Scrivener for iOS: Making Writing Easier on (Sm)All Devices

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.

Thank You

Today has been amazing. Seriously. And the reason it has been amazing has been because of you, Scrivener users.

Sure, there have been teething problems, mainly concerning sync, and we are working to improve the documentation and our Knowledge Base, and will continue to look at how we can improve things.

We know there are a few features users want, and I’m looking into them – this is only 1.0 of the iOS version, after all. This is just the beginning.

But above all, we’ve been blown away by our fantastic users. We have had numerous users on our forums helping other users out, helping them get set up. We have had countless users on Twitter, Facebook and our forums telling us how much they love Scrivener for iOS, and telling writers who have never heard of Scrivener all about it. We have had over 150 very kind users already give us great reviews on the App Store in different territories. Just: thank you!

I’ve been working on Scrivener for 12 years now. One day I may even finish The Novel. In the meantime, it’s been brilliant to see so many Scrivener users who have – using Scrivener. I hope to see many more novels and books written using the iOS version – who knows? Either way, one of the best things about the past 12 years has been interacting with our users, and today has been a reconfirmation of what a great user-base we have. So: thank you again. For your enthusiasm. For your support even when it seemed like the iOS version was in limbo. Great users really help us focus on keeping driving Scrivener forward.

And we will continue to drive Scrivener forward. But today is about iOS, so I’ll leave news about big updates to other versions of Scrivener for another day…

In the meantime, get in touch. Talk about what you’re writing on our forums. We love hearing from you.

Thanks again!

It’s Here! Scrivener for iOS is Now Available!

Scrivener for iOS is now available for sale on the App Store. At the time of writing, it is not yet showing up in searches on the App Store, as it can take several hours for Apple’s records to update. However, you can find it by following this link:

If you tap on the above link on your iOS device, it will take you to Scrivener in the App Store.

Thank you everyone once again for all the enthusiasm that has kept us buoyed in getting to this point. Happy mobile writing!

Important Note on the Scrivener for iOS Release

Many thanks to everyone for all the enthusiasm about our Scrivener for iOS release tomorrow! As we’ve been receiving a lot of questions, I just wanted to clear up a few things:

  • Scrivener will be released in the morning of July 20th UK time. I apologise to our antipodean customers, as I’m aware that it will be very late on the 20th for them, but we need to release it at the start of our own day so that we can deal with as many initial support requests as possible.
  • Price: Scrivener will cost $19.99 in the US store (“price tier 20” in Apple terminology, which is £14.99 in the UK, for instance).
  • Requirements: Any iOS device running iOS 9.0 or above.
  • Availability: Scrivener for iOS will be available in the iOS App Store in all the same countries the macOS version is available in the Mac App Store. (Please note that we are unfortunately unable to sell into territories where neither Apple nor our own accountant handles sales tax.)
  • Language: The UI for Scrivener 1.0 for iOS will be in English only. We will be adding support for other languages in upcoming free updates. (Translation takes time, so we would have had to delay the release further to get non-English languages in 1.0. This will be a priority over the next couple of months.)
  • Compatibility: Scrivener for iOS uses Dropbox to sync with the macOS and Windows versions. (In answer to all of our Windows users, yes, of course it works with the Windows version as well as the macOS version!)

If you are an existing customer, please make sure you update Scrivener for macOS or Windows to the latest version (2.8 on the Mac, 1.9.5 on Windows). iOS projects and edits will not be recognised in older desktop versions.

On the subject of existing customers, I’m afraid we are unable to offer discounts on the iOS version to existing customers of the Mac and Windows versions. This just isn’t possible with the App Store, which is the only way we can sell our iOS version – Apple has no facility for providing partial discounts, so there’s just no way for us to do it.

Note that Scrivener for iOS is called… Scrivener

Please be careful when purchasing, as there are other apps available in the App Store that have names similar to Scrivener, which come up in searches for “Scrivener” and which have been designed to open Scrivener files but which are nothing to do with us. The official Scrivener for iOS app is simply called Scrivener. If it’s not called “Scrivener”, it’s not our app.

When Scrivener is available on the App Store, it will be at this link:

Tomorrow’s a big day for us (and it’s been a long time coming!), so thank you again for everyone who has supported us on this journey and shown so much enthusiasm. We hope you like it as much as we do!

Scrivener for iOS: for Scriptwriters, Too

Scrivener on the Mac and PC have a fully-featured scriptwriting mode, and there are a lot of scriptwriters using it. Episodes of Luther and Doctor Who, award-winning documentaries and feature films have all been written in Scrivener. And we love our scriptwriter users—so we couldn’t very well leave them in the cold with our iOS version.

To be entirely honest, we don’t just love our scriptwriter users—we’re also a tiny bit scared of them. Your average scriptwriter is not the sort of wordsmith who is (as my mother would have it) backwards in coming forwards. This might be because, to get their names in the credits of a movie, they literally have to fight the other writers to the death using only a rubber spoon and puns from death scenes in Arnold Schwarzenegger movies (“He’s letting off steam”). This makes them tougher than your average coder—so we really couldn’t very well leave them in the cold with our iOS version.

Out of love and fear (but mostly love), then, we have managed to port the Mac’s scriptwriting features across to our iOS version: full script formatting, with import from and export to Final Draft FDX baked right into Scrivener for iOS.

Use tab and return (or keyboard shortcuts if you have an external keyboard) to move between script elements (Scene Heading, Action, Dialogue and the rest), or tap the name of the element at the top of the screen to bring up the elements list. You turn scriptwriting mode on for a project using the project settings, and from there you can decide whether any particular document should use script mode or not, just as you can on macOS and Windows.

Projects created on iOS and only ever used on iOS only support Screenplays. However, if you bring in a project from the Mac or Windows version, or if you sync with the Mac or Windows version and change the scriptwriting settings there, the iOS version will use whatever script format is set for the project, whether that is UK Stage Play, Comic Script, your own custom script format or anything else.

And while the scriptwriting experience is undeniably better on an iPad, we have done everything in our power to make sure that you can comfortably create and edit scripts on an iPhone, too.

Scrivener for iOS Release Date

Apple has approved Scrivener for sale on the iOS App Store, so we can now give an official release date: 20th July. To recap the details:

  • Price: $19.99
  • Release date: 20th July
  • Requirements: any device running iOS 9.0 or above (iPad, iPad Pro, iPhone, iPod Touch)
  • Available in all the same territories as we sell our macOS version on the Mac App Store. (Note that 1.0’s UI is English-only, but we will be adding other languages in a free update.)

Thank you to everyone who has been on this journey with us. A huge thank you to the 600+ beta-testers who have helped us squash bugs and (I hope!) provide a stable release version. Thanks to the L&L team, who always push me to make things better and make sure I have the time and space to do so. But most of all, thanks to the gazillion of you have stuck with us and waited so long, through all the problems we had getting our iOS version together. All those of you who love Scrivener nearly as much as we do, and who have been so eager to use it on all your devices. This time next week, you’ll be able to carry your Scrivener projects around in your pocket. I hope you like it.

Quick Reference in Scrivener for iOS: Side-by-Side Editing and Research

Scrivener for macOS and Windows allows you to view (and edit) two documents right alongside one another. You might have your writing on one side and a photo or PDF document to which you need to refer on the other, or you might be checking a previous or later chapter right alongside the one you are currently writing.

Did I say “Scrivener for macOS and Windows”? Well, now we can add the iPad to this list.

On the iPad, this is done using the Quick Reference feature: simply swipe left on a document in the binder, tap the “More” button, and then select “Quick Reference”. The document you swiped slides into view right there in the sidebar, replacing the binder, so that you have it alongside your writing. (You can easily make the sidebar wider to see more of the document, too.)

When you have the corkboard in the main editor, you can swipe left on a card to “throw” its document into the sidebar as a Quick Reference document. This is not only incredibly useful, but also quite a bit too much fun. (Though perhaps I should get out more.)

Scrivener for iPad: The Draft Navigator

One of Scrivener’s many nifty features on the Mac and Windows is the ability to view the pieces of your manuscript either in isolation or in context. You write your text in chunks as large or small as you like, and then you can view and edit them together as though they were a single document. The feature that allows this we call “Scrivenings mode”.

As much as we love Scrivenings mode, a number of important considerations meant that it wasn’t something we could bring over to the iOS version in its entirety (considerations such as limitations of the iOS text system and hardware, the necessity of maintaining a small memory footprint, and ease of use within an environment where minimalism reigns).

So how do you get an overview and see your work in context on iOS without Scrivenings mode? On the iPhone, there’s not really space to get much context anyway. On the iPad, however, there is the Draft navigator, which is always accessible from the bottom of the editor.

Not dissimilar to the Page Flip feature on a Kindle, the Draft navigator shows all of the text in your Draft folder in a single, scrollable view, and you can quickly navigate between documents using the back and forward chevrons or using the slider. Tap on a document in the navigator to load it into the main editor; to edit a document, simply double-tap into the text you want to edit to load the document into the editor at the place you tapped.

So, in Scrivener, even on an iPad, getting and working with an overview of your manuscript is only a tap away.

Scrivener for iOS: Swipe to Expand Your Outlines

Scrivener’s binder is essentially an outline: one of the key features of Scrivener is that you can use any structure you want when working out how your writing pieces together. Scenes inside chapters inside parts; character sketches inside a notes folder; photographs inside a pictures folder; research notes nested away for the future—however you want to structure your work, Scrivener gives you the freedom to do so.

Using the outliner, it’s also possible to work on discrete parts of the outline in isolation—with the outline of only a single chapter, say. But how to bring these key features to iOS, where structured outlines haven’t traditionally been part of the UI lingua franca?

On iOS, the convention is to drill down through multiple levels of an outline, viewing each level in a separate list, and following this convention means that you can drill down through Scrivener’s binder to work with different parts of the outline just as you can on the Mac or Windows. Tap the Draft folder, and its contents slide into view; tap a chapter folder inside the Draft folder, and its contents slide into view—and so on.

Having to drill down through every level and never being able to see multiple levels of your outline at once could get fairly tiresome, however—which is why Scrivener for iOS supports a full, structured outline.

Simply swipe left on a group in the binder to reveal the “Expand” or “Collapse” button. Tap on that to reveal or hide the subdocuments of the group—just like clicking on a disclosure triangle in the binder of Scrivener for Mac or Windows. In “Edit” mode, there are even “Expand All” and “Collapse All” buttons available for expanding and collapsing all the subdocuments of multiple groups at once.

In Scrivener for iOS, just as in the desktop version, you can therefore work with your entire outline in a single view or focus on smaller parts—forest or trees, it’s up to you.

Scrivener for iOS: Syncing

In my first post about our iOS version, I thought I’d get some important nuts and bolts out of the way: syncing. Scrivener for iOS syncs with the Mac and Windows versions using Dropbox. Here’s how it works:

  1. In the iOS version, you set up sync by tapping the sync button and then choosing to link to Dropbox (you’ll need a Dropbox account for this).
  2. Once you’ve linked to your Dropbox account, Scrivener will prompt you to choose a subdirectory of your Dropbox folder. Scrivener will download and sync any files you have placed into this folder on your Mac or Windows machine, and it will upload any files you create in the iOS version. Like most apps that sync with Dropbox, the default folder used for this is Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener, but you can choose any folder in Dropbox that you wish. (Just be aware that everything in the folder you select will be synced with your device, so it should be a folder you use to store only Scrivener projects.)
  3. Once you’re set up, any time you create a project in the iOS version, it will ask you whether you want the project stored on Dropbox or only locally.
  4. Any time you want to sync, you just hit the sync button anywhere it appears in the app, and Scrivener will upload all local changes to Dropbox and download all changes from Dropbox. (So you do not need to be online to work with your Dropbox projects.)
  5. You are free to leave the project open on your Mac or Windows machine while you use and edit it on iOS. After you sync, the changes will be detected and incorporated into the project.

Which makes the thousands of lines of code that went into this sound easy!

Note that you don’t need to sync your projects with Dropbox. If you don’t have a Dropbox account, you can transfer projects between your desktop and iOS device by copying them back and forth via iTunes.

Dropbox allows you to sync between your desktop and your iOS device.
We’ve had great feedback from beta-testers on this system, and it seems to be working brilliantly. Let’s address that elephant-shaped cloud in the room, though: iCloud. Sadly, Scrivener 1.0 for iOS will not support iCloud syncing. Part of the reason for this is that we have both Mac and Windows users, and iCloud is still much more associated with the Mac. That’s not the main reason, however: as much as we love iCloud, current limitations in and difficulties with iCloud mean that it is not at present best suited for the sort of complex, package-based file format used by Scrivener. A boring technical explanation follows…

Every Scrivener project is really a folder full of files and subfolders. This is different from most apps, which more commonly use “flat” file formats – a single text or XML file, or a zip package. This package-based format means that Scrivener doesn’t have to read into memory the entirety of a project containing a gigabyte of research materials upon opening it; Scrivener only ever reads into memory the files you are working on, and it releases them from memory if it no longer needs them or if memory usage gets too high (a particular concern on iOS). This format makes Scrivener’s unique features possible—but it’s not a format that plays well with iCloud. (iCloud does seem to have improved in this regard over the years, and Apple mentions in its documentation that it can work with file packages, but so far there is very little documentation on this beyond using very basic file packages that do not need to do the sorts of thing required by Scrivener.)

It’s not just the format itself, but how it is used. Because Scrivener projects comprise many files, it’s important that any given project is synced in its entirety and not piecemeal. If an updated binder structure is downloaded, it’s not much use if none of the new files it references are yet available, for instance. Dropbox gives us the control we need in this regard.

This is also the reason that the sync needs to be invoked manually rather than continually happening in the background. With background sync (which iCloud always uses), there is no control over which files appear when, meaning that important structural files could download without the files they refer to or vice versa. This is an even more serious problem when the connection is lost part-way through a sync. All too easily this could put a project into an inconsistent state that could wreak havoc, and we’d rather have users complaining that they don’t like manual sync than that they have just lost four hours of writing or structural changes!

I’m aware that the lack of iCloud support will be a disappointment to some users, but please rest assured that we will continue to monitor iCloud’s development. Apple are improving it all the time, and I hope that one day, when Apple enhances the frameworks and extends the documentation to more advanced uses, or perhaps if we can find a coder with expertise in this area to help me, we might be able to support it. (We’re not the only ones who have run into these problems, by the way: OmniFocus and Notebooks have had to omit iCloud sync for similar reasons.)

Right now, though, Dropbox sync is working smoothly and allows Mac and Windows users alike to work between their desktop machine and iOS devices: edit the project on your desktop, tap sync on your mobile device, make changes, tap sync again, and carry on editing on your desktop. By the end of July, you’ll be carrying your book around with you in your pocket, ready to type whenever inspiration strikes.