Aug 062015


Let’s face it: No matter how much you love to write, sometimes the process can be a pain. But luckily there’s a variety of writing productivity apps designed to make our jobs easier.

I decided to test-drive two writing productivity apps that I had never used before – oTranscribe and Scrivener – when I started work on my latest cover story for SOCAN Words and Music. It was an interview with legendary musician/songwriter Randy Bachman, founding member of The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

So, let’s see if these apps made my job easier as I was… Taking Care of Business.

Part I of this two-part series dealt with oTranscribe. Today, we’ll look at Scrivener, a full-featured app that many writers are using for a wide variety of writing projects.


Scrivener is a very powerful writing app that’s completely new to me. It’s chock-full of features that I didn’t even touch in writing the Bachman article, so please don’t take this as anything close to a full review of this app.

I decided to try Scrivener after seeing a great overview of Scrivener’s best features in an online webinar presented by “Scrivener Coach” Joseph Michael and So if you’re looking to find out more about this app, you can perhaps start there.

Or take advantage of Scrivener’s free 30-day trial period and mosey through the app’s interactive tutorial, which gives you a pretty complete overview of all the features and functionality.

Right out of the box, I found a few features that were a big help as I wrote the Bachman piece.

A Tool With a View

The one feature that stood out for me right away is the so-called corkboard view. This allows you to look at a project’s sections (as defined by you) in a grid-like array, like recipe cards arranged on a coffee table. Or, y’know, a corkboard. I had a feeling this would help me organize my article better.

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I was right. I’ve written lots of magazine/web articles that are from 1,500 words up to 3,000 words, and I often get to a point where I need to pull my nose away from the computer screen and step back to get a big-picture look at how it’s shaping up. I need to see how the various sections are coming together to tell the story.

I found the corkboard view very valuable for doing that. You can drag the sections around to rearrange their order, and split the text at a chosen point in one section to be tacked on to another section. There’s lots of flexibility.

You can see how this would be helpful for someone writing a novel or a large report – moving chapters around, changing the order of sections. And even though my article wasn’t as large as a novel, Scrivener helped me get a better sense of the flow, and whether I was giving some topics too much or too little ink.

I ended up moving sections around several times until I had the flow that I wanted.

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Click to enlarge.

Belly Up to the Sidebar

The sidebar on the left of the Scrivener page is called the Binder. This includes the Draft folder, which holds the sections/chapters you’re writing, and the Research folder.

The Research folder is a terrific feature. It lets you keep lots of different kinds of support documents and reference materials in the sidebar area – so you can access them right in Scrivener.

You won’t need to go switching between several open applications or searching through your computer for documents. It can even hold media files – images, PDF files, video files, etc.

For the Bachman article, I used the Research area to keep a few different kinds of documents and resources at the ready: The transcribed interview in full; the writing agreement from my editor in case I needed to refer to any of the parameters for the article or materials he had referenced; Bachman’s website (yes, you can import web pages into the Research area); his full bio that his press people had sent to me, so I could quickly check facts and spellings, etc.; and a video from an EPK (electronic press kit) of the making of Bachman’s new album that I could refer to.

It seems there is no end to the variety of documents and resources you can keep at hand in the Research folder. Very handy.

Spit it Out!

When you’ve finished writing your Scrivener project, hit the ‘Compile’ command and all your sections/chapters in the Draft folder are combined in the order you’ve set and can be outputted in a variety of formats.

Formats vary depending on what mode or template you’re using in Scrivener – screenplay, novel, manuscript, e-book, report, etc. – but it supports most text document formats: MS Word, rich text, plain text and html, among others.

The Price is Write

Unlike oTranscribe, Scrivener is not free. It’s $45 USD (I took advantage of a 50%-off special, which made the decision easy). But, if it’s an app you’ll end up using for your writing projects, that’s not a bad price.

And as I mentioned above, there is a free 30-day trial period that will allow you to test-drive it and see if it’s (ahem) write for you.


So there you have it. Two writing apps that made my job easier when it came to writing my Randy Bachman article. In fact, thanks partly to these apps, I was able to submit this article on deadline despite a very tight turn-around time, prompting my editor to triumphantly proclaim, “We the turn-around kings!” (Pro Tip: It’s always good when your editor triumphantly proclaims things like that.)

Try these apps for yourself. I’m sure there’s more about these apps to discover, especially with Scrivener. So, just maybe… You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet?

Perhaps you’ll find other great features with these writing productivity tools – or other problems and gripes. Either way, please share your thoughts here. I’d love to hear about your take on these apps, or if you found this write-up useful.

What about you? What tools do you use to maximize your writing productivity or make your job easier?

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