How do I import an outline from Word?

I’d like to try Scrivener but I’m running into a major hurdle. I’m already halfway through a big project and I’ve organized my thoughts using MS Word’s outline mode, but Scrivener’s import function doesn’t seem to recognize Word’s outline headings and subheadings. How do I import my outline headings into Scrivener automatically, without having to go through the document and hit Cmd-K manually?


I am afraid there is not way than doing this once manually. It is worth it :wink:


Yes, sorry, but Maria is right. Word’s file format is proprietary (i.e. undocumented by MS), so there is no way for Scrivener (or rather, me) to know how to do this.

All the best,

Ouch, that’s unfortunate. I have hundreds of subheads.

But I’ll make a memo-to-self to use Scrivener next time.


Still it is worth the time. I did so with several hundred chapters as well. Anyway, it depends on how long you plan to work with this project. If it is more than two weeks, get used to cmd-K :wink: Or, can you script word and export every chapter as a single, numbered file? That should work nicely.


Is it important keep it all in expander format as in Word Outline?

If it isn’t you can save the Word Outline as an RTF and Import that into scrivener.
Scriv Header.jpg

Though this is going to come along too late to help with gmusser’s project, here is link to another forum thread with an Applescript program that would do the job:



Hi there - trying Scrivener out with my oodles of Word outlines. Some are in numbered lists and others in outlines. I’m running this converter as suggested above, but am getting an error message. Does anybody know why that is happening? The message is
Can’t get <class 1003> of application “Microsoft Word.”
I’d love to be able to import these outlines with at least line breaks. Are tabbed outlines (like in Word) possible in Scrivener? I’ll keep playing but this converter has me stalled. Thanks for any help!

That little script was written by me. Works for me, but I will poke around and see if I can get an idea of why it might be not working on your mac.

It would be helpful if you could say a bit more about when in the process the error occurs. For example, what sort of conversion are you telling the converter to perform? Does it get anywhere with it before the error gets flagged?

Note: the script was written and tested on OS X Tiger with MS Word 2004, so if you are running OS X Leopard or MS Word 2008, all bets are probably off.

Anyway, I’ll see what I can see.


First off, here is the most recent version of the script–some bug fix may have already addressed the problem.
Outline (59.2 KB)

dear heroincredible,

«Class 1003» is a reference to the active document (in this case in Word).

The script expects that you have a document open in Word that you wish to convert. I suspect you are getting the error you mentioned because you are running the script without having a document open in Word.

Let me know if this is progress.


Hi there - thanks for the response.

I’m using the old version of Word (2004 I believe) and OS 10.4. Here are some details:

  • The documents are open and the one I want is at the top.
  • Get the same error message if I open the coverter and run the conversion OR if I drop the document onto the converter.
  • I’ve tried both MS outline --> MultiMarkdown and Tabbed —> MS Outline.
  • I’ve done it on several different documents, both new and old, to see if one was corrupted for some reason
  • I’ve restarted just to make sure :slight_smile:

Any suggestions based on that info would be much appreciated. I may have put this in the wrong forum; if so, I’m happy to follow you elsewhere!

I love Scrivener but I have oooooodles of outlines. I won’t bring them all in at once, but I do need them to get going! Thanks for your effort and time!

If you only need the outlines for reference and not to modify, you could always print to PDF and put them in the Research section of Scrivener.

Changing your process is tough, even if you’re going to a great writing program. Good luck.

I don’t have Word anymore, so I can’t test Greg’s script, but wouldn’t it be possible to create an unnumbered style for headings in Word that uses Markdown’s #-syntax? It has to look just like this:

[code]# HEADER ONE

this is a sub header in outline

so is this

this is a sub sub header


Export this to plain text and Scrivener will happily import your outline as MultiMarkdown.

That’s a really nice idea. Never occurred to me. Probably one would want to try to set that up in a custom Word doc template other than the Normal template (so all your outlines would not have to look like Multimarkdown when viewed outside outline mode in Word).


P.S. Still fidgeting with heroincredible’s outline converter script issue over here.

hmm… can Word save text files with UNIX LF line breaks?

This is not one of the options Word offers for saving. However, if you replace all the CRLFs (or CRs) with LFs, and then save as Text Only, Word saves the result without disturbing the result. That gives you the LF delimited text file you need.


P.S. This is one of the things my outline converter handles – when it is working!

Dear heroincredible,

Here is a modified version of the Outline Converter script which replaces all the calls for <class 1003> (i.e. the active document) with simple calls for Word’s “document 1” (i.e. whichever of Word’s open documents it thinks of as doc 1). This may not always target the document you expect if you have multiple documents open, but may work as a functional workaround for you–if it works at all!

Hope this helps. Let me know if this is progress.


P.S. I don’t know if you know anything about Applescript, but here is why the change might help: “active document” is Word-specific terminology–it is how Word itself refers to its frontmost document–whereas “document 1” is general Applescript terminology which should work with any app that recognizes itself as having documents.

P.P.S. As for diagnosing why the original script did not work on your system, here is all I can contribute: all of the calls to «class 1003» in the script were simply requests to Word to address the active (aka frontmost) Word document. My only going ideas about why that call might not be working on your installation are: i) you are using some earlier version of Word than Word 2004 (you seemed a bit unsure of your version in your earlier post) which does not recognize the ‘active document’ language, or ii) you are trying to run the script from Script Editor, rather than just running it as an application. Hopefully the workaround just works and makes further diagnosis moot!
Outline Converter (59.8 KB)

Ok can scriv import RTF? If it can save the damn thing in RTF.

By the way, most publishers these days are now looking at documents in RTF format, because of MS shall we say unfriendliness.