About a Button

This is one of my favourite buttons in Scrivener:

It sits in the footer bar below the outliner and corkboard, and it has sat there for several years now. Maybe you use it all the time; maybe you’ve never noticed it; maybe you’ve clicked on it and wondered what it’s for. It’s called the “Selection Affects Other Editor” button, and that’s exactly what it does.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Split the editor so that you have two editor panes open.

  2. Load the corkboard or outliner in one of the editors (usually the top or left one if you work in a left-to-right language).

  3. Click on this button at the bottom of the corkboard or outliner so that the arrows turns blue.

Now, whenever you click on an index card in the corkboard, or on a row in the outliner, the document it represents gets opened in the other editor. Thus, you can use the corkboard or outliner to navigate instead of (or as well as) the binder.

In this way, Scrivener’s two editors can operate independently, or they can be linked so that one is used to navigate the other. It’s a feature I use all the time (I like being able to navigate from the outline, where I can see all my synopses), and it’s a feature that’s going to become even more useful in the future. It’s also a feature that, although it might at first appear trivial, had a deep influence on how we approached navigation in the iPad version. (But more on that soon.)

Customer Support closed for the festive break

If you have looked at our support web page this week, or read Keith’s message in the forum and the festive newsletter, you will have seen that our Customer Support is closed over the Christmas and New Year period.  Although we may get a chance to check emails occasionally during the holiday, we will do our best to reply to all e-mails as soon as possible after we get back in January.  If you have an urgent problem involving data loss, or a major issue that is time-critical, there is a link on our support page at http://www.literatureandlatte.com/support.php that will enable you to submit an urgent message.  We can’t promise a response in any particular timeframe, but we will try to prioritise genuinely urgent messages.

In the meantime, our Knowledge Base contains the answers to many of the questions that we are asked most frequently, and you can find this here: https://scrivener.tenderapp.com/help/kb.  Our user forum is also a very useful source of information, and you may find that the wonderful community of knowledgeable (and generous) users can help even if we are not around: http://www.literatureandlatte.com/forum.

If you do need to contact Customer Support, now seems as good a time as any to give an overview of how our support system works, so that you know what to expect when you send us an email, and how to make sure that your enquiry is answered as effectively as possible.

Where to send your message


To make sure that your message is seen promptly, please choose the most appropriate email address from those shown on our contacts page at http://www.literatureandlatte.com/contact.php. We have separate email addresses for Scrivener for Windows, Scrivener for Mac, Scapple, sales or purchasing, and general enquiries.

If you send your message to the wrong support address, don’t worry — we will move it so that the right people see it.  But please don’t send your message to more than one address, especially if you are doing so from multiple email accounts (which are hard for us to trace and link up on our system).  We will generally reply to only one of the duplicate messages anyway.  We are a very small team of people, and sorting out duplicates takes up valuable time that could be spent in helping customers.  And if you send duplicates, there is a risk that our support system may incorrectly identify your correspondence as spam.

Asking a new question


It’s best if you start a fresh email conversation for each new topic that you wish to discuss, especially if some time has elapsed since any previous contact.  It’s possible that the support person with whom you were communicating before might not be the most appropriate person to deal with your new enquiry, or that they might be out of the office.

How can you tell if we have received your message?


When you send us an email, you will know that it has been received, and is therefore in the queue for us to handle, because our support system will send you an automated message in reply.  As well as letting you know that your email has reached us, the confirmation email contains a link to your new ticket in our support system.  You will be sent an email reply from one of our support team in due course, but the web interface is an alternative which you may find useful, and it also allows you to log in to view any historic tickets that you may have.

If you do not receive this emailed auto-response, then check that you have “white-listed” the domains literatureandlatte.com and tenderapp.com in your email client, and that the message hasn’t been diverted to your spam folder, promotions folder or any other folder into which your email provider may sort messages without your specific intervention.  If the auto-response goes astray in your email system, then our actual response is likely to do the same.

Please remember that if you contact us for help or information, then it is up to you to ensure that your system is set up to receive our reply.  Disable any spam-avoidance system that might auto-respond by challenging us to prove that we are real people or demanding that we jump through hoops.  We are indeed real people, and we cannot spend time following up these requests.

How to avoid languishing in our spam folder 


If you have sent your message to several of our email addresses, or if your email address has been hijacked and sent us spam mail at some point, or if your message falls foul of the junk filter in some way, then there is a risk that our automated systems will interpret it as spam.  We do go through the spam folder manually to rescue wrongly-filed messages, but (as you can imagine) we get a lot of junk email, so it’s possible that we might not recognise every valid message that ends up there.  Our support system shows the initial two or three lines as a preview, with fifty such emails displayed per page.  Messages are therefore most likely to be rescued from the spam folder if they have an informative subject title, and if the opening lines of text seem relevant to a support enquiry or to a communication that is intended for us specifically.

How long does a response take?


In general, apart from the current arrangements for the Yuletide holiday, we try to respond to messages within (typically) 48 hours.  Please bear in mind that this is our target response time.  We may be quicker than this, or it may take us a little longer if the weekend intervenes, or if the nature of your enquiry means that we need to discuss it internally or seek more detailed technical advice before we get back to you.

How to recognise our responses


We use a web-based support system called Tender, and the email address that you will see in the “From” field will look a little unlikely, so don’t misinterpret it as spam! You will see the first name of the person replying, but the actual email address will start with “tender2+” followed by a long string of letters and digits.  This alarmingly complicated-looking email address links to the specific conversation stored in our support system, so that all relevant messages are kept together.

Helping towards a prompt reply


The best way of ensuring a prompt reply is to make sure that you have sent your email to the correct address, and that you have included all the information relevant to resolving your question or problem.  Please be as specific as possible in describing what is going wrong, because otherwise we will probably have no way of knowing what you mean, so our initial response to you will have to be a variant of “tell me more”.

If you haven’t heard back from us after receiving the automated response from our system, please don’t try to nudge a faster response by replying to your own message at a later date, unless you wish to add further information that will aid resolution.  If your message reached us, then doing this has the opposite effect to what you want to achieve, and will (unfortunately) delay a response further.  This is because support tickets are organised in our system according to the date and time of the most recent activity on the conversation.  If you add a reply, it places a later date stamp on your support ticket, which moves that ticket further back in the queue if we are trying to handle support tickets in chronological order of receipt.

Don’t forget your backups!


And finally, a note about backups, because we often find that people don’t know about Scrivener’s automatic backups, or that they forget about them in the panic arising from a syncing error or computer failure.  If you’re not sure about your current settings for these, I’d recommend checking them now, to make sure that they match your needs and the way in which you use the application.  You can find the settings in the Backup pane under Tools > Options… (on Windows) or Scrivener > Preferences… (on Mac).

If you have experienced data loss of some description, the very first thing you should do is copy your automatic backups to a safe location, in a separate working area of your disk, so that you can retrieve an older copy of your work if necessary.  You can read about restoring backups in section 7.8.4 of the user manual (available via Help > Scrivener Manual).  By default, Scrivener creates an automatic backup for you when you close your project, but only the most recent backups are retained.  Each time a new automatic backup is created, an old one is knocked off the list.  So if you carry on creating automatic backups of a damaged project, then you risk overwriting all of your good backups with bad ones.  Copying your backups to a safe and separate location before you try any other problem-solving measures will ensure that you have the best chance of retrieving your data.  And if your current project is damaged, you can tell Scrivener not to create any more automatic backups of it by using File > Back Up > Exclude From Automatic Backups.

Remember, as well, that you may have backups kept independently of Scrivener, for example via Time Machine in Mac OS X, or in the file versioning system in some versions of Microsoft Windows.  Creating backups that are stored externally (such as on an external disk or in cloud storage) is something that you will need to set up yourself, but it is worth doing, for your own peace of mind.


With best wishes for 2015


 

Novel-in-a-Day

For anyone hoping they’ll get their book finished by this time next year, the concept of writing an entire Novel-in-a-Day is enough to prompt a swift lie-down in a darkened room. But on October 25th this year, that’s exactly what a bunch of L&L staff and forum members did – one novel, one day. Finished. Complete.

Of course, it’s not as insane as I’ve made it sound. Or quite as heroic – though it is still one heck of an achievement. Created back in 2011 by L&L forum regular Pigfender – known better in the outside world as Rog, Novel-in-a-Day (NiaD) is a yearly challenge to writers to do exactly what it says in the title. Each participant takes charge of a chapter of a book, writes like a demon, then submits the results to Rog who puts the whole lot together (using Scrivener, of course!) to create possibly the world’s fastest-ever completed novel.

This furious writing extravaganza is open to everyone, whether you’ve been published before or not, and takes place every October – though if you’re new to NiaD and haven’t posted on the L&L forums much before, you’ll need to send in something such as a blog post to prove you’re serious and can write to the required standard.

All the ideas behind the chapters and novels are Rog’s own, which is rather awe-inspiring for someone like me who has been trying to come up with a half decent idea for years now, and without much success. But that’s the beauty of NiaD – being handed the freedom to write without the usual panic over whether the foundations you’re basing your book on are in fact made of jelly.

The basic process goes like this: just after midnight on NiaD day (that’s CST – Cornwall Standard Time, otherwise known as UK time), all participants are emailed a brief description of where their character should start – for example, this year, mine consisted of two East End thugs sitting at the wheel of their van – a brief description of what needs to be covered, and where the chapter should end – again, in my case this was back in the van, but with two intelligence officers tied up in the rear. This gave plenty of scope for anything to happen in between, as long as at some point it involved a kidnapping. You’re also sent a character sheet or sheets, possibly some location details, and there also may or may not be some information about what has happened beforehand, depending on the need for continuity and/ or Rog’s whims.

This is another great part of the process – the mystery. Until the final book is published, nobody knows what happens in the story outside their chapter, or where this fits into the narrative. I didn’t have any information about what had gone before, which convinced me I was writing the opening chapter. Actually, it turned out to be chapter 15. As long as you follow the brief, it doesn’t matter what you write – for the first time, this year there were enough participants to run two novels simultaneously, so I could compare my chapter to my counterpart Chanel Blake’s contribution to see where we’d taken things. Two identical briefs equalled two completely different chapters for two totally different novels.

You don’t have to be too much of a master of speed – each chapter needs to be a minimum of around 1,500 words long, and it’s the quality that counts rather than the quantity. This year, mine turned in at 2400 words, though past submissions have stretched to 5,000 words. How that author found the time to write all that in a day I’ll never know. Everything has to be in at 8pm to give Rog a chance to provide any continuity feedback and start compiling the books – but if you’re really pressed, then the absolute deadline is a minute to midnight (it’s a Novel-in-a-Day, remember).

All the sections are designed to be fun to write – so you won’t get stuck with a compulsory detailed description of the inside of a recycling plant (though if that’s your thing and it could conceivably fit the brief then feel free…). You can also amuse yourself, procrastinate hugely, or fish for ideas by hanging out on L&L’s NiaD forum with the rest of the usual reprobates.

In all, it’s a bit stressful but great fun. Personally, by taking the huge obstacle of actually finding a decent plot away, it actually gave me the chance to just sit down and write. I didn’t know where the story had been, but I knew where it was going, and who was taking it there – if you really are an adrenaline addict, it’s a great warm-up for NaNoWriMo, too.

If you are curious but aren’t sure if you have the nerve, Rog has put together a great Q&A, designed to counter all your arguments against taking part (or something along those lines):

http://literatureandlatte.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=51&t=28574&start=0#p181923

There’s also a growing library of the previous years’ attempts available for browsing: http://literatureandlatte.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=51&t=28582

And there might even be a t-shirt:

http://literatureandlatte.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=51&t=29041&start=90#p187789

The forum post inviting writers to sign up usually goes live in August, and as we love the event and want everyone else to join in too, we’ll be making much more of a song and dance about it next year on our site, Facebook, Twitter and so forth, and expanding the number of books being written so that all those interested in joining in can find a place on a team. It’s also possible that we could run more than one story at the same time, provided there were enough people in the background to support this – though that would mean they’d have to step out of writing that year. Rog’s aim is to be able to accommodate entire writing groups or schools within a single novel, and to be able to produce non-English language versions of the books at some point. In short, the event has a lot of potential, and we’re all working hard to see where we can get it for 2015.

Anyway, if this has convinced you that you’d like to write a chapter next year, keep an eye out for more news around that time – and roll on next October. Here’s hoping to see some of you there…

Scrivener Temporarily Withdrawn from MAS – UPDATE: Scrivener is available again

UPDATE 20/03/13: Scrivener is now back up for sale on the Mac App Store, and runs fine on 10.6.8. Thanks to all our Mac App Store users who have been very understanding about the issues we faced.

— ORIGINAL POST —

Scrivener has been temporarily removed from sale on the Mac App Store. We are very sorry for any inconvenience this will cause to our Mac App Store users, but unfortunately we have been left with little choice other than to take this measure. I’d like to stress that this is only a temporary measure and we hope that Scrivener will be available on the Mac App Store again within the next few days. (Note: As I write this, you may still see Scrivener available – we’ve pulled it, but it will take up to 24 hours before it disappears from all stores.)

The reason we have taken this action is that the current version available in the Mac App Store, Scrivener 2.4, will not install or run on OS X 10.6 and Apple will not allow us to release a bug-fix for this problem in a timely manner. This 10.6 problem is due to a bug in the receipt validation code that crept into this release – please see a full explanation in my blog post of two days ago:

http://www.literatureandlatte.com/blog/?p=340

2.4 was released on the App Store last Thursday night, after a week in the review queue. On Friday morning, as soon as I found out about the bug in 10.6’s receipt validation code, I submitted a bug fix, Scrivener 2.4.1, to Apple, and I asked for an expedited review. With this all in place, we had hoped that Scrivener 2.4.1 would be available to our Mac App Store users by Tuesday at the very latest, so that our 10.6 MAS users were not inconvenienced for more than a few days at the most. (There is no way to upload an immediate bug-fix to the Mac App Store – every update has to go through the review process, and even when an expedited review is granted, it can still take a while.)

Unfortunately, this has not been the case. It is nearly a week now since 2.4 became available, and we still do not know when 2.4.1 will pass review and be made available on the store. 2.4.1 was rejected on Monday night for a reason that didn’t make sense (the reviewer said it wasn’t sandboxed when it was). We followed this up and resubmitted, but were then told that the reviewers needed more time. Yesterday, I was informed that they want us to make some changes to Scrivener 2.4.1 before it can pass review. I was also informed that Scrivener 2.4, 2.3.1 and 2.3 should really have not passed review either, given the things they want us to change. (Please note that the things we have been asked to change are not bugs, but features Apple interpret as not meeting their App Store review requirements.) I asked if we could roll back to making an earlier version of Scrivener available on the store while we address these issues, but the only way to do that, apparently, is to resubmit the older version, but because the older versions have the same “issues”, then doing so wouldn’t help as the reviewers would reject the older version that had previously passed review anyway. In other words, we currently have no way to get a bug-fix to our 10.6 MAS users other than to keep going back and forth with Apple until they pass 2.4.1 for release. Nor is there any way to prevent 2.4 from being available to 10.6 users.

We can therefore not in good conscience continue to sell Scrivener on the Mac App Store knowing that any 10.6 users who buy it will not be able to use it.

As soon as 2.4.1, which fixes the problem, passes review, we will immediately make Scrivener available on the Mac App Store again. We very much hope that this will be in the next few days.

Again, I’d like to say sorry to any of our Mac App Store users that this will inconvenience. We will not leave you without a working version of Scrivener, though. If you are a Mac App Store user and this temporary removal of Scrivener from the store leaves you without a working version of Scrivener, please contact us. If you are on OS X 10.6 and bought Scrivener in the past week so that it will not run on your system, again, please contact us – we will get you up and running. Email us at mac.support@literatureandlatte.com with these issues. Thank you for patience and understanding in this matter.

(Incidentally, because of some of the changes we are being required to make, we cannot guarantee that Scrivener on the Mac App Store will have as good support for .docx, .doc and .odt formats in 2.4.1 and future releases. This does not affect the version on our site.)

Scrivener on Mac App Store Running on 10.6 – UPDATE: Scrivener runs fine on 10.6.8 on the MAS again

UPDATE 20/03/13: Scrivener is now back up for sale on the Mac App Store, and is once more running fine on 10.6.8. Thanks to all our Mac App Store users who have been very understanding about the issues we faced.

— ORIGINAL POST —

If you’re one of our Mac App Store users running OS X 10.6, you are probably wondering what on Earth has happened with the Scrivener 2.4 update. What you’ll find is, if you download Scrivener 2.4 from the Mac App Store, on OS X 10.6 you will be told that Scrivener is damaged and cannot be run. (Please note that this problem does not affect 10.7 or 10.8 users – Scrivener installs and runs fine on 10.7 and above. Nor does it affect the version available from our website.) I wanted to take a moment to (1) apologise profusely to our 10.6 App Store users, (2) provide a solution and (3) explain what has happened.

1. An Apology

I am genuinely sorry that any of our users should be facing this issue at all. Please rest assured that we have done everything in our power to ensure that this is addressed as soon as possible (please see below), and also know that we will never leave any of our users without a working version of Scrivener – you can get up and running again right now.

2. The Solution

To get up and running, please just download, install and run Scrivener from our own website:

http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

Before doing so, you will need to move Scrivener from your /Applications folder to the Trash, upon which you may be prompted to enter your computer’s admin user-name and password. Please note that trashing Scrivener does not affect your work. Your work is saved separately, so this is entirely safe to do.

As long as you have run a version of Scrivener from the Mac App Store at least once on your machine, the version on our site should recognise you as a registered user. If you haven’t, or if it doesn’t for any reason, you will find yourself in trial mode when you run this version of Scrivener. This should still give you more than enough time before the fixed version of Scrivener, Scrivener 2.4.1, appears on the Mac App Store, as that should be available within the next couple of days (see below). If the trial has expired because you have used it before, please contact us on mac.support@literatureandlatte.com.

There is more information on installing the version from our site if you are a Mac App Store user on our Knowledge Base here:

https://scrivener.tenderapp.com/help/kb/purchasing-and-installation/installing-the-direct-sale-version-as-a-mac-app-store-customer

Please note, however, that the information there is more geared towards users who want to switch to the direct-sale version indefinitely. For users who just want to use it temporarily until the fix is available on the App Store, you can probably ignore most of the information there.

When Scrivener 2.4.1 does become available on the Mac App Store, just delete the direct-sale version from your /Applications folder by moving it to the Trash and emptying the Trash, then click on the “INSTALL” button that appears next to Scrivener in the “Purchases” tab of the Mac App Store.

If you have any problems getting up and running or switching between versions, please do not hesitate to contact us at mac.support@literatureandlatte.com. I stress that we will absolutely ensure that paying customers are not left without a running version of Scrivener.

3. So What Happened?

How did our 10.6 Mac App Store users end up in this mess? Well, it is down to a very stupid coding error on my part – literally one missing letter in the code – which has been compounded by the way the Mac App Store works, which has meant that we have been unable to get a fix immediately out to our users as we would be able to do with our direct-sale version.

In case you’re interested, the stupid coding mistake was in the receipt validation code (the code that checks you have a valid Mac App Store receipt, as recommended by Apple). Apple introduced a function in 10.7 and above that tells apps where to find the receipt file on users’ systems; prior to that the path had to be hard-coded.  You don’t have to be a coder to understand the mistake in the following logic, which is what ended up in 2.4:

if (we are running on 10.6) – Use the 10.7 method for getting the receipt path else – Use the hard-coded path that works on all systems

The stupid thing is that I was paranoid when I made this change and stared at the code repeatedly, and still didn’t see the obvious error. (It should have been “if !(we are running on 10.6)”, that exclamation mark reversing the meaning to “if we are not running on 10.6″ – that one missing character causing all the trouble.)

So, how did this not get picked up before it went live? Well, the trouble is that, as a developer, I have no way of testing the installation of the Mac App Store version across platforms. I can test the integrity of the installer package that I send to Apple (which I did), but not the full installation procedure. (If you are a developer and know this to be incorrect, please let me know. I can test the installer package on the 10.8 machine I create it with, but not on my 10.6 machine it seems.) And unfortunately, it seems that the Apple review process doesn’t test the installation procedure thoroughly, either, since this problem was not picked up by the App Review process. Thus Scrivener 2.4 went live with the problem.

The next question is, okay, so stupid mistakes happen, but why wasn’t it addressed quickly? As Johnny Macintosh, one of our US Mac App Store reviewers, understandably complained:

“I am surprised that LiteratureAndLatte released an Update that is unrunnable to the Mac App store and left it that way over the weekend.”

I assure you that it was not for want of trying, Johnny. The truth is, I fixed this issue and submitted version 2.4.1, which contains the fix, to Apple first thing on Friday morning, as soon as I became aware of the problem. As soon as I did so, I also contacted Apple asking for an expedited review, so that we could get the fix into the hands of our users as soon as possible. The trouble is that Apple’s review team does not work weekends, and it takes up to two business days for Apple to decide on whether to grant an expedited review or not. What this means is that, if a serious bug gets into a release that appears on the App Store on a Thursday or Friday, there is no way the fix can make its way to users until the following week.

Another reviewer on the Mac App Store, “super dudes”, from the Canadian store, makes another very good point that needs addressing:

“they better fix this soon, why is there not a way to downgrade if something doen’t work”

This is a very good question, and I wish I knew the answer – but this is a limitation of the Mac App Store, unfortunately, and entirely out of our hands. Once Apple approves an app for sale, any older versions of that app become inaccessible to the user, meaning that users have no way of rolling back to earlier versions. (For our direct-sale version, we provide links to every earlier version just in case there is ever a reason a user wants or needs to downgrade: http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivChangeList.php )

But older versions don’t only become inaccessible to the user – they become inaccessible to the developer, too. Once I became aware of the issue and uploaded the 2.4.1 fix, I then looked for a way to revert the on-sale version to 2.3.1 until 2.4.1 got through review, so that this issue could be eradicated in the meantime. However, it seems there is no way of doing this, and that the only way forward is to wait for Apple to approve the 2.4.1 update.

As for the status of the 2.4.1 update, Apple yesterday informed us that the expedited review process had been accepted, and 2.4.1 officially entered review. Unfortunately, it was rejected this morning for a reason that makes no sense (for not being sandboxed, even though it has been sandboxed since 2.3). I have disputed this, asked for more information, and re-submitted, so we are now in limbo waiting for Apple to get back to us on what is going on. I am really hoping that 2.4.1 will be with users either later today or tomorrow, but it is entirely in Apple’s hands.

All of this is made worse for everyone by the fact that there is no really obvious “Contact Support” button on the Mac App Store (even though they added such a button to the “Apps” section of iTunes recently) and many users seem to miss the “Scrivener Support” link, meaning that a lot of frustrated users don’t seem to realise that they have a way of contacting us and getting help from us, and so instead leave one-star reviews telling us they love the app but that it’s broken.

In short, the situation is just as frustrating for us as it is for you. The coding mistake is mine, and I take full responsibility for it, but because of the workings of the App Store, we were not able to get a fix into your hands immediately, despite having the fix ready within hours of the problem coming to light.

As I say, in the meantime you can use the version on our site and contact us if you run into any issues – we will absolutely ensure you get up and running somehow. And we hope that 2.4.1 will be with you very soon.

UPDATE: We have been left with no choice but to withdraw Scrivener from sale on the Mac App Store until this problem is resolved. We hope to have it available again soon. Please see my blog post explaining this decision here:

http://www.literatureandlatte.com/blog/?p=348

Scrivener 2.3 and the Mac App Store – Why the Delay?

UPDATE: Scrivener 2.3.1 is now available on the Mac App Store. We resolved the issues mentioned below and our icon designer worked overtime to get the new, larger icon ready, and Apple hurried 2.3.1 through the review process within a few hours of submitting the updated version. Fingers crossed our App Store users won’t have such long delays again and that this was a one off.

Many of our Mac App Store users have been writing to us to ask why the Mac App Store is still showing Scrivener 2.2 as the latest version, when the version on our site was updated to 2.3 over three weeks ago. This is as frustrating to us as it is to our users – we would much rather everybody was using our most recent version – but unfortunately we have no control over how long it takes for updates to get onto the Mac App Store, and this time around things have been a little more complicated.

We submitted version 2.3 to the Mac App Store three weeks ago, on the same day we released 2.3 on our site. Every time an app is updated on the App Store, it has to go through Apple’s review process again. Usually, it takes anything up to a week before a reviewer picks it up from the queue, and then it takes a day or so to get accepted or rejected. (I don’t think we have ever been accepted first time – there’s always a new reason for rejection!)

However, the App Store review process has recently slowed to a crawl, presumably because of all the problems Apple had last month whereby they somehow managed to corrupt many of the updated apps they uploaded, causing crashes for thousands of users of different applications. As a result, it took a little over two weeks before we even received notification that 2.3 had made it into review.

A brief digression: A few users have asked us why we can’t go back to simultaneous releases – after all, for the past few updates, we have released the Mac App Store version on the same day as the version on our site. But the only way we could do this was by holding back the update from our site until Apple had accepted it for the Mac App Store. We’ve never been entirely happy about doing this, and have decided, especially with certain things we have had to get into place in our non-MAS version ready for Mountain Lion, that it’s better to get an update into as many users’ hands as possible as soon as it is ready. After all, simultaneous releases won’t get Scrivener to our Mac App Store users any faster; they just make everybody else wait unnecessarily as well. And besides, we thought it would only be a matter of a week or so before App Store users had 2.3 in their hands too.

But, as I say, this time it took over two weeks to get into review. It then took another five days for us to receive the news that Scrivener 2.3 had been rejected.

The rejection wasn’t entirely unexpected, although it was disappointing. On 1st June, Apple introduced a new rule on the Mac App Store – all apps sold through the App Store (by third-party developers, at least) must be “sandboxed”. Sandboxing is a new security feature which essentially locks down everything an app can do on your Mac – reading and writing files, accessing the internet and so on. For an app to be able to do any of these things (which is obviously vital for a great number of programs), it must get “entitlements” from Apple, justifying them to the reviewer, and even then, some things are prohibited and certain long-standing features of many apps – such as the ability to access a folder or file between launches – are no longer automatically available and involve having the user do a little extra work to grant permission.

Which is all fine (from a technical perspective, at least; this isn’t the time to talk about the pros and cons of such a security system, and I am not expert enough in that domain) – I have done a lot of work on sandboxing over the past few months to ensure that, should Apple enforce it, Scrivener would work without too much extra inconvenience to the user. However, Apple said that any apps that had been sold on the App Store before 1st June (as Scrivener was) would not need to be sandboxed for bug-fix updates. So, knowing that sandboxing would cause some minor extra inconvenience to users (users will explicitly have to tell Scrivener which folders it is allowed to access for features such as linked images, references and aliases to work, for instance), we submitted an unsandboxed version of 2.3 in the hope that it would be considered a “bug fix” update. It wasn’t.

So, as soon as 2.3 was rejected for not being sandboxed, I was ready to re-submit a sandboxed version immediately. But before I did, I noticed something rather worrying. Although our sandboxed version had been extensively tested on Lion and on some pre-release versions of Mountain Lion, when I tested it out on the developer Golden Master of Mountain Lion, I discovered that some key academic features no longer worked – in particular, the integration with MathType (which relies on Apple Events).

As far as I can tell, this is a bug in sandboxing on Mountain Lion, and I’ve contacted Apple about this (taking out a Technical Support Incident with them) to see if there is anything I can do about it on my end. But, until I hear back from Apple, at least, it leaves us between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Apple won’t let us upload the non-sandboxed version of Scrivener 2.3 (which works fine on Mountain Lion) and sell it through the Mac App Store. But if we upload the sandboxed version of 2.3, then although it will work fine on Lion, as soon as any of our Mac App Store customers upgrade to Mountain Lion later this month, they will find that the MathType integration is broken. (I have appealed to Apple to let this release through the App Store without sandboxing until the issue has been resolved, but that was a no-go.)

I know most of our users are probably not going to be worried about MathType support, and may feel that holding back from re-submitting for a few days over this one feature is unnecessary. But for some of our academic users this is a key feature, and I would like to get it resolved before resubmitting if I can, rather than having to explain to users why this is broken when they update to 10.8.

So, as things stand, I am waiting for a response from Apple and will re-submit 2.3 to the App Store, sandboxed, as soon as I can either fix the MathType issue or know that it cannot be fixed.

But now for the good news: Mac App Store users do not have to wait until 2.3 is released on the Mac App Store in order to start using it; you can just download and run the version from our site if you like. As long as you have run the Mac App Store version once, the version on our site will recognise you as a registered user. This is because the first time you run the Mac App Store version, it copies its internal machine-specific, Scrivener-specific, user-specific validation file (which is installed into the app by the Mac App Store’s activation procedures) to an external location on your hard drive (the Application Support folder). Our regular version can then look for that validation file and thus recognise your machine as registered. So please do go ahead and download 2.3 from our site if you don’t want to wait for all of these issues to be resolved. (Please note that to install it without any problems, you should delete the version of Scrivener from your Applications folder, first – you will most likely be asked for your admin password when you do this because the Mac App Store write-protects downloaded apps. If you don’t do this first, you may have problems installing because of this write-protection. This won’t affect any of your Scrivener projects.)

As an addendum, I am going to grumble about one aspect of sandboxing, seeing as implementing it has involved a lot of bug-reporting to Apple over the past few months. I’m not against sandboxing in principle (much), and the Apple sandboxing engineering team has worked hard to fix as many bugs as possible. But the big flaw, in my personal opinion, is that, for the first time in as long as I can remember, Apple has enforced a new technology on third-party developers without first “dog-fooding” it (as all the cool kids say). At the point when Apple announced that all apps on the App Store would have to be sandboxed, of Apple’s own software, aside from some small helper apps, only TextEdit and Preview – some of the simplest apps on your Mac – were sandboxed. That’s still the case on Lion (on Mountain Lion, a couple of other apps have been sandboxed, but not many). None of Apple’s major, high-end programs have yet been sandboxed. Having problems with updating an app on the App Store because of sandboxing issues is thus made just that little bit extra infuriating when you know that Apple released significant, non-sandboxed updates to iPhoto, iMovie, Aperture and Final Cut after their own 1st June deadline (Apple isn’t obliged to follow the rules it sets for other developers, of course, this being its own store – but its own software is just as much at risk from security threats as any other). I can’t help feeling that, had Apple set out to sandbox all of its major applications before ruling that other developers must, we wouldn’t be facing problems such as these, and sandboxing would have been a much smoother transition for developers and, more importantly, for users.

But hey, I’m just a grumbly developer. Fingers crossed Apple helps us iron out these issues and 2.3 (or 2.4) makes it onto the App Store soon. In the meantime, my sincere apologies to our Mac App Store users for these delays.

Scrivener for iOS: An Update (There’s a Long Road Ahead Yet)

Given that we’re receiving emails, tweets and forum postings daily asking when the iPad and iPhone versions of Scrivener will be released, I thought it only polite to give everyone a quick update on where things stand. (For those of you who prefer brevity, the content of this post can be summarised thus: Not for a good while yet, sorry!)

First, let me say that we all really appreciate the enthusiasm that so many users are showing for an iOS version. And thank you, also, to everyone who has taken the time to share their thoughts in our “Scrivener for iPad/iPhone – What Do You Want?” forums.

Not being renowned as the most patient person in the world myself, I can certainly understand everyone’s impatience to get the iOS version in their hands. The problem – which I hope will come as no surprise – is that good software takes time. There’s just no way of getting around that, unfortunately; not without bending the laws of physics, at least (although if anyone has a Primer-style box, let me know). Just because iOS is very much a stripped-down operating system compared to OS X and cannot do nearly as much, it does not mean that it is easier or faster to come up with a good design, write good code and test everything thoroughly. (We’ve had some suggest that we throw money at it, get outside investment and suchlike, but it’s not a money issue at all: if we’re going to do it right, then it deserves thought, care, attention and nurturing rather than just hacking something together that we think will meet basic requirements and sell. Part of our ethos is that the people working on the software are also users, and passionate about it – we develop software that we want to use ourselves. We’re just not interested in making software we don’t love. If some users decide to go elsewhere because our crazy ideals – that’s no way to run a business! – drive them mad and they just can’t wait, we understand that, appreciate it, but such factors cannot have any influence on our design and development process, and we hope we’ll win them back with an end product that is worth waiting for.)

To put this in perspective, let me give you some idea of the gestation of Scrivener on the Mac. I first had the idea around 2001, but I didn’t start development on it until 2004, beginning with a design document and odds and ends of code, and this design and proof-of-concept stage took about six months or more before serious development could begin. The first version that was stable and complete enough to be tested by real users appeared at the end of 2005. It was then rewritten and redesigned and didn’t go on sale until the start of 2007 – and Scrivener 1.0 was a long way from what Scrivener is today (on both platforms), because development has continued constantly for the past five years.

Now, with the iOS version, in many ways we’re right back at the beginning again. Not entirely, of course – because OS X and iOS share many fundamental libraries, we are able to reuse some small parts of the existing code base, although none of the interface code is portable. We have had to look at the touch interface and ask ourselves: how can we bring the core features of Scrivener to a completely different interface? What will it look like, and how will you interact with it? In so doing, we’ve been going back to the reasons I built Scrivener in the first place – because to be Scrivener, it has to achieve the fundamentals of what Scrivener set out to do, but it has to do it in a way that makes sense for an entirely different interface. And then we have – or, rather, Jen has – had to start building the necessary interface components, one by one, step by step.

To explain: Cocoa software – which covers OS X and iOS – follows what is known as the model-view-controller paradigm. What this means is that, unlike those old BASIC programs we used to type in at school, you don’t just write one long list of computer instructions. Instead, it’s more like manufacturing a car: you make the wheels, which in turn will involve moulding the tyres, forging the hubcaps and so on and putting them together; you build the engine entirely separately, breaking that down into all its constituent components first too; there is the shell, the chassis, the steering wheel, the seats – all will be made independently and eventually put together. Hopefully some of the components can be sourced pre-built by someone else, but ultimately, you are going to have to build a lot of them yourself before you can combine all of those parts into anything remotely resembling an automobile. The model-view-controller paradigm is much the same. You build all the parts of the program separately (technically, this is what is known as “object-oriented programming”) and then you stitch them together. So, you build the views (the corkboard, the binder, the editor and so on, but also using views that are provided by Apple where possible, or customising them), and you build the models (the data – some code representing a single binder item, for instance, and dealing with writing it to XML, or some code representing a collection, or a keyword), and then you stitch it all together (the “controller” layer is code that does the stitching, basically).

Whenever I add something new to Scrivener, then, I go off, design it, code it in a test app, test it out, and then incorporate it into Scrivener only when it’s ready. By the time a new component makes its way into Scrivener, it is already fully-formed and stable (or at least, that is the idea). Likewise, with the iOS app, it doesn’t start life as a single program that will then evolve – that comes later. It starts life as lots of small demo apps that test out all the different views that have to be built, or test out data manipulation. None of these apps do anything meaningful in themselves except allow us to build and test individual components – by the time these individual components become part of the whole, the idea is that most of their bugs are squashed (ha). There will be any number of these test programs along the way. Most recently, for instance, because iOS doesn’t have a view that works like the binder, we have had to figure out how something like that would work best on a touch interface and build it; likewise, there is no corkboard on iOS unless you build it yourself; and so on.

So, this is where we are. Since December, we have spent a lot of time hashing out a design for the iPhone and iPad. And we’ve come up with something that we’re all excited about – something that brings across the core features of Scrivener but without trying to reproduce the desktop version on a touch interface. At the same time, Jen has been working furiously on various key components (such as the corkboard and binder), and putting together code that can read a .scriv project. We’re still a good way from combining all of that into an early working version, though, and perhaps the largest hurdle – getting syncing right – is still ahead of us.

Still, here are the basics that we are hoping to bring to the iOS version:

  1. A working binder.
  2. A working corkboard.
  3. An editor that allows for basic rich text editing (bold, italics, underline, footnotes of some sort and so on).
  4. Access to labels, status, synopses, notes and project notes.
  5. Seamless syncing without the necessity of closing the project on your Mac or Windows machine.

 

We know that we won’t please everyone – it’s impossible to bring the full desktop version to iOS, and everyone uses Scrivener differently – but these are the basics that most users have been keen to know will be in there. Beyond that, we cannot say anything more at this stage – sorry!

I said from the start that we wouldn’t be able to give a release date for a long time, and that still stands, I’m afraid. All we can say is that we are hoping to get it finished before the end of 2012 – but with no promises, given the amount that is left to do. It will be released when it is ready, and that certainly won’t be tomorrow or next week or even next month. We know you want something good, and that is what we are hoping to deliver – trust us, we’re not slacking off, but are working hard to bring Scrivener to iOS in as much of its glory as possible. (I hear occasional rumblings that we “should” have started all of this a couple of years ago, and while I can understand such frustration, especially from users who know little about how small shareware companies such as ours really are, trust us, we couldn’t, in good conscience, have started it any earlier. Remember we are a tiny company, selling what is really quite a niche product, and growing only at a glacial rate. Two years ago I would have had to step away from the Mac version to develop this, and leave our Mac version to rot for a while. Sadly, I’ve seen this happen to a number of other programs. I love my Mac, though, and Scrivener on it, and could never have done this. Now we have Jen, who is doing an amazing job, and we are in a much better position to deliver what our users want.)

Finally, a note on beta-testing. We’ve had lots of people – hundreds! – say they would love to beta-test. Thanks for everyone’s enthusiasm. At the moment, though, for various reasons, our beta-testing list is invite-only. There’s nothing cliquey or secretive about it – I simply look out for existing users on the forums or on Facebook or wherever, who seem to know their way around Scrivener and who are also good at reporting bugs or problems. Beta-testers have to be prepared to lose work, put up with persistent crashes and suchlike, so, at least for the first phase of testing, it’s always best to have a group of people who aren’t going to shout at you when things go wrong. Besides, we’re a loooong way from beta-testing yet – we’re not even at the alpha-testing phase. So if you really want to be a beta-tester, the best thing to do is to be active and helpful on the user forums, and then in three or four months drop me a line and say, “Hey, look, I’m such-and-such on the forums, you know me, I’m a great guy/gal, you just know you want to make me a beta-tester.”

Right, back to my iPad – Jen delivered an exciting component for testing today…

Scrivener 1.0 for Windows now available

At long last, it’s here – Scrivener 1.0 for Windows is now available for download and purchase. Please see the product page here:

http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php?platform=win

Scrivener for Windows costs a mere $40 ($35 for students and educators) – slightly less than the Mac version simply because it still has a little catching up to do, given that the Mac version has been in development for five years longer. That said, Scrivener 1.0 for Windows has shipped with far more of the Mac 2.0 features than we had initially planned (including epub and Kindle mobi support), and Lee (the Windows developer) has done an amazing job on it. If you’ve used Scrivener for Mac, you’ll feel right at home in Scrivener for Windows; if you haven’t, then rest assured that Scrivener for Windows has been built from the ground up as a native Windows program (i.e. it is not a dodgy port!).

Thanks to everyone who has shown such enthusiasm for a Windows version, and to all our beta-testers who have helped improve Scrivener for Windows no end over the past year. 1.0 is just the beginning, of course – there are lots of free 1.x updates in the works. Anyway, we hope you like Scrivener for Windows and that you find it useful with your own writing endeavours, as we do in ours.

(And by the way, bestselling author David Hewson has updated his ebook, “Writing a Novel with Scrivener”, to cover the Windows version too – details available here.)

Scrivener for Windows: Release Pushed Back One Week; Available for Pre-Order Today

One of my favourite Douglas Adams quotes is this:

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

Well, we’re hearing a bit of a whooshing sound ourselves today. We have been telling people that today, 31st October, would be the official release date of Scrivener for Windows, but – at the last minute – we have made the painful decision to postpone for just one more week, moving the release date back to 7th November. However, as a thank-you to beta-testers, and to make up for this slight delay, we are today making Scrivener for Windows available as a pre-order, with a 10% discount which will be available until the full release on 7th November. So, for the next week, you can buy a licence for $36 instead of $40 (or $31.50 instead of $35 if you are buying the educational licence). Any other discounts floating around (cough NaNoWriMo cough) can be applied on top of the 10% discount for the regular licence, too.

The Scrivener for Windows pre-order page is now up here:

http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php?platform=win

Thus, you can buy today at a slight discount and enter your serial number next week when Scrivener 1.0 for Windows is released (you will receive your serial number immediately after pre-ordering). Or, if you don’t like pre-orders, you can wait the extra week. And for those beta-testers worried about the expiry date of the current beta, remember that we have a special trial version available for NaNoWriMo that lasts all the way up to 7th December:

http://www.literatureandlatte.com/nanowrimo.php

So, why the delay? Lee, the Windows developer, has been working around the clock to meet this deadline, which we decided on a couple of months ago based on the state of the Windows version at that time. He has been killing himself trying to fix the bugs reported by our excellent beta-testers, and in his attempts to meet the exacting standards we set for ourselves. But as of last night, there were still a few issues that we felt needed addressing before we could truly call this a 1.0 release; things we weren’t comfortable leaving for a 1.0.1 update. We know that pushing the release date back – again – risks annoying some potential users who have been eagerly waiting for the release (which we appreciate, and we hope the discounted pre-order helps), but we’d rather get shouted at for being late than for releasing software with minor glitches we could have ironed out had we taken a few extra days.

Scrivener 1.0 for Windows is nearly ready, then – but that “0” signifies only that we’re at the end of the beginning; it’s just the proverbial line in the sand. 1.0 will – we hope! – be awesome, but following 1.0, there will be a 1.0.1, a 1.0.2, a 1.0.3 and so on, as we continue to address any minor issues left over, and then a 1.1 and a 1.2 and onwards as we continue to refine Scrivener for Windows and make it into the best program for writers – and for ourselves – that we can.

Please let me take this opportunity to thank each and every one of our beta-testers, everyone who has blogged about Scrivener for Windows, and all those who have been eagerly awaiting its release. We hope you’ll enjoy using Scrivener on both platforms – hopefully see you back here next week. Thanks!

Taking Control of Scrivener – New e-Books and an Online Course

One of the main issues with supporting a deep program such as Scrivener is providing enough help and tutorial materials. Although it’s relatively straightforward to pick up and start using Scrivener, it can be used in many different ways, and while our tutorial and Help manual are thorough, we’re aware it would be really useful to provide some more workflow-oriented tutorials and walkthroughs. To this end, we’ve already decided to put some time aside after releasing 2.1 (out soon) to write some more tutorials for the Knowledge Base wiki, and to put some more screencasts together.

Fortunately, however, some great new learning materials for Scrivener are now available from third parties. Two e-books have just been released covering different aspects of the program, one a fantastic introduction to all of Scrivener’s main features written by a senior contributor to Macworld magazine, and another written by a bestselling author explaining exactly how he uses Scrivener for his own novels. There is also an upcoming online course dedicated to using Scrivener run by Outreach International Romance Writers (a branch of Romance Writers of America – although you don’t need to be a romance writer to take part in the course).

Take Control of Scrivener 2 from TidBITS Publishing

We’ve worked with TidBITS Publishing, creators of the popular “Take Control” series of e-books covering many Mac applications, to sponsor Take Control of Scrivener 2. Using Melville’s Moby Dick as his exemplar, author and senior Macworld contributor Kirk McElhearn walks you through using Scrivener to create and manage a writing project. Kirk takes readers through using Scrivener’s binder, outliner and corkboard to develop characters and settings, collecting and organising research materials, and arranging scenes.

The book covers how to keep yourself on track by composing in Scrivener’s Full Screen mode and by setting daily progress targets, building up to producing a manuscript ready for submission or self-publishing. It also contains quotes from published authors on how they use Scrivener, including David Hewson, James Fallows, Jason Snell, Jeff Abbott, and Michael Marshall Smith.

Although it uses Moby Dick as an example, Take Control of Scrivener 2 is not aimed only at fiction writers but is a general guide to using Scrivener. If you’ve been through the tutorial but want a more hands-on guide written by someone with a bit more distance from Scrivener, and who has years of experience explaining software to a general readership, you may want to give Kirk’s e-book a whirl. A sample of the contents can be found here:

Read sample pages.

Take Control of Scrivener 2 comes in both PDF and ePub formats (you get both), so you can view it on your iPad, and costs $10. You can buy it from the tidbits.com site or directly from our store here:

Buy Take Control of Scrivener 2.

Writing a Novel with Scrivener by David Hewson

David Hewson, the bestselling author of the Nic Costa series of crime novels, has long been providing readers of his blog with insights into how he uses Scrivener. Following popular demand, he has now written a full e-book on this very subject.

Writing a Novel with Scrivener assumes some knowledge of Scrivener (making it a great companion to the Take Control book or to our own Help materials). In it, David explains all the features of Scrivener he finds useful for writing his own novels, including how he uses keywords and collections to keep track of individual character storylines, keeps an “Unplaced Scenes” folder for writing ideas out of sequence, uses the “Append Selection to Document” feature for quickly assigning character descriptions to a character document, and much more.

As David explains from the outset, Writing a Novel with Scrivener isn’t intended as an explanation of every feature, but rather how one working, bestselling novelist makes use of the features he needs for his own workflow and hides the ones he doesn’t – and along the way he exhorts users to find what works best for them, too.

Writing a Novel with Scrivener is available from Amazon and requires a Kindle or Kindle software (so you can read it on a Kindle or on Kindle for the Mac, iPad or iPhone). The entire book was written using Scrivener 2.0 and created using Scrivener’s .mobi exporter. For further details, including links to the Amazon pages for the countries in which it is available, please see the announcement on David Hewson’s own site here:

http://www.davidhewson.com/writing-a-novel-with-scrivener/

Online Workshop from OIRW (Outreach International Romance Writers)

For those of you after a little more personal tutoring in the ways of Scrivener, Gwen Hernandez is currently running online workshops covering all the main aspects of using Scrivener through OIRW (a chapter of Romance Writers of America, although you do not need to be a romance writer or a member to participate). Gwen has written numerous incisive tutorials on various aspects of Scrivener over the past few years, which can be found on her site:

http://www.gwenhernandez.com

Her online course is entitled “More than Word: Getting the most from Scrivener for Mac”, and is aimed at beginning and intermediate users of Scrivener. Topics include using the binder, splitting and merging files, snapshots, split screen, collections, keywords, working with labels, templates, full screen mode and more.

The first course is running right now and is already fully subscribed, and we’re hearing a lot of fantastic feedback from the people taking it. The next one will be taking place in August and will be announced on the OIRW site soon, so if you’re interested I recommend keeping an eye on the OIRW site or on Gwen’s own site (click on “Scrivener” at http://www.gwenhernandez.com ) or Twitter feed.

We’re over the moon that Kirk and David have decided to make Scrivener the focus of their most recent books, and that Gwen has made it the focus of her online seminar, and I hope that their work proves useful to Scrivener users out there who are looking for practical guides beyond our own help materials.