I have come to hate Scrivener because of what I regard as its insane complexity. I’m trying to effectuate simple formatting changes in the compile and when I hit that compile button I don’t know what the hell it’s going to look like. I must have compiled 50 times tonight and I STILL can’t get it to look like I want it to. My advice to you, admittedly in the heat of anger and frustration, is that you need to do MORE than make a powerful app, which Scrivener is. You need to make the power ACCESSIBLE. This you have manifestly failed to do.

It’s ‘complex’. but yet, very easy to use with an ordered approach. There are also MANY resources to assist you.

Have you tried any of the very good books (mine included), or reached out on this forum for assistance (presumably no since this is your first post under this user name)? There are many users on this forum only too happy to help (plus L&L staff)

Have you looked at any of the Scrivener videos, or used the built-in tutorial?

Have you used any of the many YouTube videos?

Instead of throwing a hissy fit, perhaps if you asked for assistance, you might achieve the outcome you are seeking.

As I said, there are endless resources and many here ready to help you use the very powerful, yet ACCESSIBLE Scrivener.

Much more satisfying than storming off in a grump.


Nothing is more satisfying than storming off in a grump! :grinning:

The OP does have a point. While very powerful, the compile functionality remains complex. Even as an experienced user I find I have to re-educate myself on how it works every time I want to come up with a new compile format for something.

For me, that’s something I’m okay with.

For one thing, I’m not going to let the thing I do quickly at the end of writing dictate how I do the drafting bit which is 99.9% of the time I spend in the programme.

Secondly, I’ve invested time in building some compile formats I’m very happy with, and so compiling very nice documents exactly as I want them is now INCREDIBLY quick and easy.

Thirdly, if I really needed to, I could just export to rtf and play with all that stuff in a dedicated document layout app - although I don’t need to because of point 2 above.

So, yeah. It could be easier. Although I can’t see how you’d implement that without losing the flexibility and power that I want too.


I agree, ideally Scrivener would host a user forum where just like people post styles for scriverner with a preview image, Scrivener gives a sample book with front, back matter, chapters and few scenes. People then could show what there personally custom formats for different outputs, pdf, ebook look like. You could open formatted small file and see what is most like what want and download it and use for own and not have to know as much about compile, but get desired result.


Perhaps you can take the lead and share yours? Perhaps the moderators here could add a category for this?


Stomping away may be momentarily satisfying, but even without the snarky commentary from bystanders there’s also a strong sense of failure.

Scrivener is more than complex, it’s COMPLICATED. There’s a difference.

I’ve invested quite a bit of time building a custom compile format. It’s the extreme difficulty I encountered while trying to make that format conform to (what I thought were) modest tweaks that finally sent me over the edge.

The rtf scenario you describe is not what I’m looking for, but thanks for offering it.

And yeah, it could be easier – and in the compile hell I was in earlier tonight I felt that very keenly.

Both anonymously and under another forum name I HAVE viewed a handful of YouTube videos, and I don’t mean just a cursory glance. I’ve invested significant personal time in it. It’s also worth considering that the wealth of resources you describe is itself a marker for the unnecessarily complicated implementation of Scrivener’s feature set.

More an indication of what people have achieved with Scrivener and a desire to share that knowledge. I see the same level of resources out there for far simpler apps. There’s a whole eco of resources for doing the most basic work in Excel and Word for example and they are the least complicated apps.

Scrivener is not for everyone. While I stumbled slightly with the move from V2 to V3 on Mac, it didn’t take much effort to achieve my desired results. On my fiction books the layout was simple, and only a little different on the Scrivener books.

Anyhoo, there are resources should you choose to try them, or perhaps something a little less ‘complex’ such as Word is best suited. A quick compile to .doc will enable you to play to your heart’s content there.

Just a parting thought, I’m on several Scrivener groups with a person who writes the scrivener virgin blog and training materials (google it). I’ve seen her help totally confused users who were at the hair pulling stage, so if you don’t get what you need here, perhaps look at her site and services.


You sound like a power user’s power user to me. I’ve heard Excel and Word described in many ways, but “least complicated” is a first. In the realm of word processors, something like Apple’s TextEdit can be thought of that way. Word is a behemoth – a behemoth’s behemoth – and speaking as someone who was always the go-to guy in any corporate department where I worked when it came to complex document formatting, I know “complicated” when I see it.

I am writing my first book almost at 50000 words and will get to compile in several months. But I am a retired Doctor and with emr’s people would share templates and people could pick and choose and modify but see what best fit their needs. That is why I am hoping if can start a sharing site hopefully hosted by L&L that when get ready to compile, Then the process would be easier to get a handle on, as clearly this topic frustrates a lot of people. Seeing real live examples would be great. Absolutely, would share if that far along, Would also be cool to share icon/png files that work. I created a collection of geometric shapes using photoshop and gave different colors as another way to delineate acts of my story saving label colors for things like pov. That I would be glad to share if had a mechanism.

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Until someone provides you a place, start a web site. Hundreds of ways to do that. Thousands and millions of people ready to give you advice as to what to do. Me: I’ll keep it simple–setup WordPress site hosted by them. Other ideas exist, of course.

Recommendation. Don’t wait to start compiling. Start now with reading your drafts. the default formats provided by Scrivener are good starting points that don’t need much (if any) tweaking. If your target is Word to send to your editor/publisher, then compile to Word. In the time it took you to write your posts here, you could have had a first version! :wink:


I completely agree it’s complicated. My main issue with it is that I have to use it so infrequently I never get the familiarity that comes with repetition. I mean I only need to come up with a new compile format maybe once ever 4-5 years so anything but the most obvious, intuitive and simple interface is going to be a head scratcher for me each time!

I suppose the good news on the flip side of that coin is that once you have one you like, it serves you well for as many compiles as you like (I usually compile something - even if it’s just a PDF of a couple of chapters to review on a different screen - once a fortnight) and you can just forget it all for 5 years!

Plus writing the draft in Scriv is soooooo lovely and intuitive, and that’s where I spend 99.9% of my time and the bit I want to be as friction free as possible. The compile complexity is an acceptable trade off for the drafting simplicity for me. I’m pretty sure it’s an inevitable trade off too, although if you’ve got UI suggestions that would make it easier, then do suggest them!


I will do that, will need to get attention for people to find me and my book. so will bring them in with this. Thanks for the suggestion RMS. May I be more informal and call you R

Hey @departing-customer ! You’ve written in under the Feedback page, but are you actually wanting help with getting your Compiled document to do what you want it to do, or did you just want to vent? It’s fine if the latter is true, but I’m just checking. If you do want help, feel free to start another thread in the appropriate Windows or macOS forum page or write into technical support for assistance, if you haven’t already.


That’s exactly the issue. It’s a complex function because it does complex things.

It’s also complex because it seeks to automate many tasks that are typically done by hand in other programs. In the long run, that’s faster, but in the short run having to explain the desired task to the computer can be frustrating.

My advice to the OP and to anyone else struggling with it is to start simple. Use something like the Default Compile format supplied with Scrivener to verify that you’re able to get all of your text assembled into a single document and out of the program. From there, whether to continue in Scrivener or to use another application for final formatting is a very individual choice, depending on your requirements, your frustration tolerance, and your facility with other programs.


Granted there are complex functions one can use in Word and Excel, but for the average user both are a relative no-brainer. With Excel, things like Cross Tabs which some shy from are very simple to implement with a powerful result.

Personally, I enjoy Pages on Mac and back in the day found AMI Pro a better WP than Word, both for being more intuitive when doing more complex work.

‘Word is a behemoth’. Yes it is a bloated behemoth, yet there’s nothing particularly difficult about it unless you want to dive into that last 2-3% of super nerd shit.

That’s a bit like Scrivener, except perhaps there’s 10% of more ‘difficult stuff.’

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When I think about it you have a point – the bloat of Word is undeniable, but I never found the work truly difficult most of the time. You just had to have a certain willingness to wade through an endless series of modal dialog boxes to get done what you wanted to do. I used to do a lot of big page-spanning tables and non-contiguous multi-level numbered outlines of some length. That and the occasional big mail-merge project were about as tough as it got for me.

I haven’t worked in the corporate world for awhile now and my go-to word processor is Pages, which I find enjoyable to use. I never have the need to do the kind of elaborate large-document formatting I used to do when I worked at Hughes Aircraft in the '90s.

I feel like a fever has passed since my episode with Scrivener last night. I don’t know what my next move is going to be. I’m giving Ulysses a try right now and have a week to decide if I want to go with their subscription plan. I stand by most of what I said a day ago, but you and the others here in the forum have made good points so far as the use of resources goes.

For what it is worth, it may be just my style of learning, but I am forever grateful for the initial General Non-Fiction (LaTeX) Project Template that is included with Scrivener.

Without the General Non-Fiction (LaTeX) Project Template, I would NEVER have been able to even get started with Scrivener, lest spend the last 2+ years learning even the basics in Scrivener. Compared to all of the 5-10+ year Scrivener alumni that are out there, I’m still just a babe in the woods.

Scrivener has an incredible amount of power and flexibility (as I’ve learned in my work to amplify Styles) but in my early days, if that initial General Non-Fiction (LaTeX) Project Template didn’t exist, I would have blown by Scrivener as a far too complex piece of software for what I need to do. Two plus years later, I am grateful for having that initial Template to get me started.

Bottom line: I realize there are there many Templates included with the Scrivener app. Is it time to expand the list? Perhaps a sample Template that serves an an introduction to all of the resources that are available on GitHub, StackExchange, et al. with an introduction on how best to use those resources? Learning Scrivener is just so far beyond just watching a few YouTube videos.

Perhaps a budding new user needs a bit more initial direction.

Personally, I’m still learning about all the resources available on StackExchange, and I’ve barely touched GitHub, or any of the other resources that are out there. A roadmap on how to learn more about those resources would be helpful.

Thanks for reading,