Difficulties with Scrivener 3 (Split From: Great new version)

I’ve been a Scrivener user for seven years or so.
Reviews of Scrivener always seem to contain a comment about the “learning curve” and reviews with comments often mention this point.
From time to time I’ve had arcane questions, but I never really found Scrivener difficult.
Until now.
First off, there’s a new file format. This was a surprise. When the latest file format was implemented I had a few hiccups–error messages saying the file was open elsewhere–when it wasn’t. Cross-platform was a problem, at least at the beginning, switching from Mac to Windows or Linux and back again. The Linux version is deprecated, unfortunately. Mac hardware is getting worse and worse…and if you’re coming from Windows, Windows 10 itself is a learning curve.
I installed v. 3 alongside v.2, just to be safe.
V.3 wants access to my contacts information–odd–but for whatever reason this was more imporant than my Recent Projects. Also odd-this menu item was not populated at all.
V.3 complained about the location of the back-up projects file. I get that there’s an interplay in the same folder if the file names are the same, but aren’t back-ups zip files? These are self-contained? If the drive fails, it won’t matter where I’ve put the back-up files (putting aside the issue of partitions).
Look at the Tech Support forum. Even the experts have reported difficulties with features such as Compile. Experienced users report spending a day trying to figure out what used to take an hour, and they still can’t get it right.
Compile used to be my favorite feature. If I iimported text written with other programs, stowaway glitches would often come along for the ride, but usually Compile was able to ignore these.
I’m not complaining about feature creep–I’m complaining about the fact that my Scrivener experience seems to count for little with this new version.
Maybe it would have been a good idea to include a “Classic” compile feature, until people get over the reported “bump” that to me looks like a wall.
Rant over.

It’s not Layouts=>Dual Pane Navigation.
There is no separate “Layouts” menu item.
It’s Windows=>Layouts=>Dual Pane Navigation.

See above.

The major problem is those of us who have learned the old baroque compile (with shortcuts and workarounds), then trying to unlearn the old, to learn the new. Scrivener is a powerful tool, yet the clear and objective improvements which are simpler, not more complex for new users to learn, will try the old dogs like us. The main change in compile is philosophical, in that we should now think about our structure (sections, parts, figures, appendicies), rather than the obtuse Level 4 folder, Level 2 Text group, Level 5 text item of the old way. I really don’t think some Frankenstein bloated hybrid carrying the old inferior compile system along is a workable solution either…

I’m not sure what is the problem with a new file format, this is a major new version with a large set of new functionality, one may naturally intuit this requires an upgraded format. Scrivener 3 remains backwards compatible, and it supports exporting to Scrivener 2 format to facilitate working with those who chose not to upgrade, what more can one expect of the developers?

Finally, the idea a full understanding of the old compile could be learnt in a hour is not consistent with my years walking people through their problems on these forums! :stuck_out_tongue:

V2 wanted access to your Contacts as well…

Compile has changed, yes. It’s now more flexible, has more features, and once you’ve understood the thinking behind it, it’s simpler to use. Really. As far as I know, every Beta tester (and by definition we were very experienced users as the beta program was invitation only), prefers the new system, after the initial stage of understanding how it works.

The difficulty for us ‘experienced’ users is that over the years we learned a lot of tricks / hoops to make compile work the way we wanted it to, so that now these seem natural, but you only have to look at the forums to see how much the old version confused people.

Now the compile process is basically:

  1. Give each element in the binder a ‘Section Type’ (Chapter, Scene, Sub-section etc)
  2. At compile, choose how you want each Section Type to be formatted. (Title = Chapter Number with Roman numerals etc)

That’s it. Scrivener will still assume that say a Folder at Level 1 is a Chapter and a Document at Level 2 is a Scene, if that’s what you want, based on the binder structure, and give them the appropriate Section Type by default. This is now called ‘Structure-Based’, for obvious reasons, and it’s basically V2 compilation. Go to Project > Project Settings > Section Types > Default Types by Structure and you’ll see something similar to the old V2 Compilation Formatting panel. Assign a Section Type to each level and from then every item in the binder will have that Section Type by default.

But you can now override this ‘Structure-Based’ Section Type for any item, no matter what it is or where it is in the Binder. In V2, if you wanted to make the first document of every Chapter an abstract, you’d have to go through hoops to get there, combining Document Groups and Levels and so on. Now, you simply create a Section Type ‘Abstract’ in Project Settings (a five second job) and assign it to those documents using the drop down box in the Inspector. You’re not specifying the format at this stage: you’re simply labelling each item as a type of section.

Then, when you come to compile, you choose a layout for each Section Type – say Heading with Text for Chapters, Text only for Scenes – or create/modify a new layout if you need to.

Of course it can get a lot more complicated than that (you can say how individual paragraphs are formatted, which you could never do before, for example), but the basic concept is simpler than V2: Assign a Section Type in the Editor; choose its format at Compilation.

Taking a step back from all the work we put into understanding compilation before: this is conceptually simpler and more flexible than Version 2.

But it is different. So the advice has to be: if you’re on a deadline and have a compilation setup you’re happy with, keep that project in V2. In the meantime if you haven’t already, watch the videos and read the Tutorial for what’s new.

If your experience is anything like the Beta testers’, then very soon you’ll prefer the new system.

I think that’s the key point here. V3 is a major paid upgrade, after seven(?) years of free updates to V2. Some adjustments were inevitable. The blog had been very clear that V3 has implemented some big changes. But the interactive tutorial is a very good guide. It even includes a What’s New section. And the manual is remarkable. V2 also remains available for use while getting used to V3, if there is important work on a deadline.

If I can return the thread to its original purpose. I am so far very much enjoying V3. The transfer has been pretty seamless. And for less than €30. I hate to sound like a fan boy, but Scrivener’s philosophy remains intact: it’s a tool for writers.

Non beta tester here, btw.

Perhaps. Truth is, I’m reluctant to put in the effort. This reminds me of moving from Wordperfect to Word. Once you understood that the basic unit for a Word document was the paragraph and not a document stream, it was at least possible to try to trouble-shoot why there was all sorts of uncommanded behavior.

I have no idea what the thinking is behind Compile. Is it the use of Styles? From reading tech support comments, it seems that Styles mean one thing in a project, and another in Compile. Maybe if Compile were a separate program I’d say, “fine, here’s something new I have to learn.” I didn’t expect that the homework assignment would be so involved.

Well if you’re not prepared to put in the effort to ready the brief notes in the tutorial on how Compile and Section Types now work, it’s hardly surprising you’re finding it difficult. Users have complained for years about how difficult and arcane Compile is, so we spent many months working out how to keep the power but make it easier to use and more flexible. We can’t just tack those changes onto the old system, as nontroppo correctly stated. You are free to stick with version 2 if you prefer it. Really I think your comments belong in a separate thread asking for help with your difficulties, though. Other points:

  • New file format. Why is this a surprise? Scrivener 2 had a new file format over Scrivener 1, too. Pages has updated its file format on occasion, as has Word. The data for new features needs saving somewhere - and that requires a new file format. If we let Scrivener 2 open Scrivener 3 projects with new features saved in them, then you’d lose all that data when Scrivener 2 saved since it knows nothing of them. But we’ve also taken this upgrade as an opportunity to move the underlying file format from a numerical ID system to one using unique identifiers, which makes it much less prone to error and more stable for the future.

  • Scrivener 2 also wanted access to Contacts. The reason for this is explained in the message asking you for access to your Contacts (for populating title pages in template projects) so I’m not sure why you think that is odd. You can deny access if you want, and in Scrivener 3 you can set author information through the Preferences instead if you like.

  • Recent Projects (and Preferences) - the reason this isn’t populated is that Scrivener 3 is a new app with a new internal identifier (all Mac apps have internal identifiers that should be unique). This identifier determines an app’’s access to its Preferences and Recent Projects. So this change means that Scrivener 3 has no access to Scrivener 2’s Preferences or Recent Projects. Without this change, it would not be possible to use Scrivener 2 and Scrivener 3 alongside one another, because they would be reading shared information and clashing.

  • I’m not sure what you mean about the complaint about the location of backup files. Scrivener asks for a location for backups when it launches - that’s all. The only warning I can think of is one that you see if you try to open a project directly from the backups folder. That is not recommended.

  • Styles are optional and I’m not sure what you mean about them meaning one thing in the project and another thing in Compile. You use styles in your project; you can override the way they look in Compile. That’s all.

  • If people want a “Classic” Compile feature, they should continue using Scrivener 2. The improved Compile is one of the major improvements in Scrivener 3. It is completely incompatible with the way Compile worked in Scrivener 2, and it is far better and more flexible. It is not possible to replace the old way of doing things without it requiring a little unlearning and relearning for existing users, though. If you’re not prepared to learn the new system, that’s fair enough, but you will need to stick with Scrivener 2.

When I had the issue with Compiling, I turned to the forums for enlightenment. There I came across the comment that Styles in Compile are different from Styles in editing mode. I don’t know enough about them to hazard an opinion one way or another. Then in another thread, this:

It’s one thing to say, “I can’t be bothered.” It’s another to say, “I don’t have time to journey down the rabbit hole.” My original comment was that my seven years of experience with Scrivener don’t count for much when it comes to the new compile feature. It’s daunting to read accounts like this one. If it were just laziness, fine, you’re right, I agree. I have a Windows license, two Mac licenses (app store and esellerate(with the activation issue, btw) and an iOS. License. I routinely point people in Scrivener’s direction. Professionally it has saved me on more than one occasion. Maybe it’s that I don’t get the new Compiler paradigm. But to get it I have to find it, and even with all these posts, I haven’t found it yet.

And as to the file format change, as I recall one of the main reasons for the new format established for v2 was future flexibility. Word changes formats for marketing reasons. Today I read that there were extensive discussions ab out upcoming new format in the forums. I didn’t see any of them. So given the earlier statements about flexibility and future adaptability, I was surprised.

I’m on Sierra but if I move to High Sierra I lose Word, not to mention trying to run the risk of a new file system that obsoletes all of my disk utilities. At least High Sierra wasn’t a requirement.

My advice would be to go through the basic tutorial that covers compile and section types—the fundamental building blocks for constructing a work and then exporting it. Those are short and to the point, and if you don’t get some of the points in them, the user manual more thoroughly documents these features—and I tried hard to make it possible to weave your way through the bits you want to read rather than having to wade through whole chapters just to find one thing.

Start with the introductory chapter’s finale regarding binder items, where Section Types are introduced. There are plenty of cross references there that hopefully lead you to more information should you need it, including the areas of compile that work with this new feature.

Most of all though I’d take it slow. That’s what I did. Start with something simple and figure out how that would be done. There is enough of v2’s genetics in the DNA to get you more mileage than you might think. Yes, a lot of things have changed, but at the core you’ll still be using an outline the way you did—the projects you have right now that are built around that level 1 level 2 folder way of thinking will work with the new system, hand in glove—because nothing has changed about that. It’s still an outlining tool with a big export engine that works off of that outline. It was paramount to us that this aspect of Scrivener remain in its bones with the new system.

The key difference now is that the export engine has “formats” (presets if you will) that work semantically rather than purely based upon the rigid structure of one project. They provide structural and formatting options that can be assigned to types of documents. How those documents get to be typed is what section types is all about.

It is a leap. It’s an extra layer of thinking that didn’t exist in v2—but coming from a LaTeX and Markdown based background myself, when you think about it in those format’s ethos of strict separation between format and structure, Scrivener 3 is a whole lot more like that. Using section types to mark your level one folders as “chapters” is like typing \chapter{…} into a text editor. Compiling is now ignorant of what is inside the brackets or how it got that way, to continue the metaphor. Compiling is what turns the macro “\chapter” into dozens of lines of typesetting code.

Scrivener 2 was like a typesetting engine that styles text based on how many tabs you have in front of the line. It gets the job done, but it’s arcane when you think about. Scrivener 3 is like a typesetting engine that lets you tag text semantically. Or rather in this case, let’s you tag structure objects that represent topical chunks of text semantically.

I’m using a deliberately more complicated analogy than would normally be useful—but I think for someone that does work in document types like that, it can be a good way of thinking about it.

Thing is—if you don’t need all of that, if you don’t want it, you can still use Scrivener very simply, as you always have. Don’t bother with anything other than the “Basic MultiMarkdown” format, assign all types (which you don’t use, so doesn’t matter) to use a text with heading, compile. That right there is fundamentally equivalent to opening v2’s compiler fresh and Opt-clicking on the Title checkbox column in the Formatting pane.

Say some day you want files to not have headings—well then you can assign them to the preview tile that doesn’t have an MMD heading in it. The metaphorical equivalent of unchecking the Title checkbox on “File Level 1+”.

It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.

Have you followed Kinsey & Brookter’s advice and still don’t get it??

ETA: And Ioa’s too!

That might have been a coy way of saying “modified to support another operating system”. There was a period of time where the reasons for dropping all proprietary OS X technology would have been stated vaguely. :slight_smile:

Anyway, you seem to be forgetting that there was a 2.7 format update as well—that was made specifically to support iOS, which in turn was designed from the ground up to work with 3.0 from the start. The 2.7 format was a bridge format—it understands a little of how the 3.0 format works, enough to load iOS changes. And those changes were necessary to make syncing safer. So in effect the 3.0 format is safer for syncing all around.

I’m afraid I don’t quite follow the objection though. Most of the tools I’ve used over the years periodically update their data storage systems as they add features and evolve. I very much doubt I could fire up OmniFocus 1 and load my current database with it—and it wouldn’t bother me one bit that I couldn’t.

Just as a heads up – I’ve been following the thread from where you pulled the above partial quote. I figured it would be a learning opportunity––it was and is (thanks everyone). The poster worked with others to figure things out––they did. It’s one addition to what will be a growing shared experience knowledge base.

The thread: Help with new compile formats

It’s okay, everybody, the rant is over. :smiley:

This is the feedback forum.
A rant anywhere else would be inappropriate.