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For the past two weeks I’ve been playing around with Scrivener, Mac software for the writer. I was tipped off by John Rogers, a screenwriter who blogs at Kung Fu Monkey, and thought it would be great for a journalist. Turns out, I was right!

Scrivener 3 - Photos

Tiger (OS X 10.4, for you non-Mac fans) already offered some help on the organization front with Spotlight, which helps me find articles I’ve written in the past (if I forgot to save them in the right folder). Scrivener, on the other hand, takes organization to a whole new level.

Everything is project oriented, but, for me, that means “subject-matter.” Take, for example, “Fire.” The genius of the software is integration: you can import documents, PDFs, e-mail messages and even images, and store it all in one file on your hard drive (be sure to backup!).

So, here’s the basic layout:

Scrivener 1 - Layout

As you can see, you start out with a corkboard, allowing you to quickly glance at the material central to your project. On the left you’ve got your directory, including an entire sub-section for research. For me, that includes interview notes, reports, charts and graphs, whatever: it’s all in one easy to find place.

So, it slices and dices, but does it chop? Of course it does! Writing software wouldn’t be worth much if you had to do the writing elsewhere. Scrivener is also a full-featured word processor, complete with distraction-free full-screen mode:

Scrivener 4 - Editing

Scrivener also comes with an outliner, which helps with story structure for those of us who don’t like to plan what we’re writing. When you’re done, export (to Rich Text for Word or xHTML for the Web) and you’re all set.

I’ve spent the last couple of days importing stories and other research from 2005-06, because I continue to report on many of those subjects today. If you do any sort of project-oriented writing, or just want a better way of organizing, you should give Scrivener a shot. They offer a 30-day trial, and the software is dirt-cheap ($35) anyway.

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