Finally: Scrivener for iOS

If you are a writer, has taken steps to ensure that you never have an excuse not to write again.

New Scrivener for iOS allows you to organize your thoughts, research, and write on your iPad and on your iPhone. And to share everything that you do between your devices — computer included — through Dropbox.

We are talking the power of Scrivener in your back pocket.

Wait, You’ve Never Heard of Scrivener?

This blog post is about the long-awaited iOS version of many writers’ favorite writing tool — Scrivener has existed for Mac and Windows for several years. If you already know Scrivener, you can skip down to “Life before Scrivener for iOS.” Otherwise, read on…

So what is Scrivener? It’s an app developed by a writer for writers. Keith Blount, the creator, forged Scrivener while writing his dissertation — he felt there had to be a better way to compose on a computer, and so he coded a better way for all writers. (To learn more about the Scrivener story and the people who built it and continue to improve it, check out

Life before Scrivener

I still feel vaguely dizzy when I remember the multiple organizational systems I devised for my dissertation. Somewhere in storage there might still be a plastic box of index cards that meticulously outlined multiple chapters and their subsections (and sub-subsections…). I recently found a diskette (you know, that little square thing we used to anxiously slide into computers to save our hard work) with hundreds of pages of notes — copiously highlighted in different colors to label which part of my dissertation they applied to.

At one point, I also printed out a lot of those highlighted notes and put them in a binder with equally well color-coded stick-it notes so that I could quickly flip to what I needed when composing on my computer.

What if I had been able to have that magical binder with all its subsections neatly labeled on my computer screen, each item just a click or two away…

I won’t even get into the copying, cutting, and pasting between Word docs to move paragraphs to another chapter.

What if I’d had a huge virtual dining room table for my plethora of index cards so that I could easily move them around and rearrange the contents of my project directly in the master document — sans cutting and pasting.


This is me moving a card on my Scrivener corkboard — and moving that part of my blog post to a new position in the master document.

In other words, move an index card and that whole section moves to a new location in your draft. With just one drag of the mouse (see image to the left).

My dissertation would certainly have taken less time (and been that much more brilliant…).

This, my friends, is what the Scrivener app on your computer can do. It is all the pieces of your writing project in one place, arranged in whatever hierarchy you need, with an outline/table of contents called a “binder” and virtual corkboard for all the pieces you are working with.

Plus about 100 other things.

Life before Scrivener for iOS

I first started using Scrivener a couple of years ago on my aging laptop for NaNoWriMo. Six months later my computer let me know that it wanted to retire. I wasn’t in a position to buy a new laptop but did get an iPad mini for my creative projects. (I did all my Invisible Order work on a desktop—yep, still got one of those.)

However, to my disappointment (and to the detriment of the story brewing on my old laptop), Scrivener only existed for computer. I searched for an app to replace Scrivener for my iPad and found Index Card, which is a very descent app and did a lot for me (I love moving virtual index cards around). But what I needed was the Scrivener binder — that virtual, more flexible version of my magical dissertation binder.


This is the binder! It has folders and everything!

A Binder in Your Pocket

The Scrivener binder serves as a table of contents for your project. For all parts of your project — even your research.

I find it incredibly helpful to have the binder right there on the screen at all times while I am composing. I can easily check my outline, click into another chapter, or go foraging in my research folders. And then just as quickly get back to the section I was working on.

This is ideal for the “plotter” (someone who meticulously outlines their project before and during the writing process). You can map out your project right there in the binder, through folders and pages, moving things around on the corkboard or directly in the binder.

The binder is also great for the “pantser” (who writes by the seat of her pants and doesn’t have a precise map) because you can organize the material as you go along.

Having this tool on a small device that you can easily carry around — and that will upload your material to Dropbox in order to share it with your other devices — allows for an amazing amount of flexibility. You just need to make sure the latest version of your project has backed up before you start working on it.

Imagine walking down the street and suddenly realizing that you are stuck in your story because, really, chapter 3 should start with what is now the beginning of chapter 5. You don’t have to wait until you get home to act on that flash of insight: just open the app on your iPhone and within a few swipes, your story has rebooted.

One of the Neat Tools in Scrivener for iOS

Scrivener for iOS offers a multitude of tools to help you get your project finished.

StuckAtTheBottom2One little tool I love (among many others) keeps me from being stuck writing at the bottom of the iPad screen. When I started using writing apps for iPad I kept having to scroll up the screen so that I could actually see what I was writing. Sometimes the apps would get stuck, and I would have to leave my document and come back in order to see what I had just written at the bottom of the screen.

Not so for Scrivener. Look at the top of the screenshot to the left. See the T in the circle? Activate that T (see below) and Scrivener will automatically keep you typing at the middle of the screen — moving the screen up with a little jolt that reminds some of us of that satisfying jump and click a typewriter would make when you progressed to the next line and the roll turned your piece of paper up. (The “T” stands for “typewriter scrolling.”)TypewriterMode2

You can also add footnotes.

You can also add comments.

You can also add videos to your research docs.

You can — just go check it out!

The “Downside”

I won’t go into details about what else Scrivener for iOS (and Mac and Windows, for that matter) has to offer. You can simply explore the Latte and Literature site or read one of the many other articles on the topic (just Google “Scrivener for iOS”). Or you can just get the app and start writing and discovering everything it can do for you.

There is only one downside to this app: you won’t need Facebook or Twitter or email to fill the empty moments of your day. Stuck in the subway? Waiting for a friend in a coffee shop? Time to pull out your iPhone or iPad and compose, review, or reorganize your project.

If you prefer the fantasy of the writing life to the sweat and tears of producing your next draft, then you won’t welcome Scrivener for iOS into your life: it eliminates your last excuse not to write.

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