Why I Love Scrivener for iOS: A Review

scrivener for iOS

If you ask me, Scrivener for iOS is a must-have app for writing anytime, anyplace. Want to know why? I’m so glad you asked…

Travel to a forum like NaNoWriMo’s and you might find questions like, “Do I need Scrivener for iOS? Is it a good app for writers? Why not just type away in a notepad (or similar) app?”

I’ll say right from the start, I think Scrivener for iOS is a great app and a must-have for any writer or blogger who wants to be more productive and organized. In fact, Scrivener for iOS is one of the most beautiful apps I’ve ever seen. It has a minimalistic interface and offers a full-featured desktop experience, providing all the Scrivener features on the go with your tablet. Check out how Scrivener for iOS works and looks in this video:


In the more detailed Scrivener for iOS review below, I’ll dive into the features and benefits so you can decide for yourself if you need this app or not. I like that I don’t have to be chained to my MacBook and can work on my book or blog from home using only my iPad. It’s a dream came true for me.

How I survived without Scrivener for iOS

In short, badly. While waiting for Scrivener for iOS, I had to make due with other apps on my iPad when I wanted to write on the go (especially in my travels). I used Evernote to quickly scratch out my ideas and inspirations, and I still use Evernote for this whenever I get an idea for a new article – I guess some old habits really do die hard.

Scrivener for iOS review, app on the iPad with projects view

For some time, my main app for writing was Textilus. It was really great, with so many useful functions for the low price. I especially like the app’s text highlighting, options for selecting a background color, various fonts, Dropbox syncing, and customizable keyboard rows. That’s right, Scrivener hasn’t started a revolution with their virtual keyboard row, I’m pretty much sure Textilus was among the first apps to feature it.
Scrivener for iOS Image 1

But, after a year, I started experiencing issues (the app kept crashing on me), and I eventually removed it from my iPad. That left me with Pages and Evernote. As I mentioned, I usually use Evernote for quick notes for ideas on the go or collecting research from the web – Evernote’s ability to create an article out of any web page and send it to your account is amazing. But as a writing app, Evernote only offers basic formatting options and is very slow on my iPad 4.

In regard to Pages, it’s great for laying out your document, but writing in it is like writing in Word. It just doesn’t feel right to me.

Why Scrivener for iOS is so great

  • First and foremost, you finally can take your Scrivener projects with you whenever you go and write on your commutes, travels, from coffee shops, or your friend’s sofa. You don’t have to compromise or use another app and then export/import your progress into the desktop version of Scrivener.
  • Scrivener for iOS has a minimalistic interface that doesn’t get in your way and helps you fight distractions. The app is designed to launch while you sit back and simply write.
  • Scrivener for iOS IMage 2

  • You can store all your projects in a Dropbox folder and sync them between Scrivener on your iPhone/iPad and your desktop app, which means you don’t have to copy/paste or import/export anything. You just hit a button to sync, wait a few seconds and get to your writing.
  • Working in Scrivener on your iPad (or iPhone, but with fewer features), you can have almost the same full-featured desktop writing experience as you have with your laptop/desktop computer. Just hook up your Bluetooth keyboard and you have the ultimate mobile writing tool (other than a paper and pen…).
  • Speaking of keyboards, Scrivener for iOS offers a long list of keyboard shortcuts for just about anything. It takes productivity to a whole new level – just find the commands you use often, learn their shortcuts, and shave off time when you don’t have to tap on the screen to make the app do your bidding.
  • Forget about having your research in many different places: that web page you stumbled upon in Evernote, those inspirational photos in your Photo app, those Word documents containing your old drafts from Google Drive, you name it. With Scrivener for iOS, you can import all those files into your project for easier and quicker reference, exactly like with the desktop version.
  • After you import your research files, notes, and images, you can have them open side by side with the Editor pane, meaning you can effectively work while consulting your research at the same time. No need to switch panes or windows – it’s fast, simple, and so productive!
  • Scrivener for iOS
    Word targets pane
  • Scrivener for iOS helps you track your progress as easily as the desktop app does, with word targets for your sessions or the whole manuscript. The word count is before your eyes at all times, which is helpful, especially when you want to be aware of how much content you’ve already written. It’s a must for me as I’m very wordy and want to keep an eye on my word counts.
  • Finished your novel on an iPad? Swell! Now you can compile your manuscript into a formatted file, right from Scrivener, and send it to your friends, beta readers or yourself for additional formatting or printing!

For me, this app is an obvious choice. It helps me maintain an organized and productive workflow without having to compromise on anything, and I can write anywhere, anytime. I recommend the mobile version of Scrivener even if you don’t have Scrivener for desktop – it’s a full-featured app all by itself.

What major desktop features are missing in Scrivener for iOS?

As I mentioned, you have almost the same desktop experience using Scrivener for iOS. Let’s look at this “almost” thing a little closer. Being an initial release, Scrivener for iOS does lack some functionality. Here’s what you should expect to be missing when launching Scrivener for iOS for the first time:

  • You can’t set up a backdrop. You know that fancy feature of being able to set up any image as your background in Scrivener’s full-screen mode so you can create a nice vibe with your magical castle in the gloomy mist? Forget it. In Scrivener for iOS, you can’t set up a background image with translucency or change the color of the “paper” (one of the features of Textilus I liked so much). That’s a pity because I don’t like to stare at the blinding whiteness of my screen for hours. It would be great to be able to select some other color for the page, like gray or even black with white text. [Ed note: Thanks to Scott’s comment, it turns out “you can change the background color, but there’s only a few limited colors. Go to settings, find the scrivener app, and you can change it from there. You can only select white, grey or cream background at the moment (I think cream is the best, but I really want a dark mode for writing at night). It’s not an intuitive feature, and easy to miss.”]
  • You can’t compile .epub and .mobi. You can compile your manuscript in Scrivener for iOS, but not into all the formats available in the desktop version. On your iPad or iPhone, you can compile the draft into PDF, Word, RTF, or plain text formats, which is enough to get your manuscript out of Scrivener in iOS and into some other app that can handle formatting and lay out.
  • Scrivener for iOS Image 4

  • Forget about snapshots. Snapshots are used when you want to create a backup of a file, folder, or the entire manuscript before applying major changes (like heavy editing). Snapshots allow you to add a label to recognize the particular backup later. They also show you the date the backup was created. But in Scrivener for iOS there’s no snapshots functionality. You can still use snapshots in the desktop version of the app, so make sure to create one before applying changes to the project on your iPad.
  • Scrivener for iOS Image 5

  • No Collections for you on iOS. Some users on the NaNoWriMo forums were really frustrated with this feature missing in Scrivener for iOS. I personally don’t use Collections much, but other writers utilize them to create customized workflows, like for proof-reading their manuscript or checking for consistency throughout the whole text. Another really useful way of applying Scrivener Collections to your workflow is changing the structure of the book, such as the order of the chapters or scenes, without changing the actual structure in the binder. That said, you can’t use Collections when you’re working in Scrivener for iOS, at least for now. Being one of the distinctive features of the app, I imagine Collections will be added in the future versions. Let’s wait and see.
  • There’s no Scrivenings mode. For me, this is arguably the worst omission. The Scrivenings mode allows you to select a folder (say, a chapter containing all your scenes) and view all the text from the folder in the Editor. It’s really useful when you want to read your whole chapter without having to click on the next scenes and distract yourself. There’s a Draft Navigator tool that can show your entire manuscript, but I don’t find it useful since you probably won’t want to read your complete manuscript in Scrivener. Frankly, I’m confused with this feature’s inclusion.

How much space does Scrivener take on your iOS device?

I checked my iPad and found out that Scrivener takes about 140 Mb. Note that I don’t use images in my projects for research (I store the majority of my research in Evernote), though I have a project for my fantasy book series, How To Save A Princess which contains more than 300,000 words.

Also, you should consider how much space your Scrivener projects take in Dropbox. Mine is 120 Mb, plus I store automatic backups in a separate folder of 809 Mb in total. But the backup isn’t downloaded to your iPad, so no worries (and to this day, I’ve thankfully never needed to use it).

By the way, I’ve written a tutorial on how to set up automatic backups and store them in Dropbox.

Good luck with your writing on the go!

This post originally appeared on PlayingWriter.com. Reposted with permission.


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  1. Hi. Great review. One thing though, you can change the background colour, but there’s only a few limited colours.
    Go to settings app, find the scrivener app, and you can change it from there.

    You can only select white, grey or cream background at the moment(I think cream is the best, but I really want a dark mode for writing at night)

    You can also get there from inside the scrivener app and it takes to the settings, but I forgot how.

    It’s not an intuitive feature, and easy to miss. But otherwise, it is the best writing app around.

    • Be careful in deciding to purchase this app. If you have an older Mac as I do, the current version of Scrivener will not work. I found this out post-purchase. After several emails and messages, I also learned that if you attempt to get a refund, you will be charged a 15% restocking fee. Seriously. A “restocking” fee.
      Eventually, I was able to download a version and get it to sort of accept the license fee I was given for the first download. It did not do so easily or intuitively. Even though it is now running on my desktop, I anticipate problems ahead based the experience so far.
      There is no 800 number to call. There is a convoluted support process.

  2. I like the articles that you send me often. I am planning on writing a fiction novel soon and your articles are helping me shape the writing. Please keep the articles coming.
    Thank You,
    Paul Stuart

  3. Scrivener is the best writing program / app I have ever tried (and I’ve tried a few!). I had it for PC, then got the app for on the go writing – I can sit in the carpool lane and write and then use my free Dropbox to upload to the cloud and when I get to my laptop, hey presto, changes are uploaded to that and vice versa. I like being able to put character notes and odd little thoughts into one place, and I even have all my completed chapters in there too with the word counts. I edit in word and paste back in to Scrivener, just so I have a hard copy of my novel in ANOTHER place too (paranoid much!). I would say try out the PC / Mac version first and you can get a month free, if you like it, get the app too and get a free Dropbox, connect them up (there are instructions on the Scrivener website on how to do this), and then you’re all set and have no excuse not to write!

    • Dropbox doesn’t offer ‘free space’ anymore. They only do for a short time only on select “new eligible equipment”. To keep or get a new dropbox account it costs $8.25/month. I personally use two flash drives, well actually three if you include the one I use to back up my computer files. So, one on the computer back-up done every other day, and two other copies in case one gets corrupted. I have never had corrupted files, but I hear other people say their systems become corrupted (I guess it’s a matter of keeping your computer files clean and security up to date).

      If anyone knows of a program like dropbox that is actually free and reliable, please post it. Thanks :)

  4. Thank you for the review. I use Scrivener on occasion (I prefer the character & scene/sequel oriented program, Ywriter). I am a bit disgusted with the programmers though as they have promised to update the skeletal windows version with all the missing features they left out, leaving us with only a fraction of the features. They have promised this for years now. The only update they made was such a tiny change (move the tabs from the bottom of the screen to the top).

    I wonder how long they will continue to “promise” to update their windows version. When clearly they have no intention to do so in the new future. The promise is getting a bit old now and it is clearly just a bag of empty words tied up with a pretty bow, that we windows users just throw out with our weekly trash.

    They are not making wise business decisions as they are cutting themselves off from most of their potential customers. Offering a skeleton program to windows users when windows is the computer standard and very few computers are macs. They are concentrating on such a small market. There simply aren’t many reasons for people to buy Macs other then for graphic arts programs, but then again those programers are wise in that they offer the very same program for their wider market, the windows users.

  5. @L.S.

    Need to correct some of your points.

    1) A Dropbox Basic account is free and offers 2 GB of space.

    2) Calling the Win version “skeletal” is completely inaccurate. While the Mac version of Scrivener does have more features than the Windows version, they are very close. Certainly there is more than enough functionality in the Windows version to happily write and publish short stories and novels. But if you disagree with that assessment, please list all of the missing features that are keeping you from productively writing. :)


  6. Long timeScrivener user, but after such a long wait scrivener for IOS Ipad is so buggy and unintuitive I wonder why it was released. Seems more like an Alpha than a final version. I would suggest anyone interested views some of the ‘amazing’ reviews with suspicion and visits the literature and latte website forum and checks out the many and various problems real users are having. Syncing, one of its main selling points seems particularly problematic.

  7. Nice review, I like the screenshots. This is one of many very, very positive reviews of the iOS version I’ve heard. I guess it’s super appropriate that something from Literature and Latte now has a version that lets you chill in a coffee shop on your iPad and edit your novel. Amazing!

    If anyone is looking to shorten their learning curve with Scrivener or save a buck, there is a site called Scrivenerville (http://scrivenerville.com/) which has a bunch of cool stuff like templates and discounts. I think it’s a bargain already but I guess a little extra saving never hurt anyone ;)

    A lot of people seem to be promoting Vellum these days, but I’ll be sticking with Scrivener myself for the time being.

  8. […] Scrivener for iOS is a great app and a must-have for any writer or blogger who wants to be more productive and organized. It has a minimalistic interface and offers a full-featured desktop experience, providing all the Scrivener features on the go with your tablet. One handy feature is you can take your Scrivener projects with you wherever you go and write on your commutes, travels, from coffee shops, or your friend’s sofa. You don’t have to compromise or use another app and then export/import your progress into the desktop version of Scrivener. Click here for a full review. […]


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