A frustrated newbie here ...

Hello all:

Earlier tonight I got really infuriated with the new version of MS Word for Mac. (I was forced to upgrade from Word for Mac 2011, which I absolutely loved, when I had to buy a new Mac.) Word kept crapping out on me (it is not iCloud-friendly, for one thing; it’s trying to force me to use their OneDrive, which I really don’t want to do, and I don’t want to save files on my hard drive), so I decided to look elsewhere for a better word processing program. I write primarily fiction and poetry; I’ve written plays in the past, but I’m not looking to do that right now.

So far Scrivener looks intriguing, but it’s not a straightforward program at all. In fact, I’m almost ready to hate it. Please convince me to love it because it seems way unnecessarily overcomplicated to do the straightforward things I used to do in Word.

  1. When I start a new file, I want to be brought into Page Layout automatically. How do I set it up like that?

  2. When I open a blank document (no, I don’t want to be forced to choose a fiction template in order to write a poem or short story), it looks like I have to keep changing its settings. Right now it’s defaulting to Palatino at 13 point size. Is there any way to make it so that whenever I start a new file, I can start at some other font at 12 point?!? It’s driving me nuts.

  3. MS Word had this little feature where, when you look at the screen, there was a soft line showing the margins on all four sides of the sheet). I don’t see this option in Scrivener. As a poet, it’s important to see how much space I have to work with any given line.

  4. Can’t I have the template show invisibles automatically without my having to search for the feature and turn it on?

  5. The terminology around tabs is confusing. Why is it so hard to set it up? And why isn’t tabs under “Format”?!?

  6. In Format > Style > Set Default Formatting … very frustrating. No option to set the default font nor size. Nothing.

Finally, the video tutorials are WORTHLESS if you are Deaf and need captions to follow along with the voiceover. It’s not accessible for folks like me.

Pages for Mac has the right UI concept … when you open a file, it shows you all the basic options you need immediately on the right side of the document. (It doesn’t look like they use a lot of templates so you’d have to reinvent the wheel each time.) But with Scrivener, it requires a number of dropdown menus … and NO tab options under Format!

Finally, every time when I try to search for help on this web site, I’m told that I have to wait seven or eight seconds before I can search again. I mean, what the hell is up with that?!? Being forced to wait doesn’t make newbies like me feel welcome, particularly when Scrivener Help in the program itself isn’t all that comprehensive to begin with.


Have you done the built-in, interactive tutorial, founf under Help and also in the opening window? If not, do so. It answers most of your questions.

Remember, Scrivener is not a wysiwyg word processor, like Word or Pages. You shouldn’t bother about the final layout while writing. Focus on the content, not the way it looks.

I agree that Scrivener uses a radically different approach to that used in a word processor, and ignoring formatting is the best way to approach most writing in Scrivener, but it is not always a valid approach when writing poetry, where the layout may be an intrinsic element in its meaning. See, for example, Herbert’s Easter Wings: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter_Wings.

Then is it not best to use Word or Pages (or other wysiwyg editor) for poetry (or when wysiwyg is wanted) and forget about bending Scrivener to your will?

I’m sorry you’re frustrated, so let me try to help a bit. The thing is, you’re used to Word which uses an entirely different, proprietary text engine and doesn’t actually behave like a native Mac App. Also, Word is a page-based WYSIWYG app, whereas Scrivener, to a very large extent separates text-creation from text-layout, leaving the latter essentially to the compile process.

As a further heads-up, don’t get bogged down in trying to understand the full complexities of Scrivener; for the moment just concentrate on getting the editor set up the way you want so that you can start writing, and learn about other facilities as you come to realise you need them.

The answer is to start with a blank project set up in the way you want with the font, tabs, etc. as you want them, and then save that as a template, which you use as a basis for all future projects.

To set the font, etc. there are two ways:

(1) Go to Preferences > Editing > Formatting then click the “Aa” on the left side and choose the font, size etc. in the Apple Font Book dialog that comes up; (2) to set the line height and spacing, click on the button at point 5, choose “Other…” and set up as needed; (3) for the tabs, you can drag them to the positions that you want, drag them down off the bar to remove them, double click on them to cycle through the different types, i.e. left, right, centre, decimal.

(2) The other way is to set up a paragraph with text in the editor using the font, spacing and tabs you want—Cmd-R to see the ruler and set the tabs in the same way—then, in that same Preference pane, click the button at the top right which says “Use Formatting in Current Editor”. Delete this text when you come to saving the project as a template—see the end of this post.

In this screenshot, I have set the font to "Snell Roundhand so it shows up clearly for you, not that I would ever use that! :smiley:

[attachment=0]Screen Shot 2020-09-17 at 10.45.08.png[/attachment]

As @lunk pointed out, Scrivener is not a WYSIWYG editor and doesn’t know about pages until compile time; however, KB has implemented a “Page View”—originally for the benefit of scriptwriters, for whom paging is important—which gives an estimate of the pagination on compile. I have never used it, so I don’t know if a project template saves a layout view like that. But you can save it with Windows > Layouts > Manage Layouts… and when you’ve named and saved it you can assign a keyboard shortcut to it.

This limitation, of not being able to save “Show Invisibles” as a preference, seems to have come in recently, not just in Scrivener, but also in Nisus Writer Pro, which is based on the same Apple TextKit. I agree, it’s a pain, so again the answer is to create a keyboard shortcut—come back if you need help with that. But, that said, in my experience if you have “Show Invisibles” on when you close a project, it should still be on when you re-open it.

My wife having a profoundly deaf cousin, I fully appreciate how frustrating such things are for you, hence this long reply.

Thing is, (1) Pages is an absolutely WYSIWYG application, so things that are normal to Pages are not necessarily doable in a completely different type of application like Scrivener; (2) Apple doesn’t reveal any of the proprietary document information, so developers like KB and Nisus Software cannot even include an “Export/Compile to Pages” option … you have to go through DOCX!

To save the blank project you have created, go to File > Save as Template… where a dialog will come up asking you to name it, which category you want to save it under—mine I have named “Standard”, saved under “Blank”— and give it an icon if you wish—I don’t bother with that. There is the other matter of Styles, as the option is to save styles along with the template, but if you need help with styles, that should be for another time.

That, I know nothing about, I’m afraid, but I hope I’ve been able to help you a little.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0IObQ5tz5g Writing - Using Styles

Is that relevant?

I believe the search delay is an attempt to thwart spammers, who will link bomb a whole series of threads in quick succession. It will go away once you’ve posted enough to establish yourself as a real human. I’m sorry for the inconvenience.

Reviewing the tutorial first is good advice. Scrivener is not like any other word processor that you’ve used. The sooner you’re able to abandon your Word-trained habits, the less frustrated you’ll be.

If you need more comprehensive help, choose the manual from the Help menu.


Sorry, but die manual does not come up from the Help menu. Nothing happens when I click “Help/Scrivener Manual” (German: “Hilfe/Scrivener Handbuch”).

I downloaded the pdf manual from the Scrivener portal, but I would like to access it directly from the Help menue. Where is the manual located in the “~/Library/Application Support/Scrivener” folder structure

If the manual doesn’t come up from the Help menu, please try reinstalling Scrivener as your copy is mostly likely damaged.