The Ultimate Guide to Scrivener for Windows

Brad Smith


I'm the creator of this site (Grammar Gang). I'm also the founder of Codeless, a long-form content creation company that's been featured in The New York Times, Business Insider, The Next Web, and hundreds more.

We produce around ~100 long, in-depth articles each month. So we're relying on these tools on a daily basis. Here, I break down the good, bad, and uuuuuuggggllllyyyy.
Brad Smith

Scrivener is the perfect companion for any writer–be it a PhD aspirant, wanna be author, or a professional blogger. It has something for everyone.

But the best part is, it’s not finical about operating systems. It has dedicated apps for Windows and Mac to give you the convenience to work on your projects offline without worrying about the monthly internet plan.

And in this post, I’m going to show you how to use Scrivener on your Windows PC.

By the time you end up reading this post, you’ll have a clear idea of how to write and organize work, create versions, and export files in your favorite format.

Let’s get started.

How to get started with Scrivener for Windows

Whether you want to create an account or take the software for a spin, it all starts from either buying the Scrivener license or taking the app for a spin.

If you’re double-minded, read my detailed review on Scrivener before making your mind or take the free trial. Because it’s the same full version that you get as a paid user.

To do that:

Go to their Download page, and choose Scrivener for Windows.

scrivener install 5

It might take a few minutes since it’s a heavyweight application (84.2 MB), but once the download process is done, install the software as you install any other app.

A shortcut will appear in your desktop after the completion of the installation process.

Now, when you open the app for the first time (actually it happens every time you open the app), it’ll prompt you to either buy the license online, enter the license (if you’ve already purchased it), or try the software for 27 non-consecutive days.

Scrivener install 4

So plug in your license number if you’re already a user or hit ‘Try’, and you’re all set to do what it does best: write and organize content.

How to start writing and organizing content

As soon as you install the software, you can start creating your first project on Scrivener.

You can either choose from more than a dozen writing templates Scrivener offers or pick a blank page and start from the ground up.

Scrivener templates

Once the blank page is open, you can either start typing words or import your older work directly to the app from your desktop by going to File> Import> Files…

scrivener import

It supports a range of file formats that includes Word, PDF, Final Draft, Plain Text, and more.

However, whatever you’re writing or uploading, just keep in mind that it’s under the Draft section. And where would you find Draft?

It’s under ‘Binder’ that is located on the left side of your screen and works as a navigation bar of Scrivener showing you the entire skeleton (headers and subheaders) of your project.

Scrivener content organization

If you want, you can rename Draft as the title of your project by double-clicking on it or right-click and select ‘rename’.

Now one of the reasons I love Scrivener is it gives me the freedom to deal with each section separately. It’s handy when you are writing a long-form blog post or eBook.

When you’re done with the first section or say chapter of your book; head over to Binder and right-click on any chapter. From there point over the ‘Add’ option, and select ‘New Text’ to add a new chapter.

scrivener add chapter

You can repeat the same procedure to add subsequent chapters or sections to your project.

And if you’re someone who often comes across lightning ideas while writing, you can open the project note pane by tapping the ‘Inspector’ icon on the top right corner, and unload all your notes and thoughts in a blink. Click the ‘Inspector’ icon again to close it.

Scrivener inspector

Similarly, Scrivener’s “full-screen mode” is there to work as a savior whenever I feel distracted.

You can toggle it on by clicking on the full-screen mode icon on the menu bar which looks like this…

scrivener full screen mode

…and as soon as you turn it on, the current page spreads across the entire screen and clogs up all the icons and menus.

scrivener full screen 4

To get back to the normal mode, hover the pointer to the bottom of your screen and click the same icon in the bottom right corner to exit.

Scrivener exit full screen

Now I don’t know about you, but by the time I write my last word, the entire manuscript looks quite jumbled and more often than not, I end up turning the whole script upside down by changing the order of different sections.

And this is where you start experiencing the power of Scrivener.

There are three places where you can format your content – (1) directly in the editor, (2) in Corkboard, and (3) in Outliner.

Let’s see how you can format your content while you’re still editing it in the editor.

As mentioned earlier, under ‘Binder’, you can find all the headers and sub-headers of your script. So let’s say, you want to place chapter 4 ahead of chapter 2.

All you need to do is select chapter 4 (by clicking on it once), and drag & drop it between chapter 1 and 2. As simple as that!

But while it sounds dead-simple, this is not the most efficient method to organize things. Because many a time you might mess things up and make chapter 4 a sub-section of chapter 2.

In such cases, you have to, first, pull it out of chapter 2 and re-do it which is frustrating as hell. Not to mention, the precious time you’ll lose doing all this stuff.

That’s why I always prefer using corkboard or outliner.

In the middle of the menu bar, click the icon in the center to shift to Corkboard.

scrivener modes

It breaks down the whole project as index cards where each card represents each section or chapter of your document.

Scrivener corkboard

Once again, the only effort you need to make is to drag a card and drop it where you want to place it.

Similarly, when you head over to Outliner (the icon in the right side), it presents the outline of your document as ‘list view’.

Scrivener outliner

And how do you format the content?

Yeah, you got it. Just drag and drop!

Once you’re happy with the overall format, your masterpiece is ready to export in your favorite file format.

How to check for previous versions and export content

Before you get all pumped up to export your file, let me make you familiar with another essential feature of Scrivener which is a lifesaver (and also Timesaver) for every writer.

Scrivener powers you with the facility to lock your content as versions so that whenever you come across the crossroad where you want to make some changes in your content but also fear of losing the current copy, you can lock it as a snapshot for future reference.

To do that, go to ‘Document’, select ‘Snapshot’ from the drop-down menu, and click ‘take snapshot’.

Scrivener snapshots

Doing so will make a shutter sound that means the snapshot is taken and stored.

Now, feel free to make any changes in your copy and if you’re still not satisfied; you can get back to your original copy in a few clicks.

To do that, again head over to Document and select Snapshot, but this time select ‘Show Snapshot’.

Scrivener show snapshots

It’ll open the Snapshot pane in the right side of your screen where you can navigate all the versions/snapshots you’ve taken.

Click on any snapshot, and it shows the older copy in the text box below.

Scrivener snapshot1

If you want to restore a particular version, select that in the Snapshot pane and hit the ‘Roll back’ option in the top right corner.

scrivener roll back 1

Scrivener will prompt you to take Snapshot of the current text, but if you’re determined, you don’t need the latest copy anymore, ignore the prompt and hit ‘No’. It’ll revert your document to its original phase.

scrivener snapshot2

And at last, you might be wondering, what these ‘+’ and ‘-’ signs are for?

scrivener add and remove snapshot

Well, it’s basically to add or remove a snapshot. Select ‘+’ if you want to take another snapshot or choose ‘-’ if you want to remove an existing one from the list.

However, this is not the end.

There are some more exciting things left like viewing the changes in a snapshot, comparing two versions with each other or comparing it with the latest copy, but unfortunately, these things are possible only in the Mac variant.

Literature and Latte (the parent company of Scrivener) is yet to roll these features in the Windows version.

Finally, once you’ve finalized the format and copy, go to ‘File’ and point over ‘Export’ from the drop-down menu.

scrivener export1

Select the ‘Files…’ option, and choose a file format like Word, PDF, RTF, odt, html, xhtml, and many more before hitting ‘Export’.

Scrivener export

How to uninstall Scrivener on Windows

It doesn’t matter how cool an application is, sometimes you’re just forced to wipe it off your computer.

So, in case your device is running low on RAM, or you need to keep it minimal to avoid regular crashing, here are the necessary steps to take to uninstall Scrivener from your computer.

  1. Press the ‘Windows’ key and click ‘Apps and Features’.

scrivener uninstall

  1. You’ll open the Settings window where you would see a list of apps installed in your PC. Find Scrivener in the list.

Scrivener uninstall 2

  1. Click on it, and select Uninstall. Confirm again in the pop-up wizard and it’ll uninstall Scrivener.

Scrivener uninstall 3

That was cake, right!

Conclusion

The Scrivener app for Windows is a real deal.

The power to work offline and access everything, from research notes to versions, in the same doc make it a one-stop solution for all your writing.

Combine the negligible cost and its ability to backup your files automatically, and you get a complete package which is hard to beat.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a neophyte or a crackerjack, Scrivener Windows app has everything you need to take your writing game to the next level.