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Tree elements' formatting (Scrivener, "Aeon") - The Wolf!

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Posted by 22111
Jan 16, 2023 at 05:34 PM


I once said, here - I cite from memory -, “writers should just adopt Scriveners, be good, and start writing” - I hadn’t been aware, at the time, that Scrivener, as well as “Ulysses App”, seemingly does NOT allow for user-sided tree elements formatting, so I made a post to https://forum.literatureandlatte.com/t/scrivener-needs-user-sided-formatting-in-its-tree/132080 which might be of interest to writers not yet feeling the urge to individually format their tree entries.

(And yes, my allegations over there had been prompted by some co-contributor’s to this forum’s, experiences with “Aeon”, in the latter’s forum. Scrivener’s not good enough, had been my “resume” from that, but as always, I tried to be as constructive as I ever can be.)


Posted by Amontillado
Jan 17, 2023 at 02:39 AM


Hmmm… I have fallen off the Scrivener bandwagon with great regret. Fine product, wonderful vendor, but I’m an odd duck. The “no style” paradigm for default text bugs me, and the compile process is too much of a one-man-band for my taste.

But don’t listen to me - Scrivener is a writer’s friend.

Regarding tree structure, one of the things that I didn’t like about the Aeon-Scrivener formation flight was one timeline event per chapter seemed limiting.

It occurs to me, though, that it might work to have a “Chapter 1” event in Aeon that was the parent to the individual events in that chapter. I could exclude child events and just sync chapter events.

Would the time span of the child events appear in Scrivener as the start and end times?

There have been rumors Aeon 3 will be in beta soon. I’m looking forward to it.


Posted by 22111
Jan 19, 2023 at 12:33 AM


@Amontillado: Interesting find! Motivated by what you had told me/us about current Aeon, I had looked quite extensively into the current Aeon documentation, and overlooked that… it goes without saying that thus, whilst the writer is very (!) limited by that limit, the coder’s code is much (!) simpler; for an add-on purchase, deemed to overcome the possible limits of Scriv’s in-built “timeline”, that’s unacceptable.

My impression: It’s very (!) pleasing, visually, and it’s certainly a joy to play around with, but having not trialed it, I don’t know how easy “construction work” within Aeon would be, vs “constructing” within Scriv / Uly, and then just “checking the results” in Aeon, but indeed, for Scriv or Uly users, it might be a “natural” purchase indeed, since the data transfer in both directions is described (sic!) as seamless; for users of other writing tools, the hassle of (more or less manual syncing) is probably not worth it - when juggling between the tools is instantly, WITH the data synced, ok, why not; otherwise it’s procrastination (my stance here is similar to what I now think of “Mind Maps”: for presentation purposes, especially if you don’t display them but gradually, they are (often) very good, but for “constructing” purposes, they represent more “clutter” for me than anything else; very visually-minded people may have a totally different “user experience” though); as I said over there, UR offers me a quite detailed (vertical) “timeline”, just by coloring and then filtering by those formats (see also below).

Scriv comes WITH coloring and filtering, it’s just a bloody mess, as far as I am (and some others are) concerned:

Push, Push!

Tucker Max (i.n.e. “Max Tucker” but Tucker “What Women Want” Max, and he should know indeed, 5 million novel books sold, 80 p.c. of them to women I suppose…) shares my advice: Do NOT buy Scrivener: https://scribemedia.com/scrivener-review/ but he arguments along his way of writing - outlining as a waterfall model, not iteratively -, which might not apply to the majority of writers or “writers”; thus, he preaches for MS Word, etc., i.e. for the better, traditional “text processors”, which now come with some outlining (he doesn’t mention “Atlantis”, but that one’s among those).

(Btw, their pricing of 49 bucks you’ll find all over the place, is now 59, with minus 25 p.c. for some “Winter/Sommer” fest, twice a year; Win licence not transferable to Mac, nor vv.)

He brings some arguments in the line of that old “a db for IM is just an additional subsystem in the file system, and thus to be avoided” (I don’t find the author of that essay currently, please help me out; it goes without saying that IM DBs like Ultra Recall - which I recommend - deploy their back-end db, SQLite’s full text search, to “imported” or “linked” documents like pdfs, etc., thus partly invalidating the old “avoid IM DB’s” argument).

Then, he says, “If anything, learning how to use the software will waste your time and keep you from doing what you should be doing—writing.”, and, “Based on Scrivener’s obvious preference for the Mac platform, I wouldn’t recommend any version of it for Windows users.” (written before Scriv-Win-3 but see my remarks over there, for both Scriv and Scapple), and,

(“Scrivener likes to show off how easy it is to move your outline around, even as you’re writing. But you shouldn’t do that—especially not if you’re a non-fiction Author. Write a solid outline first. Then write your draft.” (see above, and even for technical writing, I don’t share his opinion, but of course, nobody needs Scriv for that indeed, and, e.g., even in venerable KEdit (more or less the same price as Scriv, depending on your (credit card’s) location), it’s perfectly possible (with easy macros) to shuffle anything around at will:
- 1-key for “display just the title lines” (e.g. starting with # or something)*
- select the (title) line(s) to shuffle (kb, mouse, it’s up to you), ^x
- put the cursor before the target (title) line
- 1-key for the move: done:
- 1 key for “total view” again, and everything is in place
* = people who know KEdit might say I’m lying, but, “with easy macros”, I said: I know that the *-line here comprises “reset scope to all” since KEdit sets it, by the display command, to “display”: If you use easy macros (within the app, no external macro tool needed), it works as described here), and,

“The user guide on Scrivener 3 is horrible. It’s just a wall of text that goes on forever.” - well said!, and,

“Maybe if you could just download the app and start typing, you could figure out the complexities later. But you can’t. It’s about as far away from intuitive as you can get.” - That’s exactly my experience with Scriv, and I would go even further: Any “review” mentioning Scriv as “intuitive” - many do! - has either been written by a genius, or just a liar; and he writes,

“Writing a book is hard. It’s easy to get stuck procrastinating. Learning new writing software is a great way to tell yourself you’re being productive when you’re really just avoiding the writing process.” -

Bingo. That’s what I have said before reading reviews or “reviews”, but here again, I’ll go one step further, just see:


About 20 - TWENTY! - Scriv books, all for intl. shipping, so retrieved from the U.S., there might even more! I had originally thought all those “technical authors” just wanted to profit from the Scriv phenomenon - virtually every writer or “writer” out there thinks they’d need it, in order to be (more) successful - fetish, totem: you’ll remember -, but no:

Fact is: Those how-to-use-Scriv books are more or less needed indeed, in order to become productive with Scriv… or even to be just able to start some jotting down!

And isn’t that a WONDERFUL, ALL your time (and some more money) consuming way of procrastinating, oh yeah!

But now back to those “reviews”, in double quotes. Here, https://www.amazon.com/Literature-Latte-SCRWINREG-Scrivener-Download/product-reviews/B0079KJB54/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_viewpnt_rgt?ie=UTF8&reviewerType=all_reviews&filterByStar=critical&pageNumber=1 , AFTER clicking on “All critical reviews”, you will be able to read some REAL reviews, which don’t need those quotes, BUT you must follow this link to get there, according to your “seat”‘s location (except for VPN that is): outside the U.S., Ama HIDES those reviews from you, yeah!

One there wrote, btw, “Scriv pays for good reviews” (I cite from memory) - I would never ever allege such a thing, but fact is, the web is FLOODED by RAVES about Scriv, and virtually all of those come with one, two or even multiple links to Scriv, and I’d call them advertorials.

Now, you ask me, why then ain’t there more of such raves-with-a-commission for Scriv alternatives? Simple: (allegedly) 20 p.c. from the market leader (by far, I suppose), again and again, that’s really cute, and since “men” (women and transes, too) are herd animals, just like sheep, most of prospects getting some rave “review” for something (much) lesser known, would then, finally, land on some other rave “review” page, leaving their (allegedly) 20 p.c. over there: it’s marketing, stupid!

In this respect, also see the old concept of “cognitive dissonance” - AFTER having got the Covid “vac”, AFTER buying Scriv, it’s difficult to disavow your decision, so you rationalize it (sic!), thus avoiding the hindsight you had acted sheep-psychology-driven.

So, why the hype? Why the universal phenomenon? Fact is, non-factual writing (i.e. “creative”, “literary” writing, “journalism”, and so on) is 90 p.c. Mac / iSome, and Scriv “was there”, “in time”, and had had the brilliant idea to target those non-factual writers, also with very low prices at the time, whilst their competitors either tried to address PIM in general*, or then asked 3, 4 times Scriv’s price-at-the-time. And now they just make, I suppose (sic!), quite the double or triple of all their competitor’s sales-to-writers combined, dedicated screenplay tools deducted.

(*=Or they even tried to address the pop-n-mom family corporate market, as askSam in part did (cf. their templates, or the fact you could send telephone numbers to your Ninetees modem), Ultra Recall (again their templates, with endless lists of “attributes” for “commercials”, some Outlook integration) or InfoSelect, with even many more “goodies” for pop-n-mom trying to sell something, and with its own mail component, the first and the latter being priced accordingly for those target markets… for which then all three weren’t good enough, and so we now have one defunct contender, one with allegedly very few paying customers, and the one mentioned in the middle is “more or less good enough”, and further developed at snail’s pace…

(Did you know UR, even today, comes with “text” export where almost every term is lowercase (only, not by option, might you think!), good for (I think) nothing, and just because SQLite’s fts (see above) puts all those terms into lowercase, for searching? Whilst its “contender” (no, not really…) RightNote (also SQLite-backed) does it right (but does most other things quite or very poorly…)? You can live with that, since you simply use rtf export instead, then import into MS Word, or into TextMaker (free), save-as-text, and voila… (don’t use Atlantis here, since the (very needed) item separator “new page” then is a problem, whilst in Word and TM, you simple switch between their native char and e.g. “¬” (or whatever).))

And here, we turn back to Max’ misunderstanding, related above: He spoke of those “word processors”, together with file system possibilities, vs Scriv, but not, not explicitely, vs the kind of writing tool Scriv is just one (totally convoluted) example of, and that might be the situation of most prospects for such tools, at the end of the day.

Today, with the web, it should be a transparent market, but for most prospects, it remains quite intransparent, e.g. because they don’t enter the right terms into Google, e.g. “outliner”? No, they might enter “text processing for writers”, and bingo, they’re flooded with those “Scriv” reviews, getting 20 p.c. or whatever…

Now don’t get me wrong: Yes, Scriv comes with user-individual tree element formatting (see the linked thread), it’s just that you need, well, up to 20 books ON Scriv, in order to know how to start writing, and yes, Scriv is a very powerful tool, it’s just a bloody mess, and whilst you will probably have read, in some paper for the masses, that “decluttering is the trend now”, I’m the last person on earth to tell you software should be functionally “streamlined” (as then InfoSelect is said to have done…), but “less is more” (Ludwig MiesAndSoOn) indeed applies to the GUI design: all the complications belong BEHIND the scenes, but tell that the Scriv people…!

Since Scriv, design-wise, well: It’s a nightmare, probably in part because there might have been what they call “organic development” (on the Mac side, and then they replicated that bloody mess to their Win versions), and here’s just one example of their design desaster (I have to say I didn’t “grasp” it, and I’m not going to buy those 20 books), but here’s what I retrieved from their screen shot: It’s always a good thing to split up the tree into a project part, and a details part, more or less Miller-columns-wise (cf. “Ulysses app”, too, whilst e.g. the UR developer unfortunately refuses to implement such a higher-up, “project”, “cases” pane / tree), but then, any child element (currently) displayed within the subordinate tree (pane), has to disappear from the “parent(ing)” pane - whatever you call those panes (de-clutter!); not so in Scriv, of course, where they appear in what they call the “binder” (what did we call that again? skeuomorphism?), and in the “Inspector” (if I remember well, but hadn’t that been a palette-for-the-selection in FreeHand, which then Adobe bought for cheap in order to kill it, in order to - step 3 - rent out their inferior “Illustrator” at any price they seem appropriate?

And, oh, the “Inspector” is for the “attributes”, here, too? Why not have them, by option (to the right, for our Western languages; elsewhere accordingly), as (ordinarily narrow, but extensible) extensions to the trees, instead of creating hodgepodge, with waste, redundancy and the urge (to avoid the term “need”) to click everywhere? (Mac “philosophy”, I said…)

And it seems they even have some integrated (horizontal) “timeline” - and though, their customers feel the need to buy another “timelineapp” now, with endless forth-n-back? Because it’s even cuter? And then, that “cork board” - oh, yeah! especially for half-price, in 2005, when their competitors-for-writers might not have had one? Now, cork-boards-on-screen are not so much “needed” anymore though, since they all (Scriv, Uly, even UR*) come with, by option, more than just 1 line in the (unique or subordinate) tree pane.

*=I have to admit that for UR, that’s just the (long, in case) title, whilst for the other two, that might also be some lines of the start of the content field (option in Uly, certainly similar in Scriv), which is clearly better, but that’s all the more reason for not using that ugly cork board anymore, in Scriv.

Btw, I put the “necessary-for-overview, additional” info into the titles, then enlarge the pane, and I have found some, just some, easily available special chars for multiple tagging means, in case, even for hierarchical tagging within those sets, and which are retrieved both by SQLite’s fts, and by that incomparable “Everything”‘s indexing routine, Something (haha) most Maccians, knew’em how good it is, would probably kill for.

Push, push! Get your percentage!

Scriv’s “philosophy” is quite different though from mine - as said, neat GUI, complications in the code (only), any possible functionality straightforward, at your fingertips (cf. my “hotkey” musings re portable Mac’s touch bar); here’s an original Scriv staff citation (you can read it in an answer to my first Scapple post there):

“I regularly hit Alt,n,g,l to align-left for example, to the point that it just rolls of[f] my fingers when I need it.”

This might be representative of much of what they (force their customers to) do. And it is nuts.


Posted by Amontillado
Jan 19, 2023 at 07:13 PM


Scrivener isn’t so bad, nor is it hard to use. The best way to learn it is to explore the features you need, ignoring the rest until future needs arise.

It’s not for everyone, which is just like everything else out there. One thing I liked about Scrivener was the common-sense structure of its project files. I wrote my own sync routines, for example, to sync Scrivener with an Android office suite.

Aeon is not quite as open, but the import and export facilities are nice. For instance, it’s no big deal to export from Omni Outliner with extra columns to Aeon, or from Devonthink with custom metadata.

I suspect in about 30 minutes I could write a Python exporter from Obsidian to Aeon, picking timeline data out of YAML metadata. In fact, if I put the timeline data in YAML headers in Devonthink Markdown files, the same script would transfer from either Obsidian or Devonthink.

Literature and Latte is very friendly to independent writers and is worth supporting. Even if you don’t like Scrivener, it’s not something to dismiss as worthless. There is too much productive output coming from Scrivener projects. The same can be said of Microsoft Word, and I avoid it like a cliche.


Posted by satis
Jan 20, 2023 at 12:50 AM


Scrivener for macOS isn’t bad, but the iOS version is lacking and people have complained about the Windows version for years on the app’s subreddit. Development appears to have significantly slowed or halted: the last version for macOS (v.3.2.3) came out ten months ago with some bugfixes and UI tweaks but that’s about it.

Ulysses has been iterating regularly and while a more expensive, subscription app, its iOS app has parity in features. Las month it added Projects, sort of a superceding folder for individual projects which only shows relevant files to that project when working, hiding everything else in the app’s sidebar for better focus. It also added ‘keyword pools’ to let each project use its own discrete tags and colors.


I’ve owned and upgraded my copy of Scrivener since 2012. I used it quite a bit in the past, but it never really clicked with me enough to happily settle into it. To me the app’s best feature is the automatic corkboard view but aside from that I am able to duplicate all other features I need with Ulysses and additional notes/outlines in OmniOutliner (though Zavala could easily be used too).

Unless you self-publish, when working with a publisher, regardless of app authors need to migrate everything to Word anyway to deal with that app’s unparalled, industry-standard Track Changes.


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