  2. It has a distraction-free composition mode. When I am writing, I need to focus on the words and nothing else. I have tried OmmWriter, iAWriter, Byword, Ulysses III, and a dozen others. (Let’s be honest, trying new apps is a lot more fun than actually writing!)

    Scrivener’s composition mode is the best, distraction-free writing environment I have ever used. Period. It gives me a single column of text—and nothing else:

    5 Reasons I Switched to Scrivener for All My Writing

    If I mouse over the bottom of the screen, it gives me a ribbon of useful information (e.g., word count) and tools I might want to access in this mode:

    5 Reasons I Switched to Scrivener for All My Writing

    This, plus a good musical playlist, and I am in business.

  3. It was created with writers in mind. So many other document processors were written to accommodate as many writing needs as possible. Scrivener was written specifically for writers. Here is a partial list of features I find helpful:

    • A binder to keep related documents together and organized.

    • A variety of helpful views: document, cork board, and outline.

    • Statistic tools, like word counts, and the ability to set and track word count goals. (Did I mention I am goal-oriented?)

    • Ability to split the screen, so I can, for example, have footnotes, in the bottom half of the screen.

    • An inspector window where I can keep notes, track status, link to articles, or even create custom meta data:

    • 5 Reasons I Switched to Scrivener for All My Writing

    • Take “snapshots” of documents, so I can rollback easily to previous versions.

    Other tools have some of these features. None of them are that revolutionary in themselves. But it is the presence of all of them together that makes me more productive.

  4. It supports multi-markdown. I have spent my entire career in book publishing. As a result, I love typography and book design. The only problem is I can spend too much time formatting my content rather than creating it.

    This is where multi-markdown has been a huge help to me. It is a method of writing that requires minimal formatting. For example, if I want to create a bulleted list, I just precede the item with an asterisk. If I want to create a numbered list, I precede it with a number. What could be easier?

    Unlike modern word processors, multi-markdown separates the content-creation phase from the formatting phase. Best of all, Scrivener understands multi-markdown and can translate it into whatever final output you want.

  5. It allows for a variety of export options. This is where Scrivener shines. It has the ability to export to nearly any format you can imagine.

    For example, I typically export my blog posts to HTML. I export my podcast show prep to multi-markdown, so my producer can create the show notes. I export my books to Word, so I can collaborate with my co-author or submit to my editor. I can even export directly to PDF, Kindle, ePub, or iBooks Author. The possibilities are seemingly endless.

By the way, last week I tweeted that I was using Scrivener for all my writing. Several of my followers asked why I was no longer using Evernote.

Actually, I am still using it—as much as ever. It is my digital brain. It is one of my three core productivity tools (the others being Nozbe and Google Calendar).

However, I am no longer using Evernote for writing. It’s not intended to be a word processor, and its writing functionality is minimal. If it works for you, great. I am now using Scrivener for this.

Honestly, I still feel I am a beginner when it comes to Scrivener. There is so much to learn. But that is not to say it is complex. You can become productive almost immediately, especially if you set it up the right way. (I’ll write more about that in a future post.)

If you haven’t tried Scrivener, you can download the trial version (also available for Windows) and give it a whirl. If you decide to buy it, you can get a 20 percent discount with my affiliate code: MICHAELHYATT.

Question: What are your go-to writing tools and why? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • http://davidcalves.com/ David Alves

    Mike, thanks for this great tool. I’m now using Scrivner–learning curve is sharp though. Could you create a video of your process? Setup, organization, whatever tips you can give us that would get us up and running most efficiently? Thanks again.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I am working on a post now. I’m not sure when it will be up, but it’s underway. Thanks.

      • http://davidcalves.com/ David Alves

        Great! I’ll keep an eye/ear out for it. Thanks.

  • Elba

    Hi Michael, Great post! I’ve been using Scrivener for about three years now and can’t imagine having to use Word or Pages, again. I’ve written one book on it (research) and am working on the second (fiction). I have outlines for my next two books on it and even use it for home files. The main reason why I bought it is that I sync a project with Dropbox and pick it up on my Ipad using Dropbox and Plain Text. When I open that project on my computer, the changes are already there. But, even better news is that Scrivener is currently working on an app for Ipad. Also, I love the fact that you can talk to them on Facebook, Linked In and Twitter. I have asked many questions and usually, get a response from Dave on the same day. All around, it is worth a million for writers of any genre.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      Elba,
      What a great recommendation! Thanks for your thoughtful input.

  • MichaelPeck

    I don’t evangelize about many things, but two of them are Scrivener and Evernote. I can’t say enough good things about Scrivener in particular. I’m writing a novel with it. Its ability to organize research and inspiration and provide you with different views of your story are unsurpassed. Plus it allows you to easily color-code or otherwise categorize characters and story threads, tracking through and viewing only what you want to see. (Its searches are indeed powerful, and you can save them in the binder and call them up with a click.) I love this thing, and it’s a steal for the price.

  • dar49

    Thank you for this. I have been using a combination of yWriter, WriteItNow and Word. But you have sold me. I downloaded it and will probably buy it within the week.

    Thanks, again

    Dar

    http://darsword.wordpress.com

  • Alan Webber

    Michael, I understand that you use Scrivener for writing, Nozbe as you list manager, and Evernote as your digital brain. What are you using as a tool just for dumping miscellaneous items into? Still an ecosystem notebook? Evernote? Something else? Thanks!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Evernote

  • Matthew Candler

    Michael, in working through Scrivener, when do you find yourself creating “New Projects”? For each blog posts , podcasts, etc.? Or do you have one default project that you keep all of your work in?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I keep books in separate project files. Everything else—blog post, articles, speeches, scripts—goes in one project file.

  • dar49

    Thank you for introducing me to Scrivner and offering the discount. I just picked up my copy. Looking forward to learning a new writing program!

  • http://lesdossey.com/ Les Dossey

    Hey Michael,

    Just wanted to say thanks. I downloaded the trial version about 2 weeks ago and immediately fell in love with Scrivener. I remembered to come back and grab that discount code, so thanks for that as well.

  • Nikole Hahn

    I like this! I’ll have to save for it and buy it in the Fall. I don’t have word and my notes and stuff are scattered in notebooks, computer files, etc.

  • http://www.relevantpastor.com/ relevant pastor

    Do you still use the Marsedit for all the metadata?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      No, I am now just doing it from within WordPress.

      • http://www.relevantpastor.com/ relevant pastor

        Thank you for the reply. Your blog is such a blessing. I am just getting into this world of blogging.

  • http://myoil.org/ Bosede Santos

    Thanks for sharing this Micheal, should be a life saver. Downloaded the trial version and working my way through it to get a feel for it. See you’re coming to She Speaks. Can’t wait to glean more from you. I truly appreciate your indirect mentorship.

  • Matthew Candler

    Michael, are you aware if there is a “preview markdown” view within Scrivener?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Not that I am aware of, Matthew. However, you can use a program called Marked to do so. That’s what I use. It’s pretty cool. It’s designed to work specifically with Scrivener.

      • Matthew Candler

        Great news, thank you sir!

  • True Innuendo

    I love scrivener. The only reason I use iAWriter now is I can write on my iPad mini and everything gets updated on the cloud.

  • gotiskaklubben

    Hi Michael, thanks for all this info. One question: can I keep my Scrivenerfiles online? My computers use to crash.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, via Dropbox, SugarSync or some other Cloud-based service. I use Dropbox.

  • Paul Handover

    Just to endorse your Scrivener recommendation. Have used Scrivener for 2 years now and it is indispensable.

  • jolord

    Hello – did you ever write a follow up post on Scrivener? I can’t find it after searching your blog. Thanks!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Nope, I’m afraid I haven’t yet. Thanks.

  • http://mattdsimpson.com/ Matt D. Simpson

    Michael – I’ve been loving Scrivener! Just wanted to say thank you again for sharing your toolbox with the rest of the world… It’s a great resource!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Matt. It is one of my favorite tools!

  • http://www.wisdomlearningltd.com/ Julia Papworth

    Hi Michael, I bought this straight away, I trusted your
    recommendation and I am glad i did! I am using it to write a book and it
    allows for every aspect of my brain to work, by organising everything
    in chunks. Thank you.

    So, I thought I would share a
    piece of software back with you. You may already own it, it is called
    Dragon dictation. When your mind works fast, or your best ideas come
    through talking out loud, this piece of software records and then scribes your
    words. Once you have that script, it is so easy to a) use for scripts
    for video and b) transform into wonderful Blogs, place into books or
    whatever it is you write. Brilliant. Happy talking and scribing!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Julia. I am familiar with Dragon, though I don’t own it. The Mac has dictation built in. Is Dragon a significant improvement over that? I have found Dragon to be amazingly accurate. All the best.

      • http://www.wisdomlearningltd.com/ Julia Papworth

        Yes it is very accurate, and it works with iphone, so if you like to talk things through, you can have it with you whenever you need. I used MAC voice record before, but that meant someone translating it for me. Thanks for replying. Have a good day.

  • http://www.transitionministriesgroup.com/ Bud Brown

    Michael,

    I read this when you first posted it several months ago. I made a mental note to revisit this, and this afternoon I finally had time.

    I’m fairly familiar with Scrivener. I’ve used it for academic writing, sermon prep and eBooks, but I’ve not used it to publish HTML code for blog posts.

    Could you tell me how you have set up the compiler options? I’ve set all instructions for contents, separators & etc., but I’m finding that when I compile for “Web Page (.html)” Scrivener is spitting out a lot of in doc and inline CSS that creates a mess. It’s not as bad as Word, but it does make a hash of things.

    Are you marking up your post with Markdown and compiling for that? Or are you compiling straight HTML code?

    Thanks for your answer.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Bud, I am writing in straight markdown and then compiling that (Markdown -> HTML). It produces totally clean HTML code. Hope that helps.

      • http://www.transitionministriesgroup.com/ Bud Brown

        Thanks. I suspected as much but thought you’d found another path. Where in the workflow are images embedded in your post?

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          Actually, I insert a WordPress Shortcode into the Scrivener text. My Get Noticed! Theme uses this to place the Featured Image into the post.

          • http://www.transitionministriesgroup.com/ Bud Brown

            Thank you again. I’ll have to do some investigating; I’m using your Get Noticed theme on one of my blogs…

  • Nicole Montgomery

    I just want to thank you for introducing me to this wonderful, wonderful tool! And for the discount. Thanks again!

  • Steph

    Did Scrivener pay you to say how awesome it is? I’ve found the software frustrating and impossible.

  • VeloNomad

    Problem with Scrivener is styles. They’re paintbrush to each part you apply, not a mass-applied stylesheet that updates all instances the applied style, if you change it. This is a total PITA.

  • Kat Valleley

    Thanks for this. I am new to Scrivener and excited to have project management and word processing in one program. The split screen mode is great for my transcription work too.

    There is one program I prefer for distraction-free writing – ZenWriter (http://www.beenokle.com/zenwriter.html). Full screen, customizable background image (writing a forest scene, putting a forest in the background is surprisingly helpful), customizable music and pretty much nothing else. Just you, your mood and your words.

    For my novel work, I see myself writing scenes in ZenWriter when I’m struggling with distractions and copy/pasting into Scrivener for revision work.

  • Mark DeJesus

    This Scrivener application has changed my life! Thank you so much for the recommendation. This has LITERALLY changed my writing experience! As a writer that loves to creatively move ideas around into different chapters, sections, teachings, blogs, I dont have to have a million files open. This allows me to focus on what is important, the writing!

  • http://www.ricktheule.com/ Rick Theule

    Michael – It has been a few months now since you began using Scrivener. I’d be interested in hearing an update on how you like it and how the learning curve went. Thanks!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yep, I still use it ever day. Love it. I am hoping to do an update soon.

      • http://www.ricktheule.com/ Rick Theule

        Thanks!

  • Anthony Rothe

    I’ve been looking at Scrivener – I hesitate because I need to work on a reversed screen [dark background; light coloured text] which is possible using Word.

    I understand, reading ‘Writing: a User Manual (David Hewson) that Scrivener also has a a screenplay format. Does anyone know whether it is compatible with Final Draft so that it can be read/edited by its software?

  • Joanne Tombrakos

    Love Scrivener as well! So many applications for it – still discovering them. Also found a great how to book – Absolute Beginner’s Guide by Jennifer Kettell that is a good resource for those hidden features.

  • RobinBryce

    Michael – I’ve been using Scrivener as well, but your idea of a workbench for all writing in intriguing. I have one question though. Do you use one project for all of your writing, including e-books? Compiling for Kindle/e-book uses the project metadata titling the book WorkBench.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I use separate projects set up for longer projects like ebooks and even software documentation. Everything else is in one project.

      • RobinBryce

        Great. I look forward to a post on how you further organize your work with Scrivener and if you use it or Evernote for your journal. Thanks for sharing your systems and secrets.

  • beej30

    Can you share a Scrivener file with another writer using Scrivener so they can make edits?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, but you will probably want to go to the Scrivener website and research this, so you understand the limitations.

  • http://www.karenchristensen.org/ Karen Christensen

    Your argument here is compelling, and I hope you’ll write a post – with screenshots – about how you manage shorter pieces as well as books in Scrivener. Karen Christensen, Berkshire Publishing Group, Great Barrington.

  • SD

    Thank you for the discount CODE!! I’ll be coming back often to read more of your posts.

  • AvB

    I’m going to try this ! Thank you.

  • Paula Belle-Wilkes

    Can I export my completed manuscript to Scrivener and then upload to Kindle?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, you can.

  • http://www.jankellis.com Jan Kellis

    Thanks for the rundown on Scrivener! I think I’m going to purchase it for my Mac and write my next book on it.

    So far I’ve written books on Word and Pages. My go-to paper organization product is a Circa notebook from Levenger. It features a disc binding, so the size and arrangement are dynamic. I generally do my outlines with a pen on paper; for some reason this helps me brainstorm, and this is how I use the Circa notebook. Then if/when I need to rearrange scenes, I simply move the pages to their new locations.

  • Alex Stearn

    Hi Great Post, I have two questions:
    1.) Do you know if you can use bullet points in scrivener and then convert to kindle?
    2.) When you produce sub folders ( Within a chapter) do you know how to reduce the space between the last paragraph and the next title heading.

  • http://thegreenleafblog.blogspot.com/ David Roiel

    Thanks for sharing!