Word vs Scrivener: Reviews and Comparisons

Word vs Scrivener

The first thing to know when comparing software programs like Word vs Scrivener is that it’s important to make sure you know what kind of tasks the software program will complete, as well as what you want to use it for.

When comparing writing software, make sure you aren’t comparing apples to oranges. All software programs are not the same. Even comparing writing software, such as Word vs Scrivener, for example, is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. An apple is a fruit you can eat and so is an orange. But an apple is crunchy and sweet whereas an orange is soft and tart. Two completely different tastes.

In fact, you might like both but one day the apple might be more satisfying and the next the orange satisfies that craving. The same is true with writing projects. Some are short and sweet without a lot of need for formal formatting. Some projects are longer, require more research or formatting and have several different sections and layers that need to be organized.

So, when it comes to MS Word vs Scrivener, it’s important to know how they are fundamentally different, so you choose the program that will do what you expect it to do. For writers, both software programs are designed to get the words on the page, but in comparison, the real difference is in the focus of each program.

Word vs Scrivener: Focus

MS Word is a word processor, and it’s designed to record and format text and turn it into a single document file, whereas Scrivener is novel writing software designed to help writers organize all research, images, and other information for a long writing project.

Scrivener keeps all research and notes easily accessible and helps to organize it all so you can focus on writing the story, novel, play, or screenplay. Scrivener’s heavy organizational focus helps writers to organize their work logically and spend less time looking for research and more time focused on writing the story. Scrivener is novel writing software, but it doesn’t help you with “how” to write. It helps you to organize your research and writing because of the way it is designed.

Word is more focused on formatting and presentation of the document. It’s not specifically designed for writers at all. In fact, it was designed to improve upon the typewriter and word processor machines to format words on the page for formal presentation in the business and publishing environments. It helps you to type and then format your documents.

Word vs Scrivener: Fundamental Differences

MS Word is a powerful word processor that captures text as you enter it via the keyboard and produces a final document the way you want to present it. Formatting is user driven, and you learn to modify the automatic formatting features such as headers, bullet lists, footers, headings, and subheadings. Word does have default formatting; however, users often complain that taking the time to figure out how to modify or turn off automatic settings is complex. Power users or those who have mastered the steep learning curve and ability to create customized templates, may not see as much difference.

Scrivener, on the other hand, is novel writing software. It’s a word processor like MS Word, but its focus is not on presenting your documents to someone else in a formal or fancy way. It can pull all the parts of your story together for exporting to a word processor for final formatting in the compiler function. Its focus is on helping you to organize everything about your own writing project so you can write your novel. Those who want or need to use elements like tables and charts in their documents, won’t be happy with Scrivener at all.

Word vs Scrivener: Likes

MS Word

  • Great for short documents such as letters, memos, and poems
  • Easy to get started, open blank file and type
  • Track changes and insert comment features for collecting feedback or revisions
  • Word is used by traditional publishing editors and agents for revisions
  • It’s customizable and works well for power users
  • It has many powerful features to create the document look you need
  • Auto recover on any files not saved due to power outage or other malfunction
  • Works with Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and other cloud storage apps


  • Built for writers with distraction-free options
  • Research folder to keep notes, images, and other files in one place
  • Drag and Drop to alter the order of scenes, chapters, images, import files, etc.
  • Flexibility for writers from “outliners” to “pantsers” to work the way they write best.
  • Project Keywords work like tags for character names, locations, etc.
  • Use Find and Replace feature to change things all the way through such as character name or spelling of a town.
  • Powerful compiler feature for exporting your completed novel to PDF, Word, and even .epub or .mobi which eliminates the need for a third-party conversion before publishing.
  • Name generator creates character names based on country of origin & ancestry.
  • Index card mode
  • Automatic settings for screenplay formatting
  • Auto saves any time no activity but can adjust to avoid autosave delaying your writing.
  • Save to Dropbox and access files anywhere on or offline.

Word vs Scrivener: Dislikes

MS Word

  • Some users report frequent crashes, freezing, lost files
  • Users report frustration with auto correct and auto format features that aren’t always what the writer wants and are frustrating to modify (i.e. auto numbering in lists).
  • Steep learning curve for advanced formatting features (headers, footers, headings, outlining, TOC, etc.)
  • Fees and proprietary issues
  • Can be slow to load and save long documents


  • Saves in its own file format but can be exported if you no longer use Scrivener
  • Track changes done in word don’t always transfer back into Scrivener
  • Steep learning curve to get started, especially for those not used to navigating a computer.

So, before you research writing software and attempt to make a decision regarding Word versus Scrivener or any other writing software, get clear on what you expect it to do for you. Once you know what features you need, check out reviews of the software from experts and other users to narrow your choices to just those designed to do what you need.

Finally, take advantage of a free trial or basic version initially to try out the software for yourself and see if it works well with how you write best. In the end, choose the writing software or combination of writing software that will best help you get that next manuscript or screenplay to completion.

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