Importing into Script Mode

I have just started using Scrivener, so apologies if I have misunderstood this or missed some information.

I am importing an existing script from Word, and want to automatically split it at the scene headings, which I have tagged with # in Word. I have created a new project based on Scriptwriting templates (I’ve tried a couple of different ones). However, when I {File:Import:Import and Split …} it creates each of the scenes in standard mode, not the Script mode.

The same thing happens if I import the file without splitting.

If create a new document manually, I can get the script mode if:

  • the document selected in the binder is a script mode; or
  • I select “New from Template”.


  • sometimes when trying to select “New from Template” I get no option, ie “No Templates Folder set” (and I’m not sure how to fix that)
  • by default I am given a standard mode, not script mode, document (In the user manual section 19.1 it seems to imply the default should be script mode but I’m not sure I have understood that correctly)

I can switch modes using Ctrl+4, but my goal is to be able to move my script back and forth between Word and Scrivener relatively quickly, so I’m keen to avoid fiddly manual processes like this if at all possible.

The alternative I’m considering is creating a custom project template, and sacrificing the script mode functionality. Before I do (as it’s not ideal, and there will be a bit of set up work with the presets) I’m keen to check that I’m not missing something.


Only FDX documents are recognised on import as script documents, so when importing from Word you’ll need to select the document after import and use Ctrl+4 to change it. Once you switch it to script mode, the elements will be recognised if they match the formatting set in the script settings.

New documents will use the mode of the document last selected. This is true regardless of what project template you started with, though most script templates will start with a script document so you’ll normally begin creating more script documents in the draft folder just by virtue of having that already selected.

Document templates, used for “New from Template”, come from a container in the binder that has been set as the templates folder. It will have an icon of a blue square with a white “T” in it, and its subdocuments will all have that boxed T superimposed in the lower right corner to indicate they’re templates. Most of the project templates have a document templates folder already set, but you can create one yourself by selecting the folder you want to use and choosing Project > Set Selection As Templates Folder. The documents within that folder–or any you create or move there–will all act as templates, available from the New From Template menu. Project > Clear Templates Folder will remove that ability, leaving the folder and its subdocuments intact but no longer acting as templates.

I’m not quite clear what you hope to achieve by creating the custom project template. Script mode isn’t tied up in the project template, so you can easily make your own and use script mode within it. You can also make your own document templates within a project. The templates never affect imported documents, however, and that might be where there’s confusion. Project templates are about the initial binder structure, about the meta-data settings, project appearance, and compile and script presets. Document templates give you a base for creating your document text in that document, but you can’t import a new document into the binder and apply a template to it. Imported documents retain their own formatting as much as possible. In this case, the retained formatting will allow all the elements to be recognised once you tell Scrivener to treat it like a script.

Thanks Jennifer, that is very helpful.

I have fixed the document template problem - caused by me reorganising the folders and contents to suit.

Regarding the objective of the custom project template, my thinking is:

  • I’d like to create presets that match the styles I have in Word, which will feel more comfortable, but also importantly it will facilitate exchange back and forth between the two.
  • I’d like to have a single set of presets/(script) elements so I don’t need to differentiate between standard and script mode documents. When I write a scene might start as a couple of bullets, which turn in to bullets with sub-headings, and then into headings etc until it is dialogue (and at times may also have a combination of all of these).
  • I’ll lose a little bit of functionality if I don’t use Script mode, but this is probably limited to tab/return options (which I haven’t been using in Word anyway) and that it is slightly easier to apply the preset/script element to text

Not sure if that sounds crazy? Intuitively script mode seems like it should be a huge plus for me. But on balance I feel creating a custom project template with all my presets is a simpler and more flexible solution (to fit my work style).

Please let me know if there’s something I’ve missed, or you think I’m mistaken. I’m aware that my 25+ years using Word may be constraining my thinking somewhat.

It sounds like you do want either your own custom script formatting or formatting presets. Both are independent of project templates, although you could create a project template that uses the custom script mode by default. The key point here is that the project template has no bearing on the text formatting. All new documents are going to use the default formatting set for the Editor in Tools > Options or, if they’re script documents, will use the script settings of the current script mode. You can set the script mode for the project and save that as part of a template–e.g. the Screenplay template has the “Screenplay” script settings, the “Stage Play (UK)” template has the “Stage Play (UK)” script settings–but you can always change it in any project, so there’s nothing preventing you starting a new blank project and choosing whatever script settings you want.

Chapter 19 in the user manual covers Scrivener’s script writing tools, and 19.4 and 19.5 particularly explain how to create and save your own script format for whatever purpose–I gather you’re maybe not working with a standard script format but using the script tools to automate different formatting? Once you’ve created the script settings you want, you can load that into any project, and yes, you could set up project with a blank script document ready for typing and save the whole thing as a project template, so your new projects begin already in script mode and with your custom script setting.

15.4.3 in the user manual explains formatting presets, which are the other way to take this. These aren’t automated the way the script settings would be–meaning, Tab and Enter aren’t going to move you into the next type of formatting–so you’d need to apply them by hand, but they’re accessible from a drop-down menu in the format bar. Any formatting presets you create are available in all projects, so they’re not tied in any way to a project template or saved as part of one. They’d be for use in any document, without needing to be in script mode.

In either case, another important point is that if you’re doing all the formatting in the editor, be sure when you compile that you leave “Override text and notes formatting” unchecked in the Formatting pane. The “Original” preset leaves that off, so it’s a good place to start. (All the script project templates should also have this off by default, if you switch from FDX format–where it’s irrelevant–to RTF or such for opening in Word.)

I’ve used Scrivener on screenplays for a couple of years now, and have faced the same thing you describe. I use Scrivener for writing and research, Final Draft for final polishing, and a pdf printer.

My process is:

  • Use screenwriting presets in Script Mode to create script elements. These are much better than the non-Script Mode format presets because they allow for auto-completion of character names, automatic transition from, say, character to dialogue format, parentheticals etc. I do a similar thing you describe with bullet points (except I tend to use colours to distinguish notes from written actions and dialogues).
  • A couple of Scriv template files for new scenes using ‘New from Template’
  • A set of custom ‘compile to fdx’ settings in Scrivener
  • I have changed most of the script-related keyboard shortcuts to make them more intuitive/accessible. In particular, I’ve put the command to call up the screenplay elements list on the F1 key to get it with a single keypress (rather than the Scrivener default which was Ctrl+, I think).
  • A custom set of elements to apply in Final Draft, where the element names exactly match (including case) the screenwriting formats in Scrivener.
  • Final Draft adds page numbering, and ‘more and continueds’.

I only ever go one way - from Scrivener to Final Draft. If you bring the sript back from FD, then all your Scrivener notes and metadata are lost.

There a couple of bugs and limitations (as at Scrivener 1.8 ) to watch out for:

  • keyboard shortcuts for screenplay formats do not work while in Scrivening mode
  • Scrivener does not display Courier at the right pitch on as least some monitors. This makes it hard, but still possible, to get WYSIWYG while you’re writing in Scrivener - discussion and work-round here.
  • The formating of the first line, if blank, in a file created in Scriv using ‘New from Template’ is always lost.
  • ‘Add Front Matter’ (your title page) needs to be deselected/selected again each time you do a compile or it won’t be included in the output.
  • If you change one of your Scriv formats, then you’ll have to go through all the pages you’ve already written and manually update the changed format.

It’s taken me a long time to get it right, but it works beautifully now it’s set up properly! Good luck.

Thanks both for your advice.

Jennifer - I understand now what you mean now about the presets being separate from the project template. So I have built all the presets, imported my script, and started outlining (which is the big plus for me with Scrivener). All going well so far.

Simeva - yes I am planning to use Scrivener the way you are, but will probably stick with Word for the final polish (I’m writing for the stage so the formatting standards are quite so rigid). I think I’m just going to use the one template file, and rely heavily on the metadata to store notes. The new custom metadata fields basically allow me unlimited notes fields and as many category labels as I want (I’m very excited!). Thanks for the list of limitations; I encountered the first line problem pretty much in my first test, which was a bit confusing.