The Problems With Scrivener on iPadOS

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Scrivener has been a great tool for so many years. I've used it heavily for every book I've written, and many of my longer pieces with a bunch of research and footnotes. Unfortunately as I've moved mostly to iPadOS, Scrivener isn't cutting it.

Dropbox Sync

Yes when Scrivener first came out for iPad, iCloud was terrible and Dropbox was the best option. At this point though, Dropbox is continuing to make moves into the business realm while iCloud has become vastly more stable. I use it daily with many apps and have no issues saving anything. Scrivener needs to start supporting other save locations, especially iCloud.

Going along with issues with Dropbox is the saving mentality of Scrivener. You have to either "force" sync or ensure you return to the main interface so that it does it's sync routine and you don't loose files. It's time for Scrivener to simply save silently in the background all the time so you don't have to do the sync dance.

Can't Navigate Both Panes

When I'm writing it's fairly common for me to need to reference research and while Scrivener for iPadOS allows you to view both the research it has stored and the writing you're doing, it's not a great interface.

The biggest problem with this interface is that it's almost impossible to navigate between both panes at the same time. I can view research, but if I want to dig into something else I've written, I can't easily navigate to it without leaving the current research out in the cold. Yes there is the ability to see anything you've recently looked at, but maybe I want to look at something I haven't recently looked at, like other research I know is there so I can check it against what I'm currently viewing.

For Scrivener on iPad to become more useful it needs to support the new multi-window features of iPadOS and get that research/writing dual pane view under control.

Can't Deal with Styles Properly

Unlike my preference, Scrivener is a styled writing tool. With markdown, you're just working with text, but Scrivener adds in styles to the mix. Like proper "old school" bold and italics. I could live with this but the iPad version of Scrivener doesn't really let you deal with the style sheets of your projects. It's really hard to set all your "body" text to a new setting, or tweak all the quotes in your project.

This is a trivial thing to do on macOS, but iPadOS...nope.

Can't Export Properly

Unlike macOS Scrivener, iPadOS doesn't have much in the way of export/compile settings. Yes, Scrivener for macOS is pretty heavy if you're going to get into styles but with some work you can get a manuscript that looks good across e-readers and will print well.

That's simply not possible on iPadOS. Yes you can send your document out to Word, .rtf, .pdf, or plain text, but those aren't the formats you'll want if you're going to be sending your book off to Kindle1.

Is there an iPadOS Scrivener Alternative?

So is there a good alternative for Scrivener that iPadOS users can use without issues? I know Matt Gemmel uses Ulysses but that doesn't handle research well. I know I could split the research storage out to an app like DEVONthink To Go or KeepIt organizing and tagging research there and then only doing the writing in Ulysses. That is certainly something I'm looking harder at.

Second, it only exports ePub and PDF2 files and for sales off my site I want to offer users the option of a Mobi file as well.

Final Word on Scrivener for iPadOS

When it finally came out I was excited, but the truth is the pace of development is so slow that it may as well not happen. Sure it's been stable, but it's time for Scrivener to take a big leap forward in terms of functionality. At this point, I'm going to continue to look for options while feeling held into an app I'd rather not use.


  1. A separate issue is that there is no good formatting tool for books like Vellum. Authors need this for iPadOS. 

  2. For book delivery I know it has other export options