Huge page margin discrepancy between Scrivener and Word

There is a problem when exporting or compiling from Scrivener to MS Word, in that the overall page margins in Scrivener are much tighter than in Word. The problem has been posted before and someone mentioned “invisible tables” to be the problem. I have no tables in my files and turning on the setting which shows “invisible” non-printing matter confirms that.

To clarify, I attached a screenshot showing the rulers of Scrivener and MS Word next to each other. Both rulers are set to units of centimeter. The zoom in each application is set to 100%. The screen is a 4k monitor.

It is clear that the same screen distance is covered by 21 “cm” in Scrivener and 16 cm in Word. I put the unit in Scrivener between apostrophes because measuring with a real world ruler on screen, one real cm on my ruler corresponds to 0.7 Scrivener-cm. A Word-cm closely equals one real world cm.

When I increase the zoom factor in Scrivener to 175%, the right margin is at 17 cm. Exporting this to Word, I get a document in which the right margin is set at 15.25 cm, which is kind of OK. But this is totally confusing. I thought the zoom factor was only there for my convenience, i.e., to ease the eye. Instead, it has a direct influence on how things are getting exported. This is like changing the font size!

Greetings and with a desperate plea for help, – Chris.

You sre comparing the Editor view in Scrivener with the compiled output to .docx viewed in Word. They are not related.

I don’t know what you mean by that. I am comparing the ruler in Scrivener’s editor to the ruler in Word. Shouldn’t a centimeter be a centimeter regardless of the context?

After compiling the document, the resulting Word document will have the margins set extremely wide. Setting the margins in Scrivener so that they are reasonable page margins in Word, results in ridiculously short lines in Scrivener.

What am I not getting?

Word is a wysiwyg word processing and layouting software. Scrivener is not. What you see in the editor is not what you get when you compile. You have to set up Compile to give you what you want in Word when you compile to .docx.

OK, so the Scrivener editor is not WYSIWYG. What function does the ruler in the editor have, then???

Just to let you make the editor look the way you want while you are writing. It has nothing at all to do with what you get when you compile.

Have you done the built-in interactive tutorial?

It allows you to set the writing environment up the way you prefer it, and it allows you to use tabs, but it doesn’t insist that the way you’ve set it up for writing is the way you want the final output to look. If it did, then you’d have to change the editor layout for every different output format (ebooks don’t look the way pdfs or word documents do, paperbacks have different requirements to full size book etc). This means that the same Scrivener project can produce a huge range of different outputs without changing the content.

Instead, you write in whichever layout you feel comfortable with, and make changes for the specific output format during compilation. It doesn’t just apply to the ruler, of course—you can differentiate between almost every aspect of what you see in the editor (font, font size, colour, line spacing, margins etc) and how the various final outputs will look. This flow (editor > compile > output) provides a lot more flexibility that traditional WYSIWYG word processors, and it’s one of the reasons for Scrivener’s success.

If it helps, you can think of Scrivener’s editor mode as a souped up version of Word’s Draft mode—it’s for writing, not for worrying about how the final display will look: you leave that till compilation time.


Thanks for the good explanation. I appreciate it!

So, Scrivener-cm are not really supposed to be cm, and the fact that I can change them to inches is…hm. I think this could be improved in future versions. Particularly since there is an Export function next to Compile, which refers to Scrivener’s margin settings and sets Word’s margin at that value. This is misleading at the least, as it is unintuitive and leads to unexpected results.

I also get that Scrivener’s editor is a way to enter text, pretty much independent of the output format. That’s good. Now I need to hunt in the compile menu for a setting which sets the “real” page margins.

How DO people export/compile their œvres to Word and have it arrive their in a sensible format? I feel like this should be a pretty simple job and not require a lot of hunting and tweaking.

Thanks again for putting up with me.

— Chris.

Have you done the built-in interactive tutorial? It explains the basic things you need to know.

See Part 3 > Step 16: Compiling the Draft in the Interactive Tutorial (Help > Interactive Tutorial).

Understand that we’re not trying to discourage your questions. But the Tutorial provides a much better overview of Compile, with screenshots and details, than anyone is going to be willing to type into this forum. After reviewing that specific section, come back with questions. :slight_smile:


I think there may be some confusion between the valid principle being described as an answer (that the editor ruler isn’t a paper related tool, like it is in a page layout program), and the fact that despite that, it is still very much an indication of real-world length, relative to the horizontal spaces between elements on a line.

To explain the difference:

  • If we set a right tab stop at 6cm and press Tab, and type something in, then the right edge of that text should be precisely 6cm to the right of the left edge of the text block (assuming 0cm indents). If you print it out and take a wood ruler to it, you should be able to prove that (though I don’t know if I’d trust the PDF printer to be perfectly accurate, might be best to run it through Word to print). So a centimetre is a centimetre, and yes if you prefer you can use points, inches, or whatever.
  • Where things are different with Scrivener is that in Word, 6cm is measured from the left edge of the paper itself. In most cases the text will not be 0cm from the edge of the paper. What that effectively means is that 6cm in Scrivener may be more like 8.5cm once you add some standard margins to the paper. But it’s still 6cm of length within the editor, and not some imaginary unit.

So, you’re on the right track by looking at Zoom. That’s the sole answer to your basic question of why the ruler is smaller in Scrivener than Word, in your screenshot. You simply are using a different zoom rate, so our perception of a centimetre is, is narrower. On paper it’s still going to be 1cm, because that’s what it is. Zoom doesn’t change that, just like you would expect.

When you say the “right margin” in Scrivener is at 17cm, that’s what I think the rest here are answering you on. There are no margin setting controls in Scrivener’s editor ruler. Margins are added with your paper settings when you compile. The ruler thus only measures the width of the text content. In fact, a really good way to illustrate the difference is to put Word into the mode of use Scrivener is always at: switch it to Draft mode instead of Page mode. There you go. The text now fits the window shape instead of being inserted into a rectangular depiction of a sheet of paper with margins added. I do believe Word may still calculate margin settings into the ruler in Draft mode, but I could be wrong about that—it would at least be able to, whereas Scrivener can’t really.

Whether this is all confusing or not probably depends on your background. Those from Word-inspired tools are probably used to the ruler being a paper measuring tool, and that really comes from the desktop publishing tools that inspired Word. Those using different document preparation systems that deal in offsets will take to Scrivener’s approach more readily. For example when I want to add a horizontal fill that is 4.5cm wide, I don’t have to go and look up how wide the paper is, and where the margin offset is, whether the page is odd or even—I just type in \hspace{4.5cm} and trust the layout engine to add the left margin width to that value when it is typeset. That’s how Scrivener works.

It’s not that cm in Scrivener are different from cm in Word! It’s that these are two different setups and the settings are independent. For example, in the Editor, you can narrow the visible text (to accommodate a wide Binder and Inspector temporarily, for example, or if you’re working with another program side by side), and the text will wrap automatically to fit the temporarily reduced margins. You don’t want that to flow through to the final Word document.

Most of the time the page settings will come from your system wide page settings (can’t remember how that’s done in Windows, sorry).

If your needs are simple, the process can be as simple as

1, Write the document
2. Open the Compile dialogue.
3. Choose a suitable ‘Format As’ option (e.g. Manuscript, etc) and a compile target (e.g. “Word Document”) (can’t remember the exact menu items on Windows, I’m afraid, but they’re fairly intuitively named).
4. Press compile.

If they’re not simple, then you have a wide range of options to tweak the output (click the big blue down arrow in the Compile dialogue, but the defaults are pretty sensible.

If you haven’t already, it will really pay dividends for you to do the interactive tutorial (on the Help menu) — you can bend Scrivener to work as an old-fashioned word processor, but it’s going against the flow and you’ll get better and quicker results if you understand some of the fundamental design principles. The tutorial will give you that in about an hour, so it’s time well spent.

The Mac version, and the Windows beta version has made some significant changes to compilation, and in many ways it’s more intuitive.