Is Scrivener Better than Word?

Is Scrivener Better than Word?

One question pops up repeatedly: Is Scrivener better than Word? As a long-term user of both apps, my answer might surprise you.

It depends.

Since the mid-1980s, I’ve used Word on PCs and Macs. My experience using Word included lengthy fiction and nonfiction.

I’ve used the macOS version of Scrivener for over a decade, and continue using it daily for my long writing projects.

Microsoft’s Word

In 1983, Microsoft released Word for Windows, and in 1985, published a version for Mac. 

People sometimes forget that when first using Word, they experienced a fairly steep learning curve. Using Word’s advanced techniques to produce full-length manuscripts still frustrates untrained users.

Common Uses for Word

  • Memos
  • Contracts
  • Resumes
  • Short Stories
  • Text Formatting
  • Pre-formatted Styles
  • Fiction and Nonfiction
  • Import and Export Text
  • Editing and Commenting on Drafts

For shorter works, Word is the preferred word processor at work and school. Writers who learned the advanced techniques for bibliography, table of contents, and section breaks feel comfortable with Word’s on-screen “what-you-see-is-what-you-get,” but they often rely on third-party services or editors to convert their manuscript files into digital and print formats.

Literature and Latte’s Scrivener

The story of Scrivener began in 2004. Keith Blount dreamed of creating the ideal software to write his novel and thesis. He taught himself to code. Two years later, Literature and Latte was born. Blount released the first version of Scrivener for macOS in January 2007.

Today, Keith and his dedicated team continue to support and develop this revolutionary software. In the first quarter of 2021, they released version 3 for Windows—cross-platform compatible with macOS.

Disclosure: I have not tested the Windows version of Scrivener and my comments regarding use and serviceability focus on the macOS version.

Common Uses For Scrivener

  • Long Writing Projects
  • Scene-by-scene Writing
  • Ideas and Research for Long Writing Projects
  • Character and Setting Profiles
  • Storyboards Using the Digital Corkboard
  • Split and Merge Scenes
  • Text Formatting for Print and Digital
  • Pre-formatted Styles
  • Import (MS Word and Google Docs) and Export Text (Various Formats)
  • Pre-formatted Templates (e.g., Novels, Screenwriting, Non-fiction)
  • Set and Track Writing Project Targets and Progress
  • Set and Track Custom Metadata and Keywords Using the Outliner
  • Format and Publish to Print-ready and Digital-ready Files

For a detailed breakdown of capabilities, see my Scrivener Review.

Design Principles

  • Word: Designed as a word processor, Microsoft’s Word soon became the gold-standard for PCs populating corporate America. 
    • Over the years, layers of added features expanded Word’s use beyond the workplace.
    • Microsoft added templates for user-created formatting, WordArt for graphical effects, user-created Macros to automate processes, section breaks for chapters, table of contents, shortcut keys to simplify on-screen formatting, and many more features.
  • Scrivener: Designed as a thesis and novel outliner and word processor, Literature and Latte’s Scrivener grew into a robust platform for extensive writing projects.
    • Scrivener’s editor includes the typical capabilities, such as formatting characters, line spacing, indents, bullets, shortcut keys.
    • Current features include capturing and tracking ideas and research, the ease of arranging story scenes without the need to cut and paste, creating and sorting index cards on the digital equivalent of a corkboard, an outliner similar to a spreadsheet that can show and sort user-created metadata, the ability to apply separate formats to screen, print, and digital output, and the compile feature to publish in industry standard print and digital formats.

Is Scrivener Better than Word?

Here’s why I say it depends:

  • If you’re comfortable using Word, and you don’t mind using additional tools to prepare and publish your novel, consider sticking with the Microsoft app. Before you decide, take a look at Microsoft’s pricing:
    • Office 2019 is a onetime purchase option at $249.99* for a single-computer license that includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. It does not include any of the services that come with a Microsoft 365 single-personal subscription, which is priced at $69.99* annually or $6.99* monthly ($83.88 annualized).
    • Onetime purchases don’t have an upgrade option, which means if you plan to upgrade to the next major release, you’ll have to buy it at full price.
  • If you want to handle your planning, writing, editing, and publishing in one app, and not tie yourself to an online subscription, consider Scrivener:
    • At $49.00* for a household license (i.e., multi-computers), Scrivener offers tremendous value, and historically, incremental updates** have been free.
    • Apple’s macOS provides free Numbers, Keynote, and Mail; thus, I derive limited benefits from Microsoft’s offer that includes Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.


*The prices shown are from the respective websites for Microsoft and Literature and Latte as of June 23, 2021.

**For example, the incremental update from Scrivener version 3.1 to 3.2 was free. The major update from Scrivener 2 to 3 was free for users who bought Scrivener 2 on or after 20th August 2017. Users who purchased Scrivener 2 for macOS before that date could buy Scrivener 3 with a 45% discount. According to the company’s website, the upgrade fee is the same for both the regular and education licenses. Only users who purchased from Literature and Latte, or from a reseller that provides activation through Literature and Latte (such as Amazon), were eligible for discounted update pricing.

Additional Considerations

Hands down, I’m biased toward Scrivener because of design and cost. Literature and Latte created an app for long-form projects, enhancing my creativity and productivity.

After learning Scrivener’s advanced features, the app does so much more than I can accomplish with Word.

When sending files to editors, most prefer to markup and comment in Word. Why? It’s the common platform shared by many, and the editing and commenting fields make it easy to show changes. 

Fortunately, Scrivener exports and imports in Word formats (i.e., doc and docx files), making it a snap to exchange files with editors. 

The importing and exporting of basic doc and docx files also works for Google Docs. The free online app, however, does not include all of Word’s formatting and layout features.

Scrivener for Long Writing Projects

Master an app and reap the benefits!

After investing the time to learn and apply Scrivener’s power, it has made a remarkable difference in my ability to apply writing techniques because I can keep my how-to notes within the app, sitting alongside my work in progress. No switching back and forth between Apple Notes, Evernotes, or SimpleNotes.

With Scrivener, research, ideas, and how-to notes are at my fingertips for immediate use.

Scrivener’s Free Trial Offer

If you’re a serious writer and willing to apply your time to learning the unique features that set Scrivener apart from other apps, then take advantage of Literature and Latte’s free 30-day trial.

The offer is free, but the experience is priceless!

Disclosure: I based this post on my long-term use of Scrivener 3 for macOS. It does not imply the Windows or IOS versions offer the same features and benefits. This site is reader-supported, and if you buy through my website link, I might earn a small commission (learn more).

%d bloggers like this: