o, in previous posts I have talked about the use of 'styles' in Word for formatting a thesis and producing a table of contents, and going back to basics in terms of note-taking whilst reading for my literature review. Today, I want to talk about an absolutely wonderful piece of software for composing text: Scrivener.
Scrivener has been waxed lyrical about by numerous bloggers all across the internet. I initially downloaded it with fiction-writing in mind, due to my decision to finally undertake NaNoWriMo for the first time this year. (For those who've not heard of it, NaNoWriMo involves writing a novel of at least 50,000 words during the month of November. Dear supervisor, you didn't hear that!) However, I'm rapidly discovering its potential uses for academic writing, too.
I'm very much a beginner when it comes to Scrivener, so I probably know about 1% there is to know about its overall functionality, but what I've discovered so far, I've loved. Just take a look at this screencap:
At the very bottom of the 'binder' is where it gets cool: Scrivener can import PDF files, images, and other 'research files' that you can then open within Scrivener. So, they still exist in their usual file directory on my machine (so they're accessible and findable outwith this specific project), but I can also collect in the Scrivener project the research files that I think will be specifically applicable to this part of my thesis.
Scrivener also has a 'split screen' option, which is what I have open in the above image, so you can have notes open at the same time as you're composing the text based on them. I can see real possibilities for this function at a much more basic level of historical research than composition, too: a few years back, I transcribed around 40 seventeenth-century letters from photographs I'd taken from manuscript, rather awkwardly setting up a 'manual' split-screen with Word on top and an image viewer on the bottom. Of course, if I accidentally jigged one too far to the edge of the screen it would automatically maximise, and each time I started I had to set it all up anew. With Scrivener it's simply the case of a few button clicks.
Ironically, I was initially attracted to Scrivener due to one very simple function: its 'distraction-free' writing mode (as I noted r.e. Notepad vs Word, I really hate visual clutter when I'm trying to write or take notes). This is what it looks like:
Of course, this function is just a tiny, tiny aspect of Scrivener and why I think it is so immensely useful for the process of any piece of creative writing* - be it fiction written at the rate of knots during November, or a PhD thesis to be composed over several years. For what it provides it's incredibly cheap, too - £23 for students! - and, better yet, the 30-day free-trial is 'real-time', in the sense that it only counts down on a given day if you have actually used it. So, if you download the trial, play with it that day, then forget about it for a week, you'll still have 29 days left, and so on. But I have a feeling that anyone who plays with it for the full 30 days will be pretty much unable to go back to anything else. But you don't have to take my word for it - try it out for yourself!**
*Academic writing may, ideally, be as far from fiction as is possible, but I would argue that the production of it still requires a reasonable dose of creativity...
** Surprising as it may seem, I'm not being paid to advertise this - I genuinely think Scrivener is so good that it is worth providing as many links to as possible.