OmniFocus and Scrivener

Is there anybody here who is a writer?

If you’re not already aware, Scrivener is an app available for Mac and Windows:

Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.

If so, do you have tips for using these apps in conjunction?

I don’t know about OmniFocus and Scrivener. I have used Scrivener every day since I discovered it just before it transmogrified from a Beta to a fully fledged app. I also used OmniOutliner before then, but as Scrivener has a powerful outlining function, I’ve used OO less and less … principally for putting together stuff to export to Keynote. I don’t have to do that now, so although I have upgraded OO to version 4, I’m not sure it will get much use. I still use Scrivener on a regular basis though.

I don’t use OF, but if it can export to OPML, Scrivener can import that. What use you could make of it, I leave others to determine.


Continuing the discussion from OmniFocus and Scrivener:

Do you still think Scrivener is useful, in light of its stagnated development?

I looked at it 4-5 years ago, and I’ve looked at it now.

Same thing. No new interface, building upon the various UX and code innovations from OS X 10.5-10.9. Meanwhile, it’s looking very tired, next to writing apps like Ulysses 3 and OmniOutliner 4.

Stagnated? I disagree. They’re working on bringing the Windows version up to par feature wise with the Mac version. Then, when that is done, I’m sure they’ll go back to refreshing the interface, etc.

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I too totally disagree. The utility of a program does not come to an end if the latest gizmos and interface fashions are not incorporated. Those gizmos may well have nothing to offer the code and the interface fashions I do not perceive as necessarily an improvement.

I have not upgraded to OmniGraffle 6 for that reason, and although I have upgraded to OO 4, I needn’t have done and I find the new interface more difficult to use. OmniGroup has taken the route for integrating OSX and iOS apps by making the OSX interface more like the iOS one as Apple is intent on doing. That is their decision, and we have to accept it or find alternative software. I am happy that OW6 is slowly developing — OW did stagnate, in a way that Scrivener has not — and it is still my favourite browser, though I have to use an alternative for some sites and purposes. However if Omni change the interface in the way they’ve changed the interface on OG and OO, I will probably abandon it.

Literrature and Latte are taking a different route in developing the iOS version of Scrivener, and it has been slow. But just like the Windows version it is a separately coded, not a port — though the iOS and OSX versions may be able to share some frameworks — with much of the work involved as I understand it being in designing a touch interface which works for a structure as complex as Scrivener which works optimally for a traditional keyboard–mouse/trackpad interface.

So stagnating no. Even on the OSX (base development) version — where new versions only come out periodically … if someone encounters a bug that needs squashing, and making changes to make it work seamlessly under each new iteration of OSX — the thrust is working out how to integrate a proper stylesheet system which will work with a structure where each paragraph may be a separate .rtf file in the package and where changing the style definition while working on one file will have to be propagated through all of the others even though they are not open at the time, and without slowing the app significantly. A tough job for a single programmer.

Finally, OO4 is not a “writing app”, it’s an outliner, though you can expand it to write in it. But would you write a 700 page scholarly work in OO? I wouldn’t dream of it. Ulysses 3 is a writing app, but though it shares much in common with Scrivener, they are different. I tried Ulysses 2 before I discovered Scrivener and couldn’t get on with it; others prefer it to Scrivener; and there are those who use both, but they say they use Ulysses for short articles/one-off short stories, but Scrivener for full-length works. But the fact that the Ulysses developer found it necessary to rewrite the code completely as Ulysses 2 was presumably not able to be upgraded without a major rewrite, doesn’t mean the same is true for Scrivener.

So, Scrivener doesn’t suit you? That’s fine. Scrivener suits me down to the ground, and the only change I know I’m looking forward to is the introduction of style-sheets when Keith solves all the problems. Interface change? Well, appearance will change with OS 10.10, but the basic interface structure doesn’t need changing.

DISCLAIMER: I have no connections with Literanture & Latte, other than as a long-term user of Scrivener since just before it went commercial.


Speaking as a purely “above the hood” user, Scrivener is easily the most productive writing app made for the Mac. I have tried scores of apps and nothing organizes my writing better than Scriv. I don’t see any easy integration with OF, but there doesn’t need to be really.

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Huge Scrivener fan here too. Right up there with OF in the ‘what would I do without you?’ category. The only way I connect them is to have OmniFocus on one monitor telling me what to do, and Scrivener on the other so I can do it. I link OF to Scrivener files too. “Write a paragraph” with a link to the Scrivener file beneath it.

Yes! Love the dual monitor with OF on the iPad and the Mac Air on Scriv. Great idea with the links-thanks.

Continuing the discussion from OmniFocus and Scrivener:


Continuing the discussion from OmniFocus and Scrivener:

Continuing the discussion from OmniFocus and Scrivener:

Would it be possible for you guys to share your workflows (description, via prose) as to how Scrivener is the best utility available for writing?

I’d love to see how I can fit my current writing approach (I tend to use Pages 5 and OmniOutliner 4 now. I stopped using Ulysses 3 and Writer Pro.) to Scrivener.

I’m a big believer in investing time in learning how to use good productivity utilities and I’d love to use Scrivener.

Sure. My workflow is not anything fancy, but the beauty of Scrivener is the ability to use it in a variety of ways. I am a mindmapper, so I usually sketch things in Scrivener’s sister software Scapple. I then drag the mindmap into Scrivener, and each circle in my mindmap becomes an index card. I can make notes on these index cards and order them sequentially. Each index card represents a line in your outline. If you switch the order of the index cards, or rename one, this will be reflected in your outline. I generally order ideas/thoughts in the index card view, then switch to the outline view to organize into larger categories, etc. Each index card not only corresponds with a line on your outline, it also corresponds with a document. So if you have 5 index cards labeled A, B, C, D, and E, you will also have 5 lines in your outline named the same, and 5 documents within your Scrivener file each named A, B, C, D, E. A switch in any of the three views will sync to the other.

The beauty of this is the ability to break a large writing project into multiple levels. I use a ridiculous amount of them, and as they begin to become polished, I group them back together.

When your document is done, you can Compile it into a range of formats.

There are also options to label different documents with icons and colors. You can group documents together in particular ways and save them (sort of like tagging.) You can take snapshots of your current draft so you can go back at any point and look at it. You can drag images into documents. You can link to things.

It might look confusing at first, but it’s fun to play around with, and you will understand it easily enough. It is no more complex than OF in my opinion. I’ve used it for 4 years or so, and I am still learning neat things about it.

Good luck!


Continuing the discussion from OmniFocus and Scrivener:

Fantastic, thanks.

My fear of using Scrivener is that it seems to be developed by a very small team of one or two people. I worry about the longevity of the product.

Has anyone ever hacked OmniFocus to create an inbox for Scrivener?

My reason for asking is that I miss an inbox in the otherwise wonderful program Scrivener. While writing away in Scrivener, mental pop-ups may come up and I’d like to be able to hit a keyboard shortcut, jot down the idea that just came up, and then continue writing (in Scrivener). At some later stage, I may process the ideas that were written away to the OmniFocus inbox, perhaps after having created a special perspective for that purpose.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions - Jan Wybe.

Scrivener itself has an Inbox of sorts called the “Scratch Pad”, but I rarely use it. I actually do use OmniFocus. What I do is create a project titled “Thoughts to Add” with a default context of @laptop. Anytime I have an idea, I use the OmniFocus Inbox shortcut, type my thoughts, type tab to go to the project section, type “tta” to assign it the Thoughts to Add project and then Command-K to send it on its way.

The same idea works if you want to have different thoughts for different chapters. So for example, you could have several projects, one for each chapter, titled “Thoughts to Add - Chapter 1”, “Thoughts to Add - Chapter 2”, etc. Then do the same as above substituting “tta2” for entering something in chapter 2, for instance.

For extra credit, you could create a dedicated perspective to show the items most recently added by setting the filter to Sort by Added.

  • Kourosh
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