I want to like this program. I really do.

I read the Help manual and watched a couple of the videos. Great at describing features. As far as help in actually getting me to what I want to do–well, not so much. Let me put it this way: when I ask for the time, don’t tell me how the watch works. Just tell me the bloody time, eh?

I started in a Manuscript template for a novel and, after banging about for a bit, finally found the New Text menu, which, as I have offered elsewhere on this forum, should be a button on the top tool bar (and a Save and Save As button would be good too). It just takes so much to actually get to the writing part of this program. You have to wade through the “chapters” corkboard and what not. I just want to start my work in the template. That’s the point of a writing program–to make it easier to write, not make it more complicated.

Now I’m puttering through the Scriptwriting section, specifically US Stageplay template. How this works just completely eludes me. I finally figured out where (AGAIN!) I get to actually get to a screen where I can write. Apparently on this time its not New Text but Scene. One idea I offer is to keep this consistent between different templates or, again, put it on a button on the top menu so I can find it quickly and easily.

Now, I’m in Stageplay and desperately trying to write some dialogue. Yes, I read through the Sample Script. Wow. It would be great if I could get my work to look like that. Maybe the program will get me to that nice formatting–let’s find out!

I’m trying to write my first line of dialogue, to be exact. I go to the lower left corner to find the drop down menu for the DIALOGUE setting. Why this drop drop down is buried on the lower left corner is inexplicable, since a playwright uses these formats regularly you would think they would be found by right-click in the body of the document or–yet again–on a button on the top tool bar.

Anyway, I click on DIALOGUE. The cursor indents and the note on the bottom says [TAB] Dialogue, [Enter] Dialogue. Okay, I type in the character name I want to open the scene, the very first line of dialogue. Why this doesn’t autofill is, again, a mystery. I filled in the character page, why the program doesn’t pull from there is perplexing.

Whatever. Still trying to write the first line of dialogue. I hit tab and–I get parentheses. I don’t want parentheses. I want to write what my characters first line is.

I hit the delete button to get out the parentheses thing and then hit return. Oh, now the menu options pop up. I click on Dialogue (AGAIN!) and give it another shot. The line spacing is off but by this time, I don’t care anymore and just pray to God I can be allowed to write my first line!

Again, I enter the Characters name. This time I don’t hit tab, just the space bar so I can create some space between the name and the dialogue (i.e., WAITER: The soup is good today.).

Okay, not exactly what I wanted but at least I got the first line down. Or so I think.

I now go to the second line for my next character to reply. I hit enter.

Uh-oh. The cursor is in the middle of the page. Why? Who knows? The program has decided to do something. Ah–it has put me back in the CHARACTER format. Okay, I’ll take it. I’ll take anything now.

I type in the Character’s name. It doesn’t auto fill but I soldier on. I mean, if it isn’t going to autofill, why bother? I can use Word. I hit return and it gives a drop down menu again. I don’t want the drop down menu. I want a line between the character’s name and the first line of dialogue. I appreciate being kicked immediately into the DIALOGUE format this time, but can I have a space?

Yes, I can, but I have to go back up to the end of the character, click the cursor and hit enter again. Why I can’t do this when I wanted to initially but have to take the long route with extra steps is beyond me.

Now the format is completely screwed up. So I delete everything and start again.

I hit return and am faced with the drop down menu–again. I don’t want anything off this stupid drop down menu. I just want to write my first f*cking line of my play.

I click around a bit and finally find myself at the edge of the margin. The spacing is still off since apparently the program really wants you to choose something from the drop down menu when you hit the enter key even though all I want is a couple of lines more. Fingers crossed, I start typing a third time. Third time’s the charm, eh?

Oh my Lord. With enough clicking, it seems to have worked! Instead of the intuitive DIALOGUE for dialogue, you have to start in CHARACTER LIST, which to the writer usually means where you list your characters. Who knew?

Now, after reading the Sample Script, apparently there are ways of adding instructions in parantheticals but I am so happy to just write one line that I am considering celebrating with a drink evan if it is 7:12 am.

The format looks nothing like the Sample Script. The Characters are not centered but since I prefer (as most playwrights do) to have Characters on the left margin, I am just happy that after an HOUR of hitting keys, I got to where I wanted. Sort of.

I haven’t bought this program yet. I’m still in the 30 day trial phase. So far, that part has been correct.

It has been a trial.

You should really take the time and study the videos that explain how Scrivener works and what the basic idea behind is. Or peacefully read the manual. It’s really not as complicated as you make it here.

Look at it this way: This forum has almost ten thousand members, among them a lot of famous writers. A lot of these people are accompanying the development of Scrivener since its very beginnings. It is really unlikely that you should be the first to discover that a function so basic that without it the whole concept would not work is still missing. (In fact, these questions – does Scrivener need a Save button? What about “Save as”? etc. – have been discussed a long time ago, and these discussions are still to find in this forum.)

So, relax! 30 days are a long time, enough to find out how it’s working. (Days you don’t touch Scrivener do NOT count for the 30 days, mind you!) A lot of users of Scrivener needed less than 3 days to make the decision to buy it, so there must be something about it which simply might be still to discover for you.

Hi, welcome. It’s not clear to me from the above whether you’re using the Mac version or Windows. It’s the Mac version I know about. If you’re using that version, there’s a really excellent interactive tutorial under the Help menu which, Scrivener-wise, will give you the most worthwhile hour or so before you launch in. Strongly recommended.



There are several different screenwriting format options available to you. The UK Screenwriting format will give you characters’ names on the left side, followed by a colon and dialogue beginning on the same line.

As for the big picture, I read your entire post, and was flabbergasted. I use Scrivener for basic essays, longer research papers and short fiction, but I have never played around with the Screenwriting templates. I couldn’t believe it was as complicated and messed up as you make it out to be, so I decided to try it. I opened a new template. I started with the US Screenwriting, and, without messing about creating characters or settings, I clicked on “Scene” in the binder. Within about 30 seconds I had figured out the trick to hitting enter for a character’s name format, then tab to start the dialogue. I had my first line of dialogue in 45 seconds–well under a minute, anyway. Adding on the second, third and fourth lines were easy as pie. But I was looking for the same format you were (character on left, dialogue indented afterward), so I opened a new template–the UK one-- and started over. There it was.

I think that once you get the basic approach of Scrivener (the Binder, Corkboard, Compile, etc.), you will be astounded at the ease with which you can get to that first line of dialogue. And then you will be amazed at the ease with which you can organize, re-organize and finalize your text, once written. Don’t give up!

Thanks to all who replied to my post.

(1) To those who suggested reading the manual and watching the videos, be there, done that. Candidly, not particularly helpful, but I now that I have some experience under my belt, perhaps they will make more sense. Personally, I prefer a step-by-step instruction, not a list of features.

(2) To Bargonzo, I compliment you on figuring out in 30 seconds the “trick” in how to use US Screenwriting. Perhaps your experience in other formats helped you to intuit whatever was needed here. Whatever “trick” you allude to, kindly share it. I could use it. As far as not messing around with characters or settings, well, maybe that’s the way to go. Note however, that it is the second suggestion Scrivener offers under “How To Use This Template”. That’ll teach me to follow directions. In any event, thanks for your reply encouragement and suggestion.

(3) To Hugh, I use a MAC.

(4) To AndreasE, I am testing this program because I thought it was a good program to quickly write with preformatting ready to go. I have, as you suggested, peacefully read the manual as I noted in my post. Again, the manual emphasizes functions, not usage.

As for missing basic functions, if you can point me to the SAVE and SAVE AS buttons that I seem to be unable to find, please do so I don’t have to go to the drop down menu. Yes, I searched for the SAVE AS and SAVE in the Forums. My searches popped up around 100 postings on SAVE and BUTTON and I admit I didn’t go through every one to find the answer, calling it quits after the first 25 or so. Yes, it is unlikely I would be the first to discover basic functions missing. However, that doesn’t meant they are there or the programmer included them. So again, please, point me where the SAVE and SAVE AS buttons are so I can click instead of going to the drop down menu. Thanks in advance.

As I intimated, it was perhaps my familiarity with the application in general that helped me. I wasn’t trying to insult you–I was trying to encourage you to give yourself time to become familiar with the program. When you get to tinkering you will find that you can create your own templates exactly to your liking. (I recently had to learn the new Word program on a Windows computer at work, and I will tell you, I wrote [and verbalized] many many many screaming complaints to Microsoft about the unintuitive nature of their new ribbons, while my fellow workers just looked at me as if I were insane. Of course, Microsoft did not respond.)

First, I misnamed the templates. The ones I tested with were the Stage Play (US) and (UK) templates. As for the ‘trick,’ it really wasn’t much of a ‘trick.’ Using the Stage Play (US) format, I clicked on “Scene” in the binder (the left-hand list of folders) and a new scene popped up, with a heading of Act and Scene . I filled in the brackets with numbers and placed my cursor on the right side of the Scene # bracket. I hit Enter, and got parentheses (centered). Since I didn’t want those (perhaps those are for stage directions or setting?–as I said, I’m not a screenwriter), I hit Enter again and a pop-up menu appeared. I chose “Character” and then typed in the name of the character. I then hit Enter, the cursor went to the left margin, and I typed in dialogue. Hitting Enter again gave me a new (centered) cursor, in which I typed in the name of the second character. Enter again, new dialogue cursor on the left. On the Stage Play (UK) format, the cursor locates itself on the left margin for character names and then indents for dialogue.

As you are typing (character, dialogue, whatever), there is a guide at the bottom of the page that says something like “[Tab] Scene Action, [Enter] Character” (this changes, depending on where you are in the text). If you tab at that point, you’ll get the parenthetical enclosure to type a ‘scene action;’ if you hit Enter, it will go to the Character format.

I don’t think my skipping filling in the various characters’ names or the setting changed that behavior, I just didn’t actually have any info to fill in at that point, so I skipped it.

However, now that I’ve entered some characters names and gone snooping around in the preferences a bit, I find that if you go to Scrivener on the main menu bar, >Preferences>Corrections, you will find an option under Auto-Completions to “Suggest Completions as you Type” – and you can even limit that to Script mode only! If you do that, your names will auto complete. I also discovered that if you put a new character in the script (that is, give dialogue to a character that is not already in your character list), Scrivener will add that automatically to your list of characters. It seems to work for me!

I hope this helps. Really, play with it for a while, and you will find that it becomes intuitive very quickly! I haven’t used any of the dedicated and very expensive script-writing programs, so I can’t compare, but I have heard that this is pretty darn close in many respects.

EDIT: P.S. As for the ‘Save’ and ‘Save As’ buttons–you don’t have to go to the drop-down menu, you can just hit Command-S or Shift-Command-S to do that. But if what you are looking for is a way to have different versions of the same document with different titles (Play1, Play 1a, etc), you might want to take a look at Snapshots, which save the document in a specific state for comparison later on. Those can be added to the main toolbar by customizing it (Control-click on the toolbar itself, and then choose “customize.”)

To Bargonzo: Genuinely appreciate your thoughts on Scrivener and found no insult in your comments. As to your rants at MicroSoft and Word–you find me a kindred spirit, except I hurl my invectives at Apple. Sad truth is, none of these computer or their programs are all that intuitive, at least not to me.

I tried your instructions for the ‘trick’ and it works like a charm (as a writer, I figure you’d appreciate the use of ‘trick’ and ‘charm’–see, I’m not always a curmudgeon; just 90% of the time). I’m still unhappy that the dialogue line flows immediately after the character name (I prefer an additional line for spacing), but that’s formatting I can’t do anything about just yet. Perhaps when I create my own template?

Oh, the customizing the tool-bar and snapshots is a great help. I write about 10 drafts (no exaggerating) before I get to something I really want to polish up. I never delete prior drafts so I can always go back and refresh my memory or pull dialogue up that I didn’t use earlier but helps in a later draft. So if I keep snapshots, as it were, of each draft that helps. That’s really where the SAVE AS question comes in. I SAVE AS draft 1, draft 2 , etc.

Again, appreciate the help.

PS (I should note that as I mutter and curse at these programs, I am reminded that there are still things as pencil and paper…which require no further learning and have no bugs.)

My pleasure–I’m learning new stuff!

To change the spacing after Character and before Dialogue, go to: Format (main menu bar)>Scriptwriting>Script Settings>Dialogue>Space Before. Set it to 1, 2 or 3–whatever you want! (But be warned–if you change this setting it will go back and change it in everything you’ve already written.)

Well, as I explained, there aren’t any, because there is no need to save anything in Scrivener, as the application saves everything all the time. The “Save function” is only there to have the function set complete.

BTW, there are very few Mac applications that have “SAVE” icons at all, even when it would make much more sense than here.

And as for as SAVE AS is concerned: This is hardly a function one uses to often that a button would be needed.

There is a snapshot functionality built into Scrivener. You can make a snapshot of all or snapshots of single documents, and you can compare versions.

Or, you can copy the whole content of the draft folder to a new folder named “version 1” or whatever. So you can easily have the old version side by side with what you are writing, if you wish to do so.

Saving different versions as different projects does not make very much sense in comparison.