Default Preferences to Emulate Plain-Text

For those authors who primarily use the software to compose in a Markdown dialect, HTML, LaTeX, or any of the other common markup syntax systems, emulating a plain-text appearance can prove beneficial. The default settings in Scrivener assume one has a word processing intent in mind. They uses a carefully typeset layout that mimics common end-production feel with indentation of paragraphs and a classic proportional serif font. As nice as this looks, it can be deceiving to use indents or paragraph spacing when you need to be aware of such things as literal whitespace characters in your document.

If you are coming from a Markdown-writing program, you may be used to a very lean and mean interface, and desire to reduce window complexity in Scrivener:

Optional view settings...
  • The View ▸ Text Editing ▸ Format Bar and ▸ Ruler menu commands will toggle off two toolbars that will considerably clean up the user interface, and largely contain features that will be of little interest to plain-text authoring. I do use the Format Bar now and then (for text colour / highlights and styles) but have the shortcut memorised so I can only bring it up when needed.
  • View ▸ Customize Toolbar... menu command, for cleaning out default buttons. And of course this toolbar can be hidden as well, as you prefer keyboard shortcuts in general to clicking on buttons.

Ultimately the window can be made even simpler, if you prefer, by turning off the editor header and footer bars, in the View ▸ Editor Layout submenu. By saving a simplified editor window as a Layout (see §12.3, Saved Layouts in the user manual PDF) along with a more traditional setup, you can quickly swap between a lean, distraction-free writing environment, or something that more closely resembles Adobe Premiere.

Preference Files

I’ve put together a preference file that changes a few of the defaults to better suit a plain-text driven authoring environment. If you’ve already made considerable modification to your settings, it may be counterproductive to overwrite them all with this basic set; thus the following list itemises the changes so that you can set them individually as you see fit:

  • Mac Only — The preferences will make use of the Inconsolata font which has been included in the zip file. You should install this font first, and restart Scrivener, before using the preferences file.

    Those using Windows can make use of Consolas, which the options file uses, there is no need to install Inconsolata.

  • All pseudo-spacing at the paragraph level has been disabled. There will be no first-line indents or extra spaces following a carriage return.

  • Tab stops are set to every 29pts, which closely emulates four spaces.[^1]

  • All typographic substitutions have been disabled in the Corrections pane, so as to produce valid ASCII txt on output. You could reenable these and then add Replacements in compile to turn them into XML or HTML entities, though.

  • An 8pt block cursor has been enabled. This will work best with a 12pt fixed-width font.[^2]

  • Fixed-width editing settings are modified to closely emulate an 80-column width text editor. For those who write with code samples, this can be useful for keeping your code readable in a context beyond Scrivener. A text “ruler” has been provided in the sample project so you can fine tune settings to your preferred look.[^3]

The zip file will also contain a project with a stylesheet that has been modified to present a less flamboyant and more “syntax highlighting” style approach to marking text. It also includes several character styles (Addition, Deletion and Highlight) which will by default generate CriticMarkup when using our provided Markdown-based compile formats, as well as two indexing styles, which will be made use of in Markdown outputs that support full indexing. To bring this stylesheet into your working project:

  1. From your project, use the Format ▸ Style ▸ Import Styles... menu command.
  2. Locate and open this project.
  3. Confirm any overwrites or duplications of styles if need be.


Download for Mac

To use these preferences, download the zip file above, decompress it using the Finder by double-clicking on it. Use the Scrivener ▸ Preferences menu command and click the Manage... drop-down menu to “Load all preferences…”. Choose the .pref file with the file chooser, and click Okay.

Download for Windows

After downloading, if necessary open the .zip window using your browser’s download list, or File Explorer. Drag the *.prefs file to your Desktop, or somewhere else handy, and switch to Scrivener. Use the File ▸ Options... menu command, and use the Manage drop-down menu to “Load Options from File…”. Select the .prefs file you extracted from the zip, and click Okay.

Windows Notes

[^1]: The default tab stop setting does not currently work correctly in newly created documents.

[^2]: The cursor size does not scale with the editor magnification setting. The given settings work with 12pt fonts at the default 100% editor scale, and will need adjustment if you prefer smaller or larger text.

[^3]: Rendering glitches may cause differences in fixed-width settings at reduced magnification. The setting should be accurate to 80 characters down to 90% editor zoom, but will be narrower at lower settings.

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… a small reminder, version 1.03 is out :mrgreen:

Right you are! I’ve edited the original post. Thanks for reminding me.

Got it! Thanks a lot.

Will these preferences fix auto-converted stuff in existing Scrivener projects or does it just help keep things plain-text going forward? If the latter, could you point me toward instructions for porting a project made with Scrivener defaults to MMD?

These are just some formatting and behaviour settings you can apply to your project. As with all formatting default changes, they make no impact on existing documents (as most people are using the rich text features and blowing that away with a mere setting adjustment would be wildly destructive), and so one must manually ask for a default formatting revert, using the Documents/Convert/Formatting to Default Text Style menu command, which can be run on large selections of items at once.


Thanks Ioa. May I suggest to change the Mac font from Monaco to Menlo? The two are very similar and Menlo provides additional italic/bold/bold-italic typefaces, while Monaco only has the regular typeface.

As a result, Monaco breaks Cmd-b and Cmd-i because the font doesn’t provide the needed typefaces.

Is Menlo available all the way back to Tiger? I chose Monaco for its ubiquitousness, and it is my understanding that Menlo is a fairly new addition to the stable of standard fonts.

I just checked: Menlo was introduced in 10.6 (Snow Leopard). I see your point.

“Mac Only – Fixed-width editor window has been enabled for all editing, and it has been set to a pixel width which should closely emulate an 80-column width text editor. For those who are coding, this can be useful for keeping your code readable in a context beyond Scrivener.”

is there a difference between this mac only mode vs. the previous bullet point of just choosing a fixed width font?

if so, what precisely IS the difference? and can we expect a windows version of this setting at some point?

also, can anyone recommend a fixed width font for xp?

thanks much.


The Mac version has a setting in Preferences > Editor of ‘Use Fixed Width’, which basically means that when you change the size of the whole Scrivener Window, the Editor adds whitespace on the right and left so that the visible text width remains the (user-configurable) same, instead of wrapping to the new size of the window, which is what happens by default.

I’m presuming the Windows version doesn’t have this option.



that only applies (adding white space) to when you make the editor window larger… correct?

what happens when you make the window smaller?


Then the text wraps…

Since Scrivener 2.3.1 requires Snow Leopard, maybe you could give Menlo a second chance as the default font?

I’m not sure where you read that, but we still support Leopard and Tiger. :slight_smile: The only version that requires Snow Leopard is the Mac App Store version, but that’s only because the App Store can’t be loaded onto older computers in the first place, and you need that to install and authenticate it.


I’ve used Scrivener for several years but have just started in with markdown. My question is this: If I write in Markdown and then export as plain text, do I need to use the plain text .pref settings file created by AmberV? Or am I safe to use any font, etc. as I write?

Thanks! Love this forum, love Scrivener, starting to love markdown.

Scrivener in general is very much about the concept of not having to stare at the font you’re going to be printing in. For rich text users that can mean the compile process changes the way the text looks. For plain text users of any sort (Markdown, LaTeX, HTML, or just plain old text) that is even more true. Text does not store any font information. Everything in a text file is right in front of you. There are no hidden codes or complicated things that can be messed up—it’s one of the advantages of the format.

So, if you are compiling to a plain-text document, or using one of the MultiMarkdown conversions, most everything done in the text editor with regards to formatting will be discarded. It’s what you type in that matters, and thus more than ever the appearance of text in Scrivener is entirely up to you.

Thanks AmberV. That’s what I thought. Nice to know I can modify your excellent plain text prefs without mucking things up for markup.

I just made this suggestion in another post on the forum but it occurred to me that it might be appropriate here. Given the recent upsurge in interest in plain text, Markdown, etc. (at least among nerds), maybe that preference file could be converted to an official Scrivener template that could appear among the choices offered (like Fiction, Non Fiction, Recipes et al) that appear when you open a new project in Scrivener?

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