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The Tricks and Treats of Scrivener for iOS

iPad with Scrivener and Halloween images [1]I’m pretty sure I can frighten more writers with the word “Scrivener,” than by yelling “Boo!” while jumping out from behind a tree dressed as a clown. (Me dressed as a clown, not the tree…)

But working with Scrivener doesn’t have to be scary.

In fact, for those who find all the options in the regular version of Scrivener hair-raising, I thought you might enjoy a quick primer on the newest kid in the Literature & Latte family: the Scrivener for iOS app.

Yes, that’s right, you can now write on the go with only an iPhone or iPad, and sync your work back to Scrivener on your Mac or PC.

(Feel free to shriek with delight or throw fairy dust. I won’t judge.)

The app combines the familiar functionality of iOS with the best of Scrivener’s features. Many of you might even find it more intuitive than the original software, especially once you realize some of the handiest editing features are hiding out on the extended keyboard (see Making Notes below).

What’s Behind the Curtain?

So what did the app inherit from its older siblings? The Binder, Corkboard (iPad only), and Inspector are there. You can set goals and track progress (with a cool new look), add comments and annotations, color code your documents with Labels, add a Status, add document notes, and even compile your work (with limited options). And lots more.

iOS Binder and document [2]

Once you’ve synced your working projects to Dropbox—and have wifi or cell access—you can open a project on your iPhone or iPad and tap out your thoughts.

You can even create a new project right in the app and sync it with your computer later.

Imagine all the places you could write—or jot down sudden bursts of inspiration—without lugging along a laptop!

(Whose ready for NaNoWriMo now, huh?)

Enter the Writing Lair

The Projects screen is where you open or create a new project.

Unlike on the Mac or Windows version, you can only work with one project at a time, but switching between them is as simple as navigating to the Projects pane (tap the back arrow in the upper left corner until you reach the Projects screen, which will close the project you were in) and choosing a new one.

projects screen [3]

Plotter? Pantser? Everyone Gets a Treat

All the flexibility that makes Scrivener great for pantsers, plotters, and hybrids alike is alive and well in the iOS version.

Plotters: Create your scene documents beforehand either in the Binder or the Corkboard. If you like to plot using index cards, then do the following.

  1. Select the Draft (aka Manuscript) folder.
  2. Tap the + in the upper right corner to create a new card. Title it and add a brief synopsis of the scene, if desired.
  3. Tap Add.
  4. Repeat as needed.

Once you have the bones of your manuscript laid out, you can add the meat of the story.

iOS Corkboard [4]

Pantsers: Show up on day one, select the Draft folder, create a blank document and start writing until you finish a scene or chapter. Repeat. No spells required.

My Favorite Tricks

Making Notes

When you’re stuck, but need to keep writing, you can leave a note for yourself and move on.

Annotations and comments are available from the predictive text row (see below). Comments are also accessible by tapping the Comment button in the extended keyboard (the row of buttons above the predictive text row).

ioscommannot [5]

Importing Files

You can import files—anything accessible from your iOS device—into a project in the iOS version under the same rules as Scrivener for Mac and Windows (no images, PDFs, or other non text-type files in the Draft folder). Here’s how.

  1. Select the desired folder and tap the Import button at the bottom of the Binder.
  2. Choose the source for your imported file—yes, you can even choose Camera and take a picture of something!—and select the file you want.

importing files [6]

Tracking Progress

Scrivener makes it easy to track your progress, especially in iOS. As with the original, you can set a target for the entire manuscript, as well as one for each writing session, and your targets will carry over to Mac or Windows.

To access project targets, view any text document and tap the word count at the bottom of the screen.

NOTE: If you’ve tapped inside the document and entered edit mode, the word count will be at the top of the screen.

Tap the word “Draft” or “Session” and use the spinner to select your goal.

setting targets [7]

target progress chart [8]

Avoid the Gremlins

Before you start using the iOS version, I highly recommend you read—or at least skim—through the Tutorial (available under Help on the Projects screen). It will help you immensely, especially the parts about Working with Projects, Syncing, and The Main Interface. Okay, all of it, really.

A few things to keep in mind when using the iOS version.

Have Fun

Whether you’re using Scrivener for iOS to scare up NaNoWriMo words on the go, or just to be untethered from your computer, enjoy the freedom!

Okay, what Scrivener for iOS (or Mac or Windows) questions do you have for me? Don’t be scared, I won’t bite.

About Gwen Hernandez [10]

Gwen Hernandez is the author of Scrivener For Dummies [11], Productivity Tools for Writers, and the “Men of Steele” series (military romantic suspense). She teaches Scrivener to writers all over the world through online classes [12], in-person workshops, and private sessions. Learn more about Gwen at gwenhernandez.com [13].