Storyist vs Scrivener: The Ultimate Comparison for 2023

Are you a novelist, screenwriter, or other long-form fiction author looking for the perfect writing software? Two of the most popular and powerful options for Mac are Storyist and Scrivener.

I‘ve extensively tested the latest versions of both apps as a professional writer and Mac software expert. In this ultimate comparison, I‘ll dive deep into the key features, benefits, and differences to help you decide which one is right for you.

Storyist vs Scrivener: At a Glance

Here‘s a quick overview of how Storyist and Scrivener stack up in 2023:

Feature Storyist Scrivener
Price $59 (Mac), $14.99 (iOS) $49 (Mac/Win), $19.99 (iOS)
Platform Mac, iOS Mac, Windows, iOS
User Rating 4.5/5 (Mac App Store) 4.7/5 (Mac App Store)
Key Strengths Clean interface, story planning tools, progress tracking Powerful customization, outlining, exporting options

As you can see, both are highly rated and offer a full suite of features for serious long-form writing projects. But they have some key differences in design philosophy, platform support, and pricing.

Why Use a Dedicated Writing App?

You might be wondering why you‘d want to use a specialized app like Storyist or Scrivener instead of a general word processor like Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, or Google Docs. Here are a few key benefits:

  • Better Organization – Writing apps break your manuscript into smaller chunks (chapters, scenes, etc.) that you can easily navigate and rearrange. They also provide tools for structuring and outlining your story.

  • Focus and Motivation – Distraction-free writing modes and goal tracking help you stay in the flow and hit your daily word counts.

  • Research and Reference – Embed notes, images, web pages, and other research materials right alongside your writing for easy access.

  • Powerful Exporting – Compile your manuscript into common formats like Word, PDF, and ePub with fine-tuned control over the output.

In fact, a 2019 survey by The New York Times found that 11% of authors used Scrivener and 7% used Storyist, compared to just 5% who used Word. So while these apps have a learning curve, they‘ve become an essential part of many professional writers‘ toolkits.

Interface and User Experience

Now let‘s take a closer look at how Storyist and Scrivener‘s interfaces compare. This is one of the key areas where they differ.

Storyist: Clean and Modern

Storyist sports a minimalist, modern UI very much in line with current Mac design trends. The layout is split into three panes:

  1. The left sidebar shows your project‘s file structure, which Storyist calls the Storyboard.
  2. The center pane is your main Editor where you view and edit the text of your current document.
  3. The right sidebar contains the Inspector for viewing and changing metadata about the current document, like labels and statuses.

Storyist interface with sidebar, editor, and inspector panes

This layout will feel very familiar and intuitive if you‘ve used other modern Mac apps like Apple Notes or Ulysses. Everything is streamlined and easy to find, with plenty of white space and clear typographic hierarchy.

One of my favorite touches is the typewriter scrolling option, which keeps the line you‘re currently typing vertically centered on the screen. This helps you stay focused on your current context, not getting distracted by the surrounding text.

Scrivener: Endlessly Customizable

In contrast, Scrivener‘s default interface feels a bit more cluttered and old-school. It splits the app window into smaller panes and uses a more skeuomorphic design language with buttons styled to look like physical objects.

Scrivener interface with binder, editor, inspector, and corkboard

However, Scrivener‘s real strength is its incredible flexibility. Pretty much every part of the interface is customizable:

  • You can show and hide individual elements like the binder, inspector, footnotes, and more
  • You can drag the dividers between panes to resize them
  • You can choose from a variety of UI themes or even make your own

Scrivener view options menu

So while it takes more work to set up, you can ultimately mold Scrivener to look and work exactly how you want. This is a big selling point for power users who want total control over their writing environment.


For me, Storyist is the clear winner in terms of out-of-the-box usability. Its thoughtfully designed interface gets out of your way and lets you focus on your writing.

Scrivener can be tailored to your preferences, but it requires more tweaking and has a steeper learning curve. I think it‘s overkill for most writers, but might appeal to hardcore customizers.

Project Organization and Story Development

Where writing apps really distinguish themselves from plain text editors is in their tools for organizing and structuring long-form works. Let‘s see how Storyist and Scrivener approach this.

The Binder/Storyboard

Both apps use a hierarchical file structure to contain all the pieces of your project. In Scrivener this is called the Binder, while Storyist uses the term Storyboard.

Storyist storyboard sidebar
Scrivener binder sidebar

They function very similarly, allowing you to:

  • Create folders and text documents
  • Nest folders within each other to establish a hierarchy
  • Easily drag and drop to rearrange the structure
  • Click to select a document and view/edit its contents

I find Storyist‘s Storyboard easier to parse at a glance, thanks to its cleaner typography and icons. It also shows a word count next to each text document, which is handy.

Scrivener‘s binder is more text-heavy and cramped by default. But it does offer unique features like color-coding icons and "Scrivenings" mode (which shows a folder‘s child documents combined into a single text).

Corkboard and Outlining

For a more visual overview of your story‘s structure, both Storyist and Scrivener offer virtual corkboard and outliner views.

The corkboard displays each document as a movable index card. Storyist presents these as a simple grid:

Storyist corkboard view

While Scrivener‘s corkboard has more advanced options, like stamps, color coding, and custom metadata fields:

Scrivener corkboard view with custom metadata

The outliner view is better for navigating more complex projects. Storyist‘s outliner is serviceable, supporting basic drag and drop and filtering:

Storyist outliner view

But again, Scrivener goes above and beyond with features like in-place editing, custom columns, and hoisting:

Scrivener outliner view

Additionally, Scrivener offers a unique Freeform Corkboard mode for non-linear story planning:

Scrivener freeform corkboard mode


While both apps provide useful tools for structuring your story at a high level, Scrivener is the clear winner in terms of flexibility and options.

Storyist covers the basics competently, but Scrivener goes the extra mile with rich customization and unique features like freeform corkboards. If you‘re a writer who loves to exhaustively plan and outline, Scrivener is the deeper package.

Writing Goals and Progress Tracking

Staying motivated is crucial when working on a long writing project. To help you hit your targets, both Storyist and Scrivener offer writing goal and stat-tracking features.

Storyist‘s Projecft Targets

Storyist allows you to set a word count goal and deadline for your entire project. Its project targets pane then calculates your required daily average and shows your progress over time:

Storyist project targets

You can also see a calendar view of your writing streaks and set shorter-term "sprint" goals. I find this to be an elegant and effective way to visualize your progress and stay on pace.

Scrivener‘s Writing History

Scrivener takes a bit of a different approach. Rather than setting an up-front goal, it quietly records your writing history and displays it in a variety of ways:

Scrivener writing history

You can see your total word count over time, your daily average, and your "streak" (number of consecutive writing days).

Scrivener can also show your word count for individual writing sessions, and estimate how long it will take you to finish based on your current pace. Some writers find this info more pragmatic and less pressure-inducing than a fixed goal.


Personally, I prefer Storyist‘s philosophy of defining your target up front and tracking your daily progress against it. I find it more motivating to have that finish line to aim for.

But writers who are more in the "slow and steady" mindset may prefer Scrivener‘s freeform writing history stats. It‘s nice that both apps offer some kind of tracking to keep you accountable.

Exporting and Compiling Your Manuscript

So you‘ve finished your draft and you‘re ready to share it with the world. How do Storyist and Scrivener support exporting your work?

Storyist Export Options

Storyist offers a fairly standard Export feature. You can output your manuscript to common file formats including:

  • Microsoft Word (.docx)
  • Adobe PDF
  • Plain Text (.txt)
  • HTML
  • Formatted e-books (.epub)

Storyist export menu

You can select which parts of your project to include, and customize some basic formatting options like font and page size.

This covers most common use cases, like sending your draft to an editor or beta readers. The ePub option is also handy for quickly previewing your book on a tablet.

Scrivener‘s Compile

Scrivener, on the other hand, has an insanely powerful exporting tool called Compile:

Scrivener compile window

Compile goes way beyond basic file conversion. It‘s meant to generate a fully formatted version of your manuscript in virtually any format imaginable.

You can:

  • Select exactly which documents to include and in what order
  • Add front matter like a title page, dedication, and table of contents
  • Customize fonts, spacing, margins, and more for each type of document
  • Output to a huge variety of file formats

Scrivener includes dozens of pre-built Compile presets for common manuscript formats. But you can also create your own and save them for later.

While this flexibility is awesome, the sheer number of options can be overwhelming. Mastering Compile definitely takes some trial and error.


For most writers, Storyist‘s more basic export options are sufficient. Being able to quickly generate a standard manuscript or e-book is all you need.

Scrivener‘s Compile is undeniably powerful, but it also has a steep learning curve. It‘s overkill unless you plan to do all your own formatting for self-publishing.

And even then, many writers still prefer to use a separate tool like Vellum for the final typesetting and layout. Scrivener‘s Compile is more flexible, but also more fiddly.

The Bottom Line: Which Should You Choose?

Having thoroughly tested both, here‘s my advice on when to choose each app:

You Should Use Storyist If:

  • You want a writing app with a clean, modern, user-friendly design
  • You prefer a more streamlined feature set that‘s quick to learn
  • You want to track your progress against specific project goals
  • You only need basic exporting options
  • You‘re looking for a one-time purchase with a lower up-front cost

You Should Use Scrivener If:

  • You want the most powerful, customizable writing app available
  • You do extensive outlining and story planning with custom metadata
  • You want detailed control over the formatting of your exported manuscript
  • You‘re willing to invest time to learn advanced features
  • You need Windows compatibility in addition to Mac/iOS

Both are excellent apps that have been battle-tested by thousands of published authors. You can‘t go wrong with either one if you‘re serious about long-form writing.

Personally, I slightly prefer Storyist for its cleaner, more beginner-friendly UI and smoother overall experience. I found myself fighting with Scrivener‘s complexity at times.

But I can see the appeal of Scrivener‘s incredible flexibility for power users. Many writers swear by its Compile feature and deeply customizable outlining.

Since both apps offer free trials, I highly recommend testing them out yourself to see which one feels more intuitive and inspiring to you. Every writer‘s brain works differently.

Whichever you choose, you‘ll have a professional-grade tool that will help you plan, draft, and revise your story. Happy writing!

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