NaNoWriMo, Linux, and Scrivener

Well, it’s that time of year again. My son is the most excited about National Novel Writing Month, but Kimia and I are also participating in the competition to write 50,000 words in a month.

I opted out last year, and the year before that I was mostly working in Mac OS, so I did all of my writing in Scrivener. There are lots of apps out there to help you write: most of them seem to focus on helping you focus (by covering up your screen except for where you’re typing), while a few also work on helping you to organize your writing project.

While Kimia (and Jack) continue to use StoryMill on the Mac, I switched over to Scrivener a few years back, and I believe it’s the king of this software category. Available on Mac and Windows, they even have a synced iPad app, which was nice at the time. NaNo without Scrivener was a daunting prospect.

I realized that there might be some similar software, so I started looking. The early favorite was Manuskript. The interface was a little kludgy in comparison to Scrivener (perhaps a tablet inspired look?) but the main pieces seemed to be there. Alas, using it was somewhat painful, and I couldn’t find the most important feature of a NaNo writing tool — the word count target bell!

I moved on to oStorybook, CherryTree notes, Joplin, Draftman, etc. I even tried just using SimpleNote (which is somewhat compatible with the back end of Scrivener). I couldn’t even find a non-organizing text editor with a word count target bell.

Finally, I returned to an old project. I had dug up an old Scrivener for Linux beta, several years ago. You can download it, yourself, from Literature and Latte’s site. Unfortunately, it depends upon some old libraries that are not in the “software store” for Linux Mint 19.2. What to do? What to do?

Well, one of the nice things about Linux is the error messages. Trying to run Scrivener (installation was without error) it told me precisely which libraries were missing. Thus, the first time I tried to run it, I was told that I was missing A little bit of searching allowed me to download it from the repos for an earlier version of Ubuntu:

(Note that the above is the 64-bit version — if you need the 32-bit version, you’ll have to do your own searching.)

curl -O
sudo dpkg -i libpng12-0_1.2.54-1ubuntu1.1_amd64.deb

The first line above (which wraps to two lines on my blog) downloads the file to your computer. If you just click the link to download, you don’t need to do that part. The second line (that starts with sudo) tells the package manager (dpkg) to install (-i) the file you downloaded. Now, we try to start Scrivener again.

This time we’re told we’re missing (It should go without saying that you probably already have both of these libraries installed, but in later versions.) I found and resolved that dependency, and Scrivener fired up as intended.

There are a couple of interesting lessons from this long pilgrimage. One, never let your old versions of software disappear. If I hadn’t been able to find the older versions of those libraries, I wouldn’t have been able to twist Scrivener’s arm into running on my system.

A larger lesson might be this: if you wait long enough, someone is likely to do the work for you. Yes, not only are you, dear reader, able to learn from my work and easily download the needed libraries (as well as the 1.9.01 beta itself), since you have read to the bottom of this post, you will now learn that there is another, easier way. The Way of Linux has a post about this same issue, with the good news that someone who calls himself Erkus the Damned has made an AppImage version of Scrivener that includes the needed libraries. Download, double-click, and voilà!

A final lesson is this: you found this page, and you might just have been looking for a solution to this problem. I looked for and solved it in my way, and The Way of Linux and their friend Erkus solved it in theirs. Linux is a bigger pie than it was in 2015 (when the last beta was released), and there just might be a market for a Scrivener competitor in Linux. Ideally, it would be compatible with Scrivener’s data structures so as to be a complete drop-in replacement, but even a version of Manuskript that was a little less clunky and implemented some of the missing features found in Scrivener might fit the bill.

One can always hope.

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