Scrivener: Making Better Software By Being Clear On What It Isn’t

There is no hiding the fact that I love using Scrivener from Literature & Latte for writing. Sure, I know I’m probably only tapping into a 1/10th of its power (I don’t use labels or status and barely use the document notes), but still Scrivener is just how I get my writing done. We Scrivener users have been waiting a long time for the much anticipated version 2.0, and word is that the beta test is coming next month (I oh so hope that I’m in the beta test—no I’m not above sucking up for the privilege). While I think a lot of developers would focus on all the coolness coming in the app, Keith did something that I think is even better—he talked about what isn’t coming in the app and why:

My plan for Scrivener 2.0 all along, then, has been to refine what is there rather than to throw in two hundred new features just for the sake of it. With these thoughts in mind, the purpose of this post is not to talk about what is coming in Scrivener 2.0 – I’ll be posting information about that at the beginning of September, when I get back from my Spanish holiday. Instead, I’d like to get out of the way those things that aren’t coming. The things I get asked for regularly but which won’t be in Scrivener 2.0, either because they just don’t fit within the scope of what Scrivener is, or for technical reasons.
So, without further ado (I know, you’re thinking there has already been one thousand words of ado), here are the things that you won’t be seeing in Scrivener 2.0…
link: The Cellar Door » What You Won’t Find in Scrivener 2.0

Oh sure, I know the “check out all the coolness” post is coming, but what I like about what Keith did is that he looked at the most common things that have been asked for, but won’t make it into the 2.0, and answered them head on. Timeline, mindmaps, styles, iWork support (dammit)—none of these are in the next version and the reasons why are really good. I’m not crushed (lack of iWork support isn’t his fault even—it’s Apple’s!), actually I think I’m looking forward to the next version even more (which I fully expect to have to pay for and will gladly do so) because I see that Keith is trying to keep true to his vision for what Scrivener is supposed to be and how it works. Sure, he’s improving the app. Sure the app is growing and maybe evolving, but what I’m pretty darn sure of is that the app will be better. It will be better because Keith isn’t trying to make everyone happy, he’s just trying to make something that works great, work better.

That’s a good lesson for all of us I think. We tried to do the same thing when working on Qumana back in the day. Trying to be everything to everyone would only make a bloated app that sucked (hmm MS Word?). Even when I’m working on books or documents, I have to stop and remember that it can’t be everything. I have to draw a line in the sand somewhere.

Yes, yes, I know that in project management and planning this is requirements gathering and defining the scope. However, as well all know that scope creep is all too common in projects. So, reminding ourselves that whatever you’re doing has real boundaries is a good lesson. Even going out on a limb and saying “okay here’s what this isn’t going to be…” even if it’s “at least not at first…” is a great start.

So now I’m going to go back to the second book that I’ll have written in Scrivener, and hope that Keith will be sending me a “congratulations you’re in the beta program” email soon.

Please, Keith, please?


  1. says

    Hey Tris! Great post, I can’t wait for version 2.0.

    I (like you) only use about 2% of what Scrivener can do, but I did figure out a pretty good use for Labels:

    I write based on an outline and have many scenes in my binder. I also jump around depending on which mood I’m in writing different scenes on different days. It was getting hard figuring out which scene I wrote yesterday so I could keep going today. I use labels to direct me back to half-written scenes.

    I made one say Currently Writing and I assigned it a bright orange color. I then turned on View|Tint Icons with Label Color. Now I can see where to start writing for today!

  2. says

    I’ve always admired Scrivener for this, too. A lot of the features he says won’t be coming, I’m happy about. I don’t want it complicated! Complicated is what bothers me about MS Word. Well done, Keith. And great post, Tris.

  3. says

    Thank you Tom and Jen…

    Tom you gave me an idea how to manage a multi-author project in Scrivener! Each author as a label plus “All done”…

    Simplicity is key in writing. I was working on a document this evening. The writing in Scrivener was easy. The fussing in Pages to prettyfy it …. not so much.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *