Importing an Word Outline

I have a long outline in Word that is my book and now I’ve found Scrivener. Is there a way to import it that keeps the structure and ideally splits it up automatically? I see how to import and then manually split, but then I have to recreate all the current substructures!

Thank you!!!

Unfortunately all of the things that make something an outline in Word are quite gone by the time Scrivener itself gets a look at the imported file. What I would look in to is a plug-in for Word that lets you export outlines as OPML. That would get you a structured outline file you could drop into the Binder as hierarchy. That won’t work so well if you are transferring bulk text as well as the outline, most likely. OPML can handle it, but not every generator writes bulk data the same way, and they are all going to be plain-text rather than formatted, so you’ll lose things like italics. It’s better if you’re just trying to get the headlines over in the right nesting order.

Some possibilities… Or wait till next project and start in Scrivener…


A Windows tool that retains hierarchy when doing Word outline-to-OPML export, but requires the presence of Word 11 (2003?) or later. Works for me, though the results will need some tweaking once imported into Scrivener (convert all or all but lowest level doc items to folder items, adjust fonts, …).
Download the Word to OPML zip file.
Extract it.
Navigate to and run the bin\debug\wordToOPML.exe
Use it to load and convert a Word .docx file.
It will output a .opmlx file in the same folder as the Word file.
In Scrivener, File > Import > OPML or MindMap file the .opmlx file.
Expand the new “Untitled” folder that appears in the binder and have fun…


If you can’t find a Word plug-in or third party package that can convert a Word outline to OPML format, there’s a solution for automating the splitting (but it fails to maintain outline hierarchy, bringing it in split but flat, which would require a lot of subsequent work in the binder to recreate the hierarchy)…

  • Make a copy of your Word document that you can experiment on safely.
  • In that copy, go into draft (rather than outline) view
    and do a Edit > Replace All
    of ^p
    with ^p#^p
    to insert a line containing just a # character
    between each existing line
    and save that out as a plain text file
    (in Windows that would be a .txt file).
    (I tried saving it as .docx file, with same result.)
  • Then in Scrivener,
    do File > Import > Import and Split,
    select the above edited plain text file,
    leave the separator defaulted to #
    and click OK.
  • You should now have the flattened outline in Scrivener.
    Have fun recreating the hierarchy in the binder.
    You can convert those items that should be folders to folders and move those that should remain as docs into the folders. A little experimentation with the sequence in which to do this (i.e. high to low level vs low high level) will probably lead to developing a fairly fast way of doing this. Perhaps put Word and Scrivener up side by side on the screen for reference purposes, then in Scrivener, locate lowest level items, select them and drag them into the higher level items that are to be their folders…, repeat at next higher level till hierarchy is recreated, then later select those items that are supposed to be folders and convert them from doc to folder (should be a mouse menu item).


Article that discusses Word-to-OPML
I tried the Windows scenario and tool mentioned, but recreating the outline hierarchy in the tool mentioned was tedious and Scrivener was unable to import the resulting OPML file. Your mileage may vary.

Thanks for sharing these tools!

One other method that also drops to plain-text (as OPML will), is to change your stylesheet in the Word document so that an increasing number of hashes are added to headings. So the top level would be “# My outline heading”, and level six would be “###### Something very, very nested”. Then you could save this as a plain-text file, make sure that all headlines have a clear empty line around them and then use File/Import/MultiMarkdown File… in Scrivener.

The hash marks described above are MMD codes for heading levels. Scrivener will reconstruct a document outline from an MMD file that has hierarchical headings like this. Any text following a headline will be stored into that item’s text field.

Consequently the following text when saved into a text file and imported into Scrivener as an MMD document will create the depicted outline structure in Scrivener:

[code]# Test

MMD Import

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

[size=80]Example MMD file imported[/size]

So, if you can get your Word outline looking like the above, and the drop to plain-text for the text area is an acceptable loss, that should work as well as OPML.

Now that is cool!!!

Ooo, except File/Import/MultiMarkdown File… isn’t implemented yet on Windows. I wasn’t thinking about that since we’re in the Mac section, but looks like it would be a relevant limitation to you. But will will be cool. :wink:

Out of curiosity, does this work the other direction as well?

I’m trying to get my Scrivener document to compile as a Word doc so that the file titles become Heading 2 when I import it into Word. I’ve tried a number of things, but I haven’t gotten it to work, so obviously I’m doing something wrong! :slight_smile:

Thank you!

P.S. I’m working in the latest version of the Windows version of Scrivener.

Speaking for Scrivener on both platforms, it has no problem making OPML files, so getting an outline out of the program is just as easy as getting one into it. Whether there is a suitable way to turn an OPML file back into a Word outline is something I wouldn’t know.

To be clear that isn’t going to really replace compiling though, assuming you need to use Word because you’re expecting to have formatted text. The techniques we’re discussing here remove all formatting, and as such for most people they are only suitable for outlining, not transferring a manuscript. Plus, many OPML tools only transfer headlines, as the base format itself has no concession for bulk text storage.

Ah, then I misunderstood. Thank you for the clarification!

Perhaps I’ll start a new thread rather than continue to hijack this one to discuss custom options for Compiling.

Thank you!

Yeah, and do some searching on the forum here, for how to get styles into Word. Although Scrivener doesn’t support stylesheets, it’s usually pretty easy to convert a formatted document to styles with Word’s tools for selecting text of similar formatting and then applying styles in bulk. The key is to keep your formats distinct and uniform. All Heading 2 items should be the same, and like nothing else that needs a different style. You can be as creative as you need to there, since it will all end up looking like a Word template once you’re done.

Until it “will be cool” it would make a lot of sense to remove the “option” from the windows version since it suggests it is actually working.

Note: the above tool from the hyperscope site does not convert into opml properly, so no reason to install it.

Only do this if you actually want to stay from there on only in Scrivener. In case you use options like index or other, you will have a hard time getting back to work without tremendous effort of recreation. Every time. This is not a problem if you have a fiction book, for anything non fiction my current research suggest that Scrivener is usuable to a certain degree, if you start from scratch, but from a certain point on you need to make a decision. Word can be made very flexible with import and export plus macros, Scrivener however only has basic features and more or less likes to import into single notes at best.

To littlecrowns point
There is a kinda way of using markdown to compile it as html (use the markdown in the layout for compiling for the different levels). Import this into word and word will recognize proper headings and all for the usage with winwords tools like toc, formatting and everything else based on headings.

It is counter intuitive, but the export / compile for word / docx produces non functional files, which look like in Scriv but dont use the features. By using the export via markdown / html you recreate the functionality. If you use it more than once, I recommend a macro recording for your most usual updates then (resetting of the heading layout, other cleanups, other laoyut decisions).