A few months back I started a blog about getting the dissertation done called Fuck Yeah Dissertation!. Rather than leaving it to mummify on the inter-webs, I’m going to repost some entries here from time to time.
Adding to my reviews of best apps ever, I present to you Scrivener, a robust note-taking and drafting application that is a crucial step of my dissertation process. It’s currently Mac-only, but they are beta-testing a Windows version.
Above is a screen grab of my Scrivener window, including some of my favorite features that deserve attention.
Collections. This is like your Finder in OS10 or Windows Explorer. It allows you to navigate your folders and documents while also giving you a visual sense of your project. The “Binder” is your main collection of documents, and then you can create custom “sub-collections” of select documents (like chapters, topics, etc.). The “Collections” pane doesn’t make copies of your documents, so when you create a sub-collection with selected docs, you’re editing the originals, not copies.
Compile. My favorite feature. Let’s say you have 5 documents selected in your “Collections,” Scrivener will assemble all of the documents sequentially in the editing pane. You can then edit all documents together as one, change the document order, or delete entire sections. Finally, when you click “Compile,” Scrivener allows you to export all selected documents into one file with a choice of numerous formats including .rtf, .txt, .pdf, .html, .doc, et al.
In text linking. I’ve known about this feature for a while, but my Table of Contents is the first time I’ve implemented this feature. Basically, you can link any of your text to any other file in your Binder, like creating your own wiki. I can also see this feature coming in handy for creating a literature review, mind-mapping, image referencing, etc.
Footnotes and Comments. One of my complaints about other note-taking programs like DevonThink or Evernote is the lack of sub-annotations. Scrivener allows you to make footnotes and comments, that you can then export into various formats. Liz from Confectious offers a pretty simple hack to import your Zotero references into Scriver rich-text files.
Word/Character Count Target. I like to work in continuous page blocks (no visible page breaks), but the problem with that is you can lose track of your progress. The Count Target feature allows you to set a word count goal per document and it gives you a nice visual to communicate your progress.
Extra stuff. A great full-screen editor (although I really love Writeroom for distraction free writing); The “Quickref” feature allows you to open a document in a small, floating window above your current document; “Snapshot” let’s you to save a version of your document and use it to compare to future versions.
Overall, Scrivener is a powerful tool for dissertation writers, but I can see it used for any writing project. Scrivener is not free, but they do offer a student discount and provide a 30-day free trial. (And this is a “real” free trial, not the CS5 crap trial that counts days when you don’t use the program.)