Scrivener for Windows: Beta begins

OK, I'll confess: I've had minor Mac envy for a couple of years now.  Why does writing software seem to be one of those narrow bands where Macs just get all the coolest toys?  The real workhorse Windows word processors like MSWord all port over to Mac just fine, but try getting some of the specialist noveling packages for PC, and you're in trouble.  Oh, there's some PC programs as well, but little out there that compares well with Storyist and Scrivener. I still want Storyist.  It is one of the first - perhaps the first - word processing/noveling package that exports direct to both epub and Kindle.  You can use it to outline.  Use it to draft.  Use it to revise.  Use it to pretty up your work.  Then use it to export to PDF for Createspace or Lightning Source AND hit both of the major ebook formats.  All in one program.

Darn Macs.  ;)

But on the plus side, Scrivener finally released a Windows version.  It's in beta as of today, open for free download.  The open beta has been timed to match NaNoWriMo, so it will run through the first week of December.  Then in January/February, the full release will be available.  They *are* offering a half-off coupon for anyone who finishes NaNoWriMo this year, however (writes 50k words of a novel between November 1st and 30th), which brings the cost down to $20 instead of the usual $40.  For now, we have the beta - and it IS a beta.  Can't stress that enough.  There's a list of features that have not been implemented in the Windows version yet.  But the core features are all in place, and they want to get the bugs out of those as they tackle the last bits.

What's so cool about the program?  Well, it doesn't release to ebook formats (yet - that feature is planned for next year).  But it does have a very flexible set of tools for outlining and writing.  Some programs (Storyist is one of these) have heavily templated outlining systems, designed to help you work through the outlining process in a systematic and consistent manner.  Scrivener is nothing like that.  It's more like...  Imagine you were using a binder for writing your novel.  Inside the binder is a bunch of folders.  Inside each folder you can have sub-folders, and paper inside any folder.  Also, every folder has an index card stapled to the front.

So you can summarize sections (chapters? scenes? you make the call) of your work on index cards, and then write about them inside the page sections.  You can shuffle those sections around however you want, either before (while outlining on the index cards) or after you've typed the full ms.  You can view the index card just for the work you want - or all of them in a mass either posted to a "corkboard" or in an outline form.

Don't want that mess on your screen as you type?  You can go to a black screen around your typing page, so there is nothing there but you and the words.

So it's a tool that allows outlining - but in a free form manner.  It's one which encourages some organization, but doesn't dictate how one has to organize.  Instead, it gives you tools and multiple ways to use those tools.  I rather like that approach.  I might not want to use the same outlining system for two different novels, and I don't want to have to write new templates every time I start a new work.  The open nature of Scrivener is appealing to me.

Haven't played with it much - yet.  I'll be using it to write this November though, so I'll post a review once I've worked with it a bit more.