Scrivener 3: Don't Use It Until You Read This!
If you’re familiar with the writing tools provided by Literature and Latte, you might already know about — and be using — Scrivener 3.
But if you’re a Scrivener 2 user who’s hesitant to make the switch because of Scrivener’s steep learning curve, or a Windows user who’s waiting for a compatible version of Scrivener 3, we’ve got some advice to help you make the decision (or tide you over until it's available).
Before we start talking about the new functionalities on offer, let’s quickly cover what Scrivener actually is.
What is Scrivener?
Scrivener by Literature and Latte is a word processor for Windows and Mac, designed expressly for writers — fiction and nonfiction authors, screenwriters, journalists, academics, and more.
One of the issues many writers of long texts face is navigation: assembling all of their research and information in a way that makes it easy to access what they need, when they need it. Scrivener helps with this, offering writers the tools to organize concepts, notes, research, photos, videos, documents, and more.
Fun fact: What does a scrivener do? Back in the day, a scrivener (or scribe) was someone who could read and write, and made their living writing or copying material on behalf of others.
The basics of Scrivener 3
Here are the answers to your biggest questions about Scrivener 3 straight off the bat:
- When did Scrivener 3 come out? November 2017 for Mac users.
- Is Scrivener 3 available for Windows? Not yet, but it will be in 2020.
- How much does Scrivener 3 cost? $45 for new customers.
- If you purchased Scrivener 2 on or after August 20th, 2017, you can update to Scrivener 3 for free.
- If you purchased Scrivener 1 or 2 before August 20th, 2017, you can upgrade to Scrivener 3 for $25.
- How do I upgrade to Scrivener 3? You still need to download Scrivener 3 from Literature and Latte to upgrade, even if you already have Scrivener 2. Click here to do so, then simply click “Upgrade from an older version” in the trial window.
- Scrivener 3 also has a 30-day free trial is available (though it’s actually 30 days of use, so if you only use the program two times a week, you will have the trial for 15 weeks).
With all this in mind, let’s take a closer look at what Scrivener 3 has to offer.
Scrivener 3 review: our five favorite updates
You can find a full list of the new tools and updates Literature and Latte has unveiled right here. In this post, we’re focusing on the five new features we feel writers will get the most use out of.
1. Linguistic Focus Mode
Called “Dialogue Focus” for Windows users, Linguistic Focus is a great tool that can be used in a number of ways. Essentially, you can specify a specific type of word or dialogue (direct speech, nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, or conjunctions), and Scrivener will highlight that language within your story.
Why is this important? Well, let’s say you want to make sure that your dialogue tags aren’t distracting. Or maybe you have the feeling you’re repeating the same adjective throughout your writing. Linguistics Focus will allow you to zero in on these things to make sure your writing is as effective as possible.
Before Scrivener 3, you could choose specific types of language to be highlighted, but only through a separate third party tool that you’d need to integrate — thereby distracting you from your writing. Now the function is built right in.
Software that claims to help you do something — like write a book — needs to balance a fine line between offering a variety of functions while also having an organized and easy-to-navigate interface. To that end, Scrivener 3 has consolidated and replaced References, Favorites, Project Notes, and a couple other features with the Bookmarks mode.
And it’s exactly what it sounds like: you can bookmark any project documents that you refer to frequently. The main update that Bookmarks provides is that if you click on a bookmarked document, it will not replace the current document you’re working on. Instead, it will open in an editor next to your current document, and you can browse or edit it without having to switch back and forth between texts.
Let’s say you’re writing a novel and somewhere along the way you decide to make a big change to a character. If you have character templates or character development documents bookmarked, you can reference them right away and make a note of the change there, without skipping a beat in your writing session.
3. Label View
If the walls of your home are covered in lines of Post-It notes in different colors — tracking things like chapters or narrative arc — you’re going to love Label View.
The updated Scrivener corkboard allows you to give chapters, scenes, character developments, or anything else you’re looking to track, its own label color. You can then create index cards with notes, and each card of a certain color will appear in its own thread — which can display horizontally or vertically, whatever makes it easiest for you to track its progression. This is an incredibly helpful tool for outlining many different elements of your book all at once, so you can easily compare and adjust things as necessary.
4. Metadata Plus
The Metadata function has been around since the first iteration of Scrivener, and is a tool that lets you add information about all of your outlines, notes, draft, etc. With Scrivener 2, the metadata became customizable (instead of only being able to add labels, statuses, and keywords). Now, you can also add checkboxes and dates.
Let’s say there’s a specific scene you’re not sure about, and that you want to send to a group of beta readers you’re working with by a certain time. You could, in the metadata of that document, include a note that says “Submit to beta readers by May 1, 2019” and a checkbox that says “Completed?” It might sound basic, but it’s a great way to keep track of the role each document plays in your overall project.
Copyholders is another feature that doesn’t need much explanation. Like some of the above features, its utility lies in its simplicity.
Let’s say you want to edit two documents at once. Then let’s say you also want to open up a bookmarked page to reference a saved piece of research as you edit the other two documents. Well, with copyholder, you can open up to four documents at once... and that’s really the gist of it!
Either this function will entice you with the ability to reference (and edit) more than one thing at a time, all on the same screen — or the idea of having multiple things open at once will feel cluttered and have you calling Marie Kondo. But either way, you can’t deny it’s a pretty cutting-edge development in writing software.
Making the call
Scrivener is known for its feast of functionalities — but also its steep learning curve. If you struggle to stay organized while writing a book, its many tools might be the ticket to keeping you on track.
However, if you just want a place to write — or are hoping to format as you do — consider giving the Reedsy Book Editor a try. It doesn’t offer outlining tools, but it will leave you with a professional-looking manuscript at the end. Or if you’ve not done your writing software window-shopping yet, check out this list of writing apps other than Scrivener!
Have you used Scrivener 3 — or any of its earlier iterations? Let us know what you liked about it or any struggles you faced in the comments below!