Scrivener… from my POV

So I’ve finally put together a (50 minute!) presentation about the coolness of Scrivener. Rather than try to create an exhaustive tutorial illustrating all of Scrivener’s features, I only attempt to discuss the particular ways that I happen to use Scrivener. I share with you three of my writing projects inside Scrivener, and then follow this up with a little how-to section. Hope this helps!


You can also view the presentation directly in Vimeo.

Other Videos

Podcasts

The Written Word

  • Although this review is four years old, I think Merlin Mann still nicely captures the greatness of this software. “Scrivener makes the anarchic approach to writing a little less chaotic…”.
  • Literature and Latte keeps a blog going about Scrivener.
  • Literature and Latte has a very active discussion forum.
  • And they also list many other great resources for writers.

Interactive Tutorial

  • Oh! There’s another great way to learn about Scrivener. Use the interactive tutorial. From the “Help” menu within Scrivener, select “Interactive Tutorial”. It will walk you through many of the great features of Scrivener.

About MultiMarkdown and LaTeX

So I think I did a less-than-fabulous job attempting to characterize this subject. To compensate, here are some links. Even so, it requires that you not be afraid to do a little bit of scripting and fiddling…

  • Before learning about MultiMarkdown, you have to understand Markdown. John Gruber, author of Markdown, has a very nice introduction on his website.
  • Here’s a great screencast on markdown from practically efficient. It’s geared a little more towards markdown to html, but still covers some important key concepts when using markdown…
  • Now you’re ready to confront Fletcher Penney’s MultiMarkdown discussion. You’ll probably want to download and install MultiMarkdown from his site (even though Scrivener does come with a version of MultiMarkdown) to ensure you have the latest XSLT transformations, etc., which are needed if you want to convert your multimarkdown content to PDF (by way of LaTeX).
  • You’ll notice that the MultiMarkdown discussion talks about LaTeX. To get your content into PDF, you do it by converting the MultiMarkdown content to LaTeX and then to PDF. There are scripts that are part of the MultiMarkdown package to help you do this conversion. But you’ll need to install LaTeX first.
  • You can read up on LaTeX here.
  • And then you should download MacTeX.
  • Good luck!

Credits

  • Those beautiful presentation slides come from KeynotePro. It’s the Canto theme.
  • I got the background music from AudioJungle. It’s Clouds by AudioQuattro.
  • Oh… In an unrelated note, here are the slides I use when teaching about Scrivener… They are not complete enough to stand on their own, but I thought I’d share in case others want to draw info from them…

Click here to view all my videos.

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Comments

  1. says

    Yuvi,
    that must have been a hell of work to put such a great tutorial together. Thnak you very much for that!

    I just started as a writer, when a friend told me about this great tool Scrivener. I had no real clue what kind of advantages it will bring to me, so in the past weeks I just used OpenOffice Writer.
    Thanks to your video tutorial, I’m happy now to switch to Scrivener before the book gets too large and complex. It will help me a lot to keep structure without taking too much care on things which might drag me off from writing itself.

    Again – many thanks and keep it up!

    Tom from Cologne / Germany

    • yuvi says

      Tom — You perfectly captured why I wanted to do this video in the first place… so it was encouraging to read your comment. Thanks! And good luck with your writing!

  2. Dave L says

    Awesome description. Thank you for sharing your workflow. I’m writing a dissertation using Scrivener, and things work well but I’m still playing with compiling the draft the way I want it. I will be using some of your tips on labels and outlining. If you have time to make a screencast for the LaTeX workflow, that would be cool.

    How did you become proficient with all the complexities of Scriv? I find myself overwhelmed by the options.

    • yuvi says

      Thanks for the feedback, Dave. Yeah, there are loads and loads of features in Scrivener. I just teach myself the features slowly. I started out (like with my first example in the video) just using Scrivener for breaking up a piece of writing into smaller chunks. But every month, it seems, I discover a new feature that is useful to me. And sometimes I’ll turn to the Scrivener documentation or the Literature & Latte tutorial videos to learn about new features. The key for me…. is to make sure I don’t fixate on the software features at the expense of potential time spent working on my actual writing!…

      • Dave L says

        Thanks for those tips– I think I just need to be patient (and not take too many long layoofs between Scrivener sessions).

        “The key for me…. is to make sure I don’t fixate on the software features at the expense of potential time spent working on my actual writing!”
        Agreed! Keep up the good work!

  3. says

    Thank you for your comprehensive videos! I love them as they clarify very much writing issues that matters me. I have some GREAT doubts on how to process my Markdown writing into a RTF file… how do I make it??? no easy tutorial out there. Please help. The issue is that I only write markdown for myself, but I can not write it for anyone else as I create reports (not web), and then I have to transform it in word manually (crazy!). Any ideas out of scrivener compile section?
    Also if you could think of making some easy to follow instructions on how to include CSS in multimarkdown (for a person who barely understand CSS styles…)

    Thank you again!

    • yuvi says

      Daniel — Thank you for the feedback. Yes, you’ve tapped into an area that I think is a little trickier. In my not-so-researched opinion, the process of transforming markdown to non-html formats is less mature than the markdown-to-html process, or at least it requires more fiddling and relies more on scripts that perform quite a few steps under the hood. One option is to write in Scrivener and then have Scrivener convert from markdown to RTF (using the “MultiMarkdown -> RTF” Compile-For option when compiling). Unfortunately, I’m not too bright with CSS either so I can’t guide you much in that realm. In response to the next post, I’ll try describe how I got it to go from Markdown to PDF…. Good luck!

  4. simon says

    hi yuvi, thanks for your tutorial, very cool! This is the comment asking you about more details on getting PDF’s form Multimarkdown/Scrivener (at about 28:30) :)

    I’m trying to setup a writing environment for my bachelor thesis with Scrivener and Multimarkdown. I get the concept, but I have problems to get it to work.
    Here’s what I figured out (correct me if I’m wrong!):
    – write text using Multimarkdown Syntax with Scrivener (and/or any other text editor on any other device of your choice)
    – compile your text to LaTex using Multimarkdown (choose “Compile For: Multimarkdown -> LaTex” in Scrivener)
    – convert LaTex to PDF using “pdflatex” (which is included in MacTex) – I think this is what you Hazel rule does

    What I don’t get:
    – Multimarkdown is bundled with Scrivener, so no additional downloads needed for Multimarkdown? If one doesn’t use Scrivener, do you use Multimarkdown 2 or 3?
    – whats the role of the XSLT files? What does it do?
    – is there something lighter than MacTex? I’m thinking about going SSD soon and this things weighs >2GB when installed…)
    – how to I get the PDF to look like I want?? (how do I set the font, linespacing and so on…)

    Thanks for your help!
    Simon

    • yuvi says

      Simon — Thanks for the feedback. Let me try to answer your questions as best I can…

      – First of all, I should say that I also wanted to avoid the large MacTex download since I also have an SSD (and I even tried the smaller package they suggested from the website but it didn’t work for me). In the end, I just bit the bullet and downloaded the big MacTex bundle…

      – I did explicitly download the MultiMarkdown package available here: http://fletcherpenney.net/. When I got it, there was no version 3.0, so I still have the 2.0 version, though I’d expect the new version to work just fine. Although Scrivener comes with some MultiMarkdown, I just installed this one (into my “Library/Application Support” directory as suggested) because I wasn’t sure if Scrivener had all those XSLT transformations.

      – Now although I’m not so smart about how all this works, I think the XSLT files are used because what is going on underneath is that the scripts actually convert the multimarkdown to html and then to latex and then to PDF. The XSLT converts from HTML to LaTeX.

      – My workflow is a little different than yours, although yours seems like it should work… I compile from Scrivener just into a regular multimarkdown file (not to LaTeX). And then… I (or actual Hazel) runs a Perl script provided by the MultiMarkdown package: “~/Library/Application Support/MultiMarkdown/bin/mmd2PDF.pl”. This script converts from multimarkdown all the way to PDF… You just specify the markdown file as the first argument.

      – But the biggest trick with the above script is that you need to make sure your multimarkdown file has the metadata header: LaTeX XSLT. That metadata header needs to have the XSLT file that you’re going to use (which should be located at ~/Library/Application\ Support/MultiMarkdown/XSLT). This value could be “memoir.xslt”, for example.

      – Now supposedly “manuscript.xslt” should work to create a document in manuscript format, but I had troubles with that XSLT. I actually acquired a solution from this person’s helpful website: http://www.mcdemarco.net/sffms. However, you’re probably looking for an entirely different kind of format, so you might want to look at what XSLT transformations come with MultiMarkdown already. You might also try some discussion forums regarding LaTeX and writing theses. I’ve heard that LaTeX is used in the academic world, but I’m completely ignorant of the details.

      – One major difficulty I’ve had is that you’re limited in how much formatting you are able to do using this method unless you want to learn the details of XSLT + LaTeX. And I didn’t want to do that. Fortunately, the sffms package above got me close enough… I did a little fiddling within the XSLT and in the LaTeX script, but I quickly decided that I didn’t want to spend much time in there…

      – FYI, my full header looks like this:
      Base Header Level: 1
      Surname: my last name
      LaTeX XSLT: sffms.xslt
      XHTML Header:
      Address: my contact info
      Title: book title
      Author: my full name
      Format: complete

      Whew! Hope that helps. I’d like to document this in more detail, but I probably won’t be able to get to it for a while. I’m juggling too many things right now and to figure out exactly how I did this, I’d probably need to uninstall and reinstall everything… And I did a lot of it through stumbly guess work… Sorry! But good luck on your thesis!

      • simon says

        hey yuvi, thanks for your very extensive comment. I think this will get me to a point where I can start working with MMD!

  5. CpE Satan says

    XSLT is an XML translation language. How to convert XML input into some other output. So it could go from Markdown -> LaTeX. XSLT is a pretty flexible way to transform XML files.

    How to format your PDF: Now you’re into LaTeX style files. There are a lot of options in LaTeX to control this, most of them go at the top of the page to control the rest of the document. LaTeX is very much about writing the content (pretty much in plain text) and then using a style file to do the formatting. (It has a background in math & science, so you can publish complicated math in it quite nicely.) But look up TUG (TeX Users Group) for more information about formatting LaTeX. (Don’t attempt to spend time learning to format TeX.)

    Just like old times groovy.

    stan

    • yuvi says

      Stan! Great to hear from you. And yes, just like old times: you’re still teaching me how the complicated stuff works!

  6. James says

    Hi Yuvi,
    I really loved your video about Scrivener. I’m a medical researcher and it helped me complete my first grant application using Scrivener. I love the presenting style you use too! What software did you use to create the Screencast and particularly the cool animations?

    Looking forward to anything else you have time to produce.
    Best wishes, James (@jhfrudd on Twitter)

    • yuvi says

      James — Thanks for the feedback. Glad the video helped. I can definitely see how Scrivener could be useful for a grant application.

      I use ScreenFlow to record the screencast. Keynote for the presentation slides. As for the animations: I’ve been fiddling with various applications. I’ve used a nice & free application called Pencil, another free one called Stykz, and a nice but not-free-at-all app called Toon Boom Studio. Since I’m new to animating, I don’t know what all the options really are. To be honest, I’m still hoping to find a very easy-to-use, very Mac-friendly animating tool…

  7. dominiquejames says

    Hi, Yuvi,

    If you have any influence on the maker of Scrivener, can you please tell them to please use a better-looking icon? Thank you.

    Dominique James

  8. Bill C says

    Nice video, thanks for taking the time to do.  Quick question…around 27:05 you show a preview of the MMD that seems to popup in scrivener.  How did you achieve this?

    • says

      Bill — I have a disappointing answer for you: I embedded a screenshot of the resulting output into my video. I’m guessing that you were hoping for an onscreen preview of the output and I’m not aware of a way to do this with Scrivener. However, you might check out Marked (http://markedapp.com), which does Markdown preview and I hear now has Scrivener support…

      • Bill C says

         @yuvizalkow Too bad, that would be a nice feature for Scrivener!  :)  I do have Marked and it works very well, thanks for the suggestion.

  9. says

    Thank you for the great presentation I was really helpful. I have been using Scrivener for a while but learnt a lot of small cool things. Do you have some more info on the Latex process, I tried to figure that out about a year ago but got lost in that world, there is so much to it. I know that I don’t need to get a degree is Latex to use it with Scrivener, it will be nice if there is a place that just shows the basics needed for the use with Scrivener.

    • says

      Bernard_Hamann Bernard — Thanks for the feedback. I’ve actually moved away from Latex for the very same reason you described… It just got too crazy trying to figure out all the quirks… My latest method is to simply print from markdown to the RTF format… and then I run it through a convoluted Keyboard Maestro macro I wrote to bring it in to Microsoft Word & fix the styles and formatting so that it complies with more standard formatting requirements. Some day, I may try to make a video about it, but it is still pretty crude right now… Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful — I got tired of how heavy-weight MultiMarkdown->Latex was for my needs!… Good luck.

    • says

      Bernard_Hamann Thanks for the reply, I agree, its better to find another solution, I just format the headings in Scrivener in a funny way so that in stands out when I open the exported file in word. 
      Then just manually go and assign various levels of headers to the headers using a custom style I set up in word. Word can then generate the table of contents etc using the header structure. I guess that is the kind of stuff your Keyboard Maestro macro does for you.
      Good luck to you too.

      • says

        Bernard_Hamann My solution is now similar. Though I’ve automated a few steps in this way: I have Scrivener automatically add some unique characters to the headers in the Compile settings (specifically, I add ### to all heading lines). Then, in Microsoft Word, I use a Keyboard Maestro macro to automatically go through the keyboard shortcuts to search and replace so that it turns all “###” lines into a Heading 1 style, and then I remove the “###’. The keyboard maestro macro is a little psychotic and took a few hours to put together, but it saves me time since my novel has about 70 mini-chapters in it and I got tired of manually doing this process whenever I wanted to submit a section of the book to my writing group, etc… 
        Good luck with your writing!

  10. Neal Cassady says

    Yuvi – by far one of the best “How-To’s | Reviews” etc. of Scrivener I’ve watched – and I’ve seen a few! :) Many thanks for all the effort you put in! I’m about to start writing up my dissertation – this has been inspirational beyond words!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] In December of last year a friend and fellow writer, Yuvi Zalkow (who has a wonderful website at http://yuvizalkow.com) suggested Scrivener. This is a writing program that is normally a MAC program but recently they had developed a version for Windows. Although I was skeptical, I decided to give it a try. I could not be happier. This is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allow you to concentrate on actually writing. It gives you complete control of the formatting and offers all of the tools any writer would need to complete that first draft. What’s more, Yuvi offered a video on how the program worked and what the highlights were; it is both fun and easy to follow. (http://yuvizalkow.com/presentations/scrivener/) [...]

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