Scrivener iOS: Formatting Palette

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.

Formatting palette.
The formatting palette on Scrivener for iOS.
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.

“I wouldn’t be able to do my job without it.” Author Charlie Stross On Scrivener – And How The iOS Version Fits In.

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…

Charlie Stross - Beta Tester.
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.

Charlie Stross - Beta Tester.

Working with Research in Scrivener for iOS

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.

Screenshot of editor displaying an photo
The editor can display images, PDFs, webarchives, and more.

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.

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 iOS: Recent Documents List

Scrivener for iPad has a Quick Reference feature that provides you with a way of referring to another document or research material whilst writing in the editor. But what about referring to other documents or research material on your iPhone, where screen size dictates that it’s not possible to view two panes alongside one another?

In the footer of your editor on an iPhone, you will see a clock icon. (On an iPad the clock icon is in the nav bar above your editor.) Tapping on the clock icon will bring up a list of the most recent documents you have opened. The documents are listed chronologically, with the top item being the document you last opened. If you want to refer to a research file on your iPhone, simply find it in your project binder, load it into the editor, and then use the clock icon to access your list of ‘Recent Documents’ and toggle back and forth between the research material and the text document you are writing.

Recent and Bookmarks.
Recent documents list and Bookmarks in Scrivener on iOS.
The ‘Recent Documents’ list is also available in the home screen of the project (the root binder level) along with a ‘Bookmarks’ list, so you can immediately refer to pertinent documents when coming back to a project.

Who’d be a Beta Tester? Interview with Michael Marshall

You can start work immediately. Later you’ll realise how powerful it really is.

With the launch of Scrivener for iOS just around the corner, we thought you might like an insight into the world of some of our beta testers, all of who use Scrivener in different ways and have various stories to tell. 

Amongst them is suspense novelist Michael Marshall (who also writes as his horror and science fiction alter ego Michael Marshall Smith). His first novel, ‘Only Forward’, won both the August Derleth Award for Best Novel and the Philip K. Dick Award. Other accolades include the International Horror Guild Award, and the British Fantasy Award for best short story – which he has won more than any other author in history. On the screen, his book ‘The Intruders’ became the drama series ‘Intruders’ starring John Simm and Mira Sorvino, while ‘Unbelief’, a film based on his short story, has won 9 awards and 21 nominations to date.

Michael Marshall Smith

You’ve been a long-time user of Scrivener’s desktop version. How does the iOS version compare?

I’m amazed at how well all the essential features (and more) have been layered into an app that’s still straightforward to get around, and to use. You can’t do everything in iOS that you can in Mac OS, but that’s not surprising — and also, not what you want. Apps need to be appropriately pitched toward the platform on which they run. Keith’s done his usual masterful job of thinking about the practicalities of what writers need, and what’s feasible and dependable on a given device, and making that work smoothly.

Did it take you long to find your way around it?

No time at all. I was making and syncing notes within five minutes of installing the first beta. As always with Scrivener, however, there’s great value in experimenting, trying things, and reading the damned manual. I can’t count the number of times I’ve emailed Keith over the years with some cool new thing Scrivener could do, and had him patiently explain that it already can. The iOS version is the same.  You can start work immediately. Later you’ll realise how powerful it really is.

Which features proved most useful for your way of working?

The ability to faultlessly sync with the desktop version has to be the most useful. That for me is the game-changer. It’s actually sightly spooky to see quite a complex novel structure and 100,000 words perfectly mirrored onto your phone, to be able to make changes, and find it all back on the desktop, too. I love being able to share styles between the two. I really like the fact that meta changes you make on one — like the specific way in which you’re viewing and working with your structure — are mirrored onto the other platforms.

And to be honest, one of the very best features is reliability. The one thing that you cannot afford is losing work. During the beta I made a couple of suggestions which were considered but then gently rejected, on the grounds that — in some bizarre and unlikely combination of circumstances — there might be a risk. That’s what I need most – the reassurance that everything is safe.

How do you see yourself using the iOS version in future – tell us how you plan to use it alongside your desktop computer.

The iOS version has already changed the way I work. In the past, I’ve had to run separate apps for my current writing project (whatever I’m hammering out large quantities of words for), anything I’m planning (either sporadic notes, or large collections of files and reference material), and general jottings. Now I’ve switched to iOS Scrivener for all of those.

It’s reassuring and useful to have all that stuff with me, wherever I go, and several times I’ve sat outside a cafe and edited or even added new material to the current novel on my phone, which is something I never thought I’d do. After nearly thirty years of defaulting to Word for at least some of the writing process, I don’t think I’ve even opened it in months.

Michael Marshall Smith's Binder
What would you say to someone who might be nervous of giving Scrivener’s iOS version a go?

Just try it! I’ve long believed that Mac OS Scrivener is the writer’s best tool. Adding the iOS version makes it an absolute no-brainer. Suddenly your work — your real work, all of it, not some lite or compromised version — is with you, wherever you go. Whether you’re writing prose, planning a TV series, making notes, or putting together an eBook, it’s all there. The first beta was as feature-ful and solid as most people’s final release candidate. Now it’s like it’s already on version 2.4.

Your story The Seventeenth Kind has just reached the big screen – what are you working on now, and when might it be available?

Right at this moment I’m about there quarters of the way through a novel, which has been wholly written in Scrivener. I’m starting to plan out a feature script, and am tweaking a couple of TV  proposals. Out of habit I was originally maintaining a kind of “inbox” for each in their Scrivener files, to drop new ideas and edits into, but increasingly I’m working straight on the core material itself. It’s like having a teeny little Mac with me wherever I go… I’d been waiting a long time to be able to do this kind of thing: thank God it’s finally here.

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.