Recommended Writing App (for book)

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by Dirtyharry50, Jun 25, 2015.

  1. Dirtyharry50, Jun 25, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2015

    Dirtyharry50 macrumors 68000

    Dirtyharry50

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    #1
    I've been looking at both Scrivener and Ulysses as tools to use in writing a book. It would be a bonus if I also found either one or the other to be useful for shorter writings as well from notes to essays to whatever.

    It seems both of these apps have their fans including best selling authors on both sides of the fence.

    Worthy of note, learning and using markdown would be a new thing for me. I'm not particularly thrilled about doing that versus just using a WYSIWYG editor instead. I think either of them allow you to write in an uncluttered view that hides the UI when you want to focus on the writing. I got the impression that one of Scrivener's strengths is support for researching information one might require. I will be doing some research simply to present certain information of interest and provide the reader with credible sources where it from. So that would be helpful not only for this project but I could see it being useful in the future for other writing as well.

    Something Ulysses seems to emphasize is keeping all of your writings in one place with global search across them all supported. I don't know if Scrivener works similarly or not. Just taking a superficial glance so far I got the impression from screen shots of the UI for each of them that Scrivener seems to incorporate more in the way of organizational tools for a given project but I may be completely off there with the limited investigation I've done so far.

    I think both apps offer free trial versions on their web sites that I just glanced at briefly this morning in which case I will give them both a spin to see them firsthand.

    Are there any writers here using one or the other or having had experience with both who could share some insight about the relative strengths and weaknesses of each product?

    I should also mention that this is my first foray into book writing. There is a topic I have wanted to write about in detail for over five years now and I think I'd like to move beyond daydreaming about it and actually do it. I've looked into these apps more than anything else hoping to find a good means to organize my ideas and structure them overall in a planning phase that would precede writing anything. I want a clearly defined roadmap that ensures I cover what I want to in a well thought out way. Naturally, being able to easily modify this and move topics around, etc. would be very helpful.

    Any advice for this novice would be greatly appreciated. If I am not thinking of important information needed to guide me here, please let me know and I'll be glad to try to be more specific.
     
  2. monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

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    #2
    I don't know anything about Ulysses, but I've been working in Scrivener for 7 or 8 years now. It's hard to imagine writing a book -- or anything long -- without it.

    What I find most useful in Scrivener is the ease with which I can move sections (or chapters) around. If you're a linear writer and most of the time start at the beginning and move on through to the end, this feature is probably not useful. But if you write in chunks, and you're not sure where those chunks will go -- in the end -- then Scrivener is very helpful. Rearranging is trivially easy.

    Provided you set it up properly at first, you can combine chapters and read/edit them as if they were one. Then when you're done, they go back to where they were (well, they never really moved, but you know what I mean).

    The last book I wrote was written in multiple voices, where the voices were scattered over the entire book. When I wanted to check that I hadn't lost control of each narrator's voice, I just combined all the chapters belonging to that person, and read through them (and made changes) as one. Any changes I made went into the correct chapter, even though I wasn't necessarily aware of which chapter I was in.

    You can also have your notes and plans easily at hand. So for example, I might have a folder in which I keep all my comments about a certain character, or a certain situation or plot element. When I'm working on a chapter, I can easily bring up those notes in a separate window so that they're visible while I'm writing.

    Yes, if you're good with Word, you can do a lot of what Scrivener does. You can do it, but it's hard -- often very hard. And that's where Scrivener's worth its (low) price.
     
  3. Dirtyharry50 thread starter macrumors 68000

    Dirtyharry50

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    #3
    Thank you monokakata. That's very helpful information. I can easily see myself despite the planned structure preferring to write in various sections as the mood strikes and therefore being able to move things about easily would be very nice. I like the idea of that feature where chapters can be combined to work on them (virtually anyway) and then separated again (yes I did understand you there). I can see that being very helpful at times too. The last thing you noted about being able to easily access notes and plans, calling them up in another window is a feature I would find highly useful at times and something I was looking for in particular with an app like this.

    For me the most beautiful thing about the Macintosh is the wealth of specialized software that allows one to put together workflows that work for them. Maybe the Windows world is improving in this regard although I dislike the operating system and more that I won't get into here. For all its power in some senses, I see Microsoft Word as being a tool that is overloaded with features as it tries to be a one-size-fits all application. I realize it is quite good for some applications even if I do not personally care for it but I would far prefer to use an app that is specialized for what I want to do and which has a feature set focused specifically on that without any extraneous, unrelated features to distract and wade through in the UI.

    Have you ever looked at Scapple by the people who make Scrivener? That looks very interesting to me. I'm going to look for a demo of it on their site but if there isn't one for the price I will probably buy it anyway. I'm also thinking about picking up a simple, distraction-free writing app that I could call up when I think of something I want to write about and perhaps want to make some notes or even write part of it. I am thinking of short things here such as a very rough first draft of an essay or something that I just want to get down while I am thinking of it and then work on seriously later. Maybe there is no need if one owns a dedicated app like Scrivener. What are your thoughts on that? Do you use any other apps you find helpful in conjunction with Scrivener?
     
  4. monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

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    #4
    You do have TextEdit on your Mac. That's a low-overhead environment -- in fact, Scrivener uses TextEdit for the actual display and fundamental word processing work.

    I did pick up Scapple once when they had a deal I couldn't resist. But I haven't used it.

    I also occasionally use Bean and TextWrangler, because sometimes I need to create a simple text file with no extras whatsoever. They do that job well. I also keep a copy of NeoOffice around, because out there in my backups I still run into WordPerfect files from long ago.

    I work in Word when it suits the job. For example, if I'm working on something that's a couple of thousand words long, I don't bother with Scrivener. I also have Word's UI stripped down about as far as I can get it, with no Ribbon and only the buttons that I need.

    With Scrivener, at the end (or along the way) you tell it to compile a Word document. You're going to be doing that, because you're going to need your book in a standard word processing format -- and let's face it, that's Word -- to send around.
     
  5. Traverse macrumors 603

    Traverse

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    #5
    I used Scrivener to write my thesis. It is an excellent piece of software. A bit overwhelming at first, but if you do their tutorial (it's in the app itself) you'll be up and running within the hour.
     
  6. Traverse macrumors 603

    Traverse

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    #6
    You mean you wouldn't attempt to write a 200+ page book in MS Word? :D
     
  7. Traverse, Jun 26, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2015

    Traverse macrumors 603

    Traverse

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    #7
    I wanted to reply to this topic more in-depth. I own a copy of Scrivener. I don't have Ulysses (yet), but I have used their trial software. I have spent a significant amount of time over the past 6 months trying to find a writing workflow that works for me. I haven't found it yet, but am getting closer. Maybe this will help you. :)

    I apologize for the length.

    Well, at their core, bot Ulysses and Scrivener do the same thing. They allow you to write text in a potentially uncluttered view and (most importantly) write in a non-liner format. For example, when you open word you have a strand of pages. To move in between sections requires scrolling, jumping, copy and pasting, etc. Also, it is not very easy to rearrange your writing and make edits over and over. Word is best used for a memo or (as I use it) for a moderately short essay where you start at the beginning and write through until the end.

    This can be unwieldily if you're writing a 50 pages research report, a 100+ page book, keeping a journal, or (like me) writing an 80 page thesis. Scrivener and Ulysses allow you to break up your writing and offer much easier ways to reorganize and work with your text. For instance, I changed the structure of my thesis 8 times. I was able to rearrange section, change headings, and introduce new section all in the Binder (sidebar). This would have been annoying and cumbersome in Pages or Word.

    Generally, what I've found is that Scrivener can do anything Ulysses can do and 100 more things, but that doesn't mean Scrivener is better. Sometimes, that is a negative. I explain more further down.


    Both Ulysses and Scrivener support attachments. You can drag text, PDFs, images, etc. over and veiw them as another column or as a separate window. Scrivener is the king here; it's a literal digital junk drawer/thought bucket. You can drag anything to Scrivener including audio files, web clippings (Scrivener has a built in feature for this), any file type you'd use (including the basic MS Office suite, but not fancy ones like OneNote files or Access files of course). You can organize them in a folder hierarchy and open as many as you want and drag them all over the place. Ulysses doesn't support as many file types (no audio).

    Ulysses' implementation isn't as good to me. Instead of a folder hierarchy, they appear as thumbnails in a sidebar on the right in a thumbnail view (see screenshot). You can pull them off and have them as standalone windows like with Scrivener. Ulysses' implementation is nice if you just need to view an image, but if you have dozens of attachments it is a really poor way to do it. One thing I like better though is that they appear in a separate column, whereas if you click one in Scrivener it replaces your text view in the main window. You need to either right click or select the research file and press the spacebar to open it in another window. Scrivener's is much better with organizing them and handling several attachments, but I wish clicking them automatically opened a column view or window view instead of the current way it's done.

    I would not attempt to do a large research project with Ulysses unless all my research materials were in a separate Finder folder that opened in their native apps. With Scrivener, all I needed was Scrivener because it had such good organization and could natively open everything I threw at it.

    This is one of the biggest differences and makes each app better at different things to me. Think of each Scrivener file as a large, special folder where your writing, planning, organization, and reference files are stored. All inside that .scriv file. Each scrivener file would be separate. For example, I would have a Scrivener file for my thesis, one for my book, one for my journal, one for a semester of classes. They stand alone, independent of each other.

    Ulysses is different. There are no Ulysses files accessible to the user (they are hidden in the system library). ALL your writing is in one unified library. Ulysses doesn't use folders, but you have the same effect using sheets like in my screenshot. They're not called folders (I think they're called groups) but they work the same way. So you'd have one group for each book, one for your thesis, one for your semester, etc. And of course you can have nested groups/folders in either app.

    This is where each app applies to a different scenario for me. I don't want my thesis in the same "library" as my book or class notes, or general journal. If I'm writing a thesis or a book I want them to be in their own, self-contained, independent file. I open my Thesis Scrivener file and all the info is right there and nothing that doesn't pertain to it is there. With Ulysses, everything you ever write is stored in that one library, there are no multiple libraries. If you write a lot, this would get out of hand very fast in my opinion.

    What is good though, is that you can just launch Ulysses and you're there. All your writing is available. You don't have to open an app and then find the file. The app is the writing in essence. For me, this makes Ulysses a great journaling app. If I'm going to undertake a large research project or any massive writing project, it will be with an independent Scrivener file, but I also want a general journal. Not a daily diary, but a place to store my random thoughts, write about my opinions, feelings, etc. I am thinking about moving to Ulysses for this. This one large "library" will be my expansive journal. Now, I could accomplish the same thing just a Scrivener file, but like I said earlier, sometimes Scrivener's features can get in the way if you just want simple, random writing and not an ultimately large, coherent document. Scrivener would certainly work for a journal and many people do, but I like the simplicity of Ulysses and the concept of "just open the app and you're there" for a journal.

    Also, Ulysses uses Markdown. I'm not that crazy about Markdown, however it is pretty universal. Meaning you could copy and past the text from Ulysses into another Markdown editor and keep going should you want to leave Ulysses. Markdown was designed to be simple and seamless so you never had to leave your keyboard to do basic formatting. Personally, I prefer WYSIWYG editors like Scrivener, but I don't mind it at all for a journal. I would not want to write my thesis in Markdown because then I would have to change EVERYTHING when I exported it to work for final formatting. Markdown can be exported as a formatted document and that works well for website or book drafts for publishers, but for academic writing with special margins, page breaks, an styles, Markdown is too much work. Again, it depends on the situation.


    This is the best thing to do. And some advice. Scrivener has a tutorial file that you read through and it's interactive. It takes a few hours if you do it all at one time, but it is really good and really helps you get up and running. I came away liking both apps for different reasons and different uses. Though it may sound silly, the "feel" of an app is very important and can only be gained through use.

    Hopefully, this helped you. I'm still relatively new to Scrivener and have only used it "professionally" for my thesis and only used about 20% of the available features. I am using it as a temporary journal now.

    Scrivener just has so many features:
    - split view
    - keywords, tags, notes
    - synopses
    - snapshots
    - Compile (1000 features in itself)
    - About 100 more features

    I highly doubt any writer uses them all, but this is a double edged sword. These are powerful features than dramatically help the writing process and there are so many features that you aren't forced into the developer's workflow. You can pick and choose the features you want to use and make your own workflow. Another thing is that if you don't use certain features, they're not in your face. Unless you access the Preference Pane, most features are hidden or can be hidden. This allows you to make Scrivener as powerful or as simple as you like.

    Still, it can overwhelming for some and some writers may prefer a simple app and not a complex app masquerading as simple. Again, that's a personal choice.

    There is another significant reason that again pushes me toward Ulysses for some things (like a journal or school notes). Ulysses has a very good iPad app (with some iCloud sync problems that are supposed to be being ironed out or have been fixed in past updates). Scrivener has no iOS app. One has been coming for 3 years and they claimed it was almost done, but now are asking for a new iOS developer because it's behind. When it does come, it will be Dropbox only.

    Again, there is the issue of opening the app and thing finding the Scrivener file vs just opening the app and having all of your text just there. For me, I wouldn't work on a big project on my iPad, but I would work on journal from my iPad (that's actually crucial for me), so Ulysses is the best one for that use.


    Conclusion:
    Both apps are really good. Both have amazing app support. Ulysses gets regular updates. Scrivener is a small team, but there is faithful support (but they're slower). Again, I like both apps. Scrivener is amazing and really changes the way you can write if it's a long piece. Ulysses is great, but simpler, but can still really change the writing process.

    For me: Scrivener for really powerful, complex writing where you may jump back and forth. Word for school essays and small documents that will suffer from complex and split sections. Ulysses (maybe) for future journals and general writings.

    Again, it all varies by the writer. There are some writers who can write a 500 page book in Word. Others like something even more basic like Text Edit. You can give them all a try and see how you like it. I hope this has given you a general overview and may be able to help you.

    Edited June 27th to fix typos. Sorry, I was in a hurry.

    Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 3.31.46 PM.png
     
  8. Dirtyharry50 thread starter macrumors 68000

    Dirtyharry50

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    #8
    Yes, TextEdit is what I've been using thus far. I hope they have a demo for Scapple just so I can play with it a bit. I do want to pick that up just from what I read and saw of it on the app store page.

    Ah, WordPerfect. In their heyday, I was a manager at a chain software store (Egghead) in the US. Egghead was big in their day as the first major retailer for software apps and games for both PC and Mac. Maybe you recall that if you are from the US somewhere. Anyway, I had occasion to go on a number of business trips for sales meetings, etc. and for one of them we went down to WordPerfect's offices in Utah. I forget the name of the city or town off the top of my head now. I got the see the famous support area, DJ and all (remember that?) and meet with many of the good people who worked there. Likewise, I got to know reps from Lotus Development, Borland, Ashton-Tate, Microsoft of course and others.

    I can't resist just a quick off-topic note here about my relationships with people from the above companies. Remember when Microsoft introduced "competitive" upgrades to lure users to their products for $99. when all the major business apps back then were selling for around $300. or so? They were able to do this at a loss which was bankrolled by their operating system profits from MS-DOS and later Windows. This and deliberately hiding some API calls they reserved for their own use in Windows led to the wholesale destruction of virtually all competing office applications. To this day, this is why I have no fondness for Microsoft and prefer to avoid their products although I may give in to the Word standard at some point. A lot of good people lost their jobs over all that and innovation largely died in the applications world for PC users. I don't think workflow is even a term PC users use. It's more like Word-flow. MS-Office-flow or go home-flow.

    Sorry, but just the mention of WordPerfect brought back a lot of memories.

    Back to the subject at hand, I do find myself at times wishing I had a pure text editor, no frills, just pure, simple text editing. Sometimes I want this for system related activities, such as writing a bash script to automate something or editing some program configuration file or whatever. Sometimes I'd like to just write some brief random text and stick it in something else later. I'll have to check out the ones you mentioned. Thanks for mentioning those.

    I detest the UI of Microsoft Word, at least as of the last time I saw pics of it. I think it is ugly as sin, not at all Mac-like and it keeps a lot of distracting junk visible. It's probably great for somebody in an office typing up memo's and other short documents but for any other kind of writing I would hate working with that. I guess if you turn off and hide a lot of it, customizing it also to just have stuff you'd use, maybe it isn't too bad after all. I imagine it is expensive now that they have long since killed all competition, although fortunately there are options in the Mac world. I understand what you mean though. I can think or feel whatever I want to but at the end of day, Word is the universal standard and I've yet to see anything that handles their proprietary file format flawlessly.
     
  9. Dirtyharry50 thread starter macrumors 68000

    Dirtyharry50

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    #9
    No! I am grateful to you for taking so much of your own time to share such a detailed response with a lot of really helpful info. I enjoyed your entire reply and did not find it long at all. You covered a lot of stuff I was wondering about and cleared up a number of questions I had. However, now you've got me wanting to copycat you and buy both of them! We'll see. It will be enough to tackle one at a time but I am inclined to think it will wind up being Scrivener. I am going to play with the free trials of both because you are right, there's no substitute for personal experience with something.

    When I think about it, I absolutely want my book to live in its own world with all of its supporting files and nothing else. So right there, Scrivener wins. On the other hand, I get exactly what you are saying I think about how nice it would be to use Ulysses as journal for all manner of random thoughts and writing. I like the idea too of using a standard word processor for shorter pieces such as an opinion piece or whatnot. I guess I'll just have to figure out whether I find Pages sufficient for this or if I want Word despite my comments directly above, since it is the universal standard and may even have some features I'd want which Pages may lack. Additionally, I would like to have the option eventually to see any significant documents in Word itself, particularly the book to ensure it was exported correctly and appears exactly as I intended before it leaves my desk.
     
  10. Traverse macrumors 603

    Traverse

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    #10
    Heh, choices can be hard. :) There is no clear winner. If you can only get one (which I recommend starting with) I'd get Scrivener since it is the all encompassing one and can act as your journal if you need it to (like I am now). I'm waiting to get Ulysses on sale because, honestly, I feel $45 for the Mac and $20 for iPad is a bit steep for what you're getting. I feel the opposite about Scrivener. I got it 50% off from the Mac App Store during a sale and regret doing that. It is such a good piece of software and the support team is so good (especially for such a small overall team) that I wish I'd bought it full price ($50 I think) from them directly so that Apple wouldn't gotten 30% of that $25. I may re-purhcase it when I'm out of school. (FYI: the software is the same whether from them or the MAS. That was one of the questions I asked them.)

    Also, I think having a standard word processor is a must. Scrivener does has a "page layout view" but you will never have the control, flexibility, or the ability to see just how it will look in print unless you have a word processor. I have to have one to format essays, my thesis, and final research draft. Scrivener does have some really good export formats for screenplays and books where you can bypass the word processor all together, but that doesn't work with academic work.

    EDIT: Neither of these programs were intended to replace word processors. In Scrivener's tutorial, they even state outright that Scrivener (and Ulysses) aren't designed for formatting, but just be a place where you get the text out of your head and that you're supposed to export to a "dedicated word processing application" for "final formatting" for most works.
     
  11. Dirtyharry50 thread starter macrumors 68000

    Dirtyharry50

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    #11
    Thanks. That makes sense now that you've told me that. I wasn't sure how that worked but did wonder.
     
  12. Traverse macrumors 603

    Traverse

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    #12
    That was the hardest adjustment for me: really understanding the relation ship between the app, formatting and the final document. Ulysses does not have an "Export to Word" function, but Scrivener does and if you use Endnote there *is* a simple way to get it to work with Scrivener, but it isn't as seamless as with Word. Still, I used Endnote with Scrivener for 500 individual citations without a problem.
     
  13. Rusty33 macrumors 6502

    Rusty33

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    #13
    A great thread - thanks to everyone for their contributions. I too can vouch for scrivener...I started using it during my thesis, and it was subsequently been my 'go-to' for my other personal projects: my book, some journal articles etc. The split-screen, snapshot and in-text repository-wide search functionality have been game changers.

    I have had similar experiences with Traverse re: the use of markdown editors...whilst 'clean' and 'simple' editors certainly have their allure, they are very quickly out of their depth when it comes to academic manuscripts. I am very much looking forward to what the developers over at manusciptsapp are going to come up with, as it looks promising http://www.manuscriptsapp.com. Until such time, I am sticking with Scrivener for the most part.

    Where Scrivener falls down for me, however, is in collaborative work. As an academic I am engaged in numerous collaborative projects - journal articles, grant and ethics applications (i.e. heavily formatted word docs) that I must work on concurrently with other academics. I have yet to devise an effective workflow for sharing things electronically. Most academics are in the habit of emailing around different versions of docx files...which is not particularly efficient. Dropbox has, of course, been used with limited success...but I have found that it can have difficulties syncing on University systems. Wherever possible I have used google docs - with some really fantastic results. The platform seems to be getting better all the time, but unfortunately still has no endnote/papers integration, nor can it effectively interpret/reproduce complex tables that have been imported from a word template (i.e. the dreaded ethics application). Needless to say, I am still searching for an effective solution. Has anyone had any success using pages (and iCloud) in a collaborative environment? Or anything else??
     
  14. Big Bad D macrumors regular

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    #14
    Just to throw another idea into these very helpful discussions. How about Storyist? I have no association to this developer, but have used it, after similar thinking about different apps, to develop a couple stage play scripts - not quite same as a book, but many similar needs. Good luck with your writing with whatever you end up choosing.
     
  15. Ubele macrumors 6502a

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    #15
    I can't add much to the detailed information that's already been posted, other than to say that I used Scrivener to write my master's thesis in 2007. I loved it and can't imagine having written my thesis without it. I had no reason to use it after that until this year, when I decided to start a blog, and I learned that many bloggers use Scrivener to write and organize their posts. So I upgraded to version 2 and have started writing posts. I want to have a dozen or so completed before I go live. I have WordPress installed under MAMP as a local host on my MacBook Pro, and the Scrivener file stored in Dropbox so I can access it from my Mac mini. I write a post in Scrivener, copy and paste it into WordPress, preview it, make minor edits in WordPress, and copy the edited post back to Scrivener. I'm not yet sure whether I'm doing needless extra work (as opposed to writing everything in WordPress), but Scrivener is helpful for designing the structure of my blog.

    But you asked about writing a book, not a blog. I, too, have a couple of book ideas, and I'd definitely use Scrivener for to write a book. I haven't used Ulysses, so I can't speak to that. I also bought Scapple when they offered me a special deal, but I haven't used it yet.

    Egghead, Lotus, Borland, WordPerfect... You brought back some memories! One of my first jobs out of college in the 1980s was working for Micromart, a local computer retail store in Atlanta. Egghead was our biggest competitor. I remember when the Microsoft rep came and demonstrated a new product of theirs called Windows. We thought it was interesting, but since MS was going to charge only $90 for it, we didn't see an incentive to learn it and promote it, because our percentage-based sales commission would be a pittance. From a personal standpoint, I wasn't interested, because it wouldn't run on my KayPro II CP/M computer at home.
     
  16. Keebler macrumors 68030

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    #16
    I'll add my 2 cents for you.

    I've not used nor looked at Scrivener - only a Ulysses user here and not a power user in the sense I don't use Markdown.

    In Ulysses, I'm writing for 3 purposes:
    1. blog topics for a blog I might be starting
    2. magazine articles for which I'll be writing approx. 4 articles per year
    3. a book I'm writing. It may end up being for public release, but for the meantime, I'm scribing it for my own family with the idea of releasing it for others to digest

    What I like:

    - it's universal. With the iCloud sync, I can type on my iPhone, iPad and/or Mac whenever an idea pops in or I feel the need to type. I don't have to be at my Mac. I can be anywhere. For me personally, this is a huge factor because this is my 1st foray into writing on a consistent basis so if I feel the need or remember a particular story, I hammer at it without needing to wait. The tap just opens :)

    - I do like the organizational features. Using the Sheets is just like using folders. Plus I can drag stories or articles around to an order I prefer.

    What I don't like:
    - nothing to be honest, but again, I'm not a power user. I don't write code or use markdown although I have a feeling I should for the latter. Not sure if that will cause me more work in the end, but sometimes not knowing is ok :) lol

    So in other words, the connectivity is huge for me. Again, I can write when the feeling hits me and it all syncs. I love that feature. I don't feel restricted in any way.

    Good luck!

    PS. I worked at Corel years later when they acquired WordPerfect which was a solid program. Too bad MS's monopoly moves destroyed must of WP's progress. But, c'est la vie!
     
  17. Dirtyharry50 thread starter macrumors 68000

    Dirtyharry50

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    #17
    Just popping in to thank everyone for all the helpful and interesting comments shared. I haven't gotten to evaluating the top choices for me yet but I have at least bookmarked the sites for Scrivener, Ulysses and Storyist along with downloading and installing the demo versions for each of them. I also downloaded a demo of Scapple and two introductory videos for Scapple and Scrivener from their site. Now I just need to set aside some time to evaluate these and decide what I'd like to use.

    If the creek don't rise and the Good Lord's willing, I may even get around to writing at some point!
     
  18. Traverse macrumors 603

    Traverse

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    #18
    @Dirtyharry50

    I just wanted to let you know my shifting opinion regarding Ulysses. Waiting for a sale, I've started using Scrivener for my journal. True, there is no iOS app yet and the UI may not be "Yosemite-Pretty," but I've been enjoying using it thoroughly. I had planned to make my journal really basic, but since it is something I planned to keep and use for along time, I wanted to get more involved. I've fallen in love with Scrivener for this purpose more than I thought I would and may just skip Ulysses all together. Here's why (some of these things, Ulysses can do):

    1) Since I plan on this journal getting large over time, I want a way to sift through it. I've decided to add keywords like in my screenshot so I can find all notes about certain topics even if they are not in the same folder. Ulysses can do this too.

    2) I love Scrivener "Synopsis" feature. That's the little card at the top right of my first screenshot. You can add a sentence, picture, or anything there and that is like a brief summary of what that note is about and you can view all the "index cards" within a folder or within the entire project in a thumbnail view like in my second screenshot. Each separate entry can have a notecard which is nice because my current entry is 5 pages when viewed in Word, so I like having something glance able. I don't think Ulysses does this.

    3) The creation and modified date. I'm not sure if Ulysses does this, but I love how I can jump between the creation date and the modified date in the right sidebar (like in my first screenshot). I also embed this into the index card manually just for good measure. I know in a few years I'll want to look back on something and see the date. For certain entries I may type it into the actual content of the text if I am writing about something that happened on a particular day, but if I'm writing about an idea or a more abstract thought I don't need the date in there and just want a way to see when I originally had the thought and when was the most recent date I revised it or added to it.

    4) Scrivener links. I don't think Ulysses can do this. In Scrivener you can create a type of hyperlink that links to other entries/pages/objects in the file. So I'm writing about my music library and why I don't care that much for streaming services and I mention how the iPod is ignored, I can link that statement to my entry where I simply talk about how I feel about the iPod's eventual demise. I may writing about new ideas and link to the event entry that inspired it, etc.

    5) Backup. This is actually split into two features, the first of which I haven't used yet. Scrivener provides for a feature called "Snapshots." It's really just like a baby time machine feature. This creates no extra files. It just saves your text like it is when you wake the snapshot so you can bring it up in a side-by-side view if you wanted to compare an earlier draft with your current work. You an make live edits, revert back to it, or Scrivener can even highlight what has changed for you so you can just skim through the text and see where you've changed your wording, added a section, or deleted a sentence. I think I'll use this in the future as a way of looking back on how my ideas change over time. Maybe not; I'll see. The other aspect of this is far more important. Ulysses doesn't let you see your files so you have to depend on iCloud or keep them locally. They just added a backup feature to their new update, but it's not like baking up a regular file. It create another hidden file you can't use and must use Ulysses to search them. That's kind of like backing up your hard drive to empty space *on* your hard drive; kind of...er...not good. Scrivener has a built in automatic backup feature where you can designed a specific folder (for me it is a folder in my Dropbox) and in what intervals you want a backup to occur. Scrivener will export your entire .scrive view as a zip file and put it in that folder. Even with my thesis file reaching 100MB, it only took about 10 seconds. With a text-only file it takes like 2 seconds. You can specify when it backups up, or back it up manually via File -> Backup -> Back Up Nows. What REALLY neat (I'm so nerdy) is that you can also tell it how many backups to save! You can keep all of them, only the most recent 3, 5, 10, etc. This way, you don't have to go into that folder and clean them out. If you want to limit the number of backups, just tell scrivener and it will delete the oldest Zip files as new ones are made. Also, you an have the date entered in the Zip file name so you can view them chronologically. (see screenshot 3 and 4)


    To be honest, reading about these things makes it seem overly complicated, especially for a personal journal. That's what turned me off to using Scrivener for non-work related purposes when going through the tutorials. But as I started writing I realized I wanted a certain feature, Googled, and learned that Scrivener could do it. I think it's important not to force yourself to use a feature just because it's there. Start writing and if you start wishing you could do something with your work, Google it because Scrivener probably has a way.

    Hope this helps somebody!
     

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  19. Dirtyharry50 thread starter macrumors 68000

    Dirtyharry50

    Joined:
    May 17, 2012
    #19
    Thanks very much for sharing all that detail about Scrivener. That was a good read and the screenshots were helpful as well. It was nice of you to take all that time to explain how it is working well for journaling for you. I may consider this myself in the future. I am presently using something very simple for this and it's more of a diary than a journal really so it works but I do find myself running into limitations with it that make me want something more capable. So perhaps my writing choice will be used for this purpose as well. It's good to know Scrivener lends itself well to this purpose.

    I'll take the functionality I need over a pretty UI anytime but hopefully the cake can be eaten too if they do some work there in time. I guess we shall see. I still haven't gotten far with this yet. My attention has been diverted to something else at the moment in a big way. It's a long story but the short version is that I've discovered I can play music again (acoustic guitar) after having lost the ability to do so following a surgery on my left arm five years ago. So, I've been practicing a lot, having fun with Garage Band recording, etc. and more productive things can wait. Actually, I consider making music productive. It's wonderful therapy. I'd like to use it for good purpose in time as well.
     
  20. Geordiekeith macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2006
    #20
    If you just want a good text editor why not download TextWrangler, the free little brother of BBEdit. Although obviously from a coding background it is great for writing, just writing, and only writing. Has great memory capacity - does not slow down with large files - and it features some things I find really useful like unlimited undo's and multiple clip boards. Also a good compare versions" function. To just get words down on the page (screen) it cannot be beat, and any writing will probably end up in Word or similar for final page layout anyway.
     
  21. 960design macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2012
    Location:
    Destin, FL
    #21
    Would iBooks Author be too much in the way.

    I would recommend anything with version control.
     
  22. Dirtyharry50 thread starter macrumors 68000

    Dirtyharry50

    Joined:
    May 17, 2012
    #22
    Thanks for reminding me about this app. I'd forgotten about it. It's installed now.
     
  23. Dirtyharry50 thread starter macrumors 68000

    Dirtyharry50

    Joined:
    May 17, 2012
    #23
    I haven't looked at it yet even though I was curious about what it looked like, etc. I'll have to do that also.

    That's a good point about version control. I hadn't really thought about it for writing which is kind of funny since I am retired now from a software development career where of course version control was essential. I'm glad you brought that up.
     
  24. Traverse, Jul 24, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2015

    Traverse macrumors 603

    Traverse

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2013
    Location:
    Here
    #24
    Ulysses and Scrivener both have forms of versioning control. Ulysses does it automatically when you manually save and Scrivener achieves that effect when you "take a snapshot." I like iBooks Author because it reminds me of the old Pages, but I don't use it.

    Trials are really a great thing. I tried the Ulysses trial again on a new system, imported some of my notes from scrivener and really REALLY wanted to like it. On its face, it seems like Ulysses would be perfect for me, but I just can't "get with it." I don't like how bolding something makes it pink, and italics make a word blue. You can customize the theme but that's overly complex. There are no inter-page links and although you can assign keywords, if you right-click in the tag area it clears them all! :mad: Had I paid $45 for Ulysses I would have been bitterly disappointed.

    I really want to like it, but I just can't seem to get with its flow. Also, it kind of goes against what Markdown stands for. Markdown was supposed to be a universal format so you could take your files and use them with any markdown editor and never lose stride, but Ulysses keeps all your files hidden in the library as unreadable ".ulysses" files so to move to another app you'd have to export each section or manually copy and past over to a new app. That is WAY too much work. Scrivener is no better about that, but it doesn't feature Markdown as a key feature. Ulysses is a markdown app, so it should abide by Markdown's app-agnostic nature. Of course, this is all my opinion.

    I really can't wait for Scrivener for iPad. They claim it's done and in testing with a release scheduled for "late summer" but that will probably be around October (I'm guessing). Ulysses has the iOS side down, but they've been having issues with iCloud Sync. Scrivener is only utilizing Dropbox for the time being because of iCloud's finicky nature and I wish Ulysses offered that too. Ulysses wants to store your notes in iCloud, which I don't trust, but they do have a new automatic backup system. Also, and this may be of importance to you, there were some reviews saying that Ulysses had stability problems with large walls of text (45,000 words I think). If you're going to write a long book, it may not be the best choice.

    I'm excited for Apple's new Notes app. I think that will be my go-to place for my thoughts when I'm on the go and when I get home or sit back with my iPad, I can take those notes and put them into Scrivener (split screen on iPad finally :D ). I doubt you'll see a Scrivener iPhone app, whereas Ulysses says one is coming.

    I am not trying to discourage you from using Ulysses. Try it and you may love it, but I am trying it for the first time too and just wanted to share my thoughts. Also, I had some funky bugs with the trial version creating duplicate notes even for local files? :/ There have been reviews on the Mac App Store about crashing problems. I can say that in the year I've used Scrivener even for really big projects (several hundred MB thesis with 80,000 words, 30 PDFS, images, etc.) I never had a single bug present itself or a single crash. The only think that takes a minute (usually with the beach ball) is when you compile a large document for export, but that's not the app freezing, it's just...well...compiling. I'm sure there are bugs and crashes, but I've never had a single hitch with it in my experience. It's one of the most stable apps i've ever used.

    Honestly, the OS X app doesn't tempt me at all. The iPad app still tempts me because it is one of the few FULL featured writing apps for iPad. But without it's companion OS X app, what's the point? I'll wait, with great hope, for Scrivener.
     
  25. 960design macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2012
    Location:
    Destin, FL
    #25
    It's pretty 'sick'. Been running notes on the right half of the iPad screen and a local server login (wordpress) blogger on the right for about a month. Copy pasting back and forth is just so easy, now. You'll definitely like the split screen.
     

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