Evernote versus Scrivener Part Quatre

As a follow up to my previous Evernote / Scrivener posts here,  here and here,  I decided to grab some screenshots so you can see how the main features compare.    This is also in response to Comptess’s question on my previous post, Ever in Evernote – Tales of an Obsession  about the use of metadata and labels in Scrivener and Evernote.

As you look through the screenshots you’ll see I’ve tried to compare Scrivener and Evernote from a writer’s perspective on a ‘like-for-like’ basis.  To do this, I’ve set up a book called The Cat Sat on the Mat in both apps.  The characters in the book are Cat (my protagonist), Dog, Mat and the Owner.  The Cat really wants to set on the Mat.  The Dog won’t let him.  Cue conflict, pathos, mayhem, longing, dramatic reunion, and happy ending…

Before getting down to feature comparisons I need to cover the screen layout.  Evernote and Scrivener both use a three panel layout but the data is displayed in slightly different ways.  Navigation is on the left (if you’re looking at the screen) in both apps.  However, there is a difference in the number of ‘clicks’ it takes to get to a view.  Evernote’s design means you don’t have to move between views quite as much.  You’ll see what I mean as you look at the screenshots.

In Evernote I set up the structure for my book using a stack.  A stack is a collection of notebooks.  The sorting functionality in Evernote is old school so it forces me to take care of the ordering myself.  My preferred method is to put numbers in front of the notebook name that I want listed in a particular sequence.  The same applies to the notes.  The following image shows the notebooks set up in the assigned order.

Evernote TOC


Scrivener sorts the folders and text entries where they’re dropped.  There are additional folders that are standard with the Fiction template (such as Front Matter, Research, Places etc., ) which I’ve kept for this screenshot.  The following image shows the folders  as a result of dragging and dropping.   This is a big advantage for a writer that doesn’t want to have to think up some complicated numbering/lettering system just to be able to sort their chapters/scenes.

Scrivener TOC


In Evernote, the middle panel is used to display the cards.  The  right panel is used to display text.  Evernote shows me the entire note on the far right panel.  Here I’ve set up a bunch of character outlines and displayed them as cards.  You also have a choice to display your notes as a ‘snippet’ or in a list.  Reordering of the cards is done manually unless you’re happy to have it sort by the title.  I’m partial to this particular layout as I don’t have another click to get to a full view of the selected card.  I’ll get to how you use meta data with Evernote further down.

Evernote Character Cards

In Scrivener, the far right panel displays the synopsis, general meta-data and custom data, along with other features such as snapshots. In this screenshot I’ve given my hero ‘Cat’ a green POV color and I’ve tagged the card with a status of ‘First Draft’.  I also added a custom metadata label called ‘The Point in the Journey’ as I like to use the Heroes Journey as a template for character and plot development.

Characters in Scrivener

To see the description of my character I need to double-click a card.  Scrivener continues to display the labels and the metadata under my character’s photo.

Scrivener Character Detail

Here’s my scene list in Evernote.  Evernote uses a concept called tags and they act as labels/metadata.  Tags in Evernote are pretty powerful and I can set these up however I like.  I tagged this scene with the draft status, the character’s POV and the point in the character’s journey.  The tag filter in Evernote will display notes that match tags specified in the filter.  You can specify one or more tags. Once again I’d need to change my numbering system to get my scenes to sort.

Some Evernote users don’t bother with notebooks and use tags to categorize everything but the overly organized part of me finds that a little too random for comfort.


EVernote Scene


Heres’s a good video here from Boagworld on how he’s using Evernote for blog posts and other projects.  He uses a combination of tags and notebooks.  BTW, he’s using a slightly older version of Evernote in this video but the principles remain the same.

Here’s my scene list in Scrivener.  Each card has been colored coded with the POV of the character (green for Cat, orange for Dog and pink for Owner).  Each scene has also been labelled with the draft status.  If I reorder a card by dragging and dropping it,  it stays put.  That’s an easy way to reorder your structure and a lot less painful than Evernote.

Scrivener Scene

Finally here’s my chapters in Evernote.  I can format for font, text size, bold, italics and do basic highlighting.  I can also add tables and lists.  Evernote is using HTML so it’s like creating or editing a post in your blog.  You can format your text but it’s limited to what you can do with HTML.

Evernote Chapters

Here’s a chapter in Scrivener.  Scrivener is designed to be a word processor so the ability to format is much more sophisticated.   It handles indenting without any fuss, as well as the more gnarly stuff like line and paragraph spacing options.  This is the big advantage in Scrivener – an ebook or manuscript is formatted correctly and the move to Word is seamless.  The far right panel means you’ve got everything at your fingertips as you work your way through your various drafts.

Scrivener chapter

My basic conclusions remain the same.  Which app you choose will depend on costs, how you plan to use it and what you’re comfortable using.   Scrivener can take a little while to learn and if you find the task of getting your head around the ins-and-outs of Scrivener too daunting then Evernote may be more suitable.

On the other hand Scrivener has some terrific features at its core.  It does a nicer job of formatting and it’s a one off cost.  Scrivener uses a household license that allows you to install your copy of Scrivener on multiple devices using the same operating system.   This allows you to transfer between your main ‘desk’ computer and another computer (for example, your laptop).  You could do this with the backup Zip file and use a transfer method like Dropbox or just physically connect the devices.  There are lots of articles and blog posts that tell you how to transfer the files so it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out.

Evernote may be your app of choice if you’re a writer on the go with other commitments (employment, commuting to the office, traveling for work or research etc.,).  You won’t have to take a laptop with you everywhere you go (unless you have to or you want to) and you’ll still be able to write on other devices such as a smartphone (awkwardly), or a tablet (easily).  You can get a free account but how much data you can user per month is limited.  However if you’re only using Evernote for writing then you should be okay.  If you plan to use Evernote for everything else (task management, recipe collections, important documents, social media posts) then sooner or later you’ll probably need to go to a paid account.

And of course, there’s no reason why you couldn’t use both apps.  You could use Evernote for your research and story ideas and then use Scrivener when you’ve got some prolonged time at your home base or you’re ready to get stuck into a draft or two.

There’s no right or wrong way but hopefully this post has helped you get some ideas on what might work for you.

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