Scrivener for iOS review: A sophisticated writing and research app for on-the-go

Like its desktop counterpart, Scrivener has the features you need for research and writing projects.

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Credit: Séamus Bellamy
At a Glance
  • Literature and Latte Scrivener 1.0 for iOS

    Macworld Rating

    Like its desktop counterpart, Scrivener has the features you need for research and writing projects.

There’s no shortage of word processing software in the world, but few have the cult following that Scrivener does. Long available for OS X and Windows, it’s finally ready to be downloaded by anyone who owns an iOS device for $20.

Scrivener for iOS (iTunes Store link) does just about everything you could ever need in order to research, plot, and write a short story, doctoral thesis, novel, or a review like the one you’re reading right now.

projects
Writing in Scrivener starts with a Project, where you organize your research.

To get started with Scrivener for iOS (or its desktop counterpart), you’ll be asked to create a new project. Each project can store a wide variety of file types, including audio, video, web archives, PDFs, images, and text files. These individual files can be imported into the project from cloud services like iCloud and Dropbox, and iOS apps like Pages, PDF Expert, or Printer Pro. These files are organized into a Binder that contains an editable nested file system. Files can be viewed one-by-one or reviewed, by the folder, en masse.

Once you’ve got all your ducks in a row on the research side of things, it’s time to start writing.

writing
Scrivener's word processorr has all the necesary tools to help you puts your thoughts down.

Scrivener for iOS comes with a robust word processor that makes use of common iOS keyboard shortcuts. It provides a large number of formatting tools—fonts, styles, lists, and the like—but not so many that you’ll waste hours tweaking your work when you should be writing.

When using it on an iPad, Scrivener’s Quick Reference feature makes it possible to view your research and what you’re writing side-by-side, streamlining your workflow. It’s also possible to sub-divide your writing into multiple documents in a single project, making it easy to find and work on a particular draft or chunk of text. Once you’re satisfied that your writing is ready for prime-time, your work can be compiled into a single document and output as a PDF, Microsoft Word file, RTF, or plain text.

When you’re done typing for the day, projects can be saved locally or synced between multiple computers, iPhones, and iPads using Dropbox (iCloud compatibility may be added at a future date), or by pushing project files from device-to-device using iTunes.

If all of this sounds a little intimidating, don’t worry: Scrivener for iOS comes with a comprehensive tutorial file to help you get up to speed. And if you’re a seasoned user of Scrivener’s desktop incarnation, you’ll find that the iOS version uses a similar interface design, making for a comfortable transition to mobile.

What doesn’t work

While a universal app, iPhone users don’t have access to the Quick Reference view that’s available on iPad, as it was omitted due to usability issues. I was disappointed to find that while you can view offline web archives in a project, it’s not possible to create them using Scrivener for iOS.

Finally, Scrivener for iOS costs $20. In a world where 99-cent apps are the norm, its steep price could deter some frugal iOS users from discovering one of the most powerful, flexible productivity tools to ever hit the App Store.

Bottom Line

No matter what you’re writing, whether you plan on using it to compliment its desktop counterpart or want to use it solely on your iPad or iPhone, Scrivener for iOS is a robust, flexible writing tool that will serve you well.

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At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Like its desktop counterpart, Scrivener has the features you need for research and writing projects.

    Pros

    • Keeps your research and writing in one place
    • Projects can be synced across multiple devices and platforms
    • Projects can be used solely on an iOS device or synced across multiple devices and platforms
    • Easy to use; helpful tutorials are available if needed
    • Quick Reference mode accelerates some workflows

    Cons

    • Universal app, but some features not available on iPhone
    • Due to technical limitations, syncing is currently limited to Dropbox-only
    • Web archives can be viewed on iOS devices, but not created
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