Aeon Timeline & Scrivener #amwriting #Scrivener #AeonTimeline


Aeon Timeline provides event duration management that Scrivener lacks

One of my readers asked:

Hello. I’ve never heard of aeon timeline! What is it? How do you use it alongside scrivener? How does it benefit your writing?

Excellent questions, all.

What is Aeon Timeline?

Aeon Timeline is an application available for Mac, Windows, and iOS. The blurb from the developers’ website reads:

VISUAL TIMELINE SOFTWARE
> The timeline tool for creative writing, project & case management
Writers
> Designed for writers from its very inception, Aeon Timeline helps you plan, write and edit your story
> …

It goes on to describe benefits to project managers and lawyers. To an extent, a writer (particularly a self-published writer) is also a project manager, and certainly lawyers can be writers, too! But I’ll focus on my use with Scrivener to write fiction.

How do you use it alongside Scrivener?

Aeon Timeline events can sync to a Scrivener project. In particular, “tags” in Aeon Timeline are “Keywords” in Scrivener documents, and Aeon Timeline colours are Scrivener document labels. Event names sync with Scrivener document titles, and event summaries sync with Scrivener synopses. For other event properties in Aeon Timeline, you have the option to create custom metadata in your Scrivener project, and sync those properties as well. These include start date, end date, event arc, and participants. (These are the event properties from the default Aeon Timeline fiction template that I use. There are more that I ignore.)

You can do it one of either two ways:

If you’re a pre-planner:

Start in Aeon Timeline. Develop your characters, set up story arcs, and work out your outline as timed events. Then, when you’re ready to start writing,

  1. Create your new project in Scrivener, save and close it.
  2. Go back to Aeon Timeline, and select “Scrivener project” from its Sync menu.
  3. In the Sync pane that appears, under Warnings, right-click the events you want to have in Scrivener and add to Scrivener.
If you do minimal advance planning:

Start in Scrivener and build your structure in the way you’re most comfortable. If (or when) the timing of events begins to get confused in your mind, or you believe you’d benefit from seeing things laid out linearly with durations,

  1. Creat a new timeline in Aeon Timeline.
  2. Select “Scrivener project” from its Sync menu.

How does it benefit your writing?

It depends on your working style. I know some people use it instead of outlining in order to see a graphic representation of their novel in chronological order as they plan, before they ever write a word of body text. Myself, well, as I’ve discussed, I’m not so much a detailed planner. But in general, it allows you to create characters, story arcs, and events (which can be imported from, and thereafter synced to, Scrivener.) I myself will use it once I get into the nitty gritty of writing, to keep track of such things as “OK, if this all started in early November, how long would this have taken? How about this next thing, here? No, wait… that’s a Sunday. That venue wouldn’t be open on a Sunday… so when did this have to start? What day will this next thing start?”

And so forth. Since at one level the stories I write are mysteries, timing of events becomes important. So here’s a timeline of a novella I’ve published:

A portion of my massive timeline for my Fraser and Spencer series

It takes place over two weeks in June of 1880, in London. This image only includes the main storyline, with backstory and villain actions “offscreen” displayed in different arcs. I personally use labels in Scrivener for status (and don’t use the status metadata at all. But if you use it, it’s pretty easy to add an event property and sync it with Status in Scrivener.)

I had to think about such things as:

  • How long would it take someone to cross a portion of London on foot in 1880?
  • How about in a cab? (Often slower, due to traffic. Los Angeles is nothing new under the sun.)
  • What time would servants be returning from their Sunday half-holiday?

Aeon Timeline is designed to make it easer to keep things like that straight. Afterwards, as I described above, the dates and times I decide on can be saved with the Scrivener documents to which they refer. So when I’m writing, I don’t make mistakes like having folks set out across the city in the morning, when it’s already afternoon…

It’s not for everyone—-I understand that. But if you think visually and want the duration of things clearly displayed, it’s a godsend.

One other thing I do is import the timeline into Scrivener’s research folder as an alias. That way I can view the timeline’s QuickLook in Scrivener, and click on the Edit button to launch it in Aeon Timeline.

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Outlining—I Think I’ve Got It #amwriting

Occasionally I’ve blogged about @#$%@# outlining my novel. I’ve cursed. I’ve touted the latest book I’ve picked up telling me “how to outline your novel” or “how to write a good novel fast.” I haven’t spoken to the failures, the dead bodies, the frustration of being three-quarters of the way through 90k words and having NO idea how I’m going to END this sucker.

Outlining process… evolved to utility. At freaking last.

I talked a little about how Brandon Sanderson’s lectures helped out in The Short Story Rolls Forward! Now it’s time to reveal my… system. It worked for my short story; it’s working for my Novel In Progress. Let’s see if this process for directed seat-of-the-pants writing can stand the light of day.

The key idea that both Story Genius (Genius) and Save the Cat (STC) emphasised was that a story is about a lesson that is learned. A Deep Life Lesson. The protagonist is usually the one who learns it, but it can be another character. And the character in question can either a) learn it (drama or comedy) or b) not learn it and endure dreadful consequences (tragedy or tragicomedy.)

My story ideas almost always start with a character. This is where I can get stuck—I put my wonderful character through all sorts of situations but if I don’t have a lesson in mind, it means zilch. Hello, 70k words and no ending in sight.

I’ve learned that for me, that’s OK. Since I start with a character, as long as those cool scenes don’t run to more than about 20% of my eventual intended word count, I let ’em rip. It gives me a feel for my character, my situations, and my story world that I can’t get by top-down character construction and world building. It especially gives me a feel for what this character is good at—and where her weaknesses are. This stuff comes fast; it really doesn’t take that long to pound out about 10K words if I don’t have to direct it.1 This happens right in Scrivener, in my project.

Now come the hard part; taking a look at this hot mess and coming up with a lesson for my character to learn. This is the logline, theme and pitch building part of STC; the “What if?” portion of Genius. But for this, and much of the rest, I use STC, mostly because its practical language speaks to my engineer’s brain.

I’ve learned that I don’t have to “get this right.” Yes, my theme (the actual lesson) the logline, and the pitch (the blunt tool I’m going to use to bludgeon my lesson into my character’s head) can evolve. My first cut at this will be crude; I’ll know, for example, that the theme has something to do with the character’s relationship to her mom. I’ll take a good guess, but it doesn’t have to be right on. In practice, I evolve the theme more than I do the logline and pitch. I work these out on a whiteboard, scan them to Evernote, and transcribe them into a mind-map app. Alternatively, I can use a free-drawing note taking app (thence to Evernote and mind-map) instead of a whiteboard, but I strongly prefer a whiteboard.

Now, with the theme and logline in mind, I give my character(s) a past. What old ideas do my character(s) need to chuck? (Genius: Misbelief.) They must have them, or they wouldn’t need to learn anything, and I wouldn’t have a story. And how did they come by those ideas? (Genius: Worldview) Yeah, I go through the whole Genius “misbelief origin scene” and “reinforcing scenes” for my protagonist, and at least an origin scene for important sidekicks and villains. The only problem with this is keeping the theme in mind; but I find I can let these rip almost as fast as the original exploratory writing. This happens directly in Scrivener.

Finally, I fill out the fifteen “beats” from STC. I start with my bookends (my “Opening Image” and “Closing Image”) and fill in the rest of the pieces as they come to me. For this, I use a whiteboard, and I pace and talk to myself a lot. This is where I do classic brainstorming, which I can’t do while I’m sitting in a chair. This gets cleaned up, scanned into Evernote, and transcribed to that mind-map, which finally gets imported into Scrivener, both as documents and as a link to the original map.

It sounds a lot more structured than it is. Really.

What I don’t do is plan individual scenes / chapters. I know that STC and Genius both insist on planning scenes / chapters. All of them. In advance.

Other “how to outline” books and “how to write a novel fast” books do too; if not in advance, then just before writing the scene or chapter.

Sheesh. Every time I try this I get blocked for weeks.

Instead, I estimate the number of words between beats based on where I’d like the overall word count to be.2 I then draft a path of words from one “beat” to the next. If I get stuck I do a very loose mind map of a few things that have to happen between the beats. Once I make it to the next beat (I think of them as “islands”), I’ll do a preliminary trim to my beat’s target word count, as well as a quick “fit” to what’s gone before. If I need to adjust theme, logline or pitch, now’s the time. Then it’s typing a path of words to the next beat. Repeat until done.

I structure my Scrivener draft into folders based on beats (NOT acts) so that I can check the word counts on the fly.3 This keeps me from spinning off into the weeds writing forever on a cool side-plot. I write in documents inside the folder, breaking them into scenes as I go (based on change of location or time.)

This is working structure. When I’m ready to give output to someone else, I group the scenes into real chapters… about 3-5K words each that end on a natural cliffhanger. But I no longer work with chapters while I’m writing a draft. As far as I’m concerned, a chapter is a construct for readers, to give them a natural stopping point that nonetheless keeps them coming back to finish. I now first structure my draft so it’s easy for me to write, and add reader-friendly things like chapter breaks later.

So that’s it—my outlining “system”, such as it is. It’s designed evolved to give me maximum seat-of-the-pants room to wander around while herding me upstream towards my goal of a finished draft.


  1. A word about research: I research continuously. I write something that seems real-world based; I look it up, save the research to Evernote (no, I don’t use Scrivener for this) and modify the writing (or not.) I do the same thing for fantasy settings and science fiction settings, except using spreadsheets, typed documents, and drawn diagrams, scanned from whiteboards or created in a freeform note taking app. Certainly a lot of my research tends to happen towards the start of writing because that’s when things are still fluid, but I don’t research extensively in advance. It’s that seat-of-the-pants thing again. 
  2. I wrote a word count milestones estimator spreadsheet based on the pages in a script that STC suggests a certain beat be accomplished within. OK, I used to write apps for a living. Setting up an spreadsheet to do that is not hard for me. 
  3. A STC beat for a 90k-word novel runs anywhere from 3k to about 12k words. 

Aeon Timeline on iOS—Thoughts on Scrivener Workflows #amwriting

A moment has arrived that many of us who use both Scrivener and Aeon Timeline have long awaited: Aeon Timeline is available on iOS!

Scrivener and Aeon Timeline Meet on iOS

The iOS version of Aeon Timeline seems robust and full-featured; I can do almost anything with Aeon Timeline on iOS that I can on the Mac, with a few exceptions:

  • Screen real estate is cramped on iOS screens, so it might take several screens of information to display what’s available on one screen on the Mac. Don’t get me wrong; the display’s neither crowded nor sparse, and there’s nothing missing, but you might have to tap a couple of times more to see all three of your story arcs, for example.
  • Import and export options on iOS are limited—I suspect in large part due to iOS sandboxing.
  • I can’t sync with Scrivener.1 For that, I have to get back to my Mac.

Nonetheless, since I do use Scrivener on both platforms, and have built a timeline for my Scrivener project in Mac Aeon Timeline, having Aeon Timeline on iOS is wonderful.

  • On the iPad, at least, I can split my screen between Scrivener and Aeon Timeline. Thus, I can see all the information (dates, keywords, arcs, locations, tension) for my Scrivener docs that iOS doesn’t know about—while I’m looking at my Scrivener project. Even on iPhone, that data is now available even if I can’t have Scrivener on the screen at the same time.
  • On iPad or iPhone, I can now actually edit that data, and it will get incorporated when I get back to my Mac, sync Scrivener with iOS Scrivener, and then sync Scrivener with Aeon Timeline.
  • If you’re an iOS-only user, only titles, labels, and synopses would be synced anyway since you don’t have keywords or custom metadata. I’d suggest creating a timeline in Aeon from scratch, copying and pasting titles. You could still set up your dates, locations, arcs and tension in Aeon.

Thank you, Matt at Aeon Timeline, for this great little iOS app!


  1. Not syncing with Scrivener on iOS makes sense. Scrivener keeps the desktop project version largely unchanged on iOS, sequestering mobile changes in a special mobile area inside the project. If iOS Aeon Timeline starts messing with it, there’s a real possibility that it might create Scrivener sync conflicts. No one wants that. 

Scrivener v. Ulysses for Novel Writing #amwriting @scrivenerapp

I’ve had a few inquiries about Ulysses v. Scrivener. One reader wanted to know if I’m switching over to Ulysses for novel writing (I’m not!)

Scrivener and Ulysses: Tools with Different Strengths

Here’s the thing: De gustibus non est disputandem. Or, there’s no accounting for taste. And I have strong preferences for my writing tools.

Ulysses is… stark, with very little overlap among its different features. I like Ulysses for blog writing. I can see my recent blog posts’ titles and opening sentences, and get a good idea of what I’ve been covering lately. I can search for my prior posts on a single subject. And of course I have all my blog posts in a single place that isn’t on WordPress.com, thus secure from any WordPress corporate decisions or WordPress server disaster. Also, should I decide to go with a non-Wordpress website framework, I’m ready.

With the exception of starkness, all of the above are virtues that Scrivener also possesses. But Ulysses is based on a dialect of Markdown, and displays its text based on Markdown. I can publish from Ulysses directly to my blog. These are virtues that Scrivener lacks, and which its developer has no present intention of providing.

On the other hand, Scrivener is baroque. It has many different ways to accomplish the same result. I like Scrivener for long form writing. I can write formal outlines and synopses of chapters, separately from the text itself. I can have keywords, other metadata such as dates, colour-coding labels… in fact, Scrivener provides a plethora of different ways to organise and examine my writing. I can keep research documents in Scrivener with my text if I so choose. And if I think of another way that I’d like to structure that massive pile of words that I hope will be a novel, I can probably do that with Scrivener too.

Scrivener, as a rich-text application, has a great deal more flexibility of formatting than Ulysses, which is limited to Markdown. I can change how I use Scrivener based on the needs of my differing projects. Scrivener’s Compile feature is adequate in itself for formatting “simple” long works, such as novels without illustrations, while Ulysses will require post-processing to get a decent format for, say, a CreateSpace PDF interior.

Of course, your experience may differ, and I don’t mean to disagree with anyone who uses Ulysses to write novels, and Scrivener to write their blog! I truly believe that it’s a matter of taste—but if I’m writing about Scrivener, I’m using it for novelling and if I’m writing about Ulysses, I’m using it for blogging.

Happy writing!

Ulysses, Revisited #amwriting

I am finding some value in Ulysses after all…

Yes, I’m kind of beginning to like Ulysses.

The last time I picked up Ulysses, I rejected it because of its non-standard Markdown (Markdown ‘XL’), and the fact that it saves its iCloud Library in One Big File(TM), thus giving the lie to its vaunted “plain text” basis. But it’s getting a bit daunting to manage my blog on Dropbox with a true plain text editor (Editorial for iOS and TextWrangler plus Marked 2 for Mac.)

So I picked it up again, renting it for $5 for a month. And I am cautiously pleased. It looks like I’ll be able to keep tags and categories as Ulysses keywords, which will make searching for the last time I pontificated on a certain subject easier. Its WordPress publishing capability is very good. And I can even do tables (not that I’ve ever put tables in my blog, but hey, you never know) by using its “raw code” capability:

This is the source of a Markdown table:

| This  | is   | a  |
| :-    | :-   | :- |
| table | with | 3  |
| rows            |||

This is the result of putting that Markdown source into raw code blocks and uploading to WordPress:

This is a
table with 3
rows

Not bad. The only thing the other Markdown editors do to make tables easier is put up that grid of pipes (the vertical bars) and alignment indicators (the colons and hyphens.) I can build a table in another of my numerous Markdown editors if I need one and paste it in.

I’m not going to switch to novel writing in Ulysses. There’s far too much that Scrivener includes that Ulysses doesn’t (compilation, index cards, folders that are also text files, the ability to split my writing into the tiniest possible increments, and so forth.) Where would I put my beats? My chapter cards? Oh, yes, now that Aeon Timeline 2 (AT) syncs with Ulysses, all that stuff can be kept in AT and will live in notes in my Ulysses project, but there’s no corkboard (!) in that workflow. Not OK. I’d be reduced to planning everything in advance, because I really can’t get that info into a place I can play with it during production.

And as for Ulysses being less distracting, bullpucky. There is not now nor will there ever be a piece of software that makes it the least bit difficult for me to become distracted.

So the question is: Does Ulysses have enough utility to me as a blogging tool, to keep renting it for $5 US per month (or $40 US per year)? That’s a question I haven’t answered yet. The answer depends, in part, on my investigation of the Setapp Mac software subscription service. I’ve started the 30-day free trial–and will report back soon.

Using Scrivener 3 with Aeon Timeline 2 @ScrivenerApp @AeonTimeline

Scrivener 3 and Aeon Timeline 2

The very best news about using Scrivener 3 with Aeon Timeline 2 is that it’s working! Not only will Aeon sync with new Scrivener 3 projects, but if you update your project from Scrivener 2 to Scrivener 3, the timeline you synced with your Scrivener 2 project will sync with your updated Scrivener 3 project.

The only difference I’ve been able to detect is that now, if you sync a timeline with a project, and let Aeon create a “new custom field”—if that field is a date, Aeon will create a field in the Scrivener project that uses Scrivener 3’s new “Date” data type.

The good news:

  • It’s much easier to change dates and/or times on the Scrivener side–the usual Mac date/time controls are available.
  • There’s a wide range of date/time formats available through Project Settings. I was especially delighted that Scrivener 3’s “Custom” date/time format provides full support for Unicode standard date format strings. Wow! I can actually display dates in my preferred format. (“1880-11-15 14:00 Mo”)

The not-so-good news:

  • When I let Aeon create the metadata date fields for Scrivener, they displayed using Scrivener’s default date format, Short Date. Maybe this is fine for you. But Short Date will strip both century data (“1880” transferred as “1980”) and time information (all times were set to midnight.)

For me, this was problematic, as I am writing a historical mystery—both century and time are important to me. To work around this: (N.B. The instructions that follow are intended for a user who has experience in both Scrivener 2/3 and in Aeon Timeline 2!)

  • First, use Project Settings… to set up your date fields in Scrivener 3.
    In Scrivener’s Project Settings, set up your custom metadata date fields.
    • If you are using standard dates, choose a format that contains the century, the time, or both (if this is important to you.)
    • Alternatively, if you’re using something non-standard (as for science fiction or fantasy that doesn’t use standard dates and times) use a text field in Scrivener 3 just as in Scrivener 2.
    • Tick the checkbox that says “Ignore time zone changes” (unless you really want your events to display a different date and time depending on whether you’re writing in Sydney or San Francisco today.)
  • Next, in Aeon Timeline, use Sync > Settings… to set the event start date and end date to sync with the new fields you created in Scrivener 3. Go ahead and run a sync to get your data into the new fields in Scrivener.
Connect to the new fields in Aeon Timeline Sync > Settings
  • Finally, delete the old fields (if any) in Scrivener 3 Project Settings.

Happy Scrivening! (AND Timelining!)

Upgrading To Scrivener 3 Mac from Scrivener 2? Don’t panic! Installation & Startup Suggestions @ScrivenerApp #amwriting

Scrivener 3.0 for Mac is here!

Scrivener 3 for Mac is here! It has styles! It has a wonderful new compiler! There are bookmarks, work history and much more. It’s mostly familiar, and it’s awfully tempting to just plunge in. Yet there are road hazards for those who just want to upgrade right now, dammit, and why doesn’t it work just like old Scrivener 2? What happened to my compile formats? What are these ‘style’ things you speak of and how will they help me?

I spent two days down that rabbit hole. Learn from my mistakes. Scrivener 3 is a Major Upgrade. It contains seven years’ worth of pent-up new features. Treat it with respect, and you’ll be up and running in a few hours. Treat it like a minor upgrade, and you too may be crying on the Scrivener forums.

Take a deep breath. Before you download that software, let’s tidy up a bit, and get those Scrivener 2 projects all spiffy and ready to be updated.

First, open your applications folder on your Mac. I suggest renaming the Scrivener app to ‘Scrivener 2’. This will keep Mac OS from getting confused when you install the new version. I strongly suggest keeping both versions active until you are confident to go forward with Scrivener 3. In particular, do not use Scrivener 3 for a project that is running on a close deadline for which you will need to use Compile! Scrivener 3 compile is vastly improved, but it has a learning curve associated with it. You’ll need to unlearn how you used Compile in Scrivener 2, and relearn the simpler, more powerful, Compile in Scrivener 3. Doing this under time pressure equals misery.

If you use iOS Scrivener, take the time right now to be sure all your projects are properly synced to your Mac. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Now, open Scrivener 2. Open each project you wish to bring forward into Scrivener 3. If you use External Folder sync, do one last sync. Make sure there are no loose ends.

Once you’ve done this for each project that you plan on updating to Scrivener 3, you have one last task to perform. Open Scrivener preferences from the Scrivener menu. Down at the bottom of the dialog, click on the “Manage…” button. Choose “Save all preferences…” and save your preferences as a file on the desktop, or anywhere else that you’ll be able to find it quickly. Once you’ve done that, please quit Scrivener 2.

One final thing: Shut down your Mac and re-start it. It seems silly, but at least 75% of the complaints on the Scrivener forum regarding Scrivener 3 installation are solved by a simple restart of the Mac in question. Why take a chance?

At last! You’re ready. Go ahead and purchase your upgrade (or get your free upgrade!) and download Scrivener 3. Install it, but before you fire it up, open your Applications folder. Again, to help Mac OS keep the two applications straight, rename the new Scrivener app to ‘Scrivener 3.’

Now you can open your new software! Enter your registration number, and you’re rolling. But don’t convert those projects just yet. First, let’s visit the Preferences pane. Go ahead and click the “Manage…” button. It’s in the same position that it was in Scrivener 2. Click “Load all preferences…” and select the preferences file that you made in Scrivener 2. It won’t cover everything, because there are new things to prefer in Scrivener 3, but it will keep you from exclaiming, “Oh my [deity of choice]! I already told it not to do that…”

Still in the Preferences dialog, click on the Backup tab. Choose a different backup folder from the one you used for Scrivener 2. Seriously. There will be no easy way to tell the difference between your old Scrivener 2 backups and your new Scrivener 3 backups unless you set up a new backup folder. Also, Scrivener 3 might well start writing over your old Scrivener 2 backups. Let’s not go there.

I know you’re itching to open one of your very own projects, and see it in Scrivener 3 glory. Don’t do it. Instead, select File > New Project… and click on the hated, boring Tutorial icon. You need not go through the entire thing. But I strongly suggest that you take the time to click on the What’s New collection and follow the instructions there.

Yes, it will take an hour or three. It’s a small price to pay to avoid hours or days of struggle. You may even want to view the video tutorials. To find them, select New Project from the File menu and you’ll find the icon right there next to the tutorial icon. I’m happy to wait some more. Take your time.

Now open a Scrivener 2 project. I suggest you choose one that you don’t care about much. Perhaps it’s on the back burner, or its deadline is quite far out. Note that you get an alert asking if you want to update the project. Click the the “Update Project” button. Now, Scrivener makes a copy of your Scrivener 2 project, and rename it to something like “my-project.backup.scriv”.

Personally, I find the naming convention confusing. it makes me think that the file is a real backup rather than an old version copy. If you find it confusing as well, you’re free to change the name to something more meaningful. I’d also suggest taking it out of the iOS sync folder on Dropbox if that’s where you’re keeping your projects.

By now, your updated project is open on your Mac screen. Right now, import your old compile formats, if any, by selecting “Compile…” from the File menu. Click on the gear menu at the bottom of the Formats column. From there, select “Import Scrivener 2 preset…”. You’ll be shown a list of the presets that were available to this project under Scrivener 2. Choose one that you think will be useful, and import it. Repeat as needed.

Please don’t think you will be able to use those presets as they came from Scrivener 2, however. You’ll need to connect them to section types and section layouts as you learned in the tutorial and in those videos. But at least the formats will be close to what you were using in Scrivener 2. Also, you will need to develop section layouts and section types for things in your front matter and your back matter. (A full description of the new Scrivener 3 compile system is way beyond the scope of this blog post. Use the tutorial and the videos, please.)

Other hazards:

  • If you use External File Sync, start a new sync folder. Scrivener uses a new naming convention for these files, and “crossing the streams” is Bad. Trust me.
  • If you sync to iOS, then prep your iOS device by moving your old Scrivener 2 projects to the “On my iPad (or iPhone)” area without syncing. Rename them so that you don’t confuse them with the Scrivener 3 projects (or just delete them.) Remember, these are already saved in the old format on your Mac.
  • When you sync, the entire converted Scrivener 3 project(s) will upload to iOS. Every single file inside the project(s) will have been updated. Make sure that the upload from Mac to Dropbox is finished, and allow plenty of time for the iOS download to complete as well.

I hope that this little upgrade guide has gotten you off on the right foot. Happy Scrivening!

Scrivener Special Abilities on Plus-Size iPhones @scrivenerapp

The plus-size iPhones display the Scrivener project binder in a small sidebar.

Here it is, nearly July—and that means it’s New Phone season if you’re an iPhone user. You may wait until mid-September to get the latest and greatest straight from Apple’s development labs. Myself, I like to snipe for bargains in late August as the phone companies discount Apple’s older models, which will likely be discontinued or released with different (usually smaller) storage configurations.

But if you’re a Scrivener iOS user and have a small iPhone (iPhone SE, or any of the iPhones 5) or a medium-sized iPhone (6, 6S, or 7)—there are some little-known capabilities of Scrivener iOS on large iPhones (6 Plus, 6S Plus, and 7 Plus) that may influence your new phone decision.
Without the extra keyboard row on the iPhone, you can't access fonts, spacing, or indents.

A small iPhone (1136‑by‑640‑pixel resolution—example: iPhone SE) won’t even display Scrivener’s extra keyboard row in landscape mode, for the simple reason that if it did there would be no room on the screen to display text. Because several formatting functions can only be accessed from that keyboard row on an iPhone, as a practical matter, Scrivener can only be used in portrait mode on a small iPhone.

Medium iPhones (1334-by-750-pixel resolution—example: iPhone 7) get that extra keyboard row in landscape mode. With that increased screen space, Scrivener can be used effectively in any orientation on a medium iPhone.

If you’ve used Quick Reference in your project in iPad Scrivener, those files will be available as Quick Reference items for your iPhone Plus binder.

Ah, but on a large iPhone (1920-by-1080-pixel resolution—example: iPhone 7 Plus) you get so much more! The binder sidebar, unavailable on smaller phones, is available on a Plus-size iPhone in landscape. It’s like a teeny iPad. If you also have an iPad, and set up some Quick Reference files in your project on iPad, you can display them in that little binder on iPhone. (At this time, you can’t designate Quick Reference files on the iPhone, whatever its size. Maybe next year…)


UPDATE 1 JULY 2017—

Keith Blount of http://literatureandlatte.com says that for the next Scrivener iOS update, Quick Reference will be enabled for Plus-size iPhones! Huzzah!


I’ve gone ahead and gotten myself an iPhone 6S Plus, not even waiting for August—I wanted to lock in the 3.5mm headphone socket before it disappears from the product line, as well as enjoy the sidebar in Scrivener. Happy phone shopping!

How to (90% Automatically) Track Scrivener (Mac or Windows) Word Counts in Beeminder #amwriting

url-minder
Markos Giannopoulos posted a great article in his blog, Tracking writing goals: Scrivener + Dropbox + Beeminder. His is an excellent way to track word counts from iOS Scrivener if iOS is all you use—but as Mr Giannopoulos notes, the word counts will be higher than true. That’s because all the files Beeminder will be counting are RTF files—which contain formatting information that Beeminder will happily include as words you wrote in addition to the real words you wrote.

If you have either Windows or Mac Scrivener, and you’d like a truly accurate count Beeminded (almost) automatically, read on.

This technique uses the External Folder sync capability of Mac and Windows Scrivener (available in the Windows version since the release of iOS Scrivener) and Dropbox—independently of iOS Scrivener sync. I tried to use Google Drive, but was unable to get word counts through to Beeminder. Sadly for iCloud Drive fans, I couldn’t even get iCloud Drive started.

Is this technique any easier or more accurate than always compiling a plain text version of your project whenever you’d like to update your Beeminder word count (as Mr Giannopoulos also suggests in his post)? If you don’t often add new text documents to your project, and you usually close your projects, then my technique can automate tracking accurate word counts via Beeminder. If you add a new text document or three daily, or you leave your project window open for days, compiling to plain text may work better for you.

I’ll be describing:

  1. How to set up an External Folder sync to Dropbox that will contain all and only the Scrivener files (in a particular project) that you want to Beemind.
  2. How to add those files to a new goal in Beeminder.
  3. How to Beemind any new Scrivener files you may add to your project and want to track in your existing goal.

Setting Up External Folder Sync for Beeminder

First of all: If you’re using Dropbox to sync with iOS Scrivener—this is completely separate. Don’t use the folder you use to sync with iOS Scrivener for this. ANY other Dropbox folder will do.

Filename caution: Once you start Beeminding a text in your Scrivener project with this technique, changing its name inside Scrivener will break its Dropbox link. You’ll need to fix the link in Beeminder to keep your word count accurate.

  1. To make this work, you’ll need to have the Dropbox app installed on your Windows or Mac computer. This will put a “Dropbox” folder on your hard drive. That’s the place you’ll be telling Scrivener to sync with.
  2. Make a new folder somewhere in your Dropbox folder (that isn’t where you sync iOS). I suggest you name it something obvious like BeeminderWordCount or MyProjectWordCount.
  3. Open your Scrivener project in Mac or Windows Scrivener. Consider the documents you want to Beemind. If it’s just all the text documents in your draft folder, great! Otherwise, I suggest you decide on a keyword for the texts you want to Beemind (“WordCount” or whatever you prefer) and assign that keyword to the texts you want to count.
    1. If you’re using a keyword, search for that keyword and save the search as a collection. Usually the collection has the search term as its name, so in my example, the collection would be named “WordCount.”
  4. Now select File > Sync > With External Folder…
    You’ll get a dialog box like the one on the right (or above.)

    1. Click the “Choose…” button and select the folder you set up in step 2.
    2. Tick the box for “Sync the contents of the Draft folder.”
    3. If you’re using a keyword search collection as in Step 3.A, tick the “Sync only documents in collection:” box and select your search collection from the dropdown menu.
    4. Make sure the “Format for external Draft files:” dropdown has “Plain Text” selected. This is what’s going to make your word counts more accurate.
    5. CAUTION: Do not tick the “Prefix file names with numbers” box! This option prefixes numbers to the text filenames in Dropbox to show their position in the Binder. That might cause several file name changes in Dropbox every time you moved a file within your project, breaking many Dropbox shareable links. You’d then need to update those links in Beeminder to keep your word count accurate.
    6. Tick the “Check external folder on project open and automatically sync on close” box. This is what’s going to make updating the Beeminder count (almost) automatic.
    7. Finally, click the “Sync” button. Your sync is now set up, keeping plain text copies of the files in the folder you’ve set up for Beeminder to count.

Whenever you quit Scrivener or close your project, the synced files will be updated automatically. If you don’t close your project ever, you can update those files by selecting “File > Sync > With External Folder Now.”

How to Set Up Your Beeminder Goal

  1. Go ahead and start your goal in Beeminder, using URLMinder as your data source.
  2. You’ll come to a page with a place to insert URLs for Beeminder to track for word count (see right or above.) In a fresh browser window or tab, open Dropbox.com.
  3. In your browser, in Dropbox.com, navigate to and open the folder you created in Step 2 of “Setting Up External Folder Sync for Beeminder” above (EFS for short). You’ll find a folder inside named “Draft.” Open that “Draft” folder.
  4. Now you’ll see a list of the texts that you added to EFS in EFS Step 4.G. For each of those files:
    1. Copy a “sharable link.”
    2. Return to the Beeminder page and paste the “sharable link” into the URL list box. Be sure to tap “enter” after each one.
  5. Now you have a list of the texts you’d like to word count, each separated from the next by an “enter.” Go ahead and finish setting up your Beeminder goal.

You’re done! Be sure to close your project or choose “File > Sync > With External Folder Now” in Scrivener each day to log your word counts to Beeminder.

How to Beemind new Scrivener files

One of the joys of Scrivener is the ability to break the stuff you’re writing into small chunks so that the text never gets overwhelming. But that means adding a file, which means adding another file to the list that Beeminder tracks.

I wish that I could tell you that Beeminder will automatically start counting new text files that appear in your EFS folder—but it won’t. It only monitors individual files. So whenever you add a new text to your Scrivener project that you’d like to have counted, you’ll have to add it to the URL list that you created when you set up your goal.

First, if you’re using a keyword search as in EFS Step 3.A, be sure to add the keyword to your new file(s).

After you close your project (or choose File > Sync > With External Folder Now), the new file(s) will be added to your EFS folder.

From there it’s pretty easy—just go to the “Settings” area of your Beeminder goal and scroll down. You’ll find the URL list there. Follow Step 4 above to add your new URLs to the list. But—you will need to remember to do this for every new file you want counted. (This is the other 10% of the “90% automatically”.) But if you were doing this in any other writing software you’d still have to remember to add new files unless you kept your work in a monolithic plain text file.

That’s it! Happy word count tracking!