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Kimberly Powell

Tech Tuesday - Writing Made Easier with Scrivener

By May 24, 2011

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No matter how much I write, I still often find it a daunting task. The experts say to "write as you go," which makes a lot of sense in principle - especially for genealogy research reports. When it comes to putting this into practice, however, I often struggle. Notes are scattered, downloaded images mysteriously vanish, and the thought of bringing order to the chaos leaves me staring at the blinking cursor on a blank page.

In my case the writing isn't really the problem (although it can use work as well), it's the organization. This is where Scrivener, a content-generation tool for writers by Literature and Latte, has been helping me to manage my genealogy writing projects, whether a client report or a case study. It doesn't do the writing for me, but Scrivener does help me collect my research, ideas, images and notes all together in one place, while supporting my own individual writing process - disorganized and all.

Scrivener is billed as writing software, but it is really more of a project management tool that helps you to write in bits and fragments, and then shuffle index cards, documents and ideas around into organized structure. Outlining tools help you to structure your ideas. A corkboard makes it easy to organize your notes. Multiple windows allow you to view your research or images alongside your writing and compose the constituent pieces of your text in isolation or in context. You can even create your own templates - a great tool for client reports.

Scrivener was originally written for Mac OS X, but is now available for Windows as well. A free trial is available so you can try it out for yourself. It can be a little daunting at first, but if you give it a little time you may find it works to bring order to your writing chaos as well. If you find you like Scrivener, please let me know what you think!

May 24, 2011 at 1:15 pm
(1) Corey says:

Great information! I’ll try it out.

May 25, 2011 at 9:53 am
(2) Barbara-Sue says:

Regrettably, I can’t find pc/Windows information on the site you supplied. I’ve sent a query to the Scrivener folks. Thanks for the information. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. With the student discount, I’m leaning towards the purchase if it’s available.

May 25, 2011 at 10:30 am
(3) ~Kimberly says:

Scrivener for Windows is still in beta, so you can actually check it out for free. Here’s the direct link http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivenerforwindows/

May 26, 2011 at 5:31 pm
(4) Julie Tarr says:

Thanks for the info…I’m going to have to check it out!

June 10, 2011 at 7:34 am
(5) Barbara Cagle says:

Nice article, but I am a ‘pc’ and Scrivener seems to be Mac only. But I have to agree about the problem with disorganization. As a genealogy researcher with multi-family connections through marriages and spanning several centuries I have often begun to write only to spend a lot of time trying to find where on my computer I have stored a file.
Yes, I have the hard copies of everything, but it is not always viable to drag out file drawers full of content.

Since about 2004 I have been using a program called Microsoft One Note. I still have my student’s version installed and it has been migrated through three new computers since I first acquired it.

If you are a ‘PC’ you may want to check out the newest version available from Microsoft. One note is organized like a tabbed notebook with different sections, sup-sections and pages. It accepts copy/paste from almost any source online and offline (I often just paste a link to a file on my pc) and if also automatically appends a link to the source page. A nice addition as it helps keep track of sources that we often forget to bookmark, or we manage to forget what a bookmark was for.

Anyway, I thought some of you might not know about it. I am sure there are also some open source options out there as well for those of us who devote our funds to research.

Thanks for the article Kimberly.

June 10, 2011 at 2:01 pm
(6) ~Kimberly says:

Scrivener does have a full PC version in free beta right now. I included the link in one of the previous comments. Evernote is an excellent tool as well – thanks for bringing it up!

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