A couple of questions from a Scrivener 3 n00b

Hello, fellow Scriveners!

After many years away from writing, I have got the itch to return to a half finished novel from many moons ago. I’d previously used the original Scrivener back in '09, so decided to invest in S3, and, having worked through the tutorial, I’ve loaded up a new project and before importing my existing chapters, I thought I’d create some character sheets, as up until now, they’ve existed as random docs, Post it notes and ‘stuff I really ought to try and remember’.

So I loaded up a Character Template.

And I didn’t like it.

Didn’t like the font, text colour, headings and so on. I’m fussy like that. Not a problem, I thought. I’ll just create a new template.

So I create a new document and ensure that left justify is selected because obviously I’m not going to centre justify or right justify. Right? Right!

Now call me crazy, but I take the view that if text is left justified, then ALL THE TEXT STARTS ON THE LEFT!!!

Scrivener’s creators clearly disagree, as the first line of any given paragraph is indented.

“But,” thinks I, “on the template, it all lined up nicely. Like it should.”

/retrieves template from the trash and inspects it
/notes the mark up all over the place

Now I get that ‘the rules’ say that a new paragraph should start with an indent. I also take the view that as a writer, I can ignore any rule I bloody well feel like. As Raymond Chandler is alleged to have said to a sub-editor… *When I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will stay split"

Now I am not about to faff about with mark up endlessly, trying to get left-justified lines to line up when, by definition, they should be doing it anyway, so I am hoping that one of you fine people will be able to point me to a setting, buried deep in the working of Scrivener, that will put me out of my misery. Hopefully, somewhere among the sub-menus, is a setting called “Make left-justify work like it ought to.”

(For anyone thinking “Why doesn’t he just cut and paste the original template and edit that?”, there’s a principle at stake here, and that principle is “Software should work for the user, the user shouldn’t have to accommodate the software.”

If I want an indent at the start of a paragraph, I have a perfectly serviceable Tab key.)

And secondly - and I hope that this is just a little joke by the developers - I note in the “Novel Format” document, it says “You do not need to—and indeed shouldn’t—title the folders “Chapter One” and so on, because chapter numbering will be taken care of automatically during the Compile process.”


Whatever you do, don’t call Chapter One 'Chapter One"?

Seriously? What. The. Actual. Flip?

I don’t believe for one second that I’m going to have to jump through hoops with stuff like “Chapter the First” when I could - and should - be able to use the most obvious name for it.

So just checking - it is a joke, right?



There is a strong difference between paragraph alignment and paragraph indent settings, but it seems from your description you feel the two should be the same? I am not aware of anything that works that way, or indeed how that would work. Certainly left alignment is not “by definition” a declaration of the line width.

So I can’t really think of how to compare this to what you have used in the past, but in Scrivener and most word processors indents are something that modify the left and right constraints (or width) of the paragraph or its first line separately, while alignment is how the text is positioned within that line. We can thus take a block of text and push it over 3cm from the left margin, then choose centre-alignment and have the text centred within that adjusted block, rather than the entirety of the page. Or for another example, if you have a block quote that pushes the text in 2cm from the right margin, and an attribution style that works within that 2cm offset that is right aligned, it would align to the 2cm point, not jump all the way outside of the local context to the right-most part of the text.

  • Format ▸ Paragraph ▸ Tabs and Indents...: zero out all of the indent settings if you do not want paragraph indenting.
  • Alignment you’ve already discovered, but again that’s just going to work within the width of the line as set by the above.
  • Once you fix one paragraph, you can copy and paste formatting to other paragraphs from that same Format ▸ Paragraph submenu.

I suppose, if you have nothing better to think of it by, but the idea is that you can refer to things more usefully to yourself. Maybe “Gemma steals the car from Sarah” would be total spoil for your readers—but as a writer you want the organisation of your text to be full of spoilers, because that’s how you find the things you want to work on.

Or maybe “Catalyst” is what you want to call the chapter, and you want to readers to see it too, and also have it numbered, so you set up the compiler to print it as “Chapter 28: Catalyst”.

But sure, if “Chapter 28” is all you need to know in your head that this is when the car is stolen, call it that. It’s your life. Spend it numbering and subsequently renumbering things by hand if that’s what you enjoy. Myself I’d rather leave that kind of menial task to a computer though.


Thank you, AmberV. That’s most useful. I’m stuck on a train at the moment, but I’ll investigate those settings when I’m home.

Much appreciated.


Thank you again, AmberV - just tried playing about with the Indent settings, and that was exactly what I was looking for.


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Sure thing! And if you prefer that kind of “blog article” paragraph look to the traditional print book indented paragraph while writing as well, not just in this template, take note of the Format ▸ Make Formatting Default menu command. That will ask which default to use, in most cases global is what you want, but each project can have its own special formatting if that is your cup of tea, too.

That will change it so all new text chunks you create will look the way you want from the start, and it will also establish what “no style” means if you use that setting, as well as Documents ▸ Convert ▸ Text to Default Formatting..., for bulk formatting clean-up.

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