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Scrivener 3 vs 2 – Features Comparison

Scrivener 3 was released by Literature and Latte on November 20th 2017.

Scrivener 3

The new version of Scrivener is a paid update, meaning owners of Scrivener 2 must decide whether to purchase version 3.

If you’re unsure of whether Scrivener 3 is worth your money, we’ve got you covered.

Read on to explore the key differences between Scrivener 2 and 3 and decide whether the newest version of Literature and Latte’s powerhouse writing app is the right choice for you.

Scrivener 3 vs 2 – Quick Comparison Table

To summarize the major differences between Scrivener 3 and Scrivener 2, we’ve created the following table for your convenience.

Scrivener 2Scrivener 3
Available for MacYesYes
Available for WindowsYesIn 2018
Compatible with Scrivener iOSYesYes
64 Bit CodedNoYes
Bookmarks FeatureNoYes
True Text StylesNoYes
Up To Date Export OptionsNoYes
Quick Search ModeNoYes
Linguistic Focus ModeNoYes
Scrivenings ModeOldImproved

Scrivener 3 vs 2 – Key Changes

New Interface

If you’ve used Scrivener 2 then you know the application looks a little dated visually. This is to be expected from an app which is seven years old. Scrivener 3 has updated the look and functionality of Scrivener to make it cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing to use.

Scrivener 3 vs 2 new interface

As you can see from the above image, the layout is similar to Scrivener 2, just with a more attractive, modern look.

Touch Bar Support

If you’re a Mac user of Scrivener with a newer machine, you will be pleased to know that Scrivener 3 fully supports the touch bar.

By using your touch bar with Scrivener 3, you can quickly and easily carry out formatting changes or switch between different functions in Scrivener.  

64-Bit Coded

One of the most important changes between Scrivener 3 and 2 is that version 3 offers full support for 64-bit computers. The code powering Scrivener has been redesigned from the ground up, meaning the new version is a lot quicker and more powerful than its predecessor.

If you are the type of writer who likes to make use of Scrivener’s more complex features, you are likely to enjoy a much smoother experience in Scrivener 3.


If you speak to anyone who finds Scrivener frustrating to use, they are likely to mention its complexity and less than intuitive features among their complaints.

Scrivener 3 has taken steps to address this issue, including simplifying the user experience by combining several modes into one.

Scrivener 2’s References, Project Notes and Favorites modes have been combined into a single feature known as Bookmarks. Bookmarks is a lot more powerful than the older modes. You can not only edit, search for, and link to your notes now, but you can also bookmark anything you want, and have it show up in a special menu.

Scrivener 3 vs 2 bookmarks

The above image shows how bookmarks appears within the Scrivener app. The characters and locations bookmark folders are included by default. You can remove them if you like.

If you’ve used the iOS version of Scrivener you may already be familiar with Bookmarks. If not, the bottom line is they offer a simpler and more powerful way of accessing the most important parts of your project.

Improved Corkboard

The corkboard mode in Scrivener is a fan favorite. It’s a great way of planning and researching your project in an easy to understand, visual way.

Scrivener 3 has taken the corkboard mode and made it even more powerful. For example, you can now combine colored labels with the corkboard overview to get a visual representation of important information about your project.

The above image is a simple representation of how colored labels can be used to quickly visualize aspects of your work. All of the cards with a certain color label appear along the colored line.

For example, you might use colored labels to keep track of the location a particular scene is set in. Let’s say you label a scene red if it’s set in a particular character’s home. If you entered corkboard mode, and saw many red cards, you’d instantly know that this location was used heavily, and would have a color coded representation of how commonly it was used in comparison with other locations.

Text Styles

Did you know that older versions of Scrivener never had true text styles capability?

A text style is just a defined way of presenting text in a certain way visually, such as Header 1, or block quote. This was left out of Scrivener in the past in order to retain customizability in the compile and format stages of the project creation process, but actually ended up causing a lot of problems.

Scrivener 3 allows you to choose your own text styles to use with your projects, and also comes with predefined text styles, such as H1 and H2. This has been designed in a way which works well when you come to compile and export your work, free from the errors and clashes that occurred in older versions of Scrivener.

Cleaner Compile Function

Literature and Latte have reported that many users have found the compile function to be too confusing and difficult to use in the past.

Scrivener 3 has taken serious steps to address the issues with compile and make it a lot more user friendly.

Scrivener 3 vs 2 compile

Unlike in older iterations of compile, Scrivener 3 makes the process straightforward by default. If you are working within a project template, there is no need to tweak anything at all before you compile, unless you want to. The project template defines the compilation process so you don’t have to.

The appearance of compile is also much cleaner and more intuitive than ever before. You can see a clear preview of how your compilation will look, and easily switch back and forth between predefined styles, as seen in the above image.

Export In Contemporary Formats

The export option found in Scrivener 2 did not make use of the best file formats available.

For example, if you export your work to .epub, Scrivener 2 exports to version 2 of the epub format, even though 3.1 is the latest version.

Also, the way that Scrivener exported Kindle books in the past caused problems with the Look Inside feature. Seeing as Look Inside is a key aspect of converting interest in your book to actual copies sold, this was no small matter.

Scrivener 3 has completely updated the way it exports your work. It now exports in the latest version of the epub format and also exports Kindle books in a way which means Look Inside works correctly. The exported files are much cleaner with a simple internal construction than ever before for better performance.

Quick Search

Literature and Latte recognized the importance of search in our everyday technology use and made sure improved search capabilities were a core part of Scrivener 3.

Scrivener 3 vs 2 quick search

As seen in the above image, Scrivener’s quick search bar stays at the top of the window, kind of like a URL bar in a web browser. It shows where you currently are in your project, but also allows you to quickly and easily search for any aspect of your project.

You can tell Scrivener to search in:

  • Your whole project
  • Title
  • Text
  • Notes
  • Synopsis
  • Keywords
  • Label
  • Status
  • Section Type

This advanced search functionality is a lifesaver when working with longer projects.

The search results displayed in quick search can be dragged and dropped directly from the search results screen into other areas of Scrivener. This is a huge timesaver and makes project organization more effective and efficient than ever before.

More Powerful Project Stats

The level of quantified data available about your writing project has always been a great reason to use Scrivener, and Scrivener 3 has taken this to the next level.

Some of the key pieces of information offered by Scrivener include:

  • Your total word count
  • The number of times you’ve used particular words
  • Your average sentence length
  • Number of pages in paperback format
  • The average time it would take to read your work

You can also use the stats feature of Scrivener 3 to monitor the history of a project you’ve worked on. This allows you to track:

  • Which days you’ve worked on a project
  • How many words you achieved each day
  • Your average daily word count over the course of a project

You can also use Scrivener 3’s project stats to plan out a daily word count. You can set a deadline for your project, specify the target word count, specify which days you will be able to work, and Scrivener then gives you a word count target for each day you’ve assigned as a work day.

Scrivener 3 vs 2 twitter

Scrivener 3 also allows you to export your stats in a .csv file so you can analyze them in a spreadsheet. You can also tweet your project stats directly from the app environment.

Linguistic Focus

Early users of Scrivener 3 have widely praised its new Linguistic Focus mode.

Linguistic Focus is simple but powerful. It allows you to highlight only a particular aspect of your writing, visually dulling the rest of your work.

For example, you might wish to see how much of a novel project consists of dialogue. Using Linguistic Focus, Scrivener 3 dims everything in your project that isn’t dialogue. This allows you to immediately judge how heavily your work consists of various types of writing.

You can see Linguistic Focus in action in the below image.

Scrivener 3 vs 2 linguistic focus

The types of text Linguistic Focus allows you to focus on are:

  • Direct speech
  • Nouns
  • Pronouns
  • Verbs
  • Adjectives
  • Adverbs
  • Prepositions
  • Conjunctions

This mode is a truly fresh addition to Scrivener 3 which can genuinely make it easier to understand and enhance your own writing. Staring at a wall of text for hours is no fun. Linguistic Focus eliminates this problem and allows you to easily understand your own work on a visual level.

Improved Scrivenings Mode

If you ask a group of Scrivener users about their favorite feature, you are likely to hear Scrivenings mentioned.

Scrivenings is the mode which allows you to quickly see separate parts of your project (such as scenes or chapters) combined into a single, scrollable document.

Scrivener 3 has retained and improved upon the Scrivenings function of Scrivener 2.

You can now:

  • More easily navigate between different sections while in Scrivenings
  • See the hierarchical level of a section based on its title size
  • Enjoy a more aesthetically pleasing Scrivenings mode, including a book-like appearance, if you so desire

Scrivenings has been a much-loved feature of Scrivener since its initial release. It’s great to see Literature and Latte making it even better and more appealing in Scrivener 3.

Better Metadata

Metadata is a prime example of the advanced capabilities of Scrivener which elevates it above simpler writing apps.

In past versions of Scrivener, you could assign custom metadata. In Scrivener 3, you can assign any custom metadata you like, but also assign dates, lists, and checkbox metadata to your work.

This is incredibly powerful. For example, imagine you are writing a book set across multiple years. You can assign date metadata to the various sections based on the year they are set in. You can then quickly and easily search for only the parts of your work with the metadata date of a particular year. This is just one example of how metadata can make a real difference to your writing process.

Metadata always works with the ‘compile’ feature of Scrivener. For example, let’s say you wrote a huge fantasy novel, but wanted to split it into a series of smaller books. You could quickly assign metadata specifying which chapters belong to which book, and compile only the relevant chapters based on the metadata.

Scrivener 3 vs 2 – Summary  

You now know the many ways in which Literature and Latte have improved upon Scrivener 2 in their latest release. In a nutshell:

  • Scrivener 3 has a cleaner, more attractive interface
  • It is quicker and more powerful due to 64-bit design
  • All of the best features have been kept and enhanced
  • The export mode has been fixed and updated
  • Brand new features designed just for writers have been added, such as Linguistic Focus

At the time of writing, Scrivener 3 is available for Mac, with the Windows version scheduled to be released at an unspecified time in 2018. If you have previously purchased Scrivener, you can get a reduction on the cost of Scrivener 3.

The bottom line is the upgrade is definitely worth it. Scrivener 3 is an evolution rather than a revolution. It keeps everything you love about Scrivener but presents it in an easier to use, prettier package. It also adds some epic new features which are genuinely useful for writers.

When it comes to Scrivener, 3 truly is the magic number.

Please feel free to comment and share your favorite features from Scrivener 3.

Mike Thompson

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