Auto-split document??


I’m a new user to Scrivener. I already have a large manuscript, and wanted a software program to help with rearranging & final-drafting. When I imported the doc into Scrivener, I got a very rude shock.

My manuscript (the original, pre-import) is already broken into scenes and chapters, using the standard “#” symbol and “Chapter” titling.

However, in order to break it up in Scrivener, it seems I have to go to each of those # symbols and run the Split command manually. There’s no way to apply the existing novel template, or no simple feature to auto-split multiple times.

For a 350+ page document, you must be joking. The sheer amount of work that involves (over and on top of the work I’ve already put in & still need to put in on this thing) makes that impractical at best, and I’m shocked that the devs haven’t thought of that.

Is there some means to simply tell Scrivener "look for all the # and split the document there automatically? Or did you folks really overlook such a simple & useful functionality for pre-existing documents?

  1. the tone of this forum is friendly and helpful. You’ll get advice more quickly if you drop the crabby, arrogant attitude.

  2. It’s not that much work. Just put the cursor where you want the chapter break and Press Command-K. Then label the new Binder item as you wish. I’ve done this in a 400-page draft many times, and it never took more than a few minutes.

  1. I usually get crabby when a program makes me do something manually that could easily be done automatically. And calling someone “arrogant” when they’re simply frustrated over a what seems to be a lack of basic functionality…I hope you’re not part of Scrivener’s official tech support, because such name-calling over a mild post will lose you customers.

  2. “It’s not that much work” is a cop-out. The point is that it’s still extra work that could be handled simply & much faster with search-replace-break functionality. The point of this program is to make it easier for writers, yes? Making me repeat a keyboard command over and over is not making-it-easy, especially for carpal tunnel.

Now, back to my question. Is there something I’m missing here? Is there a way to automatically break the document without resorting to multiple keyboard commands?

Why split it at all? Presumably you don’t need to rearrange all of the scenes, so why not just leave it as it is until you reach a point where you actually need to make a split?

Please remember that the current state of your manuscript is not Scrivener’s fault, and try not to vent your frustration in Scrivener’s direction. If you are able to find a tool that comes closer to meeting your needs, by all means use it.


Sorry, but that was the impression you left. Had I known you had carpal tunnel, I’d of been more temperate. If you read the FAQ, you’ll learn that Scrivener is the product of a single developer. There’s no “official tech support,” just all of us users, also writers, who are trying to help each other. That’s why the tone is usually friendly and helpful. Your attitude continues to be way out of line.


There is no way to do what you wish, no, I am afraid.

As Druid points out, and as is made clear on the About page, there is no “team” behind Scrivener, just me, I’m afraid. The whole thing is the product of my wanting a tool that better matched the way I work. So, all coding, website design, forum management and technical support is undertaken, to the best of my ability, by yours truly. Please bear this in mind when posting.

I am sorry you are frustrated. Splitting up a document is a delicate and destructive process, and the software could easily get it wrong. Your request, however, is not an unreasonable one. That said, how would such a feature work? You mention that your work is separated using the standard “#” character - this is standard for novels using standard manuscript format, but many users will be using other formats. For many - perhaps most - users, there will be no really good way of splitting up a document automatically, as they will have no such dividers between sections. Even if it did split up your document automatically, you would still have to go through every single document and give it a meaningful title, as Scrivener could not guess this for you. And what about between chapters? There is no such divider between those. I thinking aloud here about how such a feature would work, if it could work, whether it would be useful to many users, and so on.



I had a similar issue when I was beginning to use Scrivener. I had a half-completed 200-page manuscript that I wanted to move to Scrivener. Of course the first thought was, in my case, wouldn’t it be nice if it was automatically split at each paragraph mark? But as I went through the first chapter – still testing whether Scrivener would work for me – I realized that the seemingly mindless work of splitting at paragraph marks was actually conceptually valuable. I saw structure – or lack of it – and by the time I had it all in Scrivener, the problem with the book that had sent me looking for a better way to do my writing and to Scrivener was half solved.

But your issue is also different: if your document is text only (not rtf), and you save it in UTF-8, LF Text format, you should be able to import it via the Multimarkdown import. I just tried it with Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Sunny Memories, and it worked very well. I put a # before each of her Letters using global change and when I imported it into Scrivener (File>Import>Multimarkdown file …), the document was split at the chapter markers. This seems exactly what you need, right?

In general, however, I have found that Scrivener’s emphasis is on writing, i.e. producing new text, more than on editing existing text (though I have found it invaluable for editing as well).

I hope this sets you off in the right direction.


Tinderbox has an auto-split tool, which does come in handy from time to time. With that, you can specify an arbitrary string of characters, like a search query, to split at. In this particular case, one could probably search by #. Such a tool would probably be best used in a semi-automatic way. One would split by chapters manually (or if they have some convention they could use the auto tool at that level), then split each chapter up using another search string. Naming would just have to an incrementing number, perhaps using the source document’s name as a prefix. It would still take a little work, but I don’t think a comprehensive “split my manuscript into a fully binder structure” is feasible given the number of variations out there. The hash convention is pretty standard in the fiction world, but there isn’t really any convention for chapters.

Hmm, how does the MMD importer work? I wonder if it would be easy to duplicate that code and make it so the user could specify the string to look for, with the option to use the rest of the line as a title, and to strip the separator from the result. Then you could have a dialogue box that had five or six “levels” all customisable. It wouldn’t work for everyone, but say as an advanced flip down arrow on the simple “split document at all instances and make them children of current document” tool.

If I were to implement something like this it would have to be fairly simple. Different levels would be unmanageable (from my end, code-wise and time-wise) at the moment. It would be a simple box in which you could enter the search/split string, and a checkbox indicating whether or not the search string should be deleted upon splitting. That would be it. It would still be a couple of day’s work, so I’m not guaranteeing it for the next free update, but it does sound a reasonable feature request.
All the best,

Just FYI - in traditional fiction manuscript format the hatch marks (#) are only used to separate scenes where there might be confusion - at the bottom or top of a page. The traditional way in a fiction manuscript to separate scenes where there is no confusion is with the simple hiatus - two double-spaced blank lines.

This is also how printed novels tend to be presented. The hatch marks are only used when there might be confusion, again at the top or bottom of a page.

I say this not to be too pedantic, but rather to show that if there was an auto-split in Scrivener, the ability to split at a hiatus might be problematic.