Holy cats, Scrivener 3 for Windows is out!

I have opined before on the travails of getting the Windows version of Scrivener caught up to the Mac version. Then I found out that version 3 for Windows was released six days ago (March 23, 2021 to be exact). I am not even sure how to react.

Since I qualified for a discount on upgrading, I decided to spend the $34, even though I don’t use Scrivener anymore, to check it out.

I had used the beta off and on through its years of development (the original release date was projected to be 2018–see here for more), so I was broadly familiar with the update (and have used version 3 on the Mac). The upgrade and installation processes were both quick and painless, and the program looked much as it did when I used the last beta.

And it remains as inscrutable as ever. To be fair, the UI has been tidied up a bit, but large parts of it are unchanged and it wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t utterly ignore the conventions of standard Windows software–or any other software, for that matter.

Unlike other writing programs like iA Writer or Ulysses or, uh, Notepad, Scrivener is more like Microsoft Word in that it presents a WYSIWYG environment. As such, you can adjust indentation, font sizes and all of that, making the document look as pretty as you’d like. In the end this doesn’t matter as much, as you can specify different options when actually exporting your project to PDF, ePub or some other format.

To adjust how the text will look when writing, you go to File > Options. Pretty clear so far. The keyboard shortcut is cheekily CTRL, (CTRL and the comma), which is the same combo used to invoke Preferences on a Mac. You then choose the Editing tab from the vast array of options presented. OK, this mostly makes sense, as you are changing what the editor will look like. Here you have three more tabs: Options (er), Formatting and Revisions. Formatting is what you want. Here you will finally see where you can adjust the settings. Strangely, the sample text is highlighted–it turns out the preview will not actually show your changes unless the text is highlighted when the changes are applied, so it has pre-highlights the text for you.

You will also see a strip of formatting options, much like you’d see in a typical word processor. You can change font, size and style, paragraph type, indentation and more. It does pretty much what you’d expect. Now when you create a new project, it will use these settings. Yay, all done!

But what if you want to change the look of a current document? Well, you can do that by going to the Documents menu, choosing Convert and then Text to default formatting. You get to choose a few options, but strangely (see a trend here), if you had somehow selected bold for the text in some scenes (maybe your fingers slipped and hit CTRL-B), there is no way to change this across multiple scenes (that I have found). You have to go into each individual scene, hit CTRL-A, then uncheck Bold from the formatting bar.

There is, still, no way to select an entire document/project at once and apply settings globally, apart from the Convert method above, which doesn’t actually convert everything. It is odd. It’s not even wrong, per se, but Scrivener continues to chart its own course when it comes to interface.

I’m not sure how much I’ll use it, but the upgrade costs less than a single year of subscription to Ulysses, so I’ll at least tinker with it for a bit.

Scrivener 3.0 for Windows: A puzzling non-release

For awhile Scrivener was my favorite writing application. It does pretty much everything you could want in a writing program and has excellent organizational tools that really help in planning and plotting out novels (or other projects).

A major new update to version 3 was released for the Mac in November 2017, with an equivalent Windows update arriving in 2018, then by end of Q2 2019, then for absolute sure by August 30, 2019. All dates were missed, with contrite apologies from Literature and Latte.

After the last missed date, they stopped saying when it would release and version 3 for Windows has existed since then as a perpetual beta and now, a perpetual release candidate. Users talk about how stable it is, how perfectly usable it is, but it’s still not officially released. You can’t buy it.

I am not a developer so I can’t speak to the challenges the duo working on the Windows version of Scrivener is facing, but it does seem to me that as we draw ever-closer to three years since version 3 came out for the Mac, that the Windows version ought to have been ready by now. I mean, if you originally project a release in 2018, re-calibrate and say, okay, second quarter 2019, then re-calibrate yet again and say August 30, 2019, then finally go silent on a release date and then still have not released almost a full year after the last offered date, I would submit that you are bad at estimating software release dates, and also very slow at developing software.

I will buy version 3 when it eventually comes out, and I might try it again (I have version 3 already for Mac but I have switched mostly to using Ulysses for my fiction writing), but I must admit, the pace of the Windows version’s development instills me with little confidence in the product or the company. One of the main points of the version 3 release was to bring feature parity (as much as possible) to the Mac and Windows versions. That cannot happen if the Windows version is constantly lagging well behind. I have every expectation that should version 4 come out for Mac, it would be years before the same version released for Windows. I might be wrong. I hope I am wrong!

Anyway, I do hope the Windows version releases at least before the anniversary of the version 3 release for Mac. Looking over the current issues in the forum thread on beta releases, it feels a bit like they are striving for perfection and holding up release indefinitely as a result. They report a single crash bug:

We are aware of one bug (listed below) that can hang Scrivener, and zero bugs that cause data loss, so if you are aware of any other bugs that can hang Scrivener, or cause data loss, please let us know. The only crash bug we know about is:-

Merging cells in table can crash under certain conditions

I can’t speak for all writers, but I have very few tables in my novels, apart from the actual furniture in various scenes. This doesn’t seem like enough to hold up release. I mean, what if they can’t track down the cause of this bug? Just hold off release for another six months? A year? At some point you have to accept that you’ve done all you can and put your work out there–like any good writer would.