OK, I admit to dinosaur-era technology. My first computer was the Radio Shack Color Computer 2 with a tape deck for memory storage (seriously). Websites were in DOS (let's just say you were lucky to get both upper AND lower case letters).

So I've been using Word for 20 + years (I don't remember when it split from WordPerfect). I have never found it to be lacking in any tool that I need, and I find it very easy to insert work product as running text into a query letter.

However, there are some annoyances that I guess I just never took the time to dissect. I also have concerns about compatibility as technology moves forward.

So my question is: Am I really missing out on technical advances, am I being stubborn about learning (or failing to learn) Scrivener, and am I holding myself back by continuing to use Word?

Let me add: I only write fiction with occasional scanned documents, and I also do resumes. I also occasionally use PowerPoint and Excel.

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    What you need to work out is how Scrivener could actually help you. In the end, do you just need a word processor? Do you need something that will allow you to change the structure of your work relatively easily? Does viewing something visually improve your writing, or is it just a distraction? I tried it and wasn't convinced, but others swear by it. Dec 26, 2015 at 21:27
  • Thank you. I will specify my usage. Be happy to give you a point if you'd submit as an answer.
    – Stu W
    Dec 26, 2015 at 21:47
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    Whoa, but tape decks? Is that some new-fangled replacement for punch cards? :)
    – Jay
    Dec 27, 2015 at 7:19
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    Ha ha. I remember those days. I started with punch cards, then the first computer I owned was a TRS-80 Model 1 with tape deck. Pixels the size of your fist, any colour you liked as long as it was green. I remember the day I managed to poke machine code to make the thing go "beep". I was so proud. 8k RAM. Awesome!
    – Smoj
    Dec 31, 2015 at 0:42

2 Answers 2


Re compatibility: Scrivener allows you to export in many formats; the company makes a point of not holding you hostage to proprietary software.

One of my favorite features of Scrivener is the organizing. You can have multiple text documents, nested in layers of folders, and you can have a split screen so you can see two documents at once (and copy-paste between them). You can view your documents as literal note cards on a cork board and add tags and keywords. This alone broke through a writer's block of many years for me.

There are additionally many tools to help you with the fine-tuning of the manuscript, like word-count goals, snapshots, searching for multiple instances of a word, a name generator — I probably don't even use a quarter of them.

In the end, however, Scrivener's tools are just about gathering many tasks which you can also do manually if you have Word and putting them into one interface. If you don't need those tools or features, you aren't behind the times by not using that particular program.

I started writing in MacWrite (yes, I'm dating myself) for as long as the OS would let me, and continued for a few years in Quark because that was the program I was in most of the day as a typesetter. Whatever makes it easiest for you to write is the correct method.

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    Thanks, Lauren! I read a forward by Piers Anthony once. He continued to use pencil and typewriter well into the eighties, perhaps nineties.
    – Stu W
    Dec 27, 2015 at 19:17
  • I still use an IBM Selectric typewriter sometimes for exercises. Great for forcing you to write without being able to edit. Focuses the mind. Scrivener works for me now though, it's good software for a novel.
    – Smoj
    Dec 31, 2015 at 0:45
  • @Smoj Writing digitally was one of the most freeing things for me. It's insanely frustrating if I have to go back to paper or typewriter. The riders, the arrows, the cross-outs — for me it's such a hindrance. I'm glad it works to focus you, but I couldn't do it any more. Dec 31, 2015 at 12:20

I don't think you need to fear compatibility issues moving forward with Word, as it's more or less the business world's linga franca of text document file formats. And even if it goes belly-up, there's so much information corporations rely on that is captured in it, there will be conversion utilities.

What you need to ask yourself is what's missing in your toolchain? What features do you need to help you write better with your specific working processes and methods? Do they cover your entire workflow? Do you need a one-stop shop? Or do you prefer multiple applications in your toolchain? What do you want to use to write, edit, collaborate, and deliver your document? If Word does everything you want, then stick with Word. Just because there are newer toys out there doesn't necessarily mean they're better toys for what you want to get done.

Word is a pretty dang good word processor. But if you need to lay out documents in multiple columns for magazine, newsletter, or newspaper layout, it can suck royally. If you tend to write in a At that point, a page layout application might make more sense. It also sucks as a content management system (CMS). It sucks as an ebook authoring tool. It sucks for really long complex documents. (I prefer FrameMaker, but I'm a dinosaur with vi and nroff/troff skillz, and can still remember when Frame was cross-platform and produced by Frame not Adobe. :)

Scrivener isn't a word processor so much as it's an IDE for document development. It's a different kind of tool. If you're the kind of person who works with a cluttered desk, keeps multiple notes in multiple formats (text, graphics, links), and likes to have the ability to glance over all your research or ideas at once on a big board, or to be kept tidy in whatever organization you like, and to be able to refer to that material while writing, then Scrivener can help do all of that on the computer. It can foster writing in non-linear fashion. Word, not so much.

But. Keep in mind that when getting a book published, chances are good that for collaborating on edits with a copy editor and editor, chances are good you'll have to go back to Word because of the business world lingua franca thing. See Charles Stross's blog entry on "Writing a novel in Scrivener: lessons learned".

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    Thanks. I'm blanking on what CMS is? And yes, the last time I tried to make a trifold on Word I got frustrated, gave up, and paid some 17-yo at Kinkos $20 to do it for me.
    – Stu W
    May 23, 2016 at 3:05
  • @StuW CMS=Content Management System. I've spelled it out and added a link to the Wikipedia article on CMSs. It's a tech-industry buzzword for documentation systems that allow for reuse/single-sourcing. And I keep hoping Scribus will be an open source answer to InDesign/PageMaker. :)
    – inkista
    May 23, 2016 at 20:39

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