Monday, February 01, 2010

The iPad and Mac Development

So. The iPad. (You may have heard of it. It’s a neat little gadget Apple released last week without much fanfare.) There are commentators out there declaring it the world’s most expensive Etch-a-Sketch (unfair; it has no stylus), and others praising it as being as “magical” and “revolutionary” as Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive would have us believe. My own opinion on the device is somewhat schizophrenic (in the colloquial sense, obviously). I’m split between my thoughts as a user and my thoughts as a Mac developer.

Most of what follows is my thoughts on, and reaction to, the iPad from my perspective as a Mac developer. That is, as a developer rather than as an end-user, and specifically as a developer who has dedicated the past several years to developing an application for the Mac platform. My views on the iPad as a Mac developer are different from my views as an end-user. I think it’s important to establish this up front, in case what follows comes across as me bashing the iPad before it’s even in stores. Far from it. As an end-user, my reaction can be summed up as: “Pretty cool for a lot of people!” As someone who works on a writing and organisational program for the Mac, my reaction is, in short: “Oh bum.”

So, just for the record: I like the look of the iPad. I think it could turn out to be a fantastic device for consuming media and information (which is what it is for - more on that below). The main problem with computers as they currently exist is that they make many otherwise intelligent people feel like idiots. No one has to write to customer support just to work out how to use their television. Part of our job as developers is to make our programs as easy to use as possible - I’d go so far as to argue that this is in fact the hardest part of our job. (“What do you mean you don’t understand why the outliner button is greyed out? It makes sense to me, and I designed it!”) And it’s sometimes tough to admit that if more than one user is getting frustrated by an element of your program, then it’s probably a design flaw. (Note: 2.0 has a more fluid and integrated approach to the outliner, corkboard and Edit Scrivenings buttons - no more arbitrary greying out. Also note: If anything confuses you about Scrivener, I will still never admit it’s a design flaw.) With the iPad, Apple have thought about what most users actually do with their computers and tried to make the resulting device as easy to use as possible. That has to be applauded, not least by those of us who spend time trying to help family members troubleshoot computer problems. In that regard, I think this guy nails it:

But if you’re reading this, you probably don’t care much about whether or not the iPad will result in me receiving fewer phone calls from family members with computer issues; what you most likely want to know is what impact the iPad has on Scrivener, if any.

The first user-request for an iPad version of Scrivener came before Steve Jobs had even finished speaking - I don’t think he’d even got to the part about iBooks yet. (Just for the record, we developers have no inside information - we are just as much the “little guys” to Apple as everyone else.) Since then there has been a steady trickle of requests for a version of Scrivener that runs on the iPad. This is as understandable as it is inevitable. I have long objected to an iPhone version of Scrivener because Scrivener’s interface just would not scale down to the iPhone screen real-estate, and a scaled-down version of Scrivener that had to drop all of the features for which I created it in the first place always struck me as pointless. Moreover, I don’t see the iPhone as a serious writing tool anyway; it’s something for taking notes on when you’re out and about, sure, but for that you can use the brilliant WriteRoom and then import your notes into Scrivener using the importer. (Yes, I know I’m a bit late in getting 1.54 out, which updates to, and many apologies for that - 2.0 has been taking up all my time, but 1.54 hasn’t been forgotten and will be out soon.) I’m also not averse to working with other iPhone developers to offer compatibility with other note-taking or outlining apps (quite the contrary - feel free to contact me if you are such a developer). But the iPad is a different beast isn’t it? After all, there is a keyboard dock for the iPad and Apple have even ported iWork, so how can my objections to an iPhone version hold up when it comes to the iPad?

So yes, you may quite reasonably be wondering: Are there any plans for an iPad version of Scrivener? And if not, why not?

The short answer to the first question is: Not at the moment. But I’ll attempt to give a full answer to both.

Before I continue, I’ll say again: what follows is my opinion as a Mac developer. My opinion as a gadget-geek and user is somewhat different, and will follow at the end. Sorry, but I have to reiterate this simply because I know from bitter experience that there is a minority of folk who vociferously take to task anyone whose words can be interpreted as constituting even the slightest attack on Apple (my partner once wrote a piece for a national UK newspaper - which was unfortunately poorly sub-edited - that dared to suggest Apple were a little too tight-lipped when it came to certain ongoing product defect and support issues at the time, and the ugly comments left by a handful of dolts on the otherwise brilliant MacRumors still make me ashamed to be of the same species as the commenters to this day) - though of course I’m sure this doesn’t apply to you, good reader. Right, enough prefatory apologies.

The iPad as Netbook Killer

Mac users (note: Mac users - Windows and Linux users have plenty of options) have been craving an Apple netbook for years now. The nearest thing they were given was the MacBook Air, which was a disappointment to many - myself included - partly because of its utter lack of connectivity unless you used wireless and paid-for adapters. Mainly, though, the problem was that it wasn’t cheap - certainly not cheap enough to become a college kid’s knockabout machine - and it wasn’t much smaller than a MacBook - just thinner. So thin, you could fit it in an envelope - it just had to be a big envelope.

(Another quick aside here: I’m not one of the users who have been craving an Apple netbook. I love my MacBook. It is my favourite machine ever, and given how much I loved my old iBook that is quite an achievement. But then I don’t keep it in my rucksack much - it gets plugged into my monitor and external keyboard during the day for development and writing, then taken downstairs and plonked on my lap in the evening so I can search IMDB to find out who the heck that actor on TV is, you know, the guy who was in thingy, with whatsherface. So as a user I am more than catered for; I’m happy. But as a developer, I have to take into account what other users are after, and how that affects Scrivener.)

Even after the Air, then, Mac users have been hoping for some sort of netbook. Something light, affordable, and with a 10” screen and keyboard. (A bunch of other users have been hoping for a tablet, but mainly for art and graphic design work, which is something the ModBook at least provides, even if Apple aren’t making money from it - it’s an entirely different sort of tablet to the iPad.) There is an elephant in the room here - a very small and possibly illegal elephant. I’m hesitant to mention it in case anyone misinterprets my doing so as condoning behaviour that violates Apple’s EULA (I’m not), but to omit it would be ignoring an important indicator that there is demand for a Mac netbook. I’m talking, of course, about the significant number of people who, fed up with lugging their MacBooks around and waiting for Apple to provide them with something smaller, have resorted to using a so-called “hackintosh” - that is, hacking OS X onto an existing Intel netboook such as a Dell mini 10v. These are otherwise loyal Apple users (although the idea of “brand loyalty” is rather sickly, isn’t it? May as well be loyal to a genus of flowering begonia), people who haven’t used anything but Macs for many years, who don’t want to use anything other than Mac OS X, but who just want something smaller on which to run their applications when out and about - writers on research field trips, students moving between lectures all day.

Did the iPad deliver what these users wanted?

Well, yes and no.

To quote Steve Jobs from his keynote speech:

“Everybody uses a laptop and/or a smart phone. And the question has arisen lately, is there room for a third category of device in the middle? Something that’s between a laptop and a smart phone? And of course we’ve pondered this question for years as well. The bar’s pretty high. In order to really create a new category of devices, those devices are going to have to be far better at doing some key tasks... Better than the laptop, better than the smartphone. What kind of tasks? Things like browsing the web... Doing e-mail. Enjoying and sharing photographs. Video... Enjoying your music collection. Playing games. Reading e-books. If there’s going to be a third category of device, it has to be better at these tasks than a laptop or a smart phone, otherwise it has no reason for being. Now, some people have thought that that’s a netbook. The problem is, netbooks aren’t better at anything. [Cheers and laughter of recognition from the audience, who have cleary thought exactly the same thing for many years now.] ... They’re just cheaper than laptops.”

(Digression: Honestly, if Steve Jobs had a sense of humour, after revealing the name of his latest product he would wait until the inevitable whooping and cheering had died down and reveal a steaming pile of faecal matter, or a dead kitten or something. I swear the crowds at these things more and more think they are at a U2 concert. But then I’m English, and to us a stroke of the chin accompanied by a muted, “Hmm, interesting,” could be considered over-effusive.)

The moment Steve Jobs opened his keynote with the above words (not the digression about the faecal matter and dead kitten, obviously; the bit about netbooks), my heart sank. It was as clear a statement as we’re going to get that Apple has no interest in entering the netbook market; at least, not with an actual netbook. So is Mr Jobs right? Is a netbook really no better than a laptop or smart phone at anything? Within the parameters he set above, I’d have to agree with him; the iPad is indeed probably better than a netbook - at the tasks he listed. But you’ll note that the list of tasks he gave excludes any kind of content creation. (Yes, later in his speech he showed off iWork for the iPad, but that was given to the team to “see what they could do”, and content creation was not on his list of essential tasks at which this new device should excel. I would say that is important, and telling.)

So, for the sake of argument, and ignoring for a moment the lists given on many other sites about multitasking and video conferencing and suchlike, what do netbooks do better than laptops from the point of view of the average Scrivener customer?*

1) Most importantly of all, they are smaller, lighter, more portable. (Great! - So is the iPad.)

2) They still allow you to type fast on a small keyboard. (Okay - so does the iPad, although you’ll need to carry around the keyboard and assemble it - fine for writing in coffee houses, but not so good if you need to write on your lap for any length of time, I’d wager. Of course I could be proved wrong on this - maybe the dock is particularly sturdy and good at balancing on knees.)

3) Despite their lightness and portability, you can still run your preferred OS, and therefore most of your preferred programs on them. (Ah…)

So, again, did all of those Mac users who wanted a netbook device - a more portable Mac - get what they wanted? Well, it depends. Yes (in a way) and no.

Yes, Apple delivered a small, light, affordable and portable device. It takes some extra assembly to add a decent keyboard, but you can type on it, and accordingly to initial reports it responds well to fast touch-typing.

But also no - because Mac users cannot run Mac OS X on Apple’s answer to the netbook. And thus they cannot run their favourite applications unless those applications are rewritten for the iPhone OS, which is what the iPad uses.

In other words, Mac users hoping for a Mac netbook are, frankly, out of luck. If you were after a more mobile device that runs Mac OS X, it still doesn’t exist - and although I hope I’m proved wrong, Mr Jobs seemed strongly to imply that it never will, because the iPad is their rebuttal to the very existence of the netbook; Steve Jobs doesn’t like netbooks, so you’re not getting one. But then, does it really matter that the iPad doesn’t run OS X? (Obviously not if you’re not a Mac user anyway, but what if you are?) After all, it does almost everything else, doesn’t it? Well, again, it depends. I would imagine that to the vast majority of people, no, it doesn’t matter one jot. Apple has provided a device that may well bring them even more customers - the iPhone wasn’t something limited to the Mac community, and likewise, the iPad has a global appeal. No Windows user is likely to object to it because it’s a Mac and they don’t like Macs - because it isn’t a Mac. In a sense, in terms of computers, the iPad is platform agnostic - no one worries that their phone OS doesn’t run the same OS as the one on their computer, and by not pidgeon-holing this device as a Mac, Apple are not limiting their latest computing device to users of Mac computers. Quite the opposite - with the iPad they are after the same general user-base they achieved with the iPod and iPhone - it doesn’t matter what OS you are accustomed to on your main computer, because this device is intended as something different. This is something new that is dedicated to making the access of all that content out there easy and convenient; it fits between a smart phone and a computer.

However, no matter how you look at it, it’s not a Mac netbook, and thus to those hoping to have the full Mac experience on a mobile device - to those who use their computers predominantly to create content and who therefore wish to run a full range of Mac productivity applications without pared-down feature-sets - that surely does matter. For those users, the iPad is not a viable alternative to a netbook. Such users are almost certainly in the minority, I absolutely understand that, and perhaps the point of the iPad is that computers were built for content generation and finally here is something for everyone else. So, the number of computer users who spend more time generating content (outside of the day job, that is) than consuming it must be a minority to begin with. And of those, most will be happy to use a desktop or laptop machine for content generation, and an iPad for general browsing and the odd bit of note-taking. It’s only the minority of the minority who will now still long for a more mobile laptop on which they can run the whole host of Mac apps. I still wish there was something coming for them, though - not least because a good number of Scrivener users seem to fall into that very minority.

And for me, as someone who develops for the Mac platform, it also matters. How much does it matter? I don’t know yet. Why do I keep asking myself rhetorical questions? Maybe I’m lonely. But I digress (again). Nobody can possibly know how much it matters because it’s not even in the stores yet. Half the pundits are declaring that the iPad is going to be a runaway success and every home will have one while the other half are saying it’s a damp squib that fails to be either computer or smart phone, neither fish nor fowl, and so is surely utterly pointless. It’s too early to know if either side will be right or something inbetween will be true. Whatever the outcome, even at this early stage it would be irresponsible not to consider the implications of the iPad for my own Mac application, especially with so many users already clamouring for Scrivener-for-the-iPad.

Mac Development and the iPad

Okay, I’ll admit it: when I saw that what everybody had expected all along had actually been realised - that the iPad was essentially a large iPod Touch - I was gutted; gutted because of the implications for Scrivener, which currently runs only on the Mac. Perhaps the biggest disappointment and frustration for me as a developer is that, in a way, I feel that Apple’s decision to use the iPhone OS for a tablet that is ostensibly intended as an entry into the netbook niche of the market (rather than saying straight up that it is something completely different to a netbook) is a bit of a two-fingers-up to us indie Mac developers; developers who have been quietly contributing great applications (at least, I like to think Scrivener is a great application…) to the Mac platform, and who have even persuaded users of other platforms to switch (I’ve lost count of the number of users who have e-mailed me to say that they bought a Mac just to use Scrivener - perhaps the biggest compliment of all). Getting people to switch is irrelevant to Apple in the case of the iPad, though, because it’s not a Mac, so hasn’t set out to rival Windows at all; its stroke of genius is that it sets out to replace a hardware solution (the netbook) and by adopting the iPhone OS instead of Mac OS X it raises itself above platform partisanship; it transcends the Mac/Windows divide.

I should step back a little here and explain what I mean by “indie development”, because this isn’t something that everyone realises about us. Often when we think of a software company, we tend to think of offices and cubicles and a handful of sweaty developers being hounded by a line manager, a PR team, some techies giving phone support and advertising folks on the other side of the office writing copy about how they are producing the “funnest” thing ever or suchlike. Or, at least, that’s what I used to think of when I thought of software companies. But that image is only true of the larger software houses (although I’m sure none of their coders are sweaty and many may even shower daily). Many software companies aren’t like that at all - we aren’t. If you’ve read our About page, you’ll know that we are just two guys. I wrote Scrivener because it was the tool I wanted for my own writing - in fact, I taught myself to program just so I could create Scrivener. I didn’t study programming at university (I studied history and medieval literature, since you asked). I’m only a “professional” programmer in the sense that it is now my full time job (since I gave up teaching because Scrivener had taken off). David came on board to help out with all the non-coding stuff (for a large pay cut, so he could work with his friend - which would be me). He’s not a programmer either (he studied physics, since you’re so nosey). There are no Literature & Latte offices. My office is a spare room in my rented home, with a view of the garden and the occasional dog-walker in the fields earmarked for housing estate development opposite. David’s office is his garage. (No snow days for him.)

The great thing about the Mac is that this sort of one-guy-and-maybe-a-friend software development is still feasible. Years ago a lot of software was written by only a couple of guys - the old ZX Spectrum games, for instance; even the first versions of Final Draft. But it’s getting more and more difficult for a single person to code and maintain a complex application for a large enough user-base. We could argue all day about Apple’s faults, but one of the great things about Apple is that they have really fostered a strong independent development community. There are some wonderful independently-developed apps on Windows, don’t get me wrong, but I’d argue that it takes Windows developers a lot more time and money to polish them up to a high spec, and to do so they have to pay for a lot of third-party frameworks and development tools. On the Mac, all your development tools are free, so you can try developing software even if you don’t know whether or not you’ll ever make a penny back, and you don’t have to think about start-up costs. At all. And the development tools are fantastic, a real pleasure to use. Even better, because Apple have control over all their hardware, you know that as long as you follow their guidelines and test your app on all the versions of OS X you want to support, it should then work the same on the computer of every user out there. Windows programmers don’t have it nearly so good.

So why is the iPad being based on the iPhone OS such a potential problem for Mac indie developers, in my own humble opinion?

Because suddenly our Mac apps don’t run on all the machines a user might expect them to run on. Because those of us with only one programmer are now faced with the demand for supporting two viable computing platforms. We could debate the semantics of whether the iPad is indeed a computer or not, but initial murmurs would indicate that there are a good number of users out there who want to use it that way, if only as a secondary platform to their main workstation or laptop.

Wait, surely the iPhone and iPad are teeming with applications from independent developers, so how can this be a bad thing for indie development? Well, yes. That’s true. I’m not trying to say that Apple aren’t still fostering a strong independent development community, because they clearly are - it’s just on a different platform, no longer the Mac. And it’s a fantastic thing for all those iPhone developers out there; I envy them the excitement they must be feeling right now about the iPad, along with all the software houses who have the resources to start thinking about an iPad version of their flagship programs straight away, such as the excellent Omni Group. But as an independent Mac developer, here’s the thing: The iPhone and iPod Touch are undoubtedly small mobile platforms - in the smart phone category - and even if users ask from time to time for a scaled-down version of their favourite app to run on them, no one really expects to do any serious work on them - that has until now been left to Mac OS X, which was - was - Apple’s computing operating system. But building the iPad on the iPhone OS and then declaring that it is intended as something to replace netbooks, and by providing a keyboard accessory and porting iWork, their own main productivity suite, to it, Apple have changed the game. The resulting implication is this: either you build an iPhone/iPad version of your application, or you miss out on all the users that wanted a netbook and so bought the iPad - because the iPad is Apple’s answer to the netbook.

That’s a pretty big blow, so I’m going to reiterate it: Mac users have been clamouring for an Apple netbook for years now. Users have been wanting something with a 10” screen that they can throw in their bag, something smaller, lighter and easier to haul around than a 13” MacBook. And I think it’s fair to say that everyone expected that, were Apple to introduce such a device, more users would come over to the platform from Windows. I get requests for a Windows version of Scrivener nearly every day, and along with price the other main reason many of these Windows users cite for not wanting to buy a Mac is size - they want a small, cheap netbook for college, something they can throw in their bag and carry between classes without shoulder-ache, for instance. They don’t want to carry a MacBook - it’s portable, but not something you want weighing on your shoulder all day. They want something smaller.

Well, this week Apple told us all, “You didn’t know it, but all along you didn’t want a netbook at all. This is what you wanted.” And then they introduced just such a cheap, portable device - but it won’t be bringing users over to OS X, at least not directly. So all those of us who develop for the Mac won’t see anything of those Windows users who are tempted by the iPad unless we switch our allegiances to the iPhone OS. And even worse, there are plenty of Mac users who have been putting up with a MacBook (which they consider too clunky) who are now talking about ditching their MacBooks in favour of an iPad. We could in fact lose users. On the other hand, as apparently happened with the iPhone, the iPad may draw users to the Mac platform indirectly - Windows users may buy an iPad, fall in love with it and discover that the nearest full computing experience is Mac OS X. Only time will tell.

So, there’s my dilemma. As a user, I think the iPad looks like a wonderful gadget, and I think it is going to be welcomed by the vast number of people who get frustrated by the often apparently arcane nature of computers - the people it’s for. I’m looking forward to trying one out myself, especially once they get iBooks running in the UK (I hope that’s the plan). As a developer, it makes me want to scream.

Projecting forward into the murky and unfathomable future, another concern must be whether or not this augurs anything for Apple’s long-term commitment to Mac OS X. Jonathan Ive has clearly stated that he sees the iPad as the future, the right direction for Apple. I’m not saying it’s a bad direction, but I do wonder where that will leave those of us still tied to traditional platforms such as OS X in five years’ time. Again, it’s too early to say; only Apple really knows what the future is for these platforms. But I think I’m justified in being a little worried about the implications of Apple’s netbook solution not running OS X for those of us who have dedicated ourselves to providing software for that platform. Will there ever be a Mac OS 11? And if there is, will it be a version of the iPhone OS? Or are we heading the same way the games industry has headed, with a handful of people using full computers to create content that is then delivered to closed devices (as with games programmers who write for the Playstation or Xbox, for instance)?

Before I’m accused of overreacting, let me just say that I don’t for one minute think that Apple intended this as a big-two fingers-up at its indie Mac development community. Of course not. Apple are just doing what they do - working on great technology with the end-user in mind, and they are right to do that, because that is ultimately their job. I’m merely expressing how this step feels as an independent Mac developer without the resources to support multiple platforms - because at the end of the day, the iPad (and iPhone) is, to all extents and purposes, another platform.

So, onto the reality of getting Scrivener onto the iPad.

Will Scrivener Come to the iPad?

Well, were the iPad running OS X, or even a stripped-down version of OS X, a port would have been a no-brainer. (There is a common misunderstanding that the iPhone OS is just a stripped-down version of OS X; it’s not. They both use some of the same core libraries and are built around Objective-C and an AppKit - Cocoa. But the classes available for use in each are very different. For instance, Scrivener’s text input is a highly customised version of Apple’s NSTextView. It uses a modified version of its rich text system. The iPhone has no such thing - it has a UITextView, which doesn’t even support rich text. Scrivener’s binder is a customised version of NSOutlineView. But the iPhone doesn’t support outline views at all to the best of my knowledge. The only way to navigate trees on the iPhone is by drilling down into tables. These may seem superficial UI differences, but the differences go much deeper. As I’m not overly familiar with the iPhone frameworks (yet) I’m sure someone else could explain the differences better, but suffice to say it’s not a case of just changing a few lines of code and rebuilding.) But given that the iPad is not running OS X, right now I can’t see a way for us to produce an iPad version of Scrivener in the near future. Not because I’m not interested in such a thing - although I am reserving judgement until I hold one of these things in my hands. Practicalities, however - the dreaded Real World - get in the way. So, below are some of the reasons why we are not planning an iPad version just yet.

1) Resources. We’re not Apple, we’re not Omni. As I say, there’s just me and David. Scrivener is a niche product - it has a whole bunch of users who are kind enough to rave about Scrivener, but not so many that we’re driving around in sports cars. So, we can’t afford to hire someone else to code Scrivener-for-the-iPad. But if I try to code it myself, then what happens to Scrivener-for-the-Mac? Realistically, I can’t do both - or at least, I can’t do both well. Scrivener is a big program, very complicated internally, with hundreds of thousands of lines of code. And there are still months of development to do on Scrivener 2.0. For me to develop a version of Scrivener for the iPad would mean abandoning Scrivener for the Mac (at least temporarily, but even after an initial release my time would then have to be divided), then learning to code for the iPhone OS, and then designing and building a mobile version of Scrivener. That’s not great for Mac users of Scrivener, even the ones who want an iPad version. (Oh, and did I mention I created Scrivener so I could use it myself? I really would like to get that novel written one of these days, too.) Perhaps the eventual ideal solution - should the iPad turn out to be a viable writing environment, which still remains to be seen - would be to team up with an iPhone/iPad developer who uses, understands and loves Scrivener and wants to give us huge swathes of the profits for his or her work (ha). But the problem there is that I’m a perfectionist control freak and like to keep control over everything that goes into Scrivener, so that’s not as straightforward as it seems. (In other words, I’m hell to work with; just ask David.)

2) Design. Is the sort of writing for which Scrivener is designed really the sort of thing for which the iPad will be used? In a way, the iPad - like the iPhone - is a notebook, a Moleskine, but Scrivener is the typewriter and corkboard, the book of clippings, the ring-binder - the stuff that requires more space. You might pull out your notebook in a café or on the train, you might even shuffle some index cards, but you wouldn’t spread your index cards out, label them, reshuffle your whole manuscript, pull out your clippings folder and lay out images and reference documents while you write in such locations - all the tasks that Scrivener takes up screen-space doing, the things it was built to do. You take your notebook with you when you’re working on a book, but not your whole ring-binder. Writing a long text is still for the most part something you do at a desk. Laptops enable you to take that desk with you; the iPad is very deliberately not the entire desk. It is stripped down, something to read, to play games on, for playing music and videos, and in a pinch you can use it to take down some notes or throw a document together if you really need to. Trying to force Scrivener onto something like the iPad seems to me to be missing the point of both Scrivener and the iPad itself. I am ready to be proved utterly wrong on this, but these are my impressions based on the way the iPad was presented to us in the keynote (see the section below on The iPad From a User’s Perspective), and until it hits stores that’s all I have to go on.

3) Inclination. I created Scrivener because it was the program I wanted to use for my writing - although Scrivener is now a business which pays my and David’s wages, hippy-at-heart that I am, money still isn’t my chief motivation for continuing the development of Scrivener. I do it because I know it could still be better, there are things I want to refine and get really right. But I love my MacBook; it’s the ideal writing machine for me. I can’t see myself ever using an iPad for serious writing - no, I haven’t seen one yet, but I write this with my MacBook on my lap with my fingers comfortable on a decent-sized keyboard and that works for me. So, I can get excited about the iPad for many things - for iBooks (maybe), for casual browsing, for watching videos - but not for use as a writing machine. Many Scrivener users may disagree and see the iPad an ideal writing platform, but if I haven’t the motivation - if I’m just doing it because I think I might make a quick buck - then I’m not qualified to do it right. (I know what you’re going to say: maybe the iPad isn’t good for all your writing, but what about notes and ideas while you are out and about? Well, again, in that case you could use something like WriteRoom and bring your notes into Scrivener later - there would be no advantage of having a version of Scrivener just for that.)

4) Scaling Scrivener down. This would be a massive feat in itself. It may sound simple - just do less! But it doesn’t work like that. And would a scaled-down version of Scrivener even be Scrivener? Would it do any more than other writing or notebook apps? Moreover, users are bound to disagree over what would be essential in a pared-down Scrivener. One user would argue it should just be a corkboard linked to notes; another would suggest it should be an outlining app, and yet another a table that allows navigation through text documents. Could the iPad even handle a .scriv file package? And what about users who have .scriv files of hundreds of megabytes - even gigabytes - in size? I can’t answer that yet. But I don’t relish the idea of cutting any of the features I built Scrivener to have, let alone starting from scratch. So the jury’s still out. In fact, that’s worth clarifying, as the difference between operating systems and the problems involved in porting software programs between them isn’t something that’s necessarily immediately obvious to end-users. Getting Scrivener to run on the iPad is not just a matter of taking the existing code base and cutting here, modifying there. I’m sure some of the code could be reused, but for the most part we are talking about having to write a completely new version of Scrivener from the ground up for a new platform.

5) The Touch interface. Although Scrivener is predominantly a writing application, a lot of the structural work is done with the mouse, or by tabbing around views and using keyboard shortcuts and the arrow keys to achieve the same effect. On the iPad, like the iPhone, this sort of manipulation is done using your fingers. While iPhone apps such as CarbonFin Outliner do a wonderful job at providing a full outliner in small environment, even on the larger screen of the iPad something such as Scrivener’s binder would be severely limited. Because you would need to use your fingers to manipulate the rows, moving items around would either be frustratingly fiddly or the rows would need to be so large that you wouldn’t be able to see many of them on screen at any one time. And given that one of Scrivener’s purposes is to allow you to step back to get an overview of your project, I’d say that’s not an insignificant problem. Think of all the features that would need rethinking: the binder, the way keywords, label and status are assigned in the different views, references, dragging between different folders that are far apart in the structure, and so on. In other words, not only would Scrivener need rewriting from the ground up, but as the Mac version is built to take full advantage not only of screen real estate but also of the keyboard and mouse, its whole interface - the very way the user interacts with the documents and meta-data on screen - would need completely redesigning for the touch interface.

6) I’m admittedly not a big fan of the App Store, because it’s a closed shop. Either Apple accept your app and put it on the store, or you can’t sell or distribute it. And Apple’s criteria for accepting and rejecting applications for the iPhone are notoriously nebulous and apparently whimsical. I certainly don’t relish the prospect of spending a year developing an iPad version of Scrivener only to have it rejected (perhaps because it is seen as competing with Pages or suchlike). Without transparency to the acceptance/rejection process, there’s no way of knowing in advance what problems you may run into. I have already read that Apple used a number of private APIs to create Pages for the iPad, for instance - but other developers have their apps rejected for using private APIs. Even legitimate workarounds can be rejected, though - one developer I know had an update to his app rejected from the App Store because it used HTML to render editable rich text, and Apple apparently wouldn’t allow this - meaning that only Apple are currently able to create apps capable of editable rich text on the iPhone. So while the App Store setup has worked very nicely for plenty of developers, it’s just not the sort of commercial environment I’m crazy about entering. I much prefer everything being open to all. I’ve nothing against Apple having their own store and limiting the products available there to only the ones they approve, but I don’t like the idea of that being the only way a user can access your application.

So, if you’re a user hoping for an iPad version of Scrivener in the near future - I’m sorry, but for all of the above reasons there are no plans in place yet. It’s not because we have anything againt the iPad - quite the opposite. Like many, I’m rather excited about the iPad. But even if there were an enormous audience for an iPad version of Scrivener and we were thus denying ourselves a fortune in not developing it (as a couple of enthusiastic users have insisted - perhaps not quite realising just how much of a niche application something like Scrivener is), this is sadly beside the point - because it’s not a matter of refusal but of being realistic about the resources we have available right now, and how to use those limited resources to best serve the user-base that is Scrivener’s foundation. Still, that’s not to say we aren’t interested in what happens with the iPad - we are, and we remain open-minded. How interested? Well, I have at least signed up for the iPhone OS developer program and ordered a book on iPhone development, if only out of curiosity and to see what is possible - to keep our options open for the future. Were it possible to develop something that didn’t take years (people often seem to understimate just how much work and code is involved in creating and maintaining a program of Scrivener’s scope) and required little maintenance (that’s never possible), so that it didn’t detract from the full Mac version of Scrivener, then who knows what could happen?

The iPad From a User’s Perspective

As I’ve said above, as an end-user, I like the look of the iPad. I could never get excited about the iPhone - I don’t use mobile phones much, and for the little gaming I do these days I much prefer my PS3 or XBox. I bought an iPod Touch and what I really like about it is being able to browse the web - for reading, not posting - in bed or wherever, without having to prop up my laptop. For me, this is where the iPad is going to shine. I can use it for reading online papers in as comfortable a position as I read real papers, and I can watch movies more easily while travelling; but then I usually read print papers and don’t travel much, so in reality I probably wouldn’t have as much use for an iPad at all (I used these same justifications when buying my iPod Touch and I don’t use it as anything more than a regular iPod. On the other hand, I could keep an iPad on my coffee table especially for those IMDB searches.) But I do like the look of it, just because it looks like the sort of thing I imagined to be futuristic as a kid. Give me a hovercar and a robot butler to go with it, and I’m happy.

Perhaps the most salient point I have heard made about the iPad is that it wasn’t really designed for us content producers anyway. To recap on Steve Jobs’ list of key tasks for the iPad:

• Browsing

• Email

• Photos

• Video

• Music

• Games

• eBooks

With the exception of writing e-mails, everything on this list involves the passive use of a computer. It’s not about getting things done. It’s a reference device. It’s the Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy made real, and Ford Prefect didn’t write directly into his copy of the Hitch-hiker’s Guide - that’s not what it’s for. Because of the Scrivener support forums, I spend as much time posting to the internet as reading from it - but that’s not average use. Most users of the web spend more time reading than writing - and even heavy Twitter and Facebook users will have no problem firing off short messages with the iPad’s virtual keyboard. Likewise using the iPad to send e-mails to family and friends will be just as natural as sending texts. I spend my day on abortive attempts at writing a novel, writing code, and writing support e-mails. The iPad isn’t aimed at that sort of computer use. Why should it be? Almost every other computer in existence has been designed for producing content rather than specifically for devouring it, and yet there are vast amounts of people out there who just browse the net, write the occasional short e-mail, listen to music and so on. Sure, they may spend all day writing documents in Word and hammering out e-mails, but that’s work. At home the iPad may be ideal for them. And if they really need to write a letter or something a little longer they can always use Pages and the keyboard dock. Someone pointed out to me that this sort of computer use just hasn’t really been catered for until now, and it strikes me they’re right; you don’t need a four-track recorder to listen to a record or a typewriter to read a book, after all, but until now it has been computer-to-do-everything or nothing at all (or a smart phone). In that regard, the iPad could be a killer, and if enough users see it in that way then it could well be as revolutionary as Apple hope - it’s finally something really affordable and usable for the computer user who doesn’t really like computers.

(I’m still not convinced about iBooks. The idea of reading for long periods from a backlit screen really isn’t appealing. iBooks itself looks beautiful - but then it would, because so does Delicious Monster - but the beauty of the reading environment has little to do with reading itself; for reading, all you need is something that isn’t going to strain your eyes and a good font. But maybe it’s aimed at the casual reader who just wants to read a couple of pages on the train to work, who knows?)

So. The iPad.

My final thought on the iPad as a netbook replacement is simply this: does it really have to be either/or? Is the iPad really a replacement for the netbook, a better solution for everything a netbook can do, or is it really something different to a netbook, something better at some of the common tasks we use all computers for? Couldn’t Apple have created the iPad for consumers of content and still created a smaller MacBook running OS X for producers of content? Why not give Mac users, their most loyal customer base, what they have been hoping for as well as bringing a fantastic browsing and reading experience to the wider public with the iPad? It seems a particular shame given all the streamlining work that went into Snow Leopard - 10.6 seemed a surefire contender as a netbook OS. Sadly, the answer may be simply that the iPod and iPhone have given Apple a taste of the big time, and have made Mac users less important to the company as a target demographic. After all, why target 5% of potential users when you can target 100%? The result is that the iPad is a great device for casual computer users regardless of the platform they are used to, but Mac users are still left in the cold without a really portable Mac and independent Mac developers have to face the possibility of losing existing MacBook-using customers as well as potential switchers. Or perhaps ultimately all of this speculation will turn out to be no more than a storm in a teacup; the iPad could become wildly popular as a means of reading and browsing while writers and other creators continue to use their Macs for the act of creation itself. And who knows, maybe all that work on streamlining Snow Leopard wasn’t for nothing - we can’t rule out its appearance on a netbook entirely. Remember what Steve Jobs said about the Kindle and e-reading?

Incidentally, if you were wondering what that strange sound was throughout your reading of this rambling post, it’s nothing to worry about; it was just the sound of my knee jerking uncontrollably.

(On the plus side, this post was written in Scrivener and copied to Blogger using Scrivener 2.0’s new “Copy Special > Copy as HTML” feature.)

*NOTE: There is no such thing as an “average” Scrivener customer. They are all extraordinary. Did I mention we have a paid update coming out this year?


Blogger mmmritzcrackers said...

FNN GOLD!! Dude. You almost got all of the points I was thinking. Albeit in a lot of text :P

The only real omission is the lack of technology that was shown in the iPad reader. The keyboard is a joke for real writing. For carpal tunnel it needs either a crooked keyboard or Dvorak. Or something new. But they showed ZILCH as innovation.

Your spot on in the term Passive users. It truly is not made for content providers.

The only thing that has me at possible purchase is teh fact that it comes out before the tablets from CES which are slated for summer.. Bummer.

I highly support you NOT porting Scrivener to it. Such a waste of life's time if it does end up having to be rewriting private API's.

Just chill out and keep at 2.0 for real computers.


2:57 am  
Blogger Blackeagle said...

I think you're right on the money about the iPad being intended as, and most useful as, a content consumption device rather than a content production device. I don't think the OS is to blame here either, even if it ran an unmodified version of MacOS, a 9.7 inch screen and the keyboard dock just aren't enough for real content creation. It's designed primarily for content consumption (browsing the web, reading books, watching video) and secondarily for communication (email, IM, and perhaps text messaging).

Of course, I don't really see netbooks as very suitable for content creation either. Then again, I've got dual monitors on all my desktops and I think that even my MacBook Air is a bit undersized for content creation work.

To the extent that some sort of iPad integration with Scrivener would be useful for me, I think it would be in capturing ideas while I've got the iPad in my hand. A Scrivener iPad app that made this sort of idea capture seamless would be cool, but given your limited resources it might be a better idea to concentrate on letting users easily get notes into Scrivener from dedicated iPad apps (Pages, Notes, and similar 3rd party apps) as seamlessly as possible.

3:12 am  
Blogger mamster said...

I withhold judgment about writing on the iPad. However, I predict it's going to be a smashingly great device for editing audio. (I write books, but lately I've gotten into podcasting, which is a lot of fun, because it's not writing!)

4:06 am  
Blogger Ted Mahsun said...

I'm not sure if I was the first, but I was definitely one of the earliest to request Scrivener be brought to the iPad. I tweeted to @ScrivenerApp while Steve Jobs was still on stage. Can't remember if it was before the iBooks bit though.

At the time I thought it'd be awesome to have Scrivener on the go with an iPad but having read your thoughts on it, I now understand that it wouldn't be to users' advantage to have it ported to the iPad.

While I'm disappointed, I do see how a two-man team (one man team if you're just counting the programmers :) ) cannot possibly support two different platforms without sacrificing something somewhere.

I don't want Scrivener to be gimped. I'm here to say that I'm glad you decided to focus on Scrivener and making it a great product. I gladly paid for the 1.x version and will gladly do so again for the 2.x version.

7:37 am  
Blogger brett said...

Thanks for reminding us that Apple never really says never. Jobs once dissed the idea of an iPhone and a tablet -- until the technology developed to the point where those devices could be done in an elegantly Apple way and there was a market for them.

I think the iPad may make a better mobile writing environment than you predict. I've not seen an iPad in the flesh (or aluminium), of course, but in one way, it's actually MORE ergonomic than a laptop, in that it separates the keyboard and screen; their enforced proximity is what forces us into the choice of harming our necks, eyes, or carpal tunnels. The first thing physical therapists tell the millions of people suffering from "laptop neck" is: get an external keyboard, and raise the level of the screen. With the folding carrying case Apple will sell you, or even a cheap folding bookstand, you can set up the iPad at closer to an ergonomically more acceptable height.

Also, being able to switch orientations from vertical to horizontal, as on the iPhone, will definitely facilitate reading and writing -- sometimes vertical is better (when I need to work on only one document), sometimes horizontal (when I display two docs side by side).

And you don't have to use the admittedly clunky looking charger keyboard; the little wireless Apple bluetooth keyboard I'm using right now will work with the iPad. Just toss the iPad and keyboard (it's tiny and light) into your bag, take them out when you're at the library or coffee shop, and start writing -- no assembly required. And together they still weigh less than my Air.

I'm not saying I'll get an iPad, but I do see the usefulness as reader and movie viewer (and for gamers, which I'm not). I can almost envision reading my morning newspaper (with enhanced content) and New Yorker with one, which I couldn't have a week ago.

I love the Mac OS and have for 20+ years but really, as long as I can do what I want, I'm happy to use the iPhone/iPad OS. I only use about 5 apps regularly, beyond those already included on the iPHone.
In some ways, because it does force users to do things the Apple Way even more than the Mac OS, the iPhone/iPad OS seems actually closer to the original Mac idea in that it hides even more of the behind-the-scenes stuff from the user, which was the reason for the GUI in the first place. It's only now that technology and interface design have evolved to make that degree of totalitarian control (by the designer, not the user) possible. I know that infuriates those, who want to be able to tinker with and improve and customize the experience. But frankly, for me, I just want to get stuff done, and as long as Apple makes it easy for me to do that, I'm happy to follow along like an obedient puppy. It's kind of sad, really -- would I really go along with political dictatorship if the trains ran on time and the meals were plentiful? I hope not, but I seem to be willing to cede Apple a huge degree of control over my experience....

10:24 am  
Blogger brett said...

What an excellent and thorough explanation! I thoroughly agree with your analysis, even if it means no full-on Scrivener for iPad for awhile. Better, for now, to finish Scrivener 2 and perhaps, as suggested above, making it easier to port notes taken in WriteRoom or Notes or SimpleNote to Scrivener, although it's already pretty easy.

A couple of quibbles, neither relevant to the main point. For me, the Air IS the Mac netbook in every way except price. I take it along to places I would never have taken my MacBook, because it's just that much lighter and seemingly sturdier -- it's like tossing a legal pad into the briefcase. I never use the "missing" features (Firewire, extra USB ports), and, thanks to a good sale, mine came bundled with a Superdrive and Ethernet adapter, which I rarely use. The screen is fabulous, in both size and brightness. At refurb prices, you can get one for the price of a MacBook. The weight and slimness make a suprisingly significant difference in user experience. But you're right, it's not cheap (in either sense) like a netbook.

10:28 am  
Blogger Roger said...

Put your resources in to 2.0 and forget about the iPhone OS as used on the iPad for now.

I would not be at all surprised if future iPads could run both iPhone OS (simple mode) and OS X (advanced mode with Finder) and that even further in the future it will merge to one OS, able to run all applications in the two modes.

10:42 am  
Blogger kayembi said...

Thanks for all the comments.

brett - I'm not sure I agree about the iPad being better for "laptop neck". You *could* separate out the keyboard and iPad, but only if you place a big box on your desk on which to rest the iPad stand. But you're not going to carry such a box around with you, and are you really going to use an iPad at your desk at home?

Also, it may turn out well for typing and actual *writing*, but what about all of the other data manipulation that Scrivener does? I designed Scrivener because traditional linear word processors didn't work for me. I think the iPad may be ideal for that linear writing process, but I'm not convinced about using it for manipulating hundreds of sections of a long text document such as in Scrivener.

10:46 am  
Blogger menthecream said...

First, it's simple you either follow the market and, if there is the demand for it, port scrivener to the ipad, or you become even more obscure.

Second, if Scrivener helped you to write that "article" than it has a lot to answer for. Learn to edit!!

10:58 am  
Blogger Brent Dax said...

Just one of those lucky iPhone developers popping in to confirm a few technical details:

1. iPhone OS doesn't really support RTF. As in, the docs only mention the format in the form of the kUTTypeRTF constant, and in the fact that you can use a UIWebView to display RTFs.

2. UIWebView is the preferred high-level API for displaying formatted text, but it does not offer editing. For the iPad, Apple has opened up Core Text for complex formatting, but that's a very low-level technology. I suspect/hope someone will develop a reusable view for this--keep an eye on the Omni Group, they tend to release their frameworks.

3. I would be shocked if Apple rejected apps for "duplicating" iWork. In the past, their duplication rejections have focused on Mail, Phone, and iPod, which they seem to see as core features of the phone. Trying to protect iWork would be shooting themselves in the developer relations foot.

Contrary to what you're saying, I actually think Scrivener would be a wonderful fit on the iPad if you could port it. It's metaphorically rich in a lot of the right ways to make a good iPad app. But I do realize that it would not be a straightforward port. I still hope you can do it someday, though; it would be a wonderful addition to the platform.

11:08 am  
Blogger kayembi said...

menthecream - Thank you for your mature contribution to the discussion and your interesting use of multiple exclamation marks. And by the way, I think you mean "then", not "than" - I guess you're not a Scrivener user. :P

Brent - Thanks for the clarifications, and for your feedback, much appreciated.

11:50 am  
Blogger Gwen said...

I have every intention of using the iPad as a portable writing platform, but then I've also used my iPhone as a portable writing platform, not just to take notes on. For me, it's all about the freedom to go wherever I want to write. If the iPad's screen keyboard works for me, that'll be great. If not, and I end up requiring a table to use the clunky looking keyboard dock, then it'll be less useful.

That said, while I disagree that the iPad isn't a viable device for content creation, I completely understand your stance as a developer. Many of my friends have also lamented the use of the iPhone OS instead of Mac OS, and I see where you're coming from.

I continue to rave about Scrivener to anybody who'll listen, and I look forward to version 2.0, which I'll use on my trusty 17" MacBook Pro.

Text can be written anywhere. For me, the brilliance of Scrivener is its organisational and editing tools.


11:51 am  
Blogger kayembi said...

Hi Gwen -

"Text can be written anywhere. For me, the brilliance of Scrivener is its organisational and editing tools."

I think you hit the nail on the head there, in that although Scrivener is a writing tool it doesn't mean you'll do all your writing in it to begin with. In fact, I should probably modify what I said about the iPad as a writing platform. I'm sure the iPad will be just as good for the act of writing itself as any other platform with a keyboard (lots of people love Alpha Smarts for instance). What remains to be seen is how a large-scale organisational tool such as Scrivener could fit on such a platform without losing its key functionality and purpose.

Thanks for the comment!
All the best,

11:58 am  
Blogger dougsmith said...

Re.: "What remains to be seen is how a large-scale organisational tool such as Scrivener could fit on such a platform without losing its key functionality and purpose."

You're right to expect that Scrivener for the iPad doesn't make much sense, but that's only for anything like the full version.

I think the way to go is to imagine how it'd likely be used: for short bursts of writing when away from the main computer. In that case what's really needed is a simple writing program, one without many bells and whistles, but that interfaces easily with one's home document.

I'd be willing to pay a little cash to have a simple program that would allow me, at the beginning of a short vacation or a trip out to the café, to decide, "I think I'll work on this section", and then interface with Scrivener on the iPad, do my writing, and come back to my home computer and have the results interface easily.

You will say that that can easily be done with another writing program, and you're right. But if the Scrivener option were relatively cheap (as I expect it would be) and interfaced easily, I'd buy it.

So I'd think small, feature poor but well-integrated rather than feature rich and time consuming to code.


12:52 pm  
Blogger mikebeato said...

Scrivener is superb on the Mac OS. Although it would be great on an iPad-sized device, I totally understand your predicament.

I write all my blog posts and consulting reports in Scrivener ( and find it has the perfect combination of note-taking, research, and writing tools. Keep up the great work on the Mac platform.

-Mike Beato

12:55 pm  
Blogger DE said...

Excellent, if strange article. I am not a Mac user so this was a bit like looking into an alien world.

I don't understand how a Mac believer could not want the app store. That is akin to a Playstation owner not wanting to buy games. Apple is a set of closed platforms. Yes?

Obviously you want to continue developing on a platform that you like, but you must surely get a little tired of waiting patiently for the next offering to drop from the gods in Cupertino?

The iPad looks like a very nice consumer device. It isn't a computer. And a content creation application clearly does not belong to that eco system. I have a television, but I can't broadcast myself - I know that.

Eventually, Jobs (or his annointed successor) will just focus on the consumer side devices. But as long as you are familiar with linux, there are plenty of exit strategies. And that may be sometime in the the future.

1:02 pm  
Blogger skycaptain said...

You might find this book relevant:

A Better Pencil: Readers, Writers, and the Digital Revolution, by Dennis Baron

I was struck by Baron's take on the lowly pencil; that its impact on writing was not unlike that of the laptop computer. Suddenly, it became easy to make the implements of writing mobile. You didn't have to lug around ink, keeping it moist (and sometimes, making it yourself), pounce, a blotter, numerous quills (which you might have plucked yourself), and quill-sharpening tools. All you needed to do was stash the thing behind your ear.

The fact that Steve Jobs demonstrated the iPad whilst sitting on a couch is instructive. He was implying mobility and form factor is an important feature of the iPad.

Years ago, I replaced my desktop machine with a MacBook Pro, but it's still desk-bound, being connected to a 27" Cinema display. It's my MacBook Air that's my portable machine. It's the Air that's my main writing machine -- I wrote this year's NaNoWriMo on it. But while I can stash it in my backpack and bicycle off somewhere to use it, it's still a little awkward on the couch at home. It's the attached screen that must be open, and only folds back about 100 degrees that makes it a little unwieldy for a casual evening at home.

I'll definitely get an iPad, and I'll definitely try it out as a writing machine, but I anticipate my main use of it will be exactly what you described: checking IMDB, updating my Facebook page, updating a website, or maybe even a blog, checking email, reading the huge backlog of articles I've clipped from the internet -- things I can now do with my iPhone. But while my mind is open, I don't anticipate I'll use the iPad for serious, creative writing. (I also have a Kindle, so I don't know how well it'll measure up there either.)

Serious writing, as opposed to making grocery lists, streams of consciousness, and juxtaposition of incongruity humor (and puns), actually benefits from a NON-casual environment; from being a bit UN-comfortable. And, for the type of writing I do, which usually involves having a film running simultaneously, and possibly other applications like Garageband, the iPad with its iPhone OS, simply won't serve.

So: I join the others in confirming your decision not to port Scrivener to the iPad. I don't think I will use the iPad for non-casual writing. For me, the MacBooks are my writing machines.

And yeah: I'm also looking forward to Scrivener 2.0. And -- this'll probably piss someone off -- I'd gladly pay an update fee.

1:14 pm  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

I guess a big issue here is the iPad uses Apple's home-made A4 chip, mainly (I think) for it's ultra-low power consumption. Is that chip able to run MacOS?

1:21 pm  
Blogger kayembi said...

Thanks for the reply, DE. Sadly OS X is a very different platform to Linux, even though they are both Unix-like systems; otherwise there would already be a Linux version of Scrivener.

As for a Mac believer (I’m not sure I’d go so far as to call myself a “believer” :) ) not wanting the App Store, I wouldn’t go that far. I think the App Store is great, and it certainly makes sense for a phone OS. My only problem with it is that it’s the *only* place you can sell your application, so if Apple reject it you’re in trouble. And although Brent is absolutely right in that it is highly unlikely they would reject Scrivener for being a writing app like pages (I hope he’s right anyway), they do reject apps for often strange things - for instance, disagreeing with an icon, for finding a way to add rich text that they do not think should be allowed. If all of the reasons you could have an app rejected were documented upfront, then I’ve heard enough scare stories to make me at least concerned. In terms of a Playstation comparison, it would be like Sony saying that the only place you can buy games is from a special Sony store, and that they’ll only stock the games they agree with. If the App Store existed as-is on the iPad but developers could also sell applications for download and installation outside of that framework, I’d feel a lot better about it. But it has certainly worked well for a huge number of developers out there, so what do I know? :)

All the best,

1:22 pm  
Blogger t.a. said...

wow. all i'll say is the iPad is not meant to be a heavy-duty input device; it's meant to be a consumption device. you want to write? get a MacBook - like i did. i'll be getting an iPad, too, but i don't want it for using Scrivener or updating webpages - i want it to read books, magazines, web research. i want to get away from my desk to just read, and the iPad will let me do that.

i find it strange that people are angry that Jobs & Apple did not make the device they wanted, the way they wanted it. (it's really strange how few people understand what a dog Flash is & that its absence from iPad/iPhone is a good thing, pushing us toward a much better html world.)

i love Scrivener, can't wait for 2.0, and have no desire to ask for an iPad version. stick to what you're doing: making one of the best Mac OS apps around.

2:40 pm  
Blogger DE said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:11 pm  
Blogger Miguel said...

Regarding external keyboards and the iPad, it might be very flexible. The Bluetooth API has been opened so you can use Apple's existing Bluetooth keyboard (not just the one with the dock that they announced). You might be able to use portable, compact Bluetooth keyboards as well but that's yet to be confirmed.

In either or both cases, the user might be able to put the iPad in portrait or landscape mode. I'm convinced the accessory cottage industries will have a number of lightweight and compact iPad supports available which will handle both orientations.

Even the announced Apple case is nice in meetings for typing with an external keyboard as the profile is much lower than a laptop, thus less rude. All of this is yet to be confirmed but I can at least see the potential.

3:36 pm  
Blogger Nate said...

Ready and willing to buy Scrivener 2.0 While I had plenty of reasons for going Mac Scrivener was the first program I paid actual money for after I got my first MacBook.

I think your "wait and see" attitude towards the iPad is healthy. What we saw on stage was very much a "version 1.0": lots of good ideas that don't really feel complete yet. much like the iPhone (and for that matter the iPod Touch), I think we'll find that the second generation of iPad will be a much more complete device. Until then there's no reason to consider the jump.

3:40 pm  
Blogger kayembi said...

Thanks for all the comments.

Miguel, you have a good point about it seeming less rude in meetings. The comments here have certainly made me rethink my statements about the iPad not being a writing device - I'm pretty sure I'll be proved wrong very quickly on that one. Whether it will prove as useful for full editing and structuring tasks such as Scrivener was built for is a different matter. One user on the forums made the good point that it might be a great device for taking your manuscript to for light editing, though - an export from the Draft folder so you could read the whole thing in a different environment before sync'ing it back. All pie in the sky but I'm trying to take it all on board for proper consideration in the future.


3:53 pm  
Blogger Blackeagle said...

Now that I think about it, in addition to some sort of notetaking integration, one other possibility for integrating with iPad software might be some provision for outputting Scrivener text in a format that can be read by iPad e-reader software (either Apple's or a third party app). This might be good for reading over your own text or distributing draft copies to others for their opinion. Even better would be some way to take whatever annotation format the e-reader software uses and bring those notes back into Scrivener, allowing you to note areas or get feedback.

4:29 pm  
Blogger Dabble and the Mad Sow said...

Hey, I made the change to Mac just for Scrivener and am just now beginning to explore its richness and fantastic series of tools. Will be interested in the update.
There are many things to do text entry on the fly - I wrote my first novels on a Dana by Alphasmart, which I still use as it has the unbelievable benefit of having no distractions to take me away from my flighty muse. A pen and paper also helps, and the editing I do from each of these platforms as I transfer to another program is part of the process.
Looks like the ipad (which makes me think of monthly events, sorry) is like a glorified IPOD, and I think I'll wait on it all.

4:32 pm  
Blogger kayembi said...

One thing I should mention is that Scrivener 2.0 will export to the .epub e-book format, which is what iBook uses. So as long as Apple allow a way of importing any e-book file - and not only the ones available to purchase via iBooks - then you will at least be able to export your draft to read in iBooks on the iPad. Of course, that won't allow for annotations, unless iBooks allows such things. But I think there is definitely something to be said for using such a device for reading over - and possibly making notes on - a draft.


4:42 pm  
Blogger mcmac51 said...

Very well written and very well thought out. It's good to have a dev's POV. That being said, as an end user myself I am looking forward to the ipad.

PS- this was written on an iPhone. :)

4:45 pm  
Blogger Joseph Moore said...

1. As a one-man-band "micro" developer, you really can't expect to support more than one app (regardless of platform) at the level you've allowed your happy customers to expect. If you desire to expand into other platforms, or other apps, you're realistically looking at adding developers regardless of the device.

2. While I agree with your ascertations of the market that Apple is going after with the device, I completely disagree with the belief that the iPad won't make a good content creation device. Many people (developers and end-users alike) are going to find wonderfully creative uses for this tool.

3. All of the reasons you list as to why the Scrivener experience wouldn't be good on the limited screen real estate of the iPad are equally true of a netbook. That's the beauty of the iPhone OS on this device, it's the conduit to an interface that *does* work outside of a large screen.

4. I think that, justifiably, you aren't thinking laterally enough when it comes to just what a Scrivener adjunct on the iPad could be. Take a look at one of many, many "outside the box" ideas that are starting to crop-up for content creators. This is for video editing, but you get the idea:

5. Looking forward to version 2.0. I'd rather have one good Mac app, than a bucket of half-rate iPhone apps. Keep-up the great work.

4:58 pm  
Blogger celticursa said...

Keith, am I missing something....WR for iPhone via provides for reading and editing Scriv docs. Presumably this will also be true for WR for iPad.

5:16 pm  
Blogger kayembi said...

celticursa - No, you're not missing anything. WriteRoom should work on the iPad, too, and I'm sure Jesse will develop a version dedicated to the iPad at some point, so that will continue to be a great way of going about writing on a mobile device and then bringing your text back into Scrivener.

5:23 pm  
Blogger chillyspoon said...

Fantastic piece.

8:17 pm  
Blogger brett said...

Keith, er, kayembi wrote:

I was actually thinking about the carrying case/iPad stand that Apple is showing among the accessories, which I'm sure to buy if I get an iPad. It elevates the iPad, and, yes, I'm usually carrying a briefcase or backpack of some sort that generally contains books that could be used to raise it still higher. I also have a little wire folding bookstand I got when I was a schoolkid that weighs about two ounces, cost about $5, and makes a perfect vertical, air-circulating holder for my MBA when I'm using my external display -- no need to buy a $50 dedicated MacBook desk stand. It would boost a vertical iPad much higher than a laptop screen, though still not to ideal ergonomic height. But it takes up practically no space and weighs virtually nothing.

I also do more than a little work in hotel rooms, when I'm traveling to cover concerts and such, and in that situation, it's easy to find books or other items to elevate the iPad. Some hotel desks even have shelves at the back that it could rest upon while you have the little bluetooth keyboard on the desk itself. I've actually done this with the external keyboard and the Air and it's made a real difference. (I once had to have ultrasound treatment for a serious case of laptop neck, so it's a real issue for me.)

At home, I often just use the MacBook Air on a couch or recliner -- mostly for reading and email, rather than writing stories or books. If I get an iPad, I envision using it with that prop-up case with my laptop desk, much as I do with my Air now. Steve J looked all comfy balancing it on his thigh, too. I doubt I'd do much Scrivening in that position though -- I'd use the iPad at a desk with my external display for serious writing.

Keith continued:

Exactly, as I noted in a post on the Scrivener forums. If we're just talking about linear writing, WriteRoom + simpletext is fine: write your note, import into Scrivener later. (You might also check out SimpleNote -- it now syncs with NOtational Velocity.) I do that now. But how to handle Scrivener's structural views -- that's a challenge, as is the fact that the online sync sites I know about (simpletext and simplenote) handle only text files, not rtf.

Nevertheless, it might occasionally be handy to be able to get access to my Scrivener docs -- stored in the cloud on one of these sync sites or a dedicated Scrivener site -- via iPhone or iPad, even if I can only edit one at a time. But for me, not such a major benefit as to be worth impeding Scrivener 2 development on the Mac.

9:16 pm  
Blogger brett said...

oops, sorry, in my previous post, I tried to paste in kayembi's comments above my replies to them, but somehow they didn't stick. I'll try again here, but if they don't appear, just look at his original reply to my post above.
brett - I'm not sure I agree about the iPad being better for "laptop neck". You *could* separate out the keyboard and iPad, but only if you place a big box on your desk on which to rest the iPad stand. But you're not going to carry such a box around with you, and are you really going to use an iPad at your desk at home?

Also, it may turn out well for typing and actual *writing*, but what about all of the other data manipulation that Scrivener does? I designed Scrivener because traditional linear word processors didn't work for me. I think the iPad may be ideal for that linear writing process, but I'm not convinced about using it for manipulating hundreds of sections of a long text document such as in Scrivener.

10:46 AM

9:31 pm  
Blogger Professor Pan said...

First, thanks for sharing your thoughts so eloquently and honestly. I LOVE your application and it really made writing my book easier and a lot more enjoyable.

Now my response. First, I think everyone should read this very incisive article about the iPad:

Please. Seriously. I never read anything by the writer until this afternoon, but I've been pasting that URL into emails and blog comments all day long. He NAILS it.

First, the iPad is most most definitely a content creation device. I am blown away by the iPhone OS developer community and the ways they have overcome what some see as the simplistic/restrictive (as compared to OS X) operating system. I'm doing nearly everything I currently do on my much beloved MacBook Pro, but with greater simplicity with nary a crash. Sure, I'm not designing websites or intensive Photoshopping, but I am updating my Wordpress blog and manipulating photo to make them look a lot nicer.

After all, the sonnet is a pretty closed, restricted format, but Will Shakespeare did a pretty good job creating content within its confines :-)

My point being: writing is about putting one word in front of another. That's really it. The rest is nice, and I'm a big fan of Scrivener's bells and whistles, but writing is a very simple process.

Now imagine... taking a good, hard, honest look at Scrivener OS X and imagining how it could be something similar, yet different. Maybe even -- dare I say it -- better?

I opened up my Scrivener and imagined it slimmed down, simplified, but still working with the same elements -- corkboard, notes, tags, etc. etc. etc. And I realized that is exactly what I would want to use.

The external keyboard will be a necessity, of course, but there will be a wealth of them, thin, portable, easy on the fingers. I don't see that as a deal-breaker or a crutch.

I do understand the points about the costs of development, Apple's problematic approval process, etc. However, let's assume iPads sell like hotcakes. I will have one by gen. 2 for sure. As much of my computing has shifted to my iPhone, much more will shift to the iPad. I will want to write on the thing, especially if I'm traveling. I will want to use Scrivener for iPad. Most importantly I will PAY for it to exist. I suspect many current users would even be willing to pony up some cash to support the development. If the iPad is a dramatic success, and you want to keep your superb application alive and kicking, you might start thinking about finding investors (perhaps some of the bestselling authors who use it would donate a little venture capital).

Ask yourself this: if, as many people have stated, Scrivener is *the* app for writers, don't you want to be *the* app for writers on the iPad?

It's a challenge, but challenges are inevitable. See how the sales of iPad are going, and adjust your goals accordingly. But I really enjoyed my daydream about a touch-based, slimmed-down (but full of nice features) version of your excellent software. I hope it happens.

10:02 pm  
Blogger kayembi said...


Many thanks for your comments

Actually I think you’ll find that I linked to that very article about the iPad and future shock right at the start of my post, as I thought it was a good article too (I actually said in my post that I thought it hit the nail on the head).

I also agree that writing, in terms of one-word-in-front-of-the-other, is indeed a simple process - as I said in some of my responses above, my points about the iPad not being a suitable writing device will most likely be proved wrong very quickly. But I built Scrivener for something else, too - had I just wanted a tool with which to write, one word in front of another, then I could just have carried on using Word or any other linear word processor.

And I dare to respond - I don’t think anything about scaling Scrivener down to the iPad would make it *better*. :) Not at all. Different, yes, but not better. Not objectively, anyway. Subjectively, you may think that such a tool is better (for your own purposes), but I would not. The things I love about Scrivener are the binder, the outliner, the ability to get an overview of a lot of documents on screen at the same time, the split screen, the inspector with an index card alongside the text, and so on - all things which would need to be rethought and done differently on a touch device. If you really start thinking about how to have a touch interface with tags and notes alongside index cards and some way of drilling into the deep structure and being able to see the whole, you’ll soon find it harder and harder to imagine such an interface. The practicalities aren’t just resources - I designed Scrivener to have the interface I wanted for a writing application. And it is that very interface that would have to go to fit on an iPad.

In terms of what I want, the main thing I want is to be able to use Scrivener myself (and to have time to do that!), and to continue developing it to do the things I want. If I was worried about making it *the* app on all platforms, then the Windows port would have happened long ago. I certainly don’t want to get to the stage where I’m answering to investors - I’m too much of a control freak for that!

Many thanks for the kind words, much appreciated.

All the best,

10:28 pm  
Blogger Kiyote said...

from one of the mac users who bought a macbook because i wanted to use scrivener...

i am disappointed that apple is releasing the iPad without the mac osx. i am a convert and wanted something that i could do small bits of my "review of writing" with scrivener and a good reader for ebooks/blogs.

thanks for the post.

i have been waiting for a "real" mac tablet and the iPad just isn't it.

1:25 am  
Blogger rastel said...

Thanks for this article!

I am another one of those who thought instantly about a Scrivener version for the iPad during Steve's keynote. Here is why:

I'm a biologist and I use Scrivener (I'm loving it, by the way!) to write my PhD thesis, my research papers, grant applications etc. For that I’m using my MacBook which is most of the time connected to an external keyboard and mouse, display and external hard drives, both in the office and at home.

When starting a new chapter or manuscript I use Scrivener's corkboard view to jot down notes, rearrange the outline of the text and so on. I'm often tempted to take my MacBook, go to a café, the balcony or outside and do that “thinking process” there, rather than at my desk, where I then do the actual writing. But most of the time I can't be bothered to disconnect all the peripherals for just an hour or so.

For these situations a “light” iPad version of Scrivener would be ideal, in my opinion. It doesn't need to have all the great features of the Mac version, since as you say, most people might do the actual writing at their desks anyway. But for structuring a manuscript anywhere you want the iPad is ideal. I can’t count the occasions when I had to run downstairs into my study because it finally occurred to me how I should structure my manuscript, while watching TV, preparing food and so on.

On planes and trains a mobile version for the iPad would also be very helpful. Maybe it's just me, but I find working on a laptop on planes and trains quite inconvenient, at least in economy class.

I get your points about the problems for indy developers and the rewriting of a complex piece of Mac software for the iPad. But in my view an iPad version doesn't need to be a 1:1 copy of the Mac version. It should focus on the strengths and possible fields of application of the iPad and in doing so, I think it can do some things better, than the Mac versions. I agree with Steve that something like the iPad only makes sense, if it can do some things better than an iPhone or a MacBook. Same is true for software, I think. If the majority of Scrivener users write on a MacBook anyway, than there is no point in spending a lot of time and money on a full feature version for the iPad. But things might be different for the thinking process before the actual writing starts. On the go, an iPad version might do that better, than the Mac version.

Just another view of an enduser, who is loving Scrivener and is very much looking forward to version 2.0 :-)

1:42 pm  
Blogger Rory said...

My take on the iPad, enthusiastic as it was, was nothing to my wife's response.
Normally blasé about tech toys, she expressed a desire to get one. Whoa!
Now, she's not a power user (I am), more a casual surfer/emailer but often writer on computers.
Where I saw another toy, she saw something really useful, something she could use that "hid" the nerdy stuff away and simply did something she liked with.
No doubt, when she gets one, she'll write on it.
To her, this is the perfect tool. Pull up a writing app and write away. No worry about backing up to a server (something I encouraged her to do) or even opening and closing properly. Just press the icon, write, press the close button.
I think the point about re-creating Scrivener is slightly off the mark. I work in Scrivener for hours at a time. I have five books going (one done (yeah!), one in final edits (yeah again) and three in progress (one, a sequel, half done, the second just beginning, a third in the drawer until I have time). I want/need what Scrivener offers.
My wife works on one project at a time and would like the tech side of computers to vanish. In the iPad she sees an iPhone-like interface with room to read and type.
But, she's not about to abandon a full-blown writing system.
It's just she would rather, for the most part, work simpler.
So, seeing this, my suggestion is that a complementary app be developed (not Scrivener Lite or Scrivener redone) which produces files easily imported into the right folder/text section.
This needs three things:
1. a means for Scrivener to "export" some text to the iPad app.
2. a means to "import" and sync that text (modified in the iPad app) into the correct place (maybe with an auto-snapshot of the existing, pre-edited, text).
3. a means to import totally new text and have Scrivener slot it in the right place.

Now, my take on the iPad. I belong to a writers' group. We read, comment/critique, learn.
That's where I would love to use something like the iPad because it's small and light and simple and I could leave my laptop at home.
My needs:
1. Have Scrivener export to the app.
2. Have the app show the project in a reading mode (easy scroll, easy find, with editing).
3. Import (sync) my project back to my laptop.
I don't care that most of the features Scrivener have are missing; I'm just reading text. Simple edits are enough.
Part 2 of my liking the iPad is that I can show my writing to anyone, as an ebook. My iPhone does that now, but the extra screen size would increase the wow factor greatly.

I hope this helps.
If it doesn't, crack open a Guinness, listen to the widget, relax.

7:56 pm  
Blogger Cap'n Morgan said...

Well put, if in a round-about sort of way at times. It makes complete sense that as a 2-man operation splitting off a new app would be extremely difficult, and that it would be hard to do Scrivener justice in a simpler iPhone OS environment.

That being said...


I, like most here I'm sure, do my writing on my laptop, but there are a lot of times where it's completely non-convenient to have it around in the places I do most of my brainstorming (in the car, at the bar, in the car on the way to the bar, etc) and so it makes it very difficult to capture ideas as they come.

Absolutely I could just make a note and pull it in when I get home, but half the time I'm not quite sure if it's conflicting with something already in the outline. I have a little Eeepc I could use for writing, and ostensibly bought just for that purpose, but again, all my reference info is back on the MBP (and there's no *nix port).

I've been debating the iPad like most here, and the pros and cons of waiting a gen on it for the inevitable fixes that happen with all new Apple products, and I realized the one app that would knock me into the "yes" category without much hesitation would be a Scrivener port.

Jotting down ideas, or adding some pages would be more convenient, access to notes and outlines instant.

Would I want to do major editing on it? No. I just want to be able to see what I've done and add words and sync them into the document easily.

Of course I also want a pony and a choo-choo, and probably won't get either of them.

So, back to my first statement, I completely understand why I won't have the above available on iPad launch day; but I am also an end-user and therefore slightly greedy and self-absorbed, and so I want them anyway. And a pony. And a choo-choo. And an Oompa-Loompa. Now.

Or when you can get around to it...

A few other random notes:

-From what I understand the SDK for the iPad contains many things that are going to be iPad-only, despite being built on the same base as the iPhone/Touch. I don't know if any of these will help overcome the framework problems you mentioned, but they might be worth looking into. They have as much as said they expect iPad development to go in a somewhat different direction than the phone, and that while 99% of the iPhone software will run on the iPad, iPad software will not be required to work on a phone.

-A good writing app (such as Scrivener for iPad) would bring more users to the desktop version.

-That being said, an iPad version wouldn't have to be able to work on its own. It could require the desktop version and just sync across. Make the desktop software do the real work, make the iPad a sort of remote workspace.

-I would pay good money for a way to use Scrivener outside of my laptop. It's small-ish, it's thin-ish, it's heavy, it's fragile.

-I would also just pay the $10 for Pages if there was a good way of moving my story and outlines back and forth from Scrivener.


In short: Totally understand, totally don't care. I want the best of both worlds. But I won't hate you if I can't have them, so... carry on.

9:26 pm  
Blogger kayembi said...

"Well put, if in a round-about sort of way at times."

Yes, well, it's a blog post, not an article intended for publication - with other things (and new baby) I didn't really have time to make it short.

As an end-user, I think it's easy to forget that "just something simple that syncs with the main version and slots everything in place" is not easy at all - it's a mammoth task, requiring the design and implementation of a brand new application and work in the existing one to work with it.

There's another problem, too. Although I'm still downloading the SDK at the moment, two developers have now told me that the new SDK still does not support rich text editing (not out of the box at least). To display rich text, the iPad SDK has two options: the WebKit and CoreText. The WebKit is what Pages' text system was built on, I am told, but as I've said, I also know someone whose app was refused for using the WebKit to allow editable rich text. CoreText is I think what Apple intend people to use for this, but unfortunately CoreText is what you use to _create_ a text system - it is not a text system in itself.

In other words (although I have to confirm this myself), I would have to write my own rich text system to have editable rich text on the iPad. That's a bit ordering a cabinet from Ikea and receiving a tree. (Not exactly, but you get the idea.) Imagine how much code would be involved in laying out text, drawing the insertion point, calculating selections, handling double-clicks, working out line spacing, adding bullets - even simple stuff such as adding the ability to edit italics, bold etc. I use Apple's pre-build rich text system in Scrivener - it is that sort of pre-build stuff in the Cocoa frameworks that allows complex applications such as Scrivener to be created and maintained by one-man development teams. So if a proper text system is still missing from the iPad, then the applications capable of editing rich text will be ones with whole teams behind them.

I know what you're thinking - well, it doesn't need rich text, because it can just be simple. Which would be fine if you didn't want it to sync with the Mac version of Scrivener, with *is* rich text. Imagine you take a long document out of Scrivener which has footnotes and annotations (rich text - and 2.0's new implementation still has to rely on rich text, as footnotes require it), italics, bold, underline. Maybe you've indented some paragraphs as block quotes. But you take it to the iPad version, which is plain text only, and all this formatting is gone, and will be lost when you re-import it into Scrivener.

The introduction of CoreText is interesting, though. I hope it signifies Apple's intent to build a rich text system on the iPad that will be accessible to third-party developers - maybe we'll see such a thing in future generations of the iPad.

I hope that wasn't too "round-about". :)

9:27 am  
Blogger Winni said...

The days of Mac OS X, as we know it, are soon to be over. We will soon see a next generation of iMacs with multi-touch screens, and I am convinced that the next version of Mac OS X will have its own AppStore. In the first incarnation, it will be an option, but in the following releases it will the -only- option.
Steve Jobs never liked open platforms or even extendible computers, that is a rather well known fact. There will still be a developer version of Mac OS X, but the retail version will eventually become a strictly closed platform just like iPhone OS.

About developing for Windows: There are plenty of free development tools available for Windows as well, beginning with the official Windows SDK from Microsoft and the Visual Studio Express Editions over to a myriad of open source tools and a broad choice of programming languages. Apple only fully supports Objective-C and their own Xcode environment, end of story. I know that there is a lot of love within the Apple community for both, but personally, I never got to like either one.
Also, I doubt that Apple ever really fostered their developer community - to them, developers are a necessary evil and an unwanted competition to their own products. Apple never played well with others, and they never will. This is the thing that's "in their DNA" - and not their unwillingness to create and produce a cheap computer for "the rest of us". They don't produce netbooks because there won't be enough margin for their tastes - not because netbooks "suck", as Steve Jobs said.
The iPad represents the computer that Steve Jobs always wanted: A closed gadget that can only be fueled with content provided exclusively from Apple.
And that makes it the one machine that I will never purchase. And it also marks the point where I will switch away from my Mac Pro to an open platform.

1:15 pm  
Blogger HarveyNick said...


"Apple is a set of closed platforms. Yes?"

No. The Mac is as fully fledged computer platform as either windows or Linux. In many ways it's superior, and one thing I've come to learn in the couple of years since I switched is that the software ecosystem is a lot healthier.

But I digress...

I think Scrivener could be incredibly useful on the iPad, not in a striped down form but in a reconfigured one. It could be pretty handy for a kind of "I'll just pull out my iPad and do a bit of work on the structure of my story" type situation, while also giving you options to do a bit of quick editing or work on your notes. Especially if it could sync back to your main PC.

6:00 pm  
Blogger kayembi said...


"I think Scrivener could be incredibly useful on the iPad, not in a striped down form but in a reconfigured one."

I'll have it done by the end of the weekend! :) Seriously, rewriting the whole of Scrivener on the iPad in a reconfigured form (not to mention, as mentioned above, how I'd have to create my own rich text system and start over on the iPhone OS) - we'll all be using Pranav Mistry's SixthSense device by the time I'd finished something like that, and I'd have users telling me how cool it would be if they could project Scrivener onto a wall. :) (Actually Scrivener *would* be cool on SixthSense - just pull out a Moleskine and, clip your SixthSense to it, write away and have your scrawlings sync'ed to Scrivener - now that I would like!)

6:13 pm  
Blogger Rory said...

I'm not suggesting that you drop everything and frantically code up an iPad app.
What I am suggesting is that, if one is created, that she would buy it and I would get stuck with the iPad bill (for her).

7:57 pm  
Blogger kayembi said...

So for now I'm saving you $500! ;)

8:06 pm  
Blogger Rory said...

You got it!
(which means I can still afford my daily Guinness)

8:41 pm  
Blogger Cap'n Morgan said...

Oh, believe me, I know that "just something simple that syncs with the main version and slots everything in place" is REALLY hard. I have enough trouble with "Hello World."

With luck someone else will be facing the same problem, have better resources to overcome it (like time and a staff of more than 2), and release it to the development community.

In the meantime I'm sure we can find ways to carry on as we did before we got the iPad that we don't have yet.

And in case nobody has said it lately: Thank you for making Scrivener in the first place.

9:03 pm  
Blogger Watts said...

Heh. I'll admit I didn't think about Scrivener on the iPad at all -- until a few days ago when I started using the corkboard display as (presumably) intended, adding scenes and rearranging them, and immediately thought, "Huh. You know, I bet this would be fantastic on the iPad." I'm not sure if I'd been in a screen which didn't involve the metaphor of "little squares you are dragging and dropping to rearrange" that this would have struck me quite so hard. :)

I think an iPad-specific version of Scrivener could be pretty neat -- it's my honest feeling that the potential for the iPad as a creative tool is being severely underestimated by a lot of people right now. (Look at everything that's been done with the iPhone in that regard, after all, and consider how much more could be done on a device with a bigger screen, higher resolution and much faster processor.) But I also recognize that it's not just a matter of clicking a "compile to iPad" checkbox in XCode -- I'm more interested in Scrivener 2 for the Mac than I am in a hypothetical Scrivener Touch.

And, Scrivener knows OPML for importing, right? I can presumably muddle around with OmniOutliner on the iPad, eventually.

12:34 am  
Blogger Matt DeForrest said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:25 am  
Blogger Matt DeForrest said...

Let me begin with this: I love Scrivener and am looking forward to 2.0 -- paid upgrade or not.

One item to consider, in terms of development, is whether you will need a full port or not. When Apple created its iDisk App, I checked one of my Scrivener files on it. Once you drilled down into the file, you could read the text document that was in there.

If you can access the text portions of the files via iDisk, you may be able to focus on just making sure a Scrivener editor can add to the text portion of the file without causing problems. That would allow a user to edit and write while they are out and about then, once they return to their desktop, be able to continue with the full suite.

While not as ideal a solution as a full version of Scrivener on both devices, it could be enough to provide the functionality that would add value to the main product.

But then, because I don't code, all I have to do is throw out the idea and make it sounds simple.

I hope this helps.

3:27 am  
Blogger HarveyNick said...


Well, I wasn't suggesting you fill a tankard with espresso and gear up to knock the thing out in an all night coding session. My point was that an iPad version of scrivener might not have to be stripped down and lesser.

How open would you be to someone else creating a basic scrivener file viewer in the mean time?

9:44 am  
Blogger kayembi said...

Thanks for all the comments feedback. Cap'n Morgan and others - thanks for the kind words about Scrivener, too.

@HarveyNick: There wouldn't be much point in anyone attempting that right now given that what I'm working on right now is completely changing Scrivener 2.0's file format. After Scrivener 2.0 is out it will be a lot easier for third-party tools to read its format on any platform, as it will all be XML and RTF rather than use Apple's proprietary .plist format and RTFD. After 2.0 is out and the initial months of fixing the inevitable bugs that crop up (no matter how much testing is done beforehand), I'm thinking about making the new file format public at some stage. Of course, by that point I may have more time to think about the iPad myself, and will have an idea of how the whole iPad thing is going...

9:53 am  
Blogger Giano said...

Hi, I'm a Scrivener Registered User (I've bought it after 2 hours of trial... love at first sight) and I DO affirm that most of the love I give to Mac is passing by apps like yours. So, the iPad was disappointing. I own two "real" Mac Minis, I'm a hackintosh-netbook user too, because Apple doesn't offer (and the iPad will not cover the niche) a product small, affordable and flexible, even if not so powerfull. The problem on the iPad is that it's a big iPhone, not a little Macbook. My first thought when I saw the iPad and the dock ran to Scrivener, and, after that, I asked myself: how could I use Scrivener, the dictionary and Safari as "reference search" on iPad? no-way. So I will stick to my hacked netbook, and by by iPad.

10:07 am  
Blogger nobirth said...

I read the post and have not had time to read all of the comments. Still, when I first saw the iPad I thought it would be a horrible creation device. But I absolutely love the idea of using it as an editing device. Write your novel, article or whatever from home, then have the ability to casually read and make edits (even large ones) on the road. I guess I view editing as a pretty different experience from writing or reading.

In all likelihood, using Scrivener on my computer and then Pages for iPad on the road with an exported version of the document might be the best option.

9:09 pm  
Blogger SpirosD said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:54 am  
Blogger SpirosD said...

While Scrivener may not port fully to the iPad, I can definitely see an advanced notetaking application here.

An "editable outliner on the left with full text on the right" metaphor.

Probably lots of devs will release something like this (OmniOutliner?)

Whatever, it would be cool if you could work with these devs for import-export of .scriv files, at least keeping the writing structures intact (XML?)

11:57 am  
Blogger Billie said...

I'm using Scrivener for my current novel-in-progress and I love it, and yes, I was one of those who was initially interested in iPad support. The main reason: I have to admit, I deeply miss the days long gone when I had a mobile version of Word and my entire manuscript on my mobile device (a Sony Clie, believe it or not). I didn't need all the features of Word - I was just happy that I could add scenes, notes, whatever while waiting in line for takeout, as well as reviewing and sharing drafts on the go.

I'd really question whether the folks bugging you about it would actually want *all* the features of the full app on a mobile device (there's an all-too common perception that the mobile web/mobile software should be a shrunk-down version of their full-sized friends.)

I'm in full agreement with the other comments that suggest that what would ultimately be more useful in the iPad (or iPhone) market is a mobile "Scrivener companion" that allows people to do a subset of likely mobile tasks such as writing/reviewing research notes or scenes -- in a format that will be consumable by the desktop app, and without too many sync shenanigans. I think many of us loyal Scriv users (and Mac heads) would shell out extra for an add-on product like this, if you guys had the time/energy to build it.

11:26 pm  
Blogger Joao Vieira da Cunha said...

The two killer features of scrivener for me are the two-paned window and the corkboard. These on an iPad would satisfy all my writing needs :-)

Thanks for the thorough explanation which makes a lot of sense.

6:40 am  
Blogger dixonge said...

if iPad sales end up going the route of iPhones/iPod Touches many developers will *gladly* take the extra time to develop for it. Couldn't the potential volume of sales offset the extra effort? I realize that Scrivener is a bit of a niche product, but I can see it doing well on the iPad...

10:08 pm  
Blogger kayembi said...

I can't put extra effort into time I don't have. :) I'm not prepared to work 18 hour days and spend no time with my family just to develop for another platform - and that's seriously what it would take; coding Scrivener 2.0 for the Mac and supporting 1.x is already more than a full time job. Anyway, we're a long way off knowing whether the iPad will go the way of the iPhone - and I haven't developed for that platform either. I know it's sort of heresy, but even though this is now my career, money still isn't the main motivation behind Scrivener. I'm only interested in developing software I want myself, and I have yet to see if I want to develop for the iPad - I'll know when I use one myself, and remember that everyone asking for Scrivener for iPad hasn't used one yet either - and even then it depends on time and resources. So it's not about 'effort' - I put a tremendous effort into Scrivener, much more than any 9-5 job. Hope that makes sense.

10:47 pm  
Blogger dixonge said...

I guess I've always assumed that Scrivener was a side-project not a full-time job. Frankly I'm a bit surprised it sells enough to support you - excellent! And yeah, on that basis I can see that the iPad would be a major time-sink to add in. Which is sad for me, cuz I really like the exploring the idea of a touch-based Scrivener...dragging the little index cards around with my fingers...

1:09 pm  
Blogger kayembi said...

Not as surprised as I was. :) It did start off as a side-project, but it started paying more than my teaching salary and it became increasingly difficult to fit in support around my teaching hours, so I quit teaching two years ago. There's no way I could do both now, and certainly no way I could work on 2.0, provide support and teach. Scrivener is still small-fry, though - it pays the salaries of David and myself, but not enough for us to get someone else on board to work on, say, an iPad project (and David had to take a massive pay cut to come work with me, but fortunately it was something he wanted to do). But as I say, I rule nothing out. I'll be buying an iPad when they come out and weighing up our options. I've just started becoming more realistic since Scrivener 2.0 has taken a year longer than I thought it would to begin with. :)

1:41 pm  
Blogger Christopher Hopper said...

Well, that settles it. I will not be getting an iPad, but instead buying another $399 used iBook off eBay to run another license of Scrivener for mobile writing. I should think that your second highest compliment (after getting someone to switch to Apple) is getting someone to buy another computer just to use your this case, my fourth. All my novels and I thank you! ch:

10:32 am  
Blogger Cap'n Morgan said...

$299 refurbed from

I've been thinking about doing the exact same thing.

3:59 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think many users would benefit from something akin to LogMeIn Ignition. It's currently a $30 app (subscription to the service is available free or at a charge - paying gets you file sharing, which you can just use e-mail for) that allows you to remotely access your desktop computer anywhere you have an internet connection. As I will have an internet connection in one form or another on the go, it should work for me as soon as a version that will make full use of the iPad screen is released.

9:50 am  
Blogger Miguel said...

Logmein is great, I use it a lot. However, as a substitute for a local app, something text and editing intensive like Scrivener, I would never think of it as an option. Performance can vary a lot. And for those times when you don't have a connection, you're up the creek.

Nothing beats having the app locally.

The iPad is coming out next week so we'll soon see where the platform goes.

9:57 am  
Blogger Rev. Ralph H. Zwirn said...

I am here as a new Scrivener user thanks to the recommendations made by Andy Ihnatko on MacBreak Weekly. First and foremost, I am happy to have found this great program and can already see how much my many and varied writing projects are going to be aided by its many facets. It's interesting that the very first thought I had when I started working with Scrivener was, "I wonder if they are planning to bring this over to the iPad?" I subsequently found your blog posting and have read it and the many comments with great interest.

Bottom line: you have to go where your heart, your interest, and your energy lead you. For whatever it is worth, I am glad to have found Scrivener, I look forward to using it, and I would certainly find an iPad version extremely helpful, especially as I am finding the iPad in general to be far more useful than I had even believed it would be for me. However, for my purposes, the iPad version wouldn't do me a whole lot of good if too many of the great features that make Scrivener such a gem had to be scaled back or removed altogether. It is the seamless integration of those features and the grand way in which they are implemented that make Scrivener what it is. Anything less simply wouldn't be Scrivener anymore.

I have subscribed to your e-mail updates and will follow with great interest whether or not you decide to add the Scrivener to the iPad. Either way, you have won over a new and enthusiastic user!

3:42 am  
Blogger kayembi said...

Thanks for your kind words, and for your understanding - much appreciated. That's in large part how I feel, too - if the iPad version couldn't maintain the core features, then I wouldn't use it for much. Of course, being in the UK I'm still waiting for iPads to arrive here, so it will still be a while before I can see for myself how I feel about the iPad as a writing tool. We are still looking into it, though, and if we do have any news we'll most certainly put it out through our newsletter - thanks for signing up!

8:45 am  
Blogger Shawn Davis said...

I'm writing this on my iPad and hoping you might consider a hybrid solution.

The iPad for me is a quick way to do a bit of work when the moment strikes me and I'm not inclined to grab my MacBook and fire up Scrivener -- ie while sitting on the bed before going to sleep.

A scrivener app that allows a wifi or WebDAV sync of text minus all the bells and whistles would suit me fine.

9:35 pm  
Blogger dixonge said...

just found this quote on a coding blog:

"If you look at the most of the Apple’s productivity applications you’ll notice they all use bundles as their output format."

That sounds a lot like how Scrivener handles its documents, no?

It does seem like it would be a lot of work just to make a text editor that somehow shares files with the OS X version. File sharing is currently the iPad's weakness (although much of that is being handled by apps).

Having said all that, I do find myself browsing for writing apps in the store...

1:09 pm  
Blogger Miguel said...

Re Shawn Davis' webdav comment: I've been using OmniFocus on my iPod Touch for a while now and syncing works very nicely between my Mac and the Touch using a webdav server in between.

1:28 pm  
Blogger Richard Aleman said...

Thank you for this excellent post. As a pseudo-luddite (don't laugh) I do have a couple of questions. Is the netbook issue Apple's loss and another's gain? Assuming a company wished to create an iPad-size tablet, would it be technically possible or is that technology still years ahead?

I love the look and dimensions of the iPad but, as described, it would not serve my needs.

8:53 pm  
Blogger Blackeagle said...

"Assuming a company wished to create an iPad-size tablet, would it be technically possible or is that technology still years ahead?"

The hardware behind the iPad really isn't that special. It's mostly off the shelf components with a bit of customization. Where Apple really has the advantage is in it's industrial design and it's software, particularly the user interface. No other company seems to be able to execute as well as Apple on either of these fronts (no matter how much time you give them).

1:02 am  
Blogger The Writers Fancy said...

I have to tell you that I am a huge fan of Scrivener. When I first read this blog, I thought you were right.

Now that I have had an iPad for over a month I think you are very wrong. With a bluetooth keyboard it's perfect for writing.

Please give us an iPad app.

11:50 pm  
Blogger JS said...

As an AADD'ed fiction writer, I have to move around to write. My folding (Palm Pilot) Bluetooth keyboard and my iPad are PERFECT for my needs.

Please, please, continue to be open to at least a "Lite" iPad version that would allow me to keep my folders and research in place until I sync up at home.

Great product!!!

3:44 pm  
Blogger kayembi said...

I remain open-minded, and hope to say more about our plans in general early next month.

I have to say that for myself, I completely disagree with Writers Fancy though. I received my iPad last Friday (thanks to a very kind US user picking me one up and shipping it over). I love it - it's a really cool device - but after a honeymoon weekend it's now sitting around not doing much (actually, that's not quite true - I can't get it out of the hands of the kids). Sure, you can write on it okay with an external keyboard, and I can get a reasonable speed going on the software keyboard, but it just cannot beat my MacBook as a writing machine. So now that I own one and have had chance to use it, if anything I'm even less convinced of it as a writing device. As a browsing and gaming device though, it's wonderful. And as a cool piece of gadgetry, it's a beauty.

But of course, I understand that everyone is different. After all, I hate mobile phones so it's not like I'm down with the cool kids. :) I won't be developing an iPad version personally, though. There's no way the iPad could do what I want out of Scrivener. But as I say, look out for general news next month.


3:54 pm  
Blogger dixonge said...


I agree that the iPad is not yet a writing machine that can beat the MacBook, but IMHO there is only one thing preventing this transformation....

a Scrivener app!


I've read all your comments so I understand the difficulties here, but just because you yourself don't see it yet, please don't discount your users who DO see the iPad as a preferred writing environment. And please do some calculations regarding potential future users...

Looking forward to this announcement coming up - I am officially intrigued.

6:19 pm  
Blogger Austin said...

I'm writing this from an iPad in an apple store. This device is frankly fantastic. It does what it was designed to do with glamor. But it is not -not!- the device for Scrivener. If people are seriously asking for that, they are missing the point of having the awesomeness that is our beloved Scrivener. Peeps need to understand the concept of different mediums. Peace.

10:37 pm  
Blogger The Writers Fancy said...

How about if you get your buddy who does Write Room to upgrade it to iPad? That's a fair compromise

10:50 pm  
Blogger kayembi said...

Because he has his own business and own applications to worry about? Oh, and I think you mean "downgrade". :) Anyway, please leave it with us.

10:52 pm  
Blogger Ron Wodaski said...

As usual, your comments are very well reasoned. But in a few cases, it does come down to personal preference. For me, I really really want to edit my novels on my iPad.

I understand the limitations for an indie developer. So I have to ask: is there a way to put my scrivener files on my iPad, and edit them there in some other product, and then put them into my primary copy?

I keep hoping there is some imaginative solution that would allow us to do that. I need all the files so I can edit whatever I want (I would also settle for a way to download it from cloud storage - not ideal for editing on an airplane, but it would be something, at the least). Getting the edited material back into Scrivener is an obvious need.

That ability - edit any given scene any time - is really what I need to function. The iPad+keyboard is a much better option for me when doing extensive traveling.

I love Scrivener. I'm going through a kind of trauma wondering how I can improve my portable experience of writing...maybe I can't???

5:32 pm  
Blogger kayembi said...

I've been looking at the Simplenote API, and it's very straightforward, so I'm hoping to add some form of Simplenote integration. That way, you could take your notes with you in Simplenote on the iPad and sync between the two.

The trouble you will have with any solution, though, is formatting. If you've formatted the text in Scrivener for the Mac, all of that formatting will be lost when taking it to the iPad simply because there is no iPhone OS API for rich text editing. (Apple rolled their own for Pages and it's not available to devs; Office2 HD have managed it somehow, but they are multi-platform so maybe they rolled their own engine). So going between Scrivener and the iPad would lose bold, italics, underlines, footnotes and comments and other stuff no matter what.


5:54 pm  
Blogger dixonge said...

Ron mentioned something that I think might be the one key many are missing. For those of you who are thinking "why would anyone want to write on that silly iPad?" I believe a big factor is this:

battery life

Writing on my MacBook is limited to three hours (or less) in-between plug-ins. And even if you don't take a lot of long flights, let's not forget remote or secluded locations that might be inspirational for writing. Plus just leaving the cables behind is freeing. One iPad, one small BT keyboard, a few extra AA batteries = TEN HOURS of writing! (give or take a few minutes)

Surviving a 10-hour writing session, that's another story.

Interesting points on RTF - thought it was much more universal than that. *sigh*

oh well...

6:50 pm  
Blogger kayembi said...

Sadly not, and it doesn't look like a rich text editor is coming soon. This is probably the main sticking point. It's frustrating that Jobs made a big deal of how he gave the iPad to the iWork team just "to see what they could do", as though anyone would be able to knock something together like that. It raised user expectations of what they will be able to do (which is good) while making it supremely difficult for other developers to be able to match those expectations (which is not so good). So everyone is - naturally - going to be expecting other writing programs to come along soon with the same editing capabilities as Pages, but I think they are going to be disappointed. I could be wrong though - I do wonder how Office2 HD managed it.

6:56 pm  
Blogger Richard Aleman said...

Well you can now add me to the list of people who have purchased a Mac just for Scrivener! I will download the program after I wrap my head around OS (PC user for 20 years).

Can't wait to use it on my book about the Ditchling Guild...

5:17 pm  
Blogger kayembi said...

Hi Richard, thanks, much appreciated! Welcome to the world of Mac - I'm sure you won't regret it, it's a great platform. Drop me a line if you have any problems or queries with Scrivener.
All the best,

7:48 pm  
Blogger Oli said...

I realise that at this point most opinions have already been raised, so a lot of this will probably be rehashing things that have already been said by people that know a lot more than I do.

That having been said...

I have an iPad, it arrived on Thursday last week so I've had the best part of a weekend to put it through its paces and it took until now to get to scrivener.

I would love to see an iPad app that was able to undertake some of the functionality that scrivener provides. Some, but not all. And it does depend entirely on how you use your program. I'm sure there are absolutely users out there who are endlessly cataloguing photos/mp3s/videos to support their writing projects, and I'm also sure that they spend a lot of time organising the file structure to support that. That's not me.

I'm a writer in the very practical sense. My pockets are filled with scribbled notes on piles of post-its; my last notebook had so many added sheets of paper that it had to be held together with rubber bands. I want to be able to write things down when I think of them rather than wait for my desk. I also don't want a program that gets in the way, I want one that supports the way that I work.

I'm not interested in being able to add photos to an idea, I very rarely even use the corkboard. What I'm looking for is an electronic version of my notebook and that is where I for see the iPad becoming very useful. If I'm out on the train and decide that a paragraph has been germinating in my subconscious for long enough, I want to be able to get it out and saved, then be able to take in into my desktop version of scrivener. I don't need formatting, or rich text, I want a text editor that will link in with the desktop component.

I see scrivener as being able to fulfil that. I don't need a full version; I doubt that anyone is likely to see the ipad as a desktop replacement or would want to attempt to edit a novel on it. But they might want to use it as a satellite companion.

Until then, I'll be using notepad and copying them across.

11:56 am  
Blogger Miguel said...

I just got mine on Sat. I am very impressed by the device, the performance, battery life, display. I'm disappoinited at regular wifi connection dropouts I'm getting at one locale, and it is heavier than it should be. Both issues will be fixed, the first hopefully soon, and the second in future iterations.

I've toyed with some iPad versions of apps which are simply outstanding, for example Instapaper, Guardian Eyewitness, Apple's own Photos app. They really shine on the device. Regarding using the device to type up and deal with documents, well...... It's not ideal. For certain apps, including Apple's own Pages, Numbers, Keynote, you have to resort to either email or iTunes (!) to sync. The email is 1-way only, whereas the iTunes sync is 2-way (why do you have to go to iTunes to sync business documents?).

Anyway, to my point, at this stage I agree with kayembi that an iPad version with *elegant* syncing back and forth with the original documents on the Mac does appear to be a difficult proposition. That iTunes lies in the middle of the whole process is baffling.

Otherwise, for browsing and reading, the iPad really is outstanding. Great games, too.

1:40 pm  
Blogger The Writers Fancy said...

I bought an ipad app called The Writer's Nook. It's no Scrivener but you can write on an iPad, which is great by the way, and upload to Google Docs. That solves a bunch of problems.

The iPad deserves Scrivener and so do we.

1:48 am  
Blogger Oli said...

I've had another think. Having had this ipad for a couple of weeks now, I know what I want to use it for and how I want to use it. This is my ideal scenario:

1. I'm on my home computer, using scrivener. I save the .scriv file to Dropbox (or similar); this ensures that I can access the latest version of my files wherever I am, whichever computer I'm on and also reduces the risk of accidental loss.

2. I'm on the go. I have my ipad and 3G connection. I fire up my scrivener app and it links with my dropbox account. I have the latest version of the document I'm working on and can access and edit the text versions of the files. If I can view the media elements too, that's a bonus, but not essential.

3. I get to the office, open scrivener which updates with the latest version from Dropbox, and I can continue working on it.

And that's it.

In theory that's already possible. I can save the .scriv document to the server. It should be visible as a folder containing the rtf files. I can open those specific files in office2HD and edit the text. Then save to the same place. When I open the file at either end, it should already be up to date. But I don't want fiddly, I want easy.

But all of this is from an end user perspective and I don't know how easy it would be to do. What I do know is that it's what I guess I'd want and I'd pay for that.

5:12 pm  
Blogger kayembi said...

Not easy at all sadly - although Office2 HD allows rich text editing, other than Pages, that's the only app that does and I don't know how they did it - there's no API for rich text editing in iOS, so for the rest of us it's not really possible to add RTF editing. What I am putting into 2.0 - hopefully, depending on time, and if not then 2.1 - is Simplenote syncing. So you could edit or create documents in Simplenote and then sync or import them into your Scrivener project when back at a computer.

5:23 pm  
Blogger Brian Vallotton said...

I wanted to let you know I enjoyed your blog post and I have recently made the switch from pc to Mac mainly because of your program. I am waiting for my new Mac Book Pro to arrive any day now and the first thing I am going to do is buy your program. I look forward to your writing and being a part of the Scrivener community. --Brian Vallotton

3:35 pm  
Blogger kayembi said...

Hi Brian,

Many thanks for the kind words! Thanks for switching to a Mac especially - I hope you'll like the Mac as much as I do. I switched six years ago and haven't looked back. Be sure to sign up for the user forums, and drop me a line if you have any questions.
All the best,

4:21 pm  

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