As you may know, I made the $174 purchase for the atticus.io app (https://atticus.io) and in my initial video was over all quite positive. Now, a few days in, I still think the purchase will prove its worth, but right now, at this very moment, the writing environment in the application is less than stellar.
For those who don’t know, let me give you a quick rundown of the application.
Atticus promises to deliver excellent looking pdf’s (formatted for novel printing) and ePub’s, right now. It promises a writing environment that is somewhere between google docs and scrivener and has an excellent roadmap of features to come.
Upon opening I am given an interface offering to let me load a project, upload or create a new one.
Great interface here. No critique
Lets click on my book…
I now have a page with a familiar scrivener style layout at the left with a ‘binder’ and a main window for editing. The binder has three sections, front matter, body and back matter. This core layout is great.
When I click any of the editable (not auto generated) sections I am given a very easy to use writing interface, that, for the most part works fine. However, when it auto saves it can and often does freeze up the application. Though to be fair it flashes ‘saving’ in the top right, so you know its not just dead. My issues with the writing environment are not that it’s bad as such as it’s an ample replacement for Word but falls short of scrivener in some major ways.
There is no slit screen functionality so I can only view one page at a time. Which is actually fine because it’s entirely missing a ‘notes’ section, and links log, and research and images… It is literally the things that will end up in the manuscript, which means it isn’t technically missing anything but the quality of like functions are, for my workflow essential.
The main thing that I use that’s missing is character and place bio’s. I basically need this feature. For me having a character bio close at hand is essential. I need to know who knows who, what colour their hair is, how old they are, where they were born. For my none of this is easy to remember because I write science and urban fiction. If a character is 30, I can remember that but if a character is 130 then I want notes about what their life was like growing up. Stuff that I simply have-to trap. Atticus, while having an acceptable writing hole has none of the extras’ that I require.
All this is extra annoying as the Dabblewriter service, which is also online, has basically all of the features that Atticus is missing. Dabble however is restrictively expensive and has none of the export options that Atticus has.
Speaking of which.
This is the moment that Atticus proves its self as worthy. Atticus has literally the best tools I have seen for creating an export that looks how I want. The really surprising thing is that it is so jarringly simple. Click, click, click and poof, a lovely well formatted book in both pdf ePub can be exported. Its mad how easy it is given that it looks so basic.
There are options to view how your book will look on basically every device you could want to see, options to change drop caps, lead caps, artwork and indentation. This is all before I you click the ‘advanced’ button. It’s all very, very smooth.
There are even options to change the ‘great’ ornaments, per chapter if you want. I exported “Hunter’s Garden” from Atticus in about five minutes and had something that looked far more ‘produced’ than I had from scrivener or my previous scripted method. The output simply looked more professional.
I then loaded up scrivener and started hacking though the weeds that is its own export window trying to replicate the same beautiful export. Scriveners options were cryptic, blind and chorish (not a word?)
Without a pre-view, I had to tinker, export, repeat my way to what I wanted and even then, it didn’t look as good. This process took me an hour. It seems far better to even with Atticus in its current state to export a standard docx from Scrivener, plop it into Atticus and do the export there. If I need to make slight corrections in the text then the editor would be fine.
Scrivener does, I agree look like it has more features, it looks more granular and controlled. It just isn’t the case in practice though. In real use, its got so much stuff and it all seems as important as everything else that it becomes a game of 4d chess rather than “ooh that’s pretty” click.
The downside of the ease of Atticus is that I must re-import each time and can’t export back to scrivener, or even docx.
Also, before I move on, the ‘book brush’ advertisement on the $135 application I just purchased is NOT acceptable to me, not at all. I adblocked the shit out of that pretty much instantly.
Asking Atticus to feature-by feature replace Scrivener isn’t reasonable. That’s like criticizing Photoshop for not being Excel. What Atticus needs to do is be feature comparable with something lie DabbleWriter and offer things of its own, like good plotting tools hot-linking and service integration (togglable!!!)
Scrivener is already a momoth of features. Features that no ones seems to use more than 60% of, but everyone uses a different 60%. Atticus should capitalise on the fact that its build on more modern technology, that it can see the best of Scrivener, and the worst and reimplement the good while fixing the bad. Atticus is beautiful and easy to use and it should keep moving in that direction.
As long as I see development happening month by month, I think eventually it WILL replace Scrivener for me, but we are a long way off yet.
EDIT: I refunded, after it froze up on me about five times. They did give me the refund really fast, even if they were a little snooty in the message. I may check back in on it, in a year or so.
This post was published a few days earlier on my Patreon.