Interoperability between Scrivener and Vellum

As Keith has already pointed out, Scrivener and Vellum tackle two different problems. … 95#p232895

Scrivener excels at the composition side of things, while Vellum is becoming an increasingly popular (even though it is quite expensive) way of handling the final output for print and eBook.

I think it would be very difficult for either app to host the feature set that would make them suitable for both, so I thought it might be useful if Scrivener could compile directly into the Vellum format for the final polish.

The problem here is that Vellum uses a proprietary file format. Looking at it, it doesn’t look too difficult from a technical perspective - they are using property lists inside a package which is easy to create. However, there’s no way to see what the content of those property lists actually is or means. Vellum would need to publish their file format for this to be viable, and even if they did, that would add a lot of development overhead for me, as it would mean that every time they updated their file format, I would have to be on top of it. It also require a whole bunch of different Compile options built around what their format supports.

Out of curiosity, why can’t you create the ebook in Scrivener? Scrivener 3’s Epub 3 support should be up there with best of them for reflow able ebooks such as novels…

All the best,

Hello there!

Yes, I thought I would ask, though I suspected the file format would be a problem.

Actually, there’s not really anything wrong with ePub3 output from Scrivener; I used it on first two (three?) books without too much trouble. However, I still find that printed output can be a little bit hit or miss when it comes to the final polish. Because Vellum does the printed book so well, I just tend to say ‘what the hell’ and do the Kindle, iBooks version from the same project. It’s control of Widows and Orphans is better, and the overall evenness of the layout is a thing of beauty (to me at least).

So I tend to compose in Scrivener, and final output goes through Vellum. The reason that I asked about Vellum format was because I figured that being able to output in Vellum would be mean that the final version in Scrivener, rather than keeping it in Vellum. I’m not sure it make that much of a difference, since I shouldn’t be doing much more than minor changes at this stage. Still, coming from the a programming background, I think of Scrivener as the place I work on the source code, so that’s where I’d like it to stay :slight_smile:

Vellum’s presets produce good looking ebooks. They’ve dealt with issues such as chapter styles, running headers and the like. From what I can tell–and if I’ve missed presets I’d like to know–Scrivener lets you do what you want. This can be advantageous at times, but unless you’re a designer, it’s beneficial to stand on the shoulders of giants. That’s why I use LaTeX to create printed books. There really is nothing better.
I’d like to point out that Scrivener already exports to Vellum’s sole import format–.docx. So it’s trivial to move from Scrivener to Vellum.
But Vellum’s pricing model just changed again. I did one book with them and I have no idea what my rights are under the cirucmstances.

I’ve dropped 180g an email asking if they have public file specs available, as we have been in touch before. Even if they do, I’m not sure how feasible supporting such a format would be (and it would open us up to requests from other self-publishing software to support their formats).

However, wouldn’t a Compile Format do the job nearly as well? Vellum imports .docx files and has a bunch of rules on how it interprets them:

Surely it would be possible to set up a Compile format that follows those rules? (Vellum should be able to import images in Scrivener-exported .docx files as of 3.0.3, too, thanks to our .docx export being updated slightly.)

All the best,

Yes, the compile format I have is pretty darn close, but it can’t cope with stuff like the dedications page or other stuff that they have codes for but would probably need access to the format spec to translate properly. If you have verse or fixed text blocks (for email messages in the story) then that stuff gets tricky to move across. I used to just reformat them when I got them into Vellum, but I soon learned that it’s much easier to have a cut-off point (just before the first copy-edit) and just carrying on working with it as a Vellum project.

By the way, did you see Scrivener’s icon on the big screen during the WWDC Keynote? I think it came up at least once. I definitely saw it when they were talking about the new Mac App Store.

Okay, fixed one problem!

Vellum picks up the title and author from the Word file’s properties. So fill them in on the Compile meta data and don’t include the front matter. Now I’ve got the title page

That’s useful information, thanks. I’ll have a play with their .docx export - does it not recognise styles or anything like that? Does it recognise verse or fixed blocks at all in .docx?

And yes, I did indeed see the Scrivener icon in the Mac App Store part of the demo - I was quite pleased with that!

Okay, not sure how I missed it, but there were more answers here:

including a section on setting up Scrivener3 for imports.

It seems that you need to have ‘chapter’ in the headings for chapter recognition to work (which explains why I had problems with the last book), and titles such as ‘acknowledgements’ and ‘epilogue’ will be picked up, so I can adjust the compile options for that quite easily with Scrivener3 …

Bold and italics are fine, but the indented blocks are still a problem. Doesn’t seem to recognise them. There is a downloadable Word template, so I need to play around with that; the answer may be there.

Right, I think we’re okay! …

contains a document that lists all the styles that Vellum will recognise in an imported .docx file.

I’ll create a new export template for Scrivener based on the document, and that should do the trick!

The good think about Vellum is that you can reimport the word doc back into the same Vellum project without interfering with your other settings (separator style, heading style etc.)

I’ll let you know how I get on.

Thanks for your help!

Okay, so looking at that, it seems that Vellum will detect certain styles based on their names - they have to use the “Vellum” prefix, though, such as “Vellum Block Quote” and “Vellum Attribution”. Based on that, I’ve aded a new option to 3.0.3 that allows you to override the style name, so that you can, for instance, have a “Block Quote” style exported as “Vellum Block Quote” when exporting to .docx. That should be the only missing ingredient.

I’ll have a play with their template myself.

Got it working, and I was thinking “Shame that I’ve lost the abstraction between the content and final output though.”

Then I come back here and see you’re already a step ahead of me. Great work, as usual. :smiley:

So now I can keep working in Scrivener beyond the final draft, which is just what I wanted.


Just tried the changes in 3.03.

Works like a charm. Great work. Thank you.


Glad you like it! Kudos to the two Brads at Vellum, too. I followed their Word import guide and found some minor issues: “Epigraph” wasn’t recognised properly with the way Scrivener generated page breaks; images imported into Vellum always had an extra empty line after them; Vellum wouldn’t import links in .docx files the way Scrivener generated them. All of these three issues were addressed in Vellum 2.2.2, which was released yesterday, thanks to the Vellum guys wanting to get things working between the two apps too.

Incidentally, if you haven’t seen it, I’ve put together a page and sample project going into detail on exporting to Vellum here: