scrivener best writing software

Scrivener 3 Features: Best Writing Software

If you haven’t tried Scrivener, I highly recommend giving it a whirl. In my opinion, it’s by far the best writing software for novelists and anyone working with long-form pieces.

Scrivener 3 is the latest update to the Scrivener writing application. It’s a major update, which means 1. there are lots of awesome changes and 2. this is a paid update. However, current users can get Scrivener 3 for a discounted price—more about that below.

Whether you’re thinking about trying out Scrivener or are a long-time user looking for information on the most recent update, keep reading for info about some of my favorite Scrivener features.

Scrivener 3’s New Look

The appearance of Scrivener 3 is sleek and modern. True to Scrivener style, it’s simple and puts the focus on the words, where it belongs. The overall color scheme is light, and it’s easy on the eyes—especially during those writing marathons. Here are a couple screenshots:​

scrivener 3 screenshot
scrivener 3 screenshot

My Favorite Scrivener 3 Features

Sort Visually by Timeline and POV

This is perhaps my favorite feature of Scrivener 3—it’s been on my wish list for quite a while. Anyone writing books with multiple timelines or POV characters will love this.

In Corkboard mode, you can separate index cards based on labels. In the screenshots below, I’ve separated my chapters according to whether they belong to the past or present timeline.

scrivener 3 screenshot
scrivener 3 screenshot

As you can see, you can view these threads vertically or horizontally. I only have two threads, but you can create as many as you want. So if you’re writing a story with twelve POV characters—well, first of all good luck, but you can separate your POV scenes into separate threads. This features makes it extremely easy to sort and organize your scenes and chapters.

When we’re working with complex story structures, anything to help us visualize the structure is invaluable. Also, true to Scrivener style, you can drag and drop the index cards to rearrange your text chapters. You can also drag index cards into another thread to easily change the label.

Linguistic Focus for Evaluating Your Prose

This feature is just flat out cool. It’s something most of us have wished for at one time or another. Writers can use the linguistic focus tool to highlight dialogue and parts of speech. What I love about this feature is that the creators could have stopped at allowing users to pick out dialogue. Instead, they created a practical, versatile tool that’s useful in a ton of situations. Let’s check out a few of the options:

scrivener 3 screenshot
scrivener 3 screenshot

The screenshots above show linguistic focus set to pick out adjectives, dialogue, verbs, and adverbs. You can also adjust the fade to determine how much of the background text you see. Highlighting direct speech can help us make sure our dialogue flows smoothly and that we’re maintaining consistent voices for our characters.

Picking out the verbs helps us check that we’re using strong verbs whenever possible—which can make the difference between a lackluster scene and one that sings. And of course we’ve all heard the writing advice to minimize our use of adverbs. By highlighting them, we can check individually that each adverb is necessary and valuable to the prose.

Progress Toolbar and Quick Search

​One of the coolest Scrivener features (and probably the one that writers utilize the most frequently) is the Project Targets feature, which shows your goal word count and your current word count. Scrivener 3 allows you to access that information without bringing up a separate dialogue box. Above and below the name of your current scene are blue bars. The top bar represents your overall draft progress, and the lower bar represents the progress of your current writing session.​

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Just hover your cursor over ​the toolbar to see exact numbers.

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And you can click the toolbar to quickly search your entire project.

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These features are a real step forward as far as efficiency is concerned—not that they’ll keep me from checking Project Targets every five minutes. Some things Scrivener just can’t control.

Compile System in Scrivener 3

The compile system in Scrivener 3 is simpler and more user-friendly. Everything is much more compact. Overall, you need to click fewer buttons to achieve the same output as in previous versions.

scrivener 3 screenshot

That said, I worked long and hard to get my Scrivener 2 settings just the way I like them. And although I’m sure you can adjust all the same settings in Scrivener 3, the way to do so wasn’t immediately apparent. Thankfully, they’ve included an option to import settings from Scrivener 2.

They also have some updated options for folks exporting to Epub 3 and Kindle.

scrivener 3 screenshot

​Copyholders for Multitasking in Scrivener

For all the multitaskers in the room, we have the new copyholders feature! Scrivener 3 has broken out the big guns with this one. You can now simultaneously edit up to four documents in the main window.

scrivener 3 screenshot
scrivener 3 screenshot

Taking into account that we still have the option to open documents in Quick Reference windows, the question isn’t “Can Scrivener handle it?” but “Is your screen big enough?”​

scrivener 3 screenshot

Seriously, though, this feature is amazing for so many things. I use copyholders when I’m revising and need to simultaneously reference or edit multiple sections of the manuscript. It’s also great for keeping outlines, notes, and research handy.

Scrivener is still the best writing software.

​There you have it—my favorite features and updates in Scrivener 3. Of course, this is all in addition to a “rewritten codebase” that makes the program faster and more stable. (That’s a bit above this writer’s pay grade, so I’ll take their word for it.)

The big question is whether Scrivener 3 is worth the money (​$25 for existing Scrivenites and $45 for new users). My answer is a resounding “yes.” Honestly, I would have bought Scrivener 3 just for the ability to sort your index cards using colored threads. But all of the new features are useful and easy to integrate into your process. One of the things I love most about Scrivener is that it is incredibly rich in features while remaining unobtrusive to the writing process, and that is consistent in the new version. Scrivener is a tool, and it plays its role without vying for center stage.

If you’re trying to decide whether to upgrade, I highly doubt you’ll regret it. It’s well worth the money, and remember you can test drive the new version for free.

If you’re deciding whether to purchase Scrivener for the first time, I could not recommend the program more ardently. Again, you can try it free for 30 days.

How to Upgrade to Scrivener 3

Mac users, visit Literature and Latte’s shop and click “upgrade from an earlier version.” You’ll be prompted to enter the email address you used to purchase Scrivener previously.

If you purchased your previous version of Scrivener from the Mac App Store, you’ll have to email a copy of your purchase receipt to updates@literatureandlatte.com. (You can get the receipt in your App Store history.) They will then email you a coupon code for the discounted price. However, you’ll need to purchase Scrivener 3 through Literature and Latte’s store, since the App Store doesn’t support coupon codes.

* Note that there are affiliate links in this post. I’ve been a fan of Scrivener for over a decade, and I recommend the program regardless of whether you click through those links. Happy writing!

FAQ About the Scrivener App

How much does Scrivener cost?

As of December 2022, Scrivener costs $59.99. The educational license costs $50.99 for students and academics.

How do you get a trial of Scrivener?

Anyone can try Scrivener free for 30 days. Just visit Literature and Latte’s store and select “Download Free Trial.”

How long does a Scrivener license last?

Forever! Scrivener licenses have no expiration dates.

  • Install Scrivener on as many computers as you own.
  • Receive free updates.
  • Pay no subscription fees.

The biggest limitation is that the license covers the Scrivener version for only one operating system. So if you need Scrivener for Mac and Windows, you will have to purchase two licenses.

How do you create chapters in Scrivener?

In the binder to the left of the screen, create a new folder. The folder is your chapter, and documents within the folder are scenes.

How do you export Scrivener to Word?

Exporting work from Scrivener to Microsoft Word is simple. Just select “Compile.” Then choose your settings and export as a Word file.

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