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Old 02-26-2012, 08:33 AM   #1
Andrew B.
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Default Scrivener

Have any of you tried out Scrivener? They have a version for Mac and a version for Windows.

   
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Old 02-26-2012, 10:03 AM   #2
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Interesting...

I'm not using it bit reading about it reminded me that I'd like some tools to help me organize stuff when I'm writing (things like web pages, tutorials/instructions. and more - not novels ).

So I did a quick bit of research...

I found two possible alternatives to Scrivener so far:
  • PageFour - deliberately light on features to keep things simple (no embedded images, no footnotes)
  • YourOtherMind - seems much richer than PageFour, and does (at least) support images BUT is no longer available
  • Liquid Story Binder XE - also looks quite interesting and is actually portable

I'm also looking at note-gathering/making software like NeverNote (one of the alternatives for EverNote), and it would be great to have something portable so I could run it off my 'Nerd-on-a-stick' USB stick with software...

This comparison is also handy.

Just a few ideas, I haven't tested any of this yet, I'm just looking and reading for now.

UPDATE
I just found "Please note that as of September 2010 YourOtherMind Writing Software is no longer available to purchase." Meh. But Added Liquid Story Binder XE

   
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Last edited by iamback; 02-26-2012 at 10:24 AM. Reason: added Liquid Story Binder XE
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Old 02-26-2012, 05:10 PM   #3
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Have a look at Ecco. It's odd-ware. Not freeware, not open source, but its owner (netmanage) turned it loose so anyone may install it for free. A couple of people have created new installers for it to keep it working on later OS versions; I've recently installed it to Win7/64. Looks very progressive, for a Win3.1 app, which it originally was, but so well written that it keeps running reliably on newer OS/hardware.

Can be run from a stick, as I recall. Synchs between multiple machines beautifully, and has a fairly active user group (Yahoo groups? Google groups? I forget).

   
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Old 02-26-2012, 08:44 PM   #4
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I found a description in Wikipedia: Ecco Pro. Doesn't look like what I need - I certainly don't need a phonebook or calendar (they seem to be more geared towards group work, for which Wiggio (which I'm currently testing) has much more functionality, also for free). Looks more like a PIM-plus-outliner than a genuine writer's tool. Major problem is that data is stored in a database which suggests lock-in: no way to get at your data without the program.

Several of my other candidates (but apparently not Scrivener which mentions it only as an export format!) store data in plain RTF, which - although a Microsoft invention - can be handled by many applications and is actually stored as plain text with markup embedded in the text. So you can always get at your data, even if all you have is your data.

   
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Old 02-27-2012, 02:03 PM   #5
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Call it a strong outliner with somewhat wimply contact feature and a calendar that's still years ahead of Outlook. The outliner and more generally, information organizer, is it's strong suit, really. But yes, the format's proprietary. With the program up and running it's easy enough to get the data out. W/O the program, I doubt it'd happen.

   
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Old 02-27-2012, 03:02 PM   #6
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I've just started on my eval version of Liquid Story Binder after reading through a few tutorials to get used to the concepts and terminology. In installs with a sample 'binder' (think 'project') with examples of (practically) everything. Nice color schemes to choose from, fast and efficient.

Everything is indeed stored in the normal filesystem: a directory structure with some ini files (at least one) for settings, and .dat and .rtf files (both actually RTF files).

So far, quite impressed!

   
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Old 03-05-2012, 10:13 AM   #7
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Update:

I ran into some issues with Liquid Story Binder XE - notably unintuitive use of keyboard shortcuts (effectively redefining some very basic ones that IMO should not be altered from their standard meaning) and at the same time lack of keyboard functionality in other areas; and I could not find a way to use any of the tools to gather and organize external documents and shortcuts (other than images and MP3 files) as reference material for a project (I looked hard but maybe I'm missing something). I also found the mindmap tool rather hard to use but I could get used to that.

As a result, I'm now thinking that for my purposes this is less than ideal (your mileage may vary depending on what you'd want to use it for).

Going to look at something else... will report back.

   
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Old 03-07-2012, 11:42 AM   #8
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So... I decided to try Scrivener next as from the features list that seemed to closest to what I need. What scared me (from what I'd read on their web pages) was that I could find a mention of RTF only as an export format, so I assumed that their storage would be some sort of database.

Well, maybe they need to adapt their description. Actual text is stored in .rtf files (and synopses in .txt files), and most everything else (attributes, project structure) in (well-designed) XML files. After working through part of their excellent 'interactive tutorial' which is itself just a project(!) while also trying to use it to write down my own usage notes I had a look at how things are stored (actually, because I was in a panic because I though I'd lost everything I'd written so far). No fear of not being able to get at your data if you don't have the program! In fact, I've tried opening a document in WordPad and adding a paragraph to it. Scrivener doesn't even bat an eyelid when you reopen the project.

I find it ugly, it has some little annoyances that are clearly caused by it being a Mac program in origin, but a lot of that ugliness can be hidden, or configured away. I'd have some suggestions for them, too. One major miss for instance is that you cannot find out keyboard shortcuts from the user interface. In a few cases I made a wild guess - and guessed right, because the actual shortcut was what is 'usual' (for instance Ctrl+b to turn bold on or off - so you can continue typing and do not have to take your hands off the keyboard to emphasize something). But a long list of keyboard shortcuts is configurable from the Options. One major problem: when I was using a bulleted list for some of my usage notes, I could not find a way to start a normal paragraph after it that was not indented - the indent somehow hung on. That's something I'd have to take to the forum - and it's nice to see they actually have a forum.

Another thing that greatly encouraged me: they also have a (beta) Linux version. From what I saw on the forum seems to be usable (they just compile a Linux version every now and then when they make a new Windows version) but they admit they currently don't have the time to fully support it and essentially you can use it in its beta stage, free of charge.

While I miss a few of the tools that Liquid Story Binder XE has (like Journal, Mind map and checklist) their tools are very flexible; journal and checklist can easily be replaced with just another way to use the tools - mind map not, but the 'card' mode and outliner might replace that. There's no timeline though - which doesn't bother me, but for a novel writer that might be a problem. It's the flexibility I like, and how everything is interlinked.

And, it's easy to make a collection of external documents and web shortcuts as background material - something I could not find how to do in Liquid but that I absolutely need. Their sample project / Tutorial actually includes a 'Research' folder (that comes as standard) containing an image, a PDF file and a sound file. I added some shortcuts myself (just tried it) and figured out how to do that after a bit of trial and error.

In short, this is growing on me. I haven't tried everything yet but already think I may stick with this for my general writing tasks. It doesn't look as slick and easy on the eyes as Liquid but it works a whole lot better (for me).

   
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Old 03-08-2012, 03:32 AM   #9
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Default Look what I did!

So... Liquid has a 'checklist' tool... nice.

Scrivener has no checklist. But I find Scrivener far more flexible, and what I now have is far, far better than just a mere checklist - see screenshot (which also shows how I've customized the 'corkboard' by getting rid of the 'cork' background and the lines on the 'cards').

Now I just have to find out how to save / make my own project templates. This is just adapted from an existing one (which didn't quite fit, but I know enough now to be able to easily adapt it).
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