Installing 32 bit Scrivener on 64 bit Ubuntu/Kubuntu

First I’m going to take a little time to gripe about this, because it makes me crazy.

64 bit is now the STANDARD HARDWARE ENVIRONMENT for computer hardware. The fact that the current version of Scrivener is only available for 32 bit Linux is, frankly, stupid. I know it’s because it’s developed as 32 bit software on Windows, and Windows is a lot more backwards-compatible than Linux is in this regard, but it’s still stupid.

If you run 32 bit Scrivener in a 64 bit environment you will have a realtively useless spell checker. You can get the spellchecker to work, but you can’t get it to recognize the aspell dictionaries. This qualifies as “relatively useless spell checker” to me. I realize other people will not be as annoyed by this as I am, but boy, oh boy, I am annoyed.

All that said… if you have a 64 bit system, and you want to run native Scrivener, and you want a working spell checker, there is a way, and I have documented that way for you here.


You are going to install a 32 bit version of Linux that will run in your 64 bit environment. It’s going to live in the /srv/chroot directory, and once you install that 32 bit system, you’re going to go into that system and install Scrivener from there. This process is kind of a pain in the ass, but once it’s done Scrivener will run seamlessly in your environment. The only reason you’ll be able to tell that it’s running in a special 32 bit installation inside your 64 bit world is because you will still bear the scars of trying to get it set up.


This procedure is for people runnging 64 bit Ubuntu or Kubuntu. It will probably also work on Debian but I can’t say that for certain because I’m not sure how much drift there is between Ubuntu and Debian. It probably depends on your version of Debian.

This procedure assumes you have downloaded the Scrivener deb install file somewhere in your home directory.

The procedure assumes you are running a relatively modern version of 64 bit Ubuntu or Kubuntu (Natty or greater). This procedure will show you how to install a 32 bit version of Quantal (12.10) on your machine.

This procedure uses nano as the text editor.

OK, with that out the way, here we go.


Step One: Install debootstrap and schroot

sudo apt-get install debootstrap
sudo apt-get install schroot

The computer will download and install the debootstrap and schroot.

Step Two: Edit the schroot.conf configuration file

Open the configuration file in nano:

sudo nano /etc/schroot/schroot.conf

Go to the end of the file, and add the following entry:

description=Ubuntu 12.10 Quantal for i386
root-users=[your username]
users=[your username]

[your username] should be replaced with your account username. Essentially we are making your local login account an account with root priveleges in 32bitland.

NOTE: If you are running a version of Ubuntu or Kubuntu earlier than Raring, you may need to replace directory=/srv/chroot/quantal-i386 with location=/srv/chroot/quantal-i386 – apparently in a recent release they changed that term.

Step Three: create the installation directory and install the 32 bit version of Linux

Create the chroot directory:

sudo mkdir -p /srv/chroot/quantal-i386

Now make the chroot:

sudo debootstrap --variant=buildd --arch=i386 quantal /srv/chroot/quantal-i386

Depending on the speed of your internet connection it may take a while to download and install the files.

Once everything has finished, verify the installation:

schroot -l

The terminal should list quantal-i386 as a valid installation.

Step Four: Start and configure the 32 bit chroot

Start your quantal-i386 session:

schroot -c quantal-i386 -u [your username]

schroot allows you to access the account home directory of whatever account is identified by the -u flag (as long as it’s listed in the users key in the entry you created in schroot.conf).

You are now running a terminal running 32 bit linux. Currently that’s all the linux installation is–a terminal environment without any support for X applications. We’re going to have to add more software.

First, install nano.

apt-get install nano

Now modify sources.list:

nano /etc/apt/sources.list

edit the file so it contains the following:

deb quantal main restricted universe multiverse
deb-src quantal main restricted universe multiverse
deb quantal-updates main restricted universe multiverse
deb-src quantal-updates main restricted universe multiverse

These are probably more repos than you need, but better safe than sorry.

Now we need to install an x environment. I don’t know how to give you a bare-bones environment, so the rest of this is overkill:

apt-get update
apt-get upgrade
apt-get install kate
apt-get install aspell aspell-en libaspell-dev libaspell15

“kate” is KDE’s text editor. This will install parts of KDE in your 32 bit environment. If you don’t wnat to do that, use gedit or something similar. The point is to install a graphical application, so that it will include all the libraries needed to run graphical apps. Then you install all the aspell components you need to have a happy spellchecker.

Step Five: Install the Scrivener deb

While you are in scroot, install the Scrivener deb file:

dpkg -i scrivener*.deb

Step Six: Get X applications running in schroot

WARNING: This is potentially unsecure. If you know a more secure way of doing this, please note in responses.

While you are inside schroot:

export DISPLAY=:0.0

Then open up a terminal window (a normal terminal window), OUTSIDE of schroot:

xhost +

At this point you should be able to run Scrivener.

Step Seven: Run Scrivener

From a terminal window (NOT in schroot):

schroot -c quantal-i386 -u [your username] -p scrivener

This will load Scrivener. It should load it seamlessly. It should default to accessing your home directory and you should be able to access all your home directory files without difficulty (because you’re using the same account to do it). You can create a program icon that uses that string, and you won’t even have to access a terminal application to launch it.

A Note About Fonts

One thing you will NOT have is access to all the fonts you have installed. The 32 bit linux uses it’s own directory and configuration structure and you will have to install all the fonts you want manually. I recommend using apt-get to install a basic set of fonts and sticking with those.

Hopefully this works for you guys. I’ve been sitting on these procedures until I ran them a few times to make sure it worked in one pass. That said, my setup may not be standard, or yours might not be, and the differences between our systems might be significant enough that this procedure omits steps you’d need to take to get it working for your. With that in mind, Caveat Emptor. And good luck!

I don’t know the advantages and disadvantages of running a 32 bit linux in a 64 bit sandbox, but on a 64 bit Ubuntu 13-04 Dingiswayo’s solution for Mint worked for me. At least so far. Haven’t tested much yet.

I installed the ia32-libs package and then reinstalled the scrivener deb file thus:

sudo apt-get -i --force-architecture scrivener-xxxx.deb

Anyone with comments on the preferred route?

The problem I have with Dingiswayo’s solution is there is a “last mile” gap in functionality. No matter what I do, I cannot get the damn spellchecker to recognize vocabulary. It winds up underlining correctly spelled words, and when I right-click on the options it usually just gives me that word, because it’s spelled correctly.

Some people really don’t mind that, but I really need a working spellchecker.

Scrivener works just fine in every other respect, but the only way I can get complete spellcheck functionality is to put it in a sandbox. I really wish that wasn’t the case, because setting this up is overkill. It does, however, provide a 100% functional spellchecker.

OMG. I admire the OP for coming up with the heroics to install Scrivener on the latest 640bit Ubuntu, but, geez Louise, if it’s that complicated (that we have to actually install an entire additional operating system), we may as well give up.

There must be some easier way.
At the moment, I don’t know what that is though…

Er, no, actually, that’s what you need to do in order to have a multilib (i.e. run 32-bit programs) system. And, for the record, you shouldn’t need to install everything, just a version of gcc that cross-compiles, all the associated glibc libraries, and a few other graphical libraries. Scrivener also needs 32-bit gstreamer and gst-base.

Again, the beef I ahve with running scrivener on 64 bit is definitely not a “it wont’ run” problem, but a “last mile” problem – getting the damn spell checking functionality to work.

A 70% solution to that has been found, but even that is a) tricky and b) not 100% effective, since apparently in order for it to work you must launch it from a terminal window in order for it to access the right libraries. Creating the schroot to run Scrivener in is still the most seamless solution I’ve found.

And yeah, I’m well aware it’s ridiculous overkill.