Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Family History Writing on the Go! Review of Scrivener for iOS

Well, fellow genealogists, if you have anxiously been waiting as I have for the release of the Scrivener for iOS App (for iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch) the wait is finally over!  The Scrivener for iOs App was released today (20 July 2016) and is available for purchase in the Apple App Store. Unfortunately, Android users, you are out of luck for now.  Click here to learn more.

Scrivener for iPad App, photo by Lisa A. Alzo

Let me tell you…it was definitely worth the wait! I was so excited to get this app that I set an alarm and downloaded it in the early hours of the morning! I immediately (well, after coffee, of course) started testing it out and below are my thoughts so far.  If you are on the fence about dropping the $19.99 for this app, I hope this review will help you decide.

What is Scrivener?

If you are not already familiar with Scrivener, it is a powerful combination word processing and project management tool by Literature and Latte. You can purchase Scrivener for Windows ($40 USD) or Scrivener for Mac ($45 USD). [I am a Scrivener affiliate, so if you happen to click the links and purchase the program, I will receive a small commission].

I have been using Scrivener since the early days, and first talked about it in a webinar I presented on Writing Your Family History for LegacyFamilyTree Webinars (2011). I have presented Scrivener workshops at conferences and in two online boot camps for HackGenealogy.  [You can purchase the digital downloads here]. 

I also wrote a Scrivener for Genealogists QuickSheet (available for Mac and Windows in laminated print versions and as a PDF digital download). Click here for more information or to purchase.

Getting Started

When you first open the app, there is a brief walk through.  Then you will see the main screen, which is where you will see your projects. You can “tap” to create and name a new project.

Projects Screen in Scrivener App. Photo by Lisa A. Alzo

Initial Housekeeping and Syncing 

If you intend to work with Scrivener both on your iOS devices AND your PC (Windows) or Mac, you will want to do some initial setup.  First of all, make sure you update to the latest version of Scrivener for the platform(s) you use.  For Windows, this is Scrivener 1.9.5. Select "Check for Updates" from the "Help" menu within Scrivener itself and follow the on-screen instructions. For Mac,the latest version is 2.8. Under Scrivener in the File Menu, select “Check for Updates" and follow the instructions.

Scrivener for iOS supports Dropbox syncing and this makes it easy to share projects between your iOS device and Scrivener for Mac or PC. You will need to link your Dropbox account (if you don’t have one you will need to sign up at  By default, Scrivener will create and sync with the Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener folder. You can change this and sync with any folder you wish (but it is best to choose an empty folder or one with only Scrivener projects).


The top-level project view shows the binder on the left with a folder for the manuscript itself, the Research folder and the Trash (and other folders depending on your project template/setup). This view will be very familiar to anyone who uses the full Scrivener programs. 

In the project view, you can expand the contents of as many of these folders as needed to see everything at once. To do this in the iOS version, you simply swipe left on any section and an ‘Expand’ option appears. (this takes a little time to get used to since most other apps use that action for ‘delete’). You can also collapse sections. 

Fearless Females eBook written in Scrivener. Photo by Lisa A. Alzo

You can do this with sub-folders too, revealing as much or as little as you like in the binder. The indents are not as prominent since there is limited space on an iPad. 

Text view on Scrivener iOS app. Photo by Lisa A. Alzo

Swiping left on an individual document pulls up a sub-menu, that shows “More” and “Move”. You can then choose “More” and “Move to Trash” (Scrivener’s equivalent of “Delete”).  Tapping “Move” will let you move the item to another folder (including Trash).  You can retrieve the document if you need to; to really delete it you will need to go into the “Trash” folder itself and choose "Delete". The plus sign to add new documents is there, as is the search (magnifying glass). Pinch to make the text larger or smaller in the main editor. 


Scrivener’s awesome Corkboard view is only available when you are using Scrivener for iOS on an iPad (not iPhone). You can see it indicated by the icon with the four small squares. Simply tap on the icon to see access the Corkboard view. You can also go to the top bar and click between the Corkboard icon and page icon.

Corkboard view in Scrivener iOS app (iPad ONLY). Photo by Lisa A. Alzo

And good news for those looking for the Inspector—it’s in the iOS version too.  Click on the “i” icon across the top to toggle it on (it will show up on the left instead of the right-hand side as in the full version). Click it again to toggle off. (On iPhone you have to look for the "i" at the bottom when you click on a document--you can set labels and add notes here too).

In the full version of Scrivener, there is the very helpful Scrivenings view that allows you to scroll through the complete manuscript. There is a similar view in the iOS version—click on the icon with the three lines on it on the bottom bar to open “Draft Preview”, but note that this is read-only: you currently can’t edit text in this mode (because of memory limitations and other constraints on an iOS device). However, if you do find something you would like to edit, you can double-tap on the text in this view and it will open the relevant document to allow the edits.


One of my favorite features of Scrivener is being able to add color-coded and status labels to help me easily visualize different parts of a writing project and track my progress. I was pleased to see this ‘Label’ function, is supported by the iOS version. 
Adding colored or status labels is accomplished with doing a long-hold on a document and choosing “Labels” (and the desired colors) or Status as desired. This also allows you to add notes, which show up in the corkboard view.

Saving and Syncing

The “autosave” feature of Scrivener has always been a favorite of mine. Also, the ability to sync (via Dropbox) to Scrivener on my Mac or PC has really provided flexibility for me as a writer, so I am glad that the sync features work on iOS too. On iOS, Scrivener auto-syncs every time you return to the main screen or open a project. However, if you are obsessive about syncing, you can perform a manual sync at any time by tapping the gear icon bottom-left and then “Sync Now.”

If you are an experienced Scrivener user, you likely know that the program warns against having two copies of your project open at the same time on different devices. If you do try to open it on a second computer while it’s already open on another one, Scrivener will warn you not to proceed and tells you what the consequences will be if you do. I find it good practice to close completely out of any projects I have worked on in one device before I access it on a different one.  

Other Favorite Features

On the bottom of the binder at the left you will see some icons to help you with various tasks such as project settings, compile, adding folders or files, etc.  The iOS version also shows your word count (so important for writers!). 


I highly recommend going through the built-in iOS tutorial (it is under “Help” in the Projects screen) to familiarize yourself with all of the key features and nuances.

Scrivener iOS tutorial. Photo by Lisa A. Alzo

Stay Tuned

As I continue to use Scrivener for iOS for my writing (and I know I will be using it a lot), I will write additional posts here on specific features.  Watch for some video tutorials too!  

For now I will just say how much I love seeing that little Scrivener icon on my iPad (on my iPhone too, although to be honest I don’t do much heavy writing or editing on my iPhone). As noted above, and as you will read in the Scrivener for iOS documentation, the iPhone version is slightly different and may not have all of the functionalities you are looking for if you are used to other versions of Scrivener.

But this is not a deal breaker for me. Previously, I had been using a few third-party apps that acted “like Scrivener” but they really just didn’t cut it. It also makes me happy that I can take my family history and creative nonfiction writing projects with me wherever I go without having to always carry my laptop.  I am so glad that team at Literature and Latte took their time developing this app—it is every bit worth the wait and the price! 

Copyright, 2016, Lisa A. Alzo, All Rights Reserved

Sunday, July 03, 2016

July 4th Flash Sale: Save 50% on Scrivener for Genealogists QuickSheet PDF Digital Download

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of Scrivener–the amazing writing/project management tool by Literature and Latte. If you follow this blog, read some of my articles in genealogy magazines, or have attended one of the workshops I’ve presented at genealogy conferences, or my Scrivener Mini Boot Camp or Scrivener II:  Beyond the Basics Mini Boot Camp presented for HackGenealogy, (click here to purchase the recordings of these boot camps as digital downloads)  then you know I’m a self-proclaimed Scrivener evangelist. 

I use Scrivener for all my family history writing projects, books, and professional nonfiction writing assignments. [I’m also a Scrivener affiliate so if you click on any of the links to the software and purchase it, I earn a small commission].

               Copyright, Lisa A. Alzo, Image blurred by author

In 2014 my affinity for Scrivener inspired me to produce the Scrivener for Genealogists QuickSheet (available in print for Mac or Windows) to help genealogists and family historians get up and running with Scrivener (it was the first guide of its kind out there on how to use Scrivener specifically for genealogy/family history writing).  

I have now made these popular guides available for purchase in PDF format via digital download, and starting today through Tuesday July 5th I am offering a special July 4th flash sale 50% discount on the digital versions of the Scrivener for Genealogists QuickSheet.*

Click here to go to the order page to Purchase Now and enter the appropriate coupon code:

Win4 – for Windows QuickSheet

Mac4 – For Mac QuickSheet

The sale will expire on 5 July 2016 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time. Hurry to take advantage of this low price and get started on those writing projects today!

*Note: The 50% off discount is good only on the digital download (PDF) versions for Mac or Windows and not the printed laminated versions. If you would like to order a printed/laminated version of the Scrivener QuickSheets click here.

About the Scrivener for Genealogists QuickSheet

The Scrivener for Genealogists Quick Sheet is a 4-page PDF guide with all of the basics you need to know to get up and running with Scrivener, the popular combination word processor and project management tool by Literature and Latte. This guide will show you how to use Scrivener for any genealogy or family history writing project. This powerful application seamlessly takes you from idea to outline to finished product. Whether you want to start a blog, write a book, prepare a client report, or presentation, or publish a cookbook or society newsletter, Scrivener has you covered.

Learn how to start a project, edit, and format your work, and get an overview of the key components of the Scrivener interface, and its four main modes – Outline, Document View, Corkboard, and Scrivenings. Use the listed Quick Command keys to access many of Scrivener’s main functions and project and interface shortcuts right from your keyboard. Additional resources and suggestions for online help are listed for those who wish to explore this program’s more advanced features.

Copyright 2016, Lisa A. Alzo
All Rights Reserved

Friday, April 29, 2016

Got Eastern European Roots? Join Me for a Special Eastern European Genealogy Boot Camp Saturday 14 May 2016

One of my favorite genealogy topics to teach is how to trace Eastern European ancestors, so on Saturday, 14 May 2016 I am going "back to my roots" and teaching a special Eastern European Genealogy Boot Camp (a beginning and an advanced session) through HackGenealogy.
We’re back with a brand new set of webinars, this time presented by Lisa A. Alzo and focusing on Eastern European genealogy research!
Jumpstart Your Eastern European Genealogy Boot Camp
  • How to identify your immigrant ancestors in North America and find your family in foreign records
  • Ways to locate your ancestral village using maps, gazetteers, and other geographic tools
  • Where to find records online and how to maximize your search results
  • How to locate and access records in various Eastern European churches, archives, and other repositories will be provided
  • Tips and tricks to bust through the myths and misconceptions of researching in Eastern Europe
Advanced Eastern European Genealogy Boot Camp: Brick Wall Search Strategies and Techniques
  • Strategies for overcoming the most common pitfalls and problems
  • How to deal with names, border changes, “missing” records and foreign languages and alphabets
  • Creative research strategies for tracing those hard-to-find ancestors
  • Tips for contacting possible relatives, writing to foreign archives, and visiting your ancestral homeland
  • Additional Resources to help further your research
Sign Up for the Eastern European Genealogy Boot Camp Today!
Duration: 3.5 hours (with a 30 minute break)
  • 11:00 am EDT /10:00 am CDT
  • Welcome / Meet & Greet
  • 11:00 am EDT / 10:00 am CDT
  • Jumpstart Your Eastern European Genealogy Boot Camp
  • Lisa A. Alzo
  • 12:30 pm EDT/11:30 am CDT
  • Break
  • 1:00 pm EDT /12:00 pm CDT
  • Advanced Eastern European Genealogy Boot Camp: Brick Wall Search Strategies and Techniques
  • Lisa A. Alzo
  • 2:30 pm EDT / 1:30 pm CDT
  • Closing and Thank You

Details follow below. Click here to reserve your spot today!
Curious about your East European roots but don’t know where to begin? Many people get interested researching their Eastern European ancestors because they want to learn more about where their family came from—specifically, to find out which ancestors came over from the “old country” and when. Whether your ancestors were Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Slovak, Ukrainian, or hailed from another location in the heart of Europe, this boot camp will help you jumpstart your research. You will learn:
Have you hit the proverbial “brick wall” in your search for your Eastern European ancestors? Are you perplexed with sorting out surnames, trying to identify ancestral hometowns, and deciphering old country records to connect families across generations? Then this boot camp is for you. In this boot camp you will learn:
You’ll receive over 3 hours of educational content, handouts and freebies for the low price of $12.95 USD! You’ll also receive access to the recorded versions of each webinar for up to one year!
Register by Monday, 9 May 2016 and receive over 23% off the registration price for a low $9.95 USD! Space is limited and if you register but can’t attend, you’ll still receive the handouts, the freebies and access to the recordings!
Click HERE to register!
Saturday 14 May 2016
All registrants will have unlimited access to the recordings for personal use, including the ability to download and save the recordings. Recordings, along with the access password, will be made available within 48 hours of the end of the webinars.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Fearless Females 31 March 2016: Mini-Profile

The prompt for 31 March 2016 is to is write a mini-profile of the female ancestor of your choice.

March 31 — Pick one female ancestor and write a mini-profile (500 words or less).

[Note: This post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]

I decided to write a profile for my grandmother's sister, Anna Fencsak Bavolar.

Anna Fenscak Bavolar

Anna Fencsak Bavolar was born on May 15, 1893 to Ilona and Mihaly Fencsak in Freeland, PA. She arrived in America in 1911, and was matched for marriage to George Bavolar by her sister, Mary Ceyba. Not long after the birth of her first daughter, Mary, Anna returned to Slovakia to care for her mother, who was ill and now re-married to Mihaly Zelenak. During that time Anna experienced conflict with her step-father who was a possessive person and did not want Anna there looking after her mother. Ilona died in 1917, but World War I delayed Anna’s return home until 1920. Anna and her husband eventually had four more children. Anna’s son George was killed trying to jump on a moving truck.

Anna died in 1959 from “myocardial infarction,” and “congestive heart failure.”

Copyright 2016, Lisa A. Alzo
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Fearless Females 30 March 2016: Words of Wisdom

The prompt for 30 March 2016 is to share any words of wisdom you received from your mother or another female ancestor.

March 30 — Did you receive any advice or words of wisdom from your mother or another female ancestor?

[Note: This post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]

Lisa Alzo with Anna Alzo, 1999

My mother taught me to believe in myself and that just because someone else had more money, more advantages, or more opportunities that I shouldn't feel they were better than me, or that this made me less of a person. She also taught me not to give up just because something seemed difficult or impossible to accomplish. Mom was a very smart woman and while at the time I couldn't understand the lessons or principles she was trying to teach, I can truly appreciate them now.

Copyright 2016, Lisa A. Alzo
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Fearless Females 29 March 2016: Honoring a Female Ancestor

The prompt for 29 March 2016 is to honor a female ancestor with a tribute page, trading card, or using some other format of your choice. 

March 29 — Create a free Fold3 (formerly Footnote) Memorial Page or a Genealogy Trading Card at Big Huge Labs for a female ancestor. Some of you may have created your own card back in September 2009 following Sheri Fenley’s post over at The Educated Genealogist. This time, the card is for your ancestor.

[Note: This post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]

Fold3 Memorial Page for Elizabeth Alzo

I chose to create a free Fold3 Page for Elizabeth Alzo (my grandmother). I used data from the Fold3 database to help build the page - there are links to the 1930 census entry for her and to her naturalization petitions. I also added an image of her obituary, and plan to add some stories, and more information down the line.

Copyright 2016, Lisa A. Alzo
All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 28, 2016

In Case You Missed the Live Webinar: Getting Started with Trello Mini Boot Camp to Go Now Available for Purchase

Do you struggle with project management?  Want to collaborate with a cousin on your genealogy research or a colleague on writing a book or managing society activities?

Trello has changed the way I organize my personal to-do list, plan my posts for this blog, approach my genealogy projects, and my brainstorm ideas for writing.  It truly is my "whiteboard in the cloud."

During the recent Getting Started with Trello Mini Boot Camp I presented on Saturday 19 March 2016 with Thomas MacEntee of Hack Genealogy, I demonstrated several different ways to use Trello for genealogy and family history.

If you missed out on the Getting Started with Trello Mini Boot Camp, now is your chance to catch up and catch on to this versatile application with the digital download.  Click here to purchase now.

What's Included?

Below is a description of what was covered in the live session as provided by Thomas MacEntee and Hack Genealogy.


If you were unable to attend the recent Getting Started with Trello Mini Boot Camp this past Saturday,  you’re in luck! We’ve packaged the entire event – webinar video, handouts and freebies – into one product! We had a enthusiastic crowd with Lisa A. Alzo presenting a fun and information-filled webinar!

Getting Started with Trello

Have you ever wished for a whiteboard in the cloud where you could generate ideas, organize your genealogy research tasks, or storyboard your family history writing? Then, say “Hello” to Trello—a free project management tool to help you streamline your genealogy projects, tackle your  “to-do” lists, and improve your workflow.
Here’s what you will get with the Getting Started with Trello Mini Boot Camp:
  • Learn how to set up a free Trello account and create your first project board.
  • Discover Trello’s easy project management system of boards, lists and cards and how to customize them for your personal to-do lists and genealogy/family history projects.
  • Learn how you can share your Trello boards and cards to collaborate with relatives, fellow researchers, and society colleagues.
  • Get tips on using the Trello app to sync your boards on multiple devices to take your work with you wherever you go!
  • View a variety of sample projects, and much more!
You’ll have unlimited access to these materials, with no time limit, and learn how to finally get organized! Price: $5.95!
Click here to order the Getting Started with Trello Mini Boot Camp.
For more information and to purchase a copy of previous Hack Genealogy Boot Camp materials, click here to visit the Hack Genealogy Store.

Copyright 2016, Lisa A. Alzo
All Rights Reserved

Fearless Females 28 March 2016: Best Friend

The prompt for 28 March 2016 is to write about either your mother's or grandmother's best friend. 

March 28 — Do you remember your mother’s best friend? Your grandmother’s? How and where did they meet? How long were they friends? What activities did they share?

[Note: This post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]

Image credit: Pixabay

My mother's best friend growing up was Dolores. I don't want to infringe on her privacy so I won't post her last name or a photograph or any more details. But I know that my mother was very close with her. While Dolores moved to another state, the two still kept in touch over the years with letters and Christmas cards. Many years ago, when I threw a surprise party for my parents 50th wedding anniversary, I invited Dolores and she came! My mother was so surprised--the two hugged and cried and spent the weekend sharing memories. I know it meant so much to my mom to have her best friend there. It was one of those extra special moments in time that you will always remember. 

I'm not sure about my grandmothers. They were close to many of their neighbors and women they knew from the churches they attended.

Copyright 2016, Lisa A. Alzo
All Rights Reserved