Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Manuskript: an open source Scrivener replacement

 I like Scrivener. I use it constantly for writing.  Unfortunately, they dropped support for Linux in 2015, and while the old Linux version still works at the moment, it's only a matter of time until they introduce an upgrade to the main line (OS X, Windows, and IOS) that breaks compatibility with the Linux version.

Scrivener supposedly runs in Wine, but I've not managed to get it to do so thus far.  Plus, wine apps tend to be a bit on the flaky side. If you want to see an enraged author, have an app crash in a way that it didn't manage to preserve a backup first. It's painful.

Right now, and for the forseeable future, my solution to this is to maintain my mac, and instead of my Linux laptop for remote writing, use my iPad. (I have a keyboard for it. I can't imagine writing anything longer than a tweet -- and that only under duress -- with the on-screen keyboard.)

Scrivener isn't perfect. Its document compiler in particular is a turd.  You can make a lot of different formats with it, and most of them are almost right, but the control setup is horrific, poorly documented, and poorly supported. I've yet to make markdown or tex output work remotely correctly.  Also, its editor is a turd. Most editors allow you to create styles that are then remembered throughout the document. Thus, if you change a style, you change every instance of your use of that style. Not so with scrivener. You can create styles, alright, but they're not made part of the document(s) the way they should be. They're done as formatting on the fly. If you want to change something, you have to go back through every document and change it manually.

You can use external editors, but of course you can't have the system default to using one. It's little irritants like this that annoy me with my favorite tool.

The game has now changed.

Given the absence of Linux support, and the fact that Scrivener is in no way open source, the inevitable open source clone has popped up. It's called Manuskript.  I've just messed with it for a few minutes. It's... not horrible.  A little clunky in spots, yes. It's young yet.  I've not yet tried its document compiler, which for me makes or breaks it. I haven't looked to see if it fixes all, or indeed any of my annoyances with Scrivener, and it won't import/export Scrivener files that I've seen, but it exists. And it's free.

I'm not ready to switch... there's no real need. I have my writing needs taken care of with my mac and ipad for the time being. But I will certainly keep an eye on Manuskript. Geez, that and myHDL almost make me want to learn Python.

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