how do you quickly format an exported Scrivener document?

Hi Everyone,

Writing reports outside of a word processor is a whole new world for me. Although I completely understand separating the content from the formatting, I’m not sure how to efficiently apply it in my situation. I’d really appreciate some help figuring it out.

Here’s the magical process I would like to use:

Scrivener -> ? -> highly formatted MS Word document

I need to provide that Word doc to other folks on my team to get their comments and edits. This may be Word on a Mac, PC, or even OpenOffice on a Linux box.

Once they make comments, I would like to make the suggested changes in the original Scrivener docs, create a word doc from that, and then repeat until everyone likes it.

I personally don’t care what the ‘?’ in the process is replaced with. It can be anything from C code to a wood chipper, and it wouldn’t make one lick of difference to me. Umm… I guess I would like for it to be cheap, since my office won’t likely spring for another word processor, etc. (I do have Word for Mac, Word 2k7, Pages, OO, and NeoOffice, at my fingertips.)

Should I use styles in Scrivener and then define them in a word template? How about: Multimarkdown, a rubber piggy, and some wasabi? Is there magic in Word that I don’t know about that would let me highlight a block of text and instantly convert it to some ridiculously complex numbered list with indents, certain passages in bold, and the like?

I can give simple examples of some of the desired output format, if that will help.

Please help!


How complicated is your formatting? Is there a reason you don’t want to pull it into Word right away? To apply standard styles, you can apply Autoformat. For more complicated formatting you could set up some macros to do the work for you. The initial setup would take some time, but after that it could be done with one shortcut key.

I’m not sure I 100% understand the question, but you should be able to go straight from Scrivener to Word. What sort of formatting do you mean? Scrivener can do most rich-text formatting; it is just full-on page layout that it will not do…

Well, the formatting is repetitive and can be very very long.

The most highly annoying section looks a little like this:

  1. Words
    ___Bold word: more wordsStuff

___Indented paragraph (hanging indent?) that talks about stuff
__and all lines of it are indented. The "" characters
___are just there to shove the text over.

  1. Same as the above

To keep my sanity, I have broken up each element of the list into a single scrivener file. Each file includes the numbered line through the indented paragraph, the next file starts with the next number.

Scrivener doesn’t seem to like numbered lists with those sorts of breaks in between, and I can easily fix the numbering in word, so that’s not a big deal.

Editing the text in its final formatted form drives me bonkers. Although it is very easy to read once it is done, maintaining it while editing is maddening. (I think I’m preaching to the choir here, since I think that’s one of the primary reasons why Scrivener exists…)

I’m not quite familiar with how styles work on the Mac, and so I’m a little unsure what happens as I export to rtf and then open in word. If I define a style – we’ll call him Biff – and apply it to text, then export the text, then open it in word, is he still around as a style? Can I define Biff in the word document as well and then have it automatically apply word’s version of him to any location where he’s found in the text?

I’m really not familiar with defining templates (I just reuse old documents, but I’d like to change that…), and so pointers to the right help files or the right keywords/ideas to look for would be great.

I’d really like it if I could just type words in simply in Scrivener, and then indicate, “Hey, this section is Biff, but don’t do anything about it now and don’t clutter up my screen letting me know its Biff! Just show me basic text and do something about the formatting later.” Then, when I export it, something that knows about Biff renders the text in a Biff-like manner.

I can see how to export everything as Biff, but there might be a few lines of Andrea, a smattering of Walter, and a paragraph or two of Svetlana that need to be formatted in a completely different fashion.

Doing all the formatting manually wouldn’t be so bad, except for two things:

  1. I would have to do it multiple times for different revisions.

I want to make changes back in the original scrivener document, not the formatted word document. Other folks want to edit the word version, not the raw Scrivener files of a madman.

  1. Every time I do it, I increase the chance that I make a mistake or overlook something.

As a final note, please don’t underestimate my ability to miss the obvious. The way to do this may be very simple, and I might just be missing it.


I’m not sure I understand completely.

My approach would probably be to create styles in Word first. Then you can manually apply styles (if there are many of them) to the new text that you bring in.

Also, for basic Word documents where I only have one or two styles set up, I add new text by copying from Scrivener, say, or from the Internet. While the new text is still selected in Word, I use the little drop down tag at the bottom right of the new text, still highlighted, to match the style of the existing text in Word. Microsoft is fond of using tags like this.

My understanding is that you can’t really create styles for text (beyond bold, italic, underline, etc.) or paragraphs in Scrivener. If you could, your task would be much more straightforward migrating your writing to Word.

I have more experience going from Word to InDesign, for example, where I can apply styles in Word, then change the styles in InDesign as needed. What you want, I think, is multi-styled text going into Word—but you can’t do that using Scrivener, I don’t think.

In general, creating styles in Word is fairly straightforward, versatile and powerful. One thing, however, I never use Word’s auto bullets or other auto formatting. I always create my own styles because I have more control migrating the text between documents. Word formatting is highly unpredictable. And crappy, in my opinion.


Word, bless its sclerotic little heart, is good at templates and styles.

Start with a new document. From the Format menu, select Style, then click the New button. Define whatever format you like. Name it Biff. Repeat for Andrea, Walter, Svetlana, and any other styles that you can think of.

If there is any standard text, type it into the document using whichever of your new styles is appropriate. Likewise headers, footers, title pages, and other format elements.

Save the whole mess as a template, and you’re done. Next time you want to create a report, start a new document using that template. Life is good. Simple templates – without macros – will even survive changes in the underlying Word version. I’ve been using some of mine for more than ten years.

(I think there are ways to automate this process, for example I think you can auto-create styles and a template from an existing document. But I’ve never tried this.)

Once you have a document set up in this way, editing is a snap. All the formatting is preserved as long as the (invisible) style tag is attached to the paragraph, and if you lose the style tag it’s trivial to reapply it.

However, maintaining formatting that complex as you go to and from Scrivener is going to be tough. RTF doesn’t support styles. Programs like Scrivener use them as a shorthand for “apply this formatting, please,” but the RTF file just has basic primitives like bold, italic, tab, and so forth.

If you only had to do it once, you could compose everything in Scrivener, export to Word, and then worry about the formatting. With edit cycles involving multiple people, though, I think you’d drive yourself crazy trying to maintain the formatting through the conversions back and forth.

Your best bet might be to persuade your colleagues to review the unformatted version in RTF, and do all the formatting at the end. If they insist on Word, you may just have to deal with it, although templates and styles should make it much less painful.

Good luck!



I’m trying out Scrivener (for a second time) and I’ve run into the same question about whether it can be made to export styles. It’s not that I want to use Scrivener for styling text – I understand that that is best left to another program – but that I would like my text to come out with semantic information intact. A distinction between titles, exported as Heading 1, and body text, as Body, would be a big help.

I understand that Scrivener can’t do this at the moment, but I don’t think that can be due to limitations in the rtf format itself. After all, you can use rtf for Word documents that support all the features that doc files support, certainly including styles.

I wonder if what is meant is that the rtf capabilities built in to OS X do not support styles. If so, then there might be a possibility of Keith’s working around that at some point in the future, as he has worked around the limitations on support for annotations and import of footnotes.

The import of footnotes together with the ability to talk to Bookends are what brought me back to try Scrivener again, by the way.


Well, that and the fact that it is so elegant that I really want to be able to fit it in to how I work (or how I procrastinate when not working, more likely).

Ok, I see. ‘MultiMarkdown’, for anyone else reading this thread.
I’ll read up on it. Does it help much with this problem, unless the goal is HTML or LaTeX?

Nicka, it is a solution with pros and cons. While some word processors can import an HTML file so that headers stay headers and so on, since HTML has no concept of footnotes, you’ll end of up with them getting inserted into the file as text, not really footnotes. If headers and document structure or more important than footnotes, MMD is a good option. Otherwise, you’ll just be replacing styling work with footnote conversion work; not really a net gain.

I am developing an MMD export plug-in which will fully support the Mellel word processor. Once that is done, it will be able to transfer full document structure as well as other data types like lists, footnotes, tables, and images. That doesn’t really help Word users though.

Thanks for the information, Amber.

I use Mellel when I have the choice, not Word, so your export plug-in sounds like exactly what I need. I’d be happy to help if I can – perhaps by testing it when it reaches that stage.

Thanks Nicka, I’d appreciate the testing help. I just finished moving from one place to another; so I plan to get back on that project soon.


Seems to me your workflow problem is not a software problem at all. It is a teamwork problem. Your problem is that you have a team with a bad working habit–and probably only because someone like you has not stepped in and shown them there is a better way.

While your team is working on the /content/ of the project, they should not be worrying about or dicking around with the formatting. Does this principle sound familiar? It applies just as well to team work as it does to solo work–more so!

You should propose a two step model-- first the team works through the content until that is settled, then somebody (you) puts it in the final finnicky format (which is where having some defined Word paragraph styles would be useful to you) and perhaps distributes just for a final check.

In short, you should develop a team workflow that likewise separates content from format. Better for you, and more efficient for the working group.

Though many of your team members are on the wrong platform to enjoy the benefits of Scrivener, that is no reason not to let the light of good principle shine on them!