Tools: Scrivener for Writing

There are few things that I encounter in real life where I think to myself, “Mother of God.  This is a game changer.”  The fact is, that I am an old dog and you know how we are with new tricks.


I recently joined the Mac cult and was introduced to Scrivener (there is also a PC version).  I don’t remember how it happened.  But I somehow came across it and did the free trial- thinking, “well, what is all this about?”  Long story short, Scrivener is for people who write (read: writers and academics).  It is pretty sweet- once you get used to it.  I admit, I am still working out all the things that it can do, and that I have only scratched the surface of its capabilities.

What I like most about it is that it takes a lot of the hassle of working with a traditional text editor (*side eyes MS Word*) like formatting and inability to move sections around easily out of the writing process.  It is easy to organize thoughts and parts of text.  It is possible to work on a section at a time in a large document, something that I believe is difficult in Word, particularly with very large sections and chapters.  In scrivener, these sections can be rearranged and dragged/dropped easily.

The thing I like most about it though, is that it keeps different components of a project together.  Because Scrivener has a “research” option, it is possible to keep your notes on a project with the actual project (as opposed to as comments in the body of a text).  Because we all know what happens when push comes to shove and MS Word’s formatting is giving you fits: deletions.  We delete those comments all in the name stopping some of the crazy auto-formatting that happens anytime you try to add a table or a figure or a page break or a section break to a word doc.  The problem is, that sometimes these thoughts and comments are substantive…. they belong to the thought structure of the paper.  In Scrivener, these thoughts can be kept alongside the sections where they occur.

There is a handy outlining feature in Scrivener, which if you ask me, is super useful for outlining academic papers.  As close to using index cards as you can get without actually using index cards.  There are templates that you can use- like Essays, Novels, and Non-Fiction, that each come front loaded with genre specific material.  It isn’t all crazy useful, but that content is easily deleted to customize your specific document.

This video is a great on-ramp to Scrivener, even if it is quite long (turn on while you eat lunch).  If you are thinking of parting ways with Word, or are trying to think of a way to work better, it might be worth your time to check out Scrivener.  To be fair, there is a steep learning curve in that it isn’t exactly intuitive to get up and running.  But it is definitely worth the free trial download!

Cheers and Happy Writing!


Author: Jessica Bishop-Royse

Jessica Bishop-Royse is the SSRC’s Senior Research Methodologist. Her areas of interest include: health disparities, demography, crime, methods, and statistics. She often finds herself navigating the fields of sociology, demography, epidemiology, medicine, public health, and policy. She was broadly trained in data collection, Stata, quantitative research methodology, as well as statistics. She has experience with multi-level analyses, survival analyses, and multivariate regression. Outside of the work context, Jessi is interested in writing, reading, travel, photography, and sport.

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