The Cellar Door » The Vapour Trail of Scrivener for iOS

For the longest time, this was something I kept biting at the bit for. The Literature and Latte folks posted a long note to users today explaining the delays, the reasons, and the Let Me Sum Up version:

The short version – the “tl;dr” version as the cool kids say – is that we still expect it to be finished this year, but now very much doubt it will be released until next year 2015 because of the amount of testing we need to put it through before letting it loose on the world.

via The Cellar Door » The Vapour Trail of Scrivener for iOS.

Knowing how small a shop they are, and having seen code rushed in other shops to meet demand, I think they’ve probably made the right decision here. It’s really tempting to release early and often, adding features as you go, but if they had we’d see two results: folks would just complain about what wasn’t there, and the L&L folks would be spending all of their time chasing bugs instead of working on improvements.

I have a small confession to make, something I haven’t mentioned: for about six months, I switched over to Storyist completely. Wait, don’t lose faith in me, I came back! While the ability to transition between iPad and desktop was very, very nice, the application itself didn’t work for me. Too used to the shoebox mentality of Scrivener, where I can move pieces about and work more organically, I found Storyist to be too constraining and hard to navigate. Which is perhaps ironic, since I tend to write in a mostly linear fashion, not jumping around. Meh.

And the winner is…

Scrivener (software)

I just couldn’t do it, folks. I wanted to, oh I wanted to, but I just couldn’t break up with Scrivener. Before I get to that, let me tell you some things…

The good

Storyist on the iPad? Phenomenal. It was everything we dream Scrivener’s foray onto iOS will be. All of the elements of the desktop version are present, synchronizing via dropbox is mindnumbingly easy, and frankly, it just works. Editor, cork board, outliner, it’s all present, functional, and intuitively easy to work with.

The bad

The desktop of Storyist is awkward. In a lot of ways, it looks very similar to Scrivener, but it lacks polish. One thing I really liked was how index cards are grouped by the chapter, but still visible en masse. That was nice.

Unfortunately, the meat of why you’re using a program like Storyist was needlessly difficult. Maybe I’m a little spoiled with Scrivener, but when you offer a binder like sidebar that displays chapters and scenes, don’t make it so confusing to actually work with them. In Scrivener, each scene is a solitary file. In Storyist, everything is really one large file, which makes planning ahead, even for a pantser like myself, well, confusing.  You see, if you’ve sketched out a dozen scenes or so, maybe in the outliner, and then switch back to manuscript mode, you can’t tell which scene you’re working in. What you see is a column of nicely centered hash marks. Where do you put the text? Not sure. I couldn’t easily  tell where I was in a document to know what scene I was adding text to. That makes it hard to work.

Talk about spoiled? I’ve grown so accustomed to the presentation layer and the compile layer being able to be different, I felt stifled when Storyist only appears to have the same static view for everything.

The (sadly) obvious choice

I liked being able to switch to the iPad in situ, working with the same tools in the same document as on my desktop. I really, really did. I’ve grown weary of L&L yearly promise that sometime in the  year they might have the iOS version. I like them, they’ve always been really friendly (ok, at least DJ is, and DJ puts up with me on twitter, so that speaks volumes).

But beside all of that, Scrivener really is the tool I find easier to work with on the desktop. Sure, there were some features in Storyist that had appeal, but the meat of it was just too clunky. Add to that that Storyist costs twice as much as the initial purchase of Scrivener, and you can see where this is going.

L&L folks, if you stumble on this – give us something for the tablet! Meanwhile, I have a write off in the works with a friend in Arizona. Must get busy.

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What’s on my mind? Storyist vs Scrivener

English: An "X" colored to be simila...As a distraction, I’ve been playing with the demo of Storyist, testing out the integration between the desktop app (which has a hefty price tag I haven’t quite committed to yet) and the iPad application.

Storyist isn’t as feature rich or easy to use as Scrivener – what is? It has a basic manuscript mode, which took some getting used to. Although visually in the sidebar it presents the text as discrete blocks, like Scrivener does, in the main editing area its all really just one large document per chapter. This can be a little disconcerting since if you’ve started outlining, you have a large block of #’s without being able to tell where you are in the text. Maybe there’s a setting that I haven’t found, or that isn’t in the demo, that addresses this, but a bit annoying. The notecard (“storyboard”) and outline functions seem pretty straightforward, and I have to concede I prefer the way Storyist presents the group of notecards. One of the benefits is supposed to be the way the different sheets (character sheets, plot sheets, setting sheets, etc.) integrate with each other and let you link against parts of the manuscript, but its not something that’s completely won me over yet.

The seamless integration with the iPad app, which has the same features (note cards, outline mode, manuscript mode, etc.), however, is really rather enticing. Scrivener, as wonderful as it is, is going on year three of promising to have an iPad app without any sign of a real delivery.

I’m still on the fence between shelling out the money for a new program and waiting, but it’s good to know there is a viable alternative out there. And I know, not a bit of this adds words to the page as far as actually writing, but we all procrastinate in our own ways.

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