Converting From OpenOffice for Dissertation

Hey all,
Before I get to the Q let me say that scrivener is beautiful! I am just starting to play with it and it makes me wonder why so many people settle for a simple word processor.

But now my situation:
I am writing a dissertation in the humanities (philosophy). I am about halfway in and wondering if scrivener would be for me. I imported one doc from Open Office (it was in .doc format) and I don’t see any citations. I think this is because scrivener imports in rtfd format, right?

The major question is for the sake of importing/exporting should I be jumping in on scrivener now? For the dissertation I generally send my advisor and then my committee drafts, rework the drafts and resend (all of this is usually electronically done). With all of this conversion is scrivener going to work for me? Any tutorials on this sort of thing?

So, I guess the question is regarding work already done and moving forward from here.



Thanks for the kind words. The main problems you see during importing are caused by Scrivener relying on Apple’s default importers - if you open a .doc, .docx, .rtf or .odt file in TextEdit, you’ll see what I mean; footnotes, images, headers and footers, comments - all get stripped. By far the best format to use for both import and export is RTF, because I’ve been able to do a lot of that format since it is essentially marked-up plain text and well-documented. So if you can export from your current program as RTF such that the footnotes, comments etc are all included in the RTF file, then Scrivener will be able to import all of these elements intact when importing as RTF.

Hope that helps.

All the best,


You my friend are fast! Your quick response alone may have just sold me on scrivener!! Thank you X 1000.

What about the need to export often to send drafts to advisors? I imagine this isn’t a problem either, but I don’t want to get too far into using this tool without having possible problems in mind. I am thinking for my non-scrivener committee that I will need to be able to easily export to something like a word doc that is at least close to a “finished” format for their review.

THanks again,


Again, RTF is the best bet there, too. Exported RTFs can contain footnotes, comments, headers and footers etc. In general you are probably going to want to brush up the formatting and add a bibliography in a separate word processor after export given that Scrivener doesn’t do all the advanced layout stuff, but with RTF you should be able to get all the elements out you need. I believe OpenOffice does a decent job of RTF (thought not as good as Word and Nisus, for instance), so you should be okay there. I would recommend trying out a few documents with the sort of formatting you’ll need, both import and export, to test feasibility for your needs (and let me know how you get on).

Thanks and all the best,

I’ve lost these latest three days trying to solve a problem caused by a file exported from OpenOffice. The resulting Word 97 files was loaded into InDesign CS5. When trying to enter the Story Editor (plain text editor) to access to the tags, InDesign crashed.

The only solution was to copy all the text in OpenOffice, paste it into TextWrangler, save it as a plain text file, reload everything in InDesign and rebuild the format paragraph by paragraph. Some odd characters are still there, and should be searched and replaced.

So: try to follow the cleanest way when importing text from OpenOffice, or sooner or later some oddity will appear.


I’m also using scrivener for post graduate work. Exporting drafts often is, of course, possible, but in my experience not necessarily a trivial exercise if you need to include other elements in the draft - for example, diagrams, formatted bibliographies etc. If you’re converting to .PDF you add yet another layer to the process. In short, be prepared to spend a little time when you need to compile a draft. The first couple of times can be painful, but you gradually slip into a workflow.

Supervisors often don’t require the correctly formatted references when reviewing changes and drafts, and that can save some time.

As a writing tool you will not find anything better than Scrivener (in my humble opinion).