Many thanks to the lovely Apple folk at all the stores that have included Scrivener for iPad in their “Best of 2016” app picks. It’s been a great year (for Scrivener, I mean – clearly it’s not been a great year for celebrities), and being picked as one of the Best of 2016 is a spiffing way to end it.
My sincere thanks to everyone who has supported us this year and all the past years, by giving us nice reviews, telling your friends about Scrivener, or just, y’know, buying it and using it and creating books and scripts and games and words with it.
I suppose I could get all Matthew McConaughey Oscar-speech-emotional on you, but I think we all know that the best speech of gratitude ever given was that of Hightower when he graduated Police Academy:
Drilling through a hefty binder of hierarchical files on an iPhone can be a chore, so Scrivener on iOS lets you bookmark documents to make them easily accessible. Just tap the ribbon icon in the editor footer to add the file to a special “Bookmarks” group at the top of the binder. You can also swipe left on a row in the binder and bookmark the item from the “More” menu.
Bookmarked folders appear in the path menu from the binder navigation bar, so you can jump to them directly from anywhere in the binder. The “Move To” menu also lists bookmarked folders at the top to simplify restructuring your project. When you no longer need an item bookmarked, swipe its row in the binder for the “Remove” option (under “More” if you’re not viewing the bookmarks list), or tap its bookmark icon again.
Bookmarks on iOS sync with the “Favorites” list on Windows and macOS, so you can quickly load your documents no matter where you’re working.
Scrivener can contain all sorts of different documents: whether you need to gather together notes, research, character sheets, to-do lists or, you know, some actual writing, Scrivener is a big bucket of everything for your writing project. With all those documents ready to hand, you might want to make some of them stand out a little, so that you can see them at a glance as you browse.
In the Mac and Windows versions, you can apply custom icons to your documents. And in this funky world where one of the biggest cheers at this year’s WWDC was for the announcement that emojis are getting three times bigger in Messages, I think it would be remiss of us not to provide some gratuitous graphical goodness in our iOS version. Which is to say: custom icons! In the iOS version! Three times bigger! (Disclaimer: not actually three times bigger.)
I love custom icons, because when my writing is terrible, I can at least make the document it’s in look purdy (I have a lot of pretty-looking documents). You, however, cool professional that you are, will no doubt use them as structural markers and navigational way-points. Which also works.
In Scrivener for iOS, the sidebar usually shows the binder (the list of files in the project). However, the sidebar can also be used to show the inspector and, on iPads, a Quick Reference editor for referring to research.
So that you don’t have to disturb the sidebar if you don’t want to, Scrivener gives you multiple options for navigating your project directly from the editor: you can switch documents using the Previous/Next buttons, select from the Recents list, or follow a Scrivener link to another document.
If you ever lose your place, simply tap the document title in the editor navigation bar to reveal the document in the binder. A further tap on the container title in the binder nav bar will show its full path in the project outline.
A writing app wouldn’t be much use if you couldn’t get your work out of it. In an earlier blog post, we talked about Compile, which allows you to export or print your entire Draft folder (or a subfolder of it) as a single document, piecing together the fragments of your text into a complete manuscript.
Sometimes you’ll want to export (or print) individual documents from Scrivener, however. Fortunately, this couldn’t be simpler: just tap on the “share” button at the bottom of the editor, choose a file format, and off you go. You can choose to email the document to someone, print it, or open it in another app.
Scrivener allows you to export to PDF, Word (.docx), RTF, plain text or Final Draft (.fdx) formats, which means that you can easily share a document with someone on a PC, open a text document in Pages, or send a script document to Final Draft for some final touches.
One of the principal concepts behind Scrivener is that you work with a long document by breaking it up into as many smaller chunks of text as you desire, rather than keeping it all in one long file that you have to scroll through. While the software makes it easy to work with your text in this fashion, you will still need a simple and effective method to create a single document out of all of those little pieces. In this way you can share some or all your work with others, save backup copies to text files, print out your work to paper or even quickly create a PDF for proofreading in your favourite viewer.
We call this process compiling, for it not only combines the many pieces of your project into one document, but can also be set to reformat the text in whole or in part, insert headings such as numbered chapter breaks, convert italics to underscores and quite a bit more. While the flexibility of the compiler can be more fully explored using its simple stylesheet system (which we call Scomp files), you will be pleased to hear that, with a number of provided built-in presets, exporting your work to a single file is only a few taps away.
We support RTF and Word formats for working with a variety of word processors on or off iOS, as well as FDX (Final Draft) for scriptwriters, PDF for easily storing and sharing printed copy, and finally, plain old text for use in the many plain-text editors the iOS platform has available for it.
Scrivener’s editor on iOS is a full rich-text environment – in other words, you have complete control over the formatting and appearance of your text right inside the editor. When you start editing a document on the iPad, a paintbrush icon appears in the nav bar at the top of the screen. Tapping on this opens the formatting palette (if you’ve used Pages before, this will be immediately familiar). On the iPhone, the paintbrush icon can be found in the extended keyboard row (the extra row of buttons that appears above the keyboard).
Inside the formatting palette are three tabs: Style, Indents and Spacing.
The Style tab provides the most common formatting options. Here you can choose the font (you can import additional fonts at any time), text size and colour, and you can apply a highlight. It also provides bold, italic, underline and strikethrough options, along with paragraph alignment.
At the bottom of the Style tab is a list of paragraph format presets such as headings and block quotes. As on macOS and Windows, selecting one of these presets will apply a group of formatting settings at once. (Note, however, that they are not true “styles” – look out for news on true styles in the not-too-distant future.) Mac users can bring in custom formatting presets from Scrivener on macOS. The ‘Formatting Options’ area allows you to set up your preferred formatting as the default for Scrivener’s editor.
Indents, line and paragraph spacing for the current text selection can be set via the (drum roll…) ‘Indents’ and ‘Spacing’ tabs.
So, if you have a penchant for 96-point Futura text in bright red, you’re golden – and for those of you who aren’t Markdown enthusiasts, you don’t have to litter your text with asterisks.
Scrivener for iOS presents a deceptively simple appearance: there are a lot of really nifty features that only show up if you experiment.
Even busy authors sometimes take time out to help us develop our software. Charlie Stross, author of six Hugo-nominated novels and winner of the 2005, 2010, and 2014 Hugo awards for best novella, volunteered as a beta tester for Scrivener’s iOS version. A full-time science fiction writer, his work – featuring everything from vampire secret agents to knights on horseback with automatic weapons – has been translated into at least 12 languages, as well as winning many other awards. His latest novel has just hit the shelves…
You’ve just finished a novel and are about to go on a launch tour – why did you add to your workload by volunteering to test Scrivener’s iOS version?
Scrivener on OSX has been a vital part of my business of writing novels since 2008. I wouldn’t be able to do my job without it. However, carrying a MacBook around the whole time is a bit of a grind. Being able to quickly look up stuff in projects I’m working on using my iPhone, or work for a whole day on battery and away from wifi using an iPad was a very appealing prospect.
How did you find it?
Scrivener for iOS offers a surprisingly complete subset of the features of the full version of Scrivener for desktop environments. It makes writing new material (with a suitable keyboard!) and editing text easy. It doesn’t provide the full range of outlining and structure-tweaking capabilities of the desktop version due to limitations imposed by the underlying OS, but the flip side of this is that it’s a good distraction-free portable Scrivener environment: there’s little or no temptation to tweak the settings instead of working.
I’m still experimenting with my workflow on the iOS version, but its main use on my iPhone is to allow me to quickly look stuff up, fix minor glitches, and add notes; on the iPad it’s a lot more useful as a first-class creative tool.
You’ve been using Scrivener for iOS since April – do you think you’ve explored most of its features?
I’m still learning. Scrivener for iOS presents a deceptively simple appearance: there are a lot of really nifty features that only show up if you experiment with swiping (or pay close attention to the tutorial project). And like most folks, I usually only use a subset of Scrivener’s features—the 80/20 rule applies.
Which feature has made the most difference to your writing and editing?
The totally seamless Dropbox syncing between my desktop iMac and my iPhone and iPad is wonderful. No need to close a project on the desktop before opening it on a portable device; you just sync and work, then re-sync when you’ve finished. Scrivener for iOS keeps track and tells you whether there are changes that need updating (it’s under manual control, but takes a single tap to trigger). And in event of any confusion between versions on multiple machines, Scrivener keeps copies of conflicting files so that I get to decide which to keep.
I’m really pleased by the support for compiling projects to Markdown as well as Word .docx and PDF formats, too: in principle it makes it possible to set up workflows with external tools such as Editorial (a Python-enabled folding text editor for iOS) and support web publishing apps directly.
What are you running alongside it?
First and foremost is Dropbox. I live and die by Dropbox. It’s a vital tool for keeping my various computing devices synchronised and ensuring that I’ve always got access to my work, wherever I go. And Scrivener works seamlessly with it.
On the iPhone, I can’t live without the Swype gestural keyboard. (For my purposes it’s superior to SwiftKey because various punctuation marks that occur frequently in narrative fiction—quote marks, for example—are accessible by press-and-hold on letter keys rather than by loading an alternate key map.)
I’m also using Microsoft Word—I really don’t like Word at all, but I am forced to admit that the iOS version is an acceptable general-purpose word processor with Dropbox support. (And I think that Scrivener compares well against Word in terms of its relative complexity versus the desktop version.)
Finally, there’s GoodReader and Apple’s Pencil on the iPad Pro—because sometimes your publisher’s workflow requires you to run your eyeballs across 500 page images in PDF format, and the easiest way for you (and the typesetter) to mark up changes is to pretend you’re doing it on paper and dribble red ink onto a copy of the document before you email it back to them. I wish I was making this up, but corporate publishing production today is still geared to the most trailing-edge tech they can reasonably expect every author to be compatible with, and modelled on a staged workflow that a late-19th century novelist would have recognised. GoodReader is the best PDF viewer I’ve found for iOS so far, and lets me mark up proofs on the move on the iPad Pro with a minimum of fuss and no need to resort to a laser printer.
Any quick tips for anyone who’s picking up the iOS version for the first time?
Yes, just one: read the tutorial project! It’s crammed with useful tips and guaranteed to be worth your time.
A secondary consideration is that Scrivener for iOS might be the best place for beginners to start learning Scrivener; it focusses on the core features that every writer needs.
Finally, your latest novel The Nightmare Stacks has just been published – can you tell us what it’s all about?
Yes. I’m an SF writer; and among other things I’ve been writing a series—the Laundry Files—for the past decade, about a secret British government agency that defends us from extradimensional horrors out of the realm of H. P. Lovecraft. Magic is a branch of applied mathematics, and computers are machines that can be used to prove theorems and derive solutions really quick … so it follows that GCHQ (the British security organisation responsible for providing communications intelligence to the British government and armed forces) has a bastard sibling that trades in applied computational demonology. But of course this is the civil service, so there are a lot of meetings involved.
In The Nightmare Stacks, our protagonist Alex—a former investment banking IT dogsbody, until he poked his nose into the wrong algorithm and contracted a nasty case of vampirism—has been sent to Leeds, where the Laundry is in the process of moving its headquarters. Unfortunately he’s not the only person with an interest in ley lines, Leeds, and limestone pavements. An ancient threat from another universe has discovered a way into our world, and before the story is over questions will be asked in Parliament about Elven asylum seekers …
The Nightmare Stacks was published in the UK by Orbit on June 23rd, 2016 and in the USA by Ace on June 28th, 2016.
One of Scrivener’s key features has always been its ability to keep all the pieces of your project together, allowing you to refer to research alongside your writing. The iOS version is no exception. Besides supporting iOS’s multitasking feature, so you can share the screen with other apps, Scrivener lets you load PDFs, movies, sound files, images, and webarchives right in the editor. The Recents button lets you easily flip between research and writing, and on the iPad you can view your research and text side by side.
Tap the import button in the binder footer to add files from standard locations such as iCloud, Dropbox, and Photos. Choosing “Camera” lets you take a picture and add it directly to your project. Additionally, you can use the Share feature in other apps to send supported documents to an open Scrivener project.
One of the challenges in bringing a complex, rich text app to iOS is how to provide quick access to a tonne of features on a small screen. Things aren’t so difficult on an iPad Pro, where there is lots of screen real estate, but on an iPhone, space is at a premium.
Another challenge is how to provide a frictionless writing experience with an on-screen keyboard. We’ve been able to add loads of keyboard shortcuts for those using external keyboards, and an external keyboard makes it much easier to navigate through text (using the arrow keys). But what if you don’t have an external keyboard handy?
These challenges have been met with the extended keyboard row: a row of eight buttons that sits across the top of the keyboard (which can be turned on or off). These buttons provide quick access to common commands.
Not just eight buttons: in fact, there are twenty-four, divided into three sets that you can swipe between. By default, there is one set containing common punctuation marks, another to make text selection and navigation easiser, and another for formatting commands such as bold, alignment, highlights and footnotes.
The keyboard row is fully customisable—long tap on any button to bring up a list of commands that are available. Tap one to replace the button you long-pressed with the command you selected.
Along with the extended keyboard row, Scrivener for iOS also supports smart punctuation, so you get curly quotes, ellipses for triple-periods, and em-dashes for double-hyphens automatically as you type (unless you turn smart punctuation off via Settings app).
Scrivener for iOS has a whole raft of cool features that will help you organise your work and refer to research—but at its centre we have worked hard to provide a beautiful writing experience.