Journal Entry: Mon Nov 16, 2009, 9:22 AM
This Nanowrimo I've more or less spontaneously decided not to stick with good" old Word 2003 anymore, mostly because its rendering of Monaco is horrible, and I've taken a recent liking to the cuddliest of monospace fonts.
So here's a comparison of those two writing tools. If you aren't a writer, there's no real interest in reading this, for you. But, I'm still alive, in case you were wondering. I have lots of nice photos to post actually, but I've gotten too self concious about them, so I haven't gotten around to that yet. But I will. Someday. And once I have a little more time I'll also try to get back to commenting and replying.
I started out using Ulysses, but since I read in the Nanowrimo Forums that so many people were raving about Scrivener, I decided to test that one as well. So here's my comparison of the two writer's tools. One would normally post this on a blog, but right now this is my only journal of the kind because I want to make a costum wordpress theme before starting to use it, and wordpress themes confuse me.
Anyway. What are the pros and cons of Scrivener and Ulysses?
Their general premise is pretty much the same. A tool, specifically for long writing projects, which does more than the usual wordprocessor and is more focused on the actual writing and eliminates many of the hassles normal wordprocessors have. Both are project based and both let you split up your draft into many little documents, that you can arrange in folders and the like.
Ulysses is one of the first Mac Programs to be aimend specifically at creative writers. Its party piece is semantic editing, which means, for instance, if you want something emphasized, you put it in Tags to emphasize it, and can see later, whether you want to bolden that, or italice it, or whatever else you fancy, leaving you to worry about what you want to say, first, rather than what it's going to look like.
Scrivener's party pieces are its outliner and its corkboard, two very useful features for arranging your novel and probably very helpful to make massive rearranging and editing, as my last nanonovel from 2008 needs, very easy.
Both have a fullscreen mode. Ulysses fullscreen mode, called console mode, was again one of the first of its kind, and I like it a lot. You get yellow Lucida Grande text on a black background, if you hover your mouse to the appropriate places a wordcount and a scrollbar appear. Simple, elgant, distraction free. You have to pay a lot more attention to what your writing, though, since spell check can't be bothered in fullscreen mode.
Scrivener's full screen mode is much more costumizable, but it looks fine the way it is, mostly. There, you have a whitish sheet of paper on a black or translucent black background. The settings bar that appears when you hover your mouse on the bottom of the screen has a word and character count, but it also has several other options, which I personally don't need. It has spell check while writing fullscreen, but whenever you change the window the corrections made in the other mode disappear, which is a little strange. While Scrivener's fullscreen mode is nice, because it has the same concept as Ulysses' it has one quirk that really annoys me. The text you're typing is always on the middle line of the screen. That's not really a big deal, but in Ulysses you're typing at the botton and in exchange you can see much more of the screen. But in everyday typing life it doesn't make as much of a difference as I originally feared.
Both are project based, but it Scrivener you can open several projects at the same time without any trouble, while in Ulysses your original project disappers when opening another one, and reopening the old one after that made my harddrive make a weird noise. And Ulysses crash.
The two programs utilize screen real estate in a rather different way. In Scrivener you can have your window contain all kinds of things at the same time, but usually it's only your text editor next to its file browser, the cutely named Binder". Ulysses on the other hand has more elements on screen normally, such as document notes and info. I really like the way Ulysses looks, and I'd be sad to say its window was inferior to Scrivener's but I guess the way you can have Scrivener show you several documents at the same time along with many other things but never forces you to probably makes more sense for the tiny 12" iBook screen I'm testing both of them on. But Scrivener uses a much smaller default window than Ulysses, which is probably why I don't mind all the things on screen with Ulysses, but feel crowded when I activate them all in Scrivener.
Perfomance wise I haven't really had a problem with either. Both have a much better wordcounter than Word, that really is life. The one thing I've always loved about Word for Mac and that made me reluctant to swith was that it had a character count at the bottom of the page. Kind of disillusioning to see that that's done better everywhere else.
One thing that I don't know if it should bother me, is that the version of Ulysses I'm testing right now claims only to work on Mac OS 10.5 and up. The laptop I'm testing it on, however, only has 10.4.11. It's worked just fine so far, though. But Scrivener says that it's compatible with 10.4 and up, and somehow I find that more reassuring.
In the end, both are great writing programs and I have a hard time deciding between the two. I think Scrivener's outlining and planning features are clearly superior, but I really love Ulysses' semantic editing. Ulysses notes feature seems to be better than Scrivener's but I don't really use that one either, so it doesn't matter.
But even though I love Ulysses, I'll probably end up getting Scrivener, because the time when you really need an advanced writing tool is when editing, and Scrivener is much better suited for that. Both are great for writing.
Also Scrivener is 50% off for Nanowrimo winners, and since I already crossed the 50k mark, it's very cheap for me.
Listening to: The Show - Lenka