Over vacation I used Scrivener to keep my posts organized as I travelled. The ability to set up the days of my vacation weeks, and know at a glance if I had anything written for a given day, was fantastic. So fantastic, in fact, when I returned home I decided to continue using Scrivener as my blog-writing tool. It “just works,” and that is how I want it.
This isn’t to say Scrivener is perfect for my style of writing. As I’ve mentioned previously, I write my blogs in Markdown. This is helpful because it really doesn’t matter what editor I use for writing, I simply copy and paste the marked-up text and WordPress takes care of the rest for me.
Still, dedicated Markdown editors possess features which are not in Scrivener’s wheelhouse. For example, Scrivener doesn’t “live preview” marked up text in the editor window. In a dedicated Markdown editor **bold**, for example, will show up as **bold**. This is helpful for visualizing text without having to switch to either render or preview mode. A dedicated Markdown editor will also recognize common keyboard shortcuts, such as “command-i,” to add the corresponding markup in a document – either by surrounding selected text or inserting it at the cursor. This is a convenience, to be sure, but it’s one which saves keystrokes. Even with these strengths, the move to Scrivener was the logical end to my vacation experiment. My objections simply didn’t hold up against the experience of using this amazing writing environment.
First, the whole point of Markdown is to have a human-readable markup language for text formatting. The editor previews are nice, but far from necessary 1. I understand the text just fine without it.
Second, the keyboard shortcuts are wonderfully convenient, but once the markup has been added you can’t simply change your mind and hit the command again to toggle the formatting “off.” They work one way only. While their presence does save me time, and not-infrequently, there are also many times where I find them not to be of any use. Occasionally, because I continue to pull in expectations from a traditional word processor, I even found they were a hinderance.
Aside from my crumbling objections, the ability to see a week’s worth of posts at a glance, and to have my posts collected all in one place, without having to switch apps to view or edit them, makes a great deal of sense. I’m continuing to refine how I’m organizing my posts in Scrivener’s binder, but I am hooked on the “glance and write” nature of the Scrivener interface. I don’t have to scrounge through finder, or hope a desired post is hiding “recent documents” in my Markdown editor. Everything is there, right in the open for me to see. This is the way writing should be.
Additionally, if I desire to write in a dedicated Markdown editor, I only need to write on my iPad. While Scrivener fans have been waiting for years for a dedicated Scrivener iOS app, Mac users have been able to sync a project to an external folder, such as a folder on Dropbox. I have my blog set up to sync with a folder in dropbox using plain text as the synced files and setting the extension as “md.” 2 I can open up any of my posts in Editorial on my iPad and write as normal, the changes will be synced in the next time I open Scrivener. It’s not as seamless as a real Scrivener app would be on iOS, but it works well and allows me the freedom to write anywhere.
Counting my two weeks of vacation, and subtracting a few days when I was still writing in my Markdown editor after my return, I’m on my third week of using Scrivener as my primary blogging tool. I don’t foresee myself going back any time soon.