Scrivener for iOS Review: A Must-Have App for Writing Anytime, Anyplace

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Scrivener for iOS review

Do you need Scrivener for iOS? Is it such a good app for writers? Why don’t you just type away in some notepad-like app?

A couple days ago I saw these questions on NaNoWriMo forums and I thought I have something to say. So here’s my (a little bit late) Scrivener for iOS review.

Scrivener for iOS review in a nutshell

If you’re really curious and want a flash forward, I think that Scrivener for iOS is a great app and must-have for any writer or blogger who wants to be more productive and organized with their writing.

The Scrivener for iOS app is actually one of the most beautiful apps I’ve ever seen. Really, you can’t go wrong with any of Literature and Latte (the developer company behind it) products.

It has a minimalistic interface and a full-featured desktop experience. Can you imagine having all the Scrivener features on the go with your light tablet? (Well, mine isn’t actually light as it’s an iPad 4, but still:) Check out how Scrivener for iOS works and looks in this video:

In the more detailed Scrivener for iOS review below I will dive into features and benefits so you could decide for yourself if you need this app or not. Personally, I like that I don’t have to be chained to my Macbook anymore and can leave it in the office and still be able to work on my book or my blog from home using only my iPad or iPad + Bluetooth-enabled keyboard. It’s a dream came true.

Now, read along to know why I love this new Scrivener mobile app and think it’s totally a must-have for any professional writer or blogger.

But first…

How I survived without Scrivener for iOS

In short, badly.

I craved for Literature and Latte to release the app and became frustrated and very sad whenever I stumbled upon news about another delay in the development.

While I’ve been waiting for Scrivener for iOS, I had to make do with some other apps on my iPad to be able to write on the go (especially in my travels). I used Evernote to catch my ideas and inspirations quickly. Frankly, I’m still using Evernote for this whenever I get an idea for a new article. I guess some old habits are hard to do away with.

Scrivener for iOS review, app on the iPad with projects view

For some time, my main app for writing was Textilus. It was really great, with so many useful functions for the low price. I especially liked Textilus’s text highlighting, ability to select a background color, lots of fonts, Dropbox syncing, customizable keyboard rows – that’s right, Scrivener hasn’t stirred up a revolution with their virtual keyboard row, I’m pretty much sure Textilus was among the first apps to feature it.

But, after some time (perhaps about a year) and a few updates, Textilus started crashing on me every time I tried to write with it. I got fed up with it and removed it from my iPad.

Then I had no alternative than writing either in Pages or right in Evernote. I usually use Evernote only for quick catching of my ideas on the go or reading my research I collected from the web (Evernote’s ability to create a minimalistic-looking article out of any web page and send it to your account is amazing). But I had to use Evernote for writing too, though it has only basic formatting options and is very slow on my iPad 4.

I mentioned Pages, but I don’t like it at all. It’s great for laying out your document, totally. But writing in it… well, it’s like writing in Word. It just doesn’t feel right. One particular feature of Pages I can’t figure out is their zoom: whenever I use it, it scales the font up, but doesn’t make it responsive like Scrivener for iOS does, resulting in a text cut out by both edges of the screen. Who could use a zoom like that when you can’t read the beginning of the sentence and its end? I don’t know. But Apple obviously knows much better than me.

Why Scrivener for iOS is so great

So you probably already gathered that this is going to be a praising Scrivener for iOS review. And in fact, there’s a lot to be praised in this little mobile app:

  • First and foremost, you finally can take your Scrivener projects with you whenever you go and write on your commutes, travels, from coffee shops and your friend’s sofa. You don’t have to compromise on using other apps and then wasting time exporting/importing your progress into the desktop version of Scrivener.
  • Scrivener for iOS uses minimalistic interface that doesn’t get in your way and helps you fight distractions. The app is designed to launch, sit back and simply write.

Scrivener for iOS review, app on iPad: virtual keyboard

  • You can store all your projects in a Dropbox folder and seamlessly sync them between Scrivener on your iPad/iPhone and your desktop app. That said, you don’t have to copy/paste or import/export anything – just hit a button to sync, wait a few seconds and get to your writing. As simple as that.
  • Working in Scrivener on your iPad (or iPhone, but with fewer features), you can have almost the same full-featured desktop writing experience as you have with your laptop/desktop computer. Just hook up your Bluetooth keyboard (I’m using an Apple keyboard, it’s great to type on and lightweight) – and you have an ultimate (and yet mobile) writing tool.
  • Speaking about the keyboard, Scrivener for iOS offers a long list of keyboard shortcuts for just about anything. It takes your productivity to the whole new level – just find the commands you use often, learn their shortcuts and feel great about yourself as you’re shaving off those precious seconds when you don’t have to tap on the screen to make the app do your bidding.
  • Finally you can forget about having your research in so many different places: that web page you stumbled upon in Evernote, those inspirational photos in your Photo app, those Word documents containing your old drafts from Google Drive, you name it. With Scrivener for iOS, you can import all those files into your project for easier and quicker reference. Right, exactly like with your desktop app.
  • After you imported your research files, notes, and images, you can have them open side by side with the Editor pane, meaning you can effectively work while consulting with your research at the same time. No need to hassle around switching panes or windows to have a look at your research and then going back through several screens and taps. Fast, simple and so productive!
    Scrivener for iOS review: word targets

    Scrivener for iOS: word targets pane

  • Scrivener for iOS helps you track your progress as easily as the desktop app with word targets for your sessions or the whole manuscript. Also, the word count is before your eyes at any time which is helpful, especially when you want to be aware of how much content you’ve already written for that blog article (it’s a must for me as I’m always very wordy and need to know how much I’ve already written).
  • Finished your novel on an iPad? Swell! Now you can compile your manuscript into a nice-looking file, right from Scrivener, and send it to your friends, beta readers or yourself for further formatting or printing out!

So should you buy Scrivener for iOS? For me, the answer is obvious: yes! If you take your writing seriously and want to maintain an organized and productive workflow, without having to compromise on anything, and at the same time be able to write anywhere, anytime – Scrivener for iOS is the best tool for that.

I recommend buying mobile version of Scrivener even if you don’t have Scrivener for desktop, because really, it’s a top-notch and full-featured app all by itself.

What major desktop features are missing in Scrivener for iOS

In the benefits of using Scrivener for iOS for your writing on the go, I mentioned that you have almost the same desktop experience. Let’s look at this almost thing closer.

Being an initial release, Scrivener for iOS does lack some functionality, either because of how iOS itself is designed or due to Literature and Latte conscious decision.

Here’s what you should expect to be missing when launching Scrivener for iOS for the first time:

You can’t set up a backdrop (but you can select a background color)

Remember that fancy feature of being able to set up any image as your background in the full-screen mode that helped create some nice feel (like being in the magical castle or in the gloomy forest)? Right. Now forget it.

In Scrivener for iOS, you can’t set up a background image with translucency or even change the color of the paper.

UPDATED. Actually, you can change the color of the background in Editor! Thanks to Scott, my reader at BookBaby blog where I republish my articles frequently, I found the hidden option to select one of the three background colors. To change the background color in Scrivener for iOS, follow these steps:

  • Open the Settings app.
  • Then scroll down to Scrivener.
  • Tap it and find Background Colors setting.
  • Choose the background color for your text or notes from three variants: white, cream or gray.

And now you’re good to write for hours without straining your eyes due to the cold, harsh whiteness of the screen! Thanks again, Scott, for pointing my attention to this and thanks, Literature and Latte, that you put so many features into your pretty little Scrivener app.

You can’t compile .epub and .mobi

That’s right, you can compile your manuscript in Scrivener for iOS, but not into all the formats available in the desktop version. On your iPad or iPhone, you can compile the draft into PDF, Word, RTF or Plain Text formats.

That said, it should be enough to get your manuscript out of Scrivener in iOS and into some other app that can handle formatting and laying out better than Scrivener (like Word or Pages).

Scrivener for iOS review, iPad: binder and editor

Forget about snapshots

Snapshots are used when you want to create a backup of a file or folder or the whole manuscript before applying major changes (like before going into heavy editing). Snapshots allow you to add some label to recognize the particular backup later. They also show you the date the backup was created.

In Scrivener for iOS, though, there’s no snapshots functionality. You can still use snapshots in the desktop version of the app, so make sure you don’t forget to create one before applying changes to the project on your iPad. All in all, I don’t think the lacking of this feature is really noticeable in the iOS version.

No Collections for you on iOS

Some users on NaNoWriMo forums became really frustrated with this feature missing in Scrivener for iOS. I personally don’t use Collections much (at this point), but other users utilize them to create various customized workflows, like for proof-reading of their manuscript of checking or consistency throughout the whole text.

Another really useful way of applying Scrivener Collections to your workflow is changing the structure of the book (the order of the chapters or scenes in which you read them) without changing the actual structure in the binder. It’s a nice idea because I myself was playing with the order of my chapters to find the perfect one. I had to toss them around within the binder, but I could have used Collections to preview the new reading order easily.

That said, forget about Collections when you’re working in Scrivener for iOS, at least for now. Being one of the distinctive features of the app, one could believe Collections will be added in the future versions. Let’s wait and see.

There’s no Scrivenings mode

Scrivener for iOS review, iPad: options

Scrivener for iOS: options pane

This one for me is arguably the worst. 🙁

You know that mode when you select your folder (usually it’s a chapter containing your scenes) and you see the whole text from this folder in the Editor? It’s called Scrivenings mode. Like a combined piece of a manuscript. It’s really useful when you want to read your whole chapter to see how it goes without having to click on next scenes and distract yourself.

On iOS, there’s no Scrivenings mode. There’s a Draft Navigator tool that can show your entire manuscript, but I don’t find it useful since you probably won’t want to read all your manuscript in Scrivener (frankly, I’m confused with this feature’s usefulness).

That said, I should remind you (and myself) that it’s just the initial release, version 1.0. I believe Literature and Latte will take the app in the right direction, polishing some rough edges (I noticed only these few above mentioned, plus perhaps a little bit quirky navigation) and adding new functionality (Scrivenings mode? Maybe we should put a petition for this, anyone?).

How much space does Scrivener take on your iOS device?

One of my readers on BookBaby blog (where I publish guest posts from time to time) asked me this question: How much space does Scrivener take on your iPad?

I checked my iPad and found out that Scrivener takes about 140 Mb. Note that I don’t use images in my projects for research yet (I still store the major part of my research in an old-fashioned way in Evernote), though I have a project for my fantasy book series ‘How to save a princess’ which contains more than 300,000 words (so it’s rather heavy).

Also, you should consider how much space your Scrivener projects take in the Dropbox folder. Mine is 120 Mb, plus I store automatic backups in a separate folder of 809 Mb in total. But the backup isn’t downloaded to your iPad, so no worries (and to this day, I never needed to use it, luckily).

By the way, I’ve got a little guide on how to set up automatic backups and store them in Dropbox.

Final thoughts

I don’t know about you, but being able to write my stories and blog articles on a mobile device is the killer for me. The major portion of this article, by the way, was written in Scrivener on my iPad before or after my day job.

In this review, I’ve highlighted several points that make Scrivener for iOS a total must-have for writing anytime, anyplace. So how about you? Are you going to buy the app? Or did you buy it and are using it already? Share your experience and thoughts in the comments. And don’t forget to share this Scrivener review with your fellow writers.

Good luck with your writing on the go!