After a year of using Scrivener, I regret to say I'm moving back to Word... (Zotero and Antidote)

Scrivener has the potential to be great, and I really wish I could continue to use it. But it’s missing one essential function for academic writing and another essential function for writing in French that is forcing me to go back to Word. I wrote to customer service a while back but I didn’t get any serious response, so I’m putting this here.

The first function is Zotero integration, which I’m sure countless people will agree with. Sure, there’s a complicated work-around, but it’s complicated as hell. You need to copy every citation in this ugly format, then save the document as an RTF, scan it in Zotero with a special plugin, save it as an ODT, refresh the citations and add the bibliography every single time you want to send the document to your thesis adviser. It wastes a crazy amount of time.

The second missing function affects anyone who writes in French. As someone mentioned in this forum previously, basically anyone serious about writing in French will use Antidote as a spell checker. Antidote can be integrated into everything from Chrome to Word to Notepad. But not Scrivener. So every time I write something and want to get it spell checked, I either need to copy it into Notepad then copy it back into Scrivener once it’s corrected, or I wait until I finished the entire document and spend an hour or so going through everything.

Every other week when I send a copy of my thesis to my adviser it takes me over an hour just to get things into a halfway decent format for him to comment. And then he can’t make any modifications in the text because if I bring the converted text back into Zotero, I lose all my reference codes. So for every suggestion he does, I need to switch between Scrivener and Libre office and fix everything manually, which completely obliterates my workflow efficiency.

These two inconveniences far outweigh any advantage I had of using Scrivener over Word. I’m really sad about this because I love working in Scrivener, but the fact that the developers have shown no sign that they had any intention to bring these important functions in future updates has convinced me that I should stop wasting my time trying to get this to work.

In a nutshell:

  1. Every academic writer uses a reference manager like Zotero, but Scrivener doesn’t have any reference manager integration. Reference managers are an essential need for academic writers, not a luxury, By ignoring this need, Scrivener developers are pretty much alienating every academic writer that doesn’t feel like wasting their time with complicated workarounds (which is most of them).
  2. Every francophone writer uses Antidote, which can be integrated into nearly every application but not Scrivener. By ignoring this need, Scrivener developers are pretty much alienating every francophone writer that would like to use their product.

I find this business strategy rather questionable. Until they get their shit together, I’m going back to Word…

If Scrivener were being marketed primarily to academic writers, this would indeed be a questionable strategy. AFAIK, it’s not. Most of the people on the forums, at any rate, seem to be fiction writers, though there are some who write nonfiction, including academic research.

I’m an academic writer (or at least a scholarly writer, being retired from the academy), and I find Scrivener useful as part of a collection of research and writing tools. For me, its strength is the ability to organize information, and create and organize drafts of segments, in ways that MS Word cannot actually manage. I would never dream of trying to write even an essay in Scrivener alone, let alone a book (including a dissertation). Material organized in Scrivener can be exported (compiled or copied and pasted) into a full-featured word processor. Citations can be entered in a rudimentary form, to be formatted properly (as everything should be formatted properly) in the WP. Scrivener does have a French dictionary available for download, but I can’t say whether it is comparable to Antidote; I presume you’ve tried it and found it lacking.

So I feel that Scrivener does as well as it should be expected to do for my purposes, given that those are not the purposes for which it was created. Actually, I avoid Word like the plague, since it also was definitely not designed with academics in mind. I use Nota Bene, which was designed for us, with its own built-in citation management system (capable of importing from Zotero, etc.), academic style manuals, and research-document indexing and retrieval system. (Also dictionaries in over 20 languages, but again I can’t say whether the French one is as good as Antidote.)

Anyway, that’s my take on the topic. Best wishes on your dissertation. I certainly understand that at this point no time can be wasted on tools that aren’t working for you.

I am an academic writer and have supervised a number of PhD students over the years. I suggest you compile to Word and print it and then hand the printout to your supervisor. He/she shouldn’t give you electronic comments but manual, on paper. Then you simply make the changes in Scrivener.

Compiling is easy and super fast after the first time when you set up your preferred output style.

As for references, Papers 3 works very well with Scrivener.

Having everything seamlessly integrated is not what makes great research. It’s the ideas that matters. PhD students have written thesis long before there even were PCs.

Another long-time academic Scrivener user here, and using Bookends as a reference manager and Pandoc I compile directly from Scrivener to create a fully formatted bibliography automatically, no scanning or any other post-compile steps involved (see how to do that in my signature, but for Windows it depends on using the V3beta).

Many of the pain points in this are due to Zotero not Scrivener; Zotero is free but problems with the workflow constantly come up here, far more than for any other reference manager. That IMO isn’t a coincidence.

Keith has repeatedly asked Zotero users how to make this better (with no clear practical answers so far), and the only real solution involves extensive work on both sides, and then if this is done only for a Zotero workflow, what about all the other reference managers? Zotero is a moving target, and huge changes to its API (V4, 5, 6) and tools means it really isn’t wise to try to build some custom bridge to it.

Possible solution: If Scrivener bundled Pandoc, then it could offer a compile that would auto-generate a bibliography directly in multiple output formats. This IMO would be the most direct option (build on the shoulders of giants). But to bundle Pandoc would add ~100MB to the Scrivener executable size, and Keith has not been willing to do that so far. BUT if a user installed Pandoc, then I could imagine some small changes to the Compiler (where you specify the BibTeX and CSL[1] files from the Binder), would make an automatic bibliography generation function easily available in Scrivener. This would appeal to users for who a workflow like mine appears intimidating.

[1] Pandoc uses citeproc, just as Mendeley/Papers/Zotero/Colwiz and many others. There are thousands of styles, they are easy to use, and all the user would need to do would be add the CSL to the binder, and link to a BibTeX file they kept up-to-date, from any ref manager (thus it would work for almost everyone!)

Although, I’m not an academic writer, I also found Scrivener quite frustrating in French.
Here are my two cents (I’m using the Windows version):

  • the localization is not good (misspells and mistakes everywhere),
  • the dictionary is more than lacking (it tries to correct properly spelled words, and leave some other out). Libre Office spell checker is 10 times more efficient. While I would not necessarily need Antidote, a decent spell checker is a must.
  • It seems that the software simply ignores most language specificities (may be there’s an option or a trick, but I haven’t found it yet): no “espaces insécables”, impossible to do the proper quotation marks (i.e. << blabla >>), etc.
    I’m still on the trial period, but so far, while the ability to structure ideas etc. is amazing, the poor localization is a real pain (and the blur of the whole thing on a hidef screen is also not impressive).
    So if anybody has any trick to share, I’m happy to hear them. As the software seems to be a great tool… just not in French.


I feel I am in the same position as gombolduc. I have been using Scrivener for over a year now for my PhD and as I entered the writing phase I feel I need to go back to Word. please note I do not live in the same scity as my supervisor, can’t hand over printed copies.

My concerns are similar:
(i) no direct integration of citations. so in scrivener I just enter the year and date between parenthesis for later referencing in word
(i) difficult to integrate feedback aka to collaborate on. I need to compile out for my phd supervisor and include well formatted citations, and as I receive a word or pdf file back, need to somehow transfer the comments and corrections from the received file into the original scrivener files. If I want to share again, I have to start over the reformating of the compilation and the citation.

I thought “well scrivener is great for drafting, and the moment I need to share for input I need to pass to Ms Mord and stay in MS Word”,

The issue is the further I move on into my dissertation, the more the content still in Scrivener , from draft chapters, is outdated, so even drafting a new chapter in this dated content environment is not the best.

For a couple of chapters though, I went back to scrivener from word after input and so when I revisited chapters a couple months down the road I have found myself wondering " which is most advanced version, the word files or the scrivener in-program files ? " this is quickly figured out and I know I should note the dates of the latest version in my research diary but it is just additional issues to worry about on top of the mountain of data and references to tidy up and manage. I figured indeed at best I can use Scrivener on the early stages of drafting.

Ideally from my perspective as an academic, Scrivener would allow citation from Mendeley/zotero, and easier back and forth from docx files.


From the comments here, it seems that the Mac version 3 has bibliography-friendly features that the current Windows version lacks. It would be good to know what we can expect in this regard from Windows v3, when it launches.
(Also an academic writer, on Windows.)

Windows Scrivener 3 is expected to achieve feature parity with Mac Scrivener 3.


I am not sure it’s just about Windows vs Mac and managing references, i think the main complaints here have to do with using Scrivener as a collaborative platform. I am a University Professor and have mentored many grad students (who all apparently live well in the Microsoft planet) and collaborated with many colleagues on research papers and grant proposals (also living well in the Microsoft planet) and while I love and used Scrivener for many years, it never occurred to me to use it for collaborative writing. It doesn’t seem to me designed for that.

To those that plan to go back to Word, though, I suggest looking into Overleaf, which is gaining more and more traction in academia and is a wonderful tool for collaborative writing and complete control over your document output (being LaTeX) and reference management (through bibTeX). I don’t really see why someone writing her or his dissertation is forced to use Word (unless the mentor, of course, refuses to learn to use Overleaf, which, btw, has a way less steep learning curve than pure LaTeX).

For those like me that need to go through the Office of Contracts and Grants to submit a grant proposal, however, Word is an inevitable calamity. The admins can’t live without it :slight_smile:

I’m also an academic writer, currently about half-way through my second book in Scrivener. I only write in English, so I can’t comment on the language issues, but as far as referencing goes, I use Endnote and find it works pretty well.

For those who are interested, here’s a little more info:

• Endnote is a bibliographic database. You either search online or enter details manually. Obviously, as with any reference manager, the key benefit is that you only have to do this once for each item, which is a great time saver when you need to refer to the same item again. Endnote has templates for lots of different kinds of sources (book, article, thesis, legal case, etc.) and output styles of hundreds of publications (their quality varies a bit, but all the main styles, Chicago, MLA, etc., work well and you can customise them or create your own.

• Endnote has a feature called “Cite While You Write” that works with Word, but not Scrivener. For some people, that’s a problem but personally I never use it. Instead, I use the Endnote “temporary citations”, which look like this {Authorname, date, #1234@356}. “Authorname, date” is self-explanatory; the #number is a unique record identifier, in case you have several “Smith, 2019” entries; the {} tells Endnote it’s a temporary citation. (You can change the curly brackets to other characters if you use {} in your documents; I use <> because I have always used {} for “notes to self.) Finally, the number(s) after the @ sign is the specific page or range of pages you want to cite.

• As I’m making my notes, I put these temporary refs into my documents. In Word, there’s a keyboard shortcut, but in Scrivener you just cut and paste them. It’s a tiny bit more work, but as you have to type the page references manually each time, it makes very little difference. I create a Scrivener document for each source I’m using, so I only have to work with one temporary citation marker at a time, which I just copy, paste and customise as I make my notes.

• When I start writing, I split the screen, with the source (my notes) in one window and the new document in the other. As I copy sections of notes over into my draft, I copy the temporary citations markers with them. As I write, edit and polish, I cut and paste the temporary citations into Scrivener notes (but you could leave them in the text if you were using Harvard-style, in-text referencing).

• Once I’m done writing, I compile to Word and do my final formatting there, which includes using Endnote to convert all my temporary citations into finished ones. The real beauty of Endnote (for me) is that I usually don’t know if or where I’m going to publish something when I’m writing (and I never do when I’m making notes), so I don’t know what kind of referencing system the publisher will want me to use. Doesn’t matter, because Endnote will transform all those temporary citations into whatever style you want (and can reformat repeatedly if, for example, you have to resubmit to different publishers or journals).

• Compiling to Word also converts the Scrivener notes into Word footnotes (and, of course, you can convert these to endnotes with a single click).

• For my own sanity, I never edit the text in Word; only play with the appearance. That way, the Scrivener version is always the definitive up-to-date version.

Hope that’s of some help.

(BTW, I’m not making any claims for the superiority of Endnote; I’ve used it for so long that it’s second nature to me – and I have about 4,000 items in my database – so I’ve never bothered to experiment with alternatives. My feeling is that the software you know best is always the best software; you don’t want anything to get in the way of what you’re actually trying to say.)

I’m currently finishing off the first draft of my Master’s dissertation, using the Windows beta version of Scrivener.

My workaround for the whole notes-from-supervisor-in-Ms Word is this…

I do all of the donkey work in Scrivener. Then I export the draft as a DOCX file, which I format properly. My supervisor does his thing. When I get his comments draft back, I edit the document in Google Docs (I haven’t used MS Word in more than 17 years).

When I’ve implemented the changes, and the piece is ready to go back into Scrivener, I add the string, “###” at the top of every section.

I open Scrivener, and use the “Import and split” function to create a new Scrivener project. I use “###” as the marker for the splitting.

I then drag and drop all the extra bits from the previous Scrivener project version into the new version.

I haven’t worked out how to get Scrivener to recognize header styles, so I have to redo those manually. But it kinda forces me to look at my structure again, which is a good thing.

I can’t offer any insights re referencing or French dictionaries. But I can offer my opinion that the version 3 beta makes me very happy. (I find version 1 to be opaque and near impossible to use. Version 3 is going to be mindblowing for me.

Now… It’s time for me to stop this procrastination-break and get back to writing. My supervisor needs my draft on Wednesday.

This is the solution I would recommend, except that there’s no need to create a new project. You can import and split into a new folder in the existing one.

As I’ve expressed before, I’m not convinced that trying to map the edited Word document directly to the existing project structure is a useful exercise. Different fields have different requirements, obviously, but in my own work I simply don’t need the kind of line-by-line version control that programmers expect.



I’m also a french writer (screenwriter and novelist) and Antidote is sure the way to go. I felt the same about you with Antidote at first… but I found a work around! :smiley:

Right-click on the text you want to correct. As the menu is on screen, maintain CTRL (CMD) and it will shows the option REVEAL FILE LOCATION under reveal in binder.

Take that files, open WORDS with it. Antidote that thing for good, SAVE IT. Boom, it updates in Scrivener.

Just like that… Like tears in the rain.

Don’t know about your Zotero thingy… Since all my references are in my head and nobody needs to verify them :slight_smile:

Happy writing ! :smiley:

Not so. I’m entering citations and reference entries by hand. It’s how people did it for a long, long time. Excellent books were prepared that way. You have to learn the ins and outs of the chosen citation style, of course. And it’s work, true, but it beats shovelling dirt in the rain by a large margin.

Absolutely your choice, of course, but I think that anyone writing a PhD who plans to become an academic writer would be well advised to acquire a reference manager as soon as possible. Not least because your institution will have a preferred style of referencing, but every publisher and journal has their own. Since it’s often necessary (sadly) to resubmit a manuscript to different journals or publishers, re-formatting all your manual citations in their preferred style is incredibly time-consuming, One of many benefits to using reference manager software is that it will take care of all this automatically and swiftly.

I may have missed other responses to the original post about Scrivener and Antidote for French academic writing, but as of now, running Scrivener 3.1.3 and Antidote 10 v2.3 on an iMac with macOS Mojave 10.1.6, Antidote CAN be incorporated into Scrivener - I’ve just done it.
I can’t comment on integration with bibliographic/reference apps.

OOPS ! As a newcomer here, I’ve just realised that this thread is about Windows, not Mac version of Scrivener. Sorry for irrelevant comment !

I write in English, and am thinking of starting to use a grammar checker, either ProWritingAid or Antidote. Thus I was interested in this helpful workaround from “johninthe winter”, which – one would think – should work for either of them in the beta version and the coming v. 3 (Windows). Perhaps someone who uses Antidote could help me with a question. The requirements for Antidote10 list an SSD. Is Antidote too slow to be pleasantly usable if one’s computer runs on an HDD, not an SSD?

Wait, what? That’s a nifty trick, holding down Ctrl on the Navigate menu for Reveal File Location. But if we use another editor to modify and save the revealed file, there’s no Boom. Scrivener will continue to display the version in its buffer, and likely overwrite our changes upon autosave. We can edit HTML docs and media files externally, but not Scriv’s native text docs, which also contain style markers not recognized as such by other rich text editors.

Rgds - Jerome