Day One With Scrivener 3

Yesterday Scrivener 3 was released. It’s been a piece of software I’ve been anticipating for over a year, so this was a bit of a holiday for me. I’ve not had a great deal of time to play with the software yet, but I have managed to explore some features. These are my first impressions.

First, Scrivener now has a real-life styles. I don’t think I can over-state how wonderful this is. Now, when I change a style in Scrivener, every block of text automatically updates. I’ve helped friends work on books using Scrivener 2, and the process was amazing. But these books had vast numbers of block quoted material which had to be styled different from the main text. In the days of Scrivener 2 1 this meant going to each individual quote and applying a pre-set.

The advent of styles means I can change formatting all I want. It’s no big deal. My styles can also be carried over into the compiler, which I’m still working on figuring out. One thing to note is Scrivener 3’s styles can be created without a font-face. This makes sense, as this is probably better applied for the final project, but if you would like to make a style wysiwyg, you need to remember to check the box to include the font face in the style 2.

The new compiler now has a much different workflow than previous iterations of Scrivener, so there is a steep learning curve for power users of the old compile window 3. Instead of everything being handled in one window, there are now several screens in the compile dialog which handle formatting and section assignments. The creation of sections themselves, however, is now handled under the Project Settings dialog. This makes more sense, but it threw me for a loop as I was used to setting up output structure through the compile process.

This new setup is more powerful than Scrivener 2, and styles makes formatting much easier. It’s also easy to create sections for things like front and back matter, and even preludes. This was something which used to throw me into confused fits back in Scrivener 2 so this addition is most welcome. I’m still getting the hang of the new workflow, but managed to create some nice compile settings for ebooks 4 and PDF output. Tomorrow I’ll work on a multi-level document and export it to word to see how document structure carries over in the conversion 5. It’s been a bit of a deep dive process, but I think I’m going to like the new paradigm a lot. The output is worth the learning curve.

One other change which threw me for a minor loop is the default paper background in Composition mode, which has shifted from white to black. At first I was considering finding the setting 6 which would change this back to the old view, but I decided to stick with the default and see how I fared. I’m surprised, but I find the black background with the white text to be easier on my eyes and a bit more fun for writing. One downside of the new background is the grammar underscore is difficult to see. Dark blue against a black backdrop is not a good contrast 7.

Also of note is that keyboard shortcuts between iOS and MacOS are now matched up. I use inline footnotes in my writing, which prior to Scrivener 3 had different shortcuts between the two platforms. In Scrivener 3 this is no longer the case. In fact, as I was typing up these thoughts on my MacBook I activated a inline footnote with the shortcut from iOS without considering if it would work or not. I was two paragraphs down from that footnote before I realized the key stroke was now the same on both platforms. This is a welcome change!

I’m really looking forward to playing with the software more in the coming weeks! I may even begin writing on my MacBook again!


  1. May they be remembered with fondness. 
  2. Even if that box is not checked, however, the font face under which the style was created will show up in the previews. This needs to be adjusted, as it will be confusing for people who aren’t used to working in styles. 
  3. I was one of the nerds who loved creating complex formats using the compiler. It was brain-imploding, but that’s what made it fun. 
  4. Which look amazing 
  5. In Scrivener 2, it didn’t. This made things like formatting headers and adding a table of contents a bit of a pain. 
  6. It’s under preferences. The background can also be set to a texture now, which I find interesting. 
  7. I ignore grammar checking anyway, but if you rely on it just be aware of this. 

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