I recently created a quandry for myself. I have been working on a large book project. Although I’m making good progress, I have spent a bit too much time experimenting with two primary writing apps for this project: Ulysses and Scrivener. Without going into details, Scrivener is hands down the most powerful, feature rich program for large complex writing projects. This strength is also its downside. Getting text out of Scrivener is also a complex process using the Compiler. I’ve found that I’m only using 25% of the features in Scrivener.
Ulysses is less complex, uses plain text, but requires a subscription. I am diligent about keeping subscriptions to a minimum (no need to defend subscriptions–that has been beat to death).
Then Obsidian comes along. After I discovered the Kindle plug-in I realized I could scrape all of my research highlights and notes from well over 100 Kindle books related to my book project into a reference folder in Obsidian for quick referencing and linking within Obsidian. I also discovered the footnoting plug-in.
So, I exported my Scrivener text and imported everything into Obsidian. I realize that the following benefits will be obvious to long-time MD/plain text users but I’m listing them for those who have less experience.
- I can access my book text using nearly any app I choose–my text is absolutely platform/app agnostic and future proof.
- Everything is lightning fast, especially on my M1 MBP
- Backups are fast.
- I don’t have to sync with Dropbox (Scrivener requires Dropbox syncing)
- I don’t need the complexity of Scrivener. Obsidian plug-ins allow me to customize and limit features to only what I need.
- I’m getting more writing done in shorter time. This reminds me of my productivity when I used Byword.
- Linking ideas, research notes, etc., is fantastic in Obsidian and much easier and faster than in Scrivener.
- The graph may (I haven’t spent time with this yet) lead me to discover connections between concepts I’ve not seen before.
A few Caveats
There are a few things I lose in using Obsidian.
- Scrivener has a feature called Scrivenings. This feature enables one to select multiple files and see them in a contiguious flow of text–this is helpful in assessing the flow and transitions between sections and chapters of a long book. Does anyone know a way to do this?
- It is easier to insert and manage citations in Scrivener
- I have not found a way to export to or import into Word for final formatting. Scrivener’s compile feature is designed for this in addition to compiling for various outputs and formats. However, the good news is that if needed, I can import MD files into Scrivener for compiling if needed.
Does anyone know of a way to get multiple plain text MD files into a single Word or Pages doc?
- It is not possible to manually sort files. This is frustrating when I want to rearrange the order of chapters in the book.
I’m assuming I’ll continue using Obsidian but Obsidian aside, I will complete the book using MD plain text.