In the midst of horrendous catastrophes unfolding around the world, here are two little first-world fixes to help resolve issues of minor consequence. Note that both solutions are somewhat flawed, echoing our collective attempts to resolve humanity’s larger problems.
First, a solution for the would-be writers among you who have been following Writeside’s posts on running Scrivener 3 on Linux and have recently run into problems on older hardware. A small group to be sure, but if running Scrivener with Wine has recently stopped working for you and attempts to start Scrivener from the command line have resulted in this
Error of failed request: GLXBadFBConfig
there is still a workaround, courtesy of the Wine forums. Create a text file (without the .txt extension) named .pam_environment and place it in your home directory. The file should contain this line:
and nothing else. Now, log out of your Linux session and then log back in. Scrivener should now work. The catch? Electron apps, such as the Min web browser, will stop working. A klutzy “solution”: move the .pam_environment file out of your home directory (onto your desktop, for example) when you want to run Electron apps and move it back into your home directory when you want to run Scrivener.
Pretty half-assed, isn’t it? Welcome to the way the world works, as per Afghanistan, U. S. infrastructure and climate change.
The second update is more straightforward. Recently, a mail plugin for WordPress (which this site runs on) got a little carried away and sent multiple instances of the last Writeside post, understandably annoying a number of subscribers. To be fair, it was more my fault than the plugin’s, as I draft these posts on a number of machines, all of which are perfectly capable of using WordPress to send mail even when I don’t want that to occur. I’ve tried to resolve this with another WordPress plugin (the aptly named Disable Emails) and I now intend to outsource emails to subscribers using the ubiquitous Mailchimp. This is the free version, so you’ll see lots of Mailchimp branding. But ideally you will only receive one email for each Writeside post, a much-needed improvement. You’ll also be able to choose text- or HTML-formatted email, and you’ll find it much easier to unsubscribe (not that I want you to do that).
So there you have it: two tiny, imperfect solutions to minor problems affecting a small number of people. This is how progress takes place.
Finally. After a very long wait, Scrivener 3 for Windows has finally been released. It may be April Fool’s Day, but the official release actually came on March 23. Let’s take a quick look at how it works with Wine on Linux.
There are a few initial glitches, at least on my Ubuntu setup, but they’re easily circumvented. And once you do have Scrivener 3 up and running, it’s good looking and functional. Is it worth the $49 cost? Absolutely; there’s no real competition.
I’ve written a number of posts on Scrivener 3 betas; just search on “Scrivener 3” to find them. Not a lot has changed recently. There’s still an installation error you may need to work around, but once you do you’ll be happy with the results.
Here’s a quick tutorial on installing Scrivener 3 on Linux (in my case, Ubuntu 20.04.2 LTS). I’m sure many in-depth reviews will follow in the coming days—for now, the aim is just to get you started.
Download the appropriate version (in most cases, 64-bit) here. Don’t double-click on the downloaded .exe file, though. If you do, you’ll liable to get this error:
Not to worry. Just drop into the Terminal app and navigate to wherever you downloaded the installer. Then use the wine command to install it, like so:
The setup wizard should then appear. Just follow the instructions to install.
On my system, the installer has trouble creating a desktop launcher. The workaround, again, is via the terminal. You need to navigate to the install location (.wine/drive_c/’Program Files’/Scrivener3) and issue the wine command again to launch Scrivener for the first time, i.e.,
All subsequent launches are easy, at least on a Gnome desktop. Just hit the Super Key and start to type in Scrivener—once the app icon appears (this is actually the Wine icon on my laptop, with a Scrivener caption beneath) select it and hit Enter to launch.
I didn’t find any misbehavior within the app itself on a quick initial tour. It seems to function as it should, and it looks great, just as it does on the Mac.
And there you have it: Scrivener 3 for Windows, fully functional on Linux. Kudos to the Literature & Latte team for maintaining Wine compatibility.
Update, 1/30/21: there is a bug in the recent Scrivener 3 betas which prevents Scrivener from launching successfully after installation. You can resolve it by using winetricks to install speechsdk. This is now fixed.
It goes without saying that these are troubling times. Politics and the pandemic, bound tightly together in this dysfunctional country, will be with us through the end of this year and well beyond. So let’s focus on something small and potentially positive, only tangentially related to the larger world.
There aren’t many fiction writers who use Linux as a regular platform, I’d wager. Yet there are a few, including me. I believe that open source at its best serves as a role model for how the larger society should function. This quality in itself attracts some socially conscious creative people to the platform. The problem, of course, is that commercial software remains dominant, and not all of it can run on Linux. It is possible to write with existing open source solutions. But the best solution for aspiring novelists is the carefully crafted Scrivener, developed by a small, quality-focused software team at Literature and Latte in the UK. And Scrivener no longer runs natively on Linux.
To the company’s credit, a version of the Scrivener Linux beta remains available, and this can interface with the current Scrivener 3 on the Mac by translating documents from Scrivener 2 format to Scrivener 3, and vice versa. But the need to “translate” back and forth is a less than ideal solution.
For a while, Wine had come to the rescue—Scrivener ran just fine “out of the box” on default Wine installations. But that changed sometime back, as Scrivener 3 for Windows development evolved. Wine stopped working, and I turned back to Scrivener on macOS to continue work on my novel. Apple still leads the pack in terms of both ease of use and options for writers (but Linux exemplifies the moral high ground, as noted above).
Now that the new version (20.04.1) of Ubuntu LTS is out, I decided to take another look at the situation, and I have some good news for the small audience of writers on Linux. The latest beta of Scrivener 3 for Windows does run on Wine. You just have to do a little extra work to enable this.
A quick disclaimer: while I worked as a developer for many years, I now focus on writing. As a writer, I can’t afford to be distracted by any particular tool. If something doesn’t “just work,” I’ll find an alternative that does and concentrate on the writing. That’s why I hadn’t wanted to get down into the weeds to figure out all the nuances of enabling Scrivener 3 on Wine. But when I took a quick look, I discovered that things weren’t that bad. My Wine configuration is probably a little wonky, and I’ll likely do a complete reinstall when Scrivener 3 for Windows is officially released, supposedly sometime this fall. But getting the software to work again isn’t all that much work.
The latest beta, 220.127.116.11 (RC9), would seem to indicate that the official release is near (fingers crossed). The beta expires in mid-September. Here’s how to get it working.
If you already have Wine installed, you have two choices: you can create a new prefix for Scrivener, or you can update the parameters of the default .wine prefix. (I’ve tried both, which is why my configuration is not as clean as it should be.) If you don’t have Wine installed, then installing it should be your first step. It’s straightforward, and I won’t describe the process here.
If, like me, you only plan to use Wine for Scrivener and one or two related programs (Literature and Latte’s Scapple “brainstorming” software runs fine on the default Wine install), then I recommend updating the environmental settings for the default prefix .wine to meet Scrivener’s current requirements. The process described below applies to Ubuntu Focal but should be translatable to other distros.
The core requirements are Windows 7 or higher and .NET v4.6.2 or higher (Wine 5.0 will let you use .NET v4.8).
Once Wine is installed, make sure you have 32-bit architecture enabled. This is needed for various reasons overall, and also to register Scrivener. The command is:
sudo dpkg -i –add-architecture i386
Following that, run this:
Now you’ll need to install Winetricks. Again, this is straightforward. Once you have it installed, run the following commands. The first one is:
This is necessary for Times New Roman, the most popular font for submitting your work to publishers. If you already have the font on your system (it might have come with or been installed by another program), you can omit the above command.
env WINEPREFIX=$HOME/.wine winetricks win7
env WINEPREFIX=$HOME/.wine winetricks dotnet48
Now you should be able to right-click on your downloaded Scrivener 3 beta file and use Wine’s installer to install it.
Scrivener will create a .desktop file than you can use to launch the program (which didn’t work in my case, because my overall Wine installation has some issues—as I said, I’ll clean this up when the official version is released). You can then add the launcher as a “favorite” in the dock.
An easy alternative for launching is simply to hit the Super key to bring up Search and type in the first few letters of “Scrivener.” Once you see the program just hit Enter to launch it.
Or, if you like the command line, make a little shell script like so:
cd ~/.wine/drive_c/‘Program Files’/Scrivener wine Scrivener.exe
Then you can run it with:
from whatever directory you placed the script in. That said, a launcher is probably the best way to go and that’s what I’ll use once I clean things up.
And there you have it—a little work, but well worth it for those who want to be able to use the best long-form writing program on Linux.
This is a somewhat belated review of Scrivener 3, which was released (for Mac only) last November. Scrivener is the dominant app for novelists and other long-form writers (not counting Word, which is still the publishing industry standard), and this latest update—which was years in the making—brings some important changes.
First, the program’s interface has been significantly improved. Scrivener simply looks better; it seems more modern and up-to-date. This is important, since competitors like Ulysses have long had an aesthetic advantage. Better-looking software seems more inviting and easier to use (even if it’s not), so Scrivener’s visual update is important. And Scrivener 3 is more inviting and easier to use (click the images below to enlarge).
As you might expect, this Swiss Army knife of writing programs has a lot of changes under the hood as well. Here are some of the more important ones:
The Compile function has been updated to be more flexible (although I’ve never had a problem with the previous version).
“Styles” have been improved (this will be important chiefly to those who self-publish).
Index cards can now be viewed on colored threads to differentiate them; this is more like a plot outline than anything Scrivener has offered before.
Outlining in general has been enhanced.
Up to four documents can be viewed in the main window using “Copyholders” features.
You can now see draft and session progress bars in the toolbar.
The new “Dialogue Focus” can highlight all the dialog in your text.
Scrivener’s codebase has been updated for 64-bit, making the program faster and more stable.
Scrivener’s visual update is important (there’s even a spiffy new logo). But how does it feel to work with the new version?
Quite nice, actually. Scrivener has always had the ability to focus on just your words (it’s called “Composition Mode”), and this view is slicker and more useful than ever. It’s customizable, and it lets you access the Scrivener toolbar by moving your mouse to the top of the screen and access a word count and other helpful features by moving your mouse to the bottom. Plus, Composition Mode is very attractive at its default setting (which you can modify to your heart’s content).
The chief complaint I’ve heard about Scrivener over the years concerns its complexity—there are so many tools available that the program can seem quite daunting, especially to newcomers. I think version 3 mitigates this to some extent with its compelling visual makeover. And in point of fact, you’re not required to use all the tools Scrivener provides. You can set up the program to simply work with chapters or scenes and forgo all the extras if this seems more appealing. This will give you a work environment much like Ulysses, but without that program’s unfortunate monthly subscription fee.
Actually, I suspect that for most professional writers Scrivener’s chief competitor is Word. Word contains its own universe of tools and options, but many people are accustomed to using it simply to outline and write. Scrivener can be used in similar fashion, but it provides a significantly more attractive environment for writing (and it exports to Word flawlessly when you’re ready to submit your work).
If you have Scrivener 2, an upgrade to version 3 costs $25. If you’re purchasing Scrivener for the first time, you’ll pay $45. In both cases, this is money very well spent.
Scrivener is cross-platform and version 3 for Windows is due sometime later this year. If you buy the current Windows version now ($45) the upgrade to version 3 will be free.
A couple of final notes. First, Scrivener 3 is not backward-compatible with the previous version, but this turns out not to be much of a problem—the program thoughtfully creates a backup in the old file format when it converts your work to version 3. You can go back and forth between the two versions, in other words. Second, there is a beta version of version 3 available for Windows now. I’m delighted to report that it works fine in Wine on my Linux system (and presumably on Windows itself as well). Scrivener originally had a Linux beta available, but as a small company Literature & Latte decided to suspend Linux development and focus on Mac and Windows (and iOS) instead. I commend them for taking pains to make sure Scrivener 3 can still be run on Linux, through Wine compatibility.
Scrivener 3 is an important upgrade and writers at every level should benefit from its improvements.