Sunday, June 8, 2008

ConnectedText: Scrivener for Windows?

There is an interesting program available for OS X on the Mac. It's called "Scrivener," which is described as a "word processor for writers." Many people have asked for a Windows version of this application, but, as the developer has made clear, a Windows version of this excellent program will not be forthcoming because OS X is internally so different from Windows that it would require programming it from scratch.

Naturally, people have searched for windows programs that come close. The ones mentioned most often are:

Page Four
Liquid Story Binder

I tried all three, but none of them really appeals to me. There is, however, an application that I have used for a long time and that I have recently realized can be used very much like Scrivener. This is ConnectedText. Let me explain.

Scrivener is a program that is intended to integrate the process of research, outlining, storyboarding and writing. ConnectedText is much better as a repository for research, has an outliner that is almost as capable as Scrivener's, and it allows you to write distraction free, in the same way as Scrivener. While it does not have a "storyboard," it does have a Navigator that can fulfill a similar function. It also allows you to write in full screen mode. In addition, it has something that Scrivener lacks, namely the ability quickly to link entries by using wiki links.

All you have to do is to save a desktop of the sort that I have illustrated in the following screen shots. This desktop for writing has two panes: one for writing, and one for navigating, containing views for the Outline, the Navigator and the Table of Contents (for the topic on which you are working). This is the screen with the outliner and a topic in edit mode:

This is the screen with the navigator and the topic in view mode:

Scrivener is thought to be the word processor for the "non-linear" writer, i.e. those who do not compose longer pieces by starting at the "beginning" and ending at the "end," but those who compose different parts of the piece and then later worry about where they fit. These are also writers who do not make a clear break between a "research" and a "writing phase" in their work, but do both in tandem. ConnectedText approaches researching and writing in the same way. This should be equally appealing to those who have to write academic texts as to those that write non-fiction.

Neither application is meant to prepare the final copy of the text. Where Scrivener uses "restructured text," ConnectedText uses a wiki markup that is close to that of MediaWiki's and can easily be transformed into html. There is a rudimentary macro on the Website that allows transforming the markup into rtf as well.

One area where ConnectedText really shines is version control. Every revision of every topic or note you write is kept. You can, accordingly, measure the "progress" you have made in developing your ideas, paragraphs, or papers at any time.

I know no better alternative to Scrivener on windows than ConnectedText.


Jeremy said...
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Eduardo said...
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redchurch said...

Try SuperNotecard @

Simon J. James said...

Thanks sir, this was exactly what I was looking for.

Random weblove from the the UK to you.


MK said...

From a recent review of Scrivener: "Cleverly though, it is unlike the normal wordprocessor model in that it allows you to write in chunks, all of which are available all the time. Rather than a whole bunch of files accessible only through your file manager, all your notes and short chunks of text are available instantly within Scrivener. It is possible to move sections around, merge them, turn them into an outline, move notes to the research section and so on. The flexibility of it is brilliant."

I wiki-like application like ConnectedText is even better at this, of course.

MK said...
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brentknowles said...

I have a similiar program, called Keeper (formerly Worgan, the Writer's Organizer) that I've been developing for the ten years for Windows.

It is a wiki-like notebook/submission tracker but the last few versions have started to expand the writing environment features, including a visual organizer (the StickIt page). The next version will include spellchecking and a full-screen text editor.

Najela said...

I use Celtx but I want something a little different.

starpilot said...

Have you looked at Literary Machine? It is located at . It has both a "lite" freeware version and a paid feature-reach version.

It is meant for writers. Works on the paradigm of index cards. Allows for you to create multiple outlines of the same project (book, article, whatever). Exports projects to ebook's open-book standards, and lots of other fun stuff.

I've used it for research and creating smaller pieces myself.

MK said...

See Literary Machine for my comments on the program.

gk said...

Check this blog post, a Scrivener-alike Word addin is under development:

Franz said...

Hi Manfred.

Interesting post. Made me DL the ConnectedText trial.

I have, however, 2 questions:

1. Creating an outline is clear. But how do I turn headlines into topics (as in your 2. screenshot: Here, "Note-Taking", "Über Brauer" and "Writing" are topics, in screenshot 1 they are headings.

2. Is there a way to influence the sequence the topics appear in the Navigator? I only manage to get them in alphabetic order.

Thanks, Franz