Is Scrivener (Win) a Good Choice If It Has Bugs Like This?


Windows Scrivener Users: I could sure use your advice.

I’d like your first-hand, honest, off-the-record assessment: Is Scrivener for Windows stable enough to use for an entire non-fiction book-writing project?

I’m just one week in on my first book using Scrivener for Windows and already it’s been, well… trying. Even just working with simple paragraph and list formatting has proved challenging. (See picture below for issues I’m having with simple list formatting and item numbering)

[FYI: Before starting my book I worked through every page of all but two chapters of Scrivener for Dummies (by Gwen Hernandez), so I know the program quite well.]

I’m writing non-fiction so I have images, numbered lists, sub-headings, the works. I’ve been working with simple formatting for text and lists and already Scrivener is proving incredibly buggy. For example, if you’re making a numbered or outlined list (found within the same button as bulleted lists) you’d better know the list in the exact order you want to use it. Because if you try to re-arrange the list by clicking and dragging items to different places, the list format explodes – you get a random bullet added in (even though this is in a numbered list), and the item you moved gets added as a sub-item of where you’re trying to move it to. Using an outlined list is even worse (see attached pictures of three different scenarios).

I’ve had similar issues with Font/Paragraph presents not working when applied to text.

My project involves bringing in 1200 pages of notes from 250 Word docs, and I don’t want to invest the time if I’m going to wind up ditching Scrivener.

What do you think? For a complex non-fiction project, where I need to cross-reference tables and figures in earlier chapters, build an active Index, insert formatted asides, etc., is Scrivner for Windows an adequate tool?

What I’m hoping to find out is what specifically you would warn other Windows Scrivener users about. I don’t necessarily mean the known features that aren’t available in Windows, but more the things that are broken or buggy… the things that can make it a bear to work with Scrivener. Though, if there are key features for non-fiction in the Mac version, I’d certainly love to hear about those too.

Thanks so much…


P.S. After all the formatting trouble I had I came across this Windows tool, which looks like a Scrivener knock-off, except that it’s built upon the reliable Word document engine (it’s basically just a pluggin for Word).

The nice thing is that I can leverage all of robust Word’s formatting options, plus use their cross-referencing system tools for things like adding pictures/captions and building an active Index.

If you have any thoughts about using that program, I’d love to hear them as well.

writingoutliner looks pretty good but might be abandonware - no recent updates or blog entries

I write nonfiction with Scrivener, though not yet a book-length project. I’ve encountered exactly the problem you describe with moving items within a list. The way I make it work is simply to select the item I want to move, cut it to the clipboard (Ctrl+X), move the cursor to the desired new location, and then Paste and Match Style (Ctrl-Shift-V). This inserts only the text, and not the list formatting that causes the “explosion” (a good term for it). This is likely to leave you with an empty bullet at the point where you started, but at least all will be in order.

In my opinion, Scrivener is very good for what it’s meant for: gathering and organizing data, notes, and ideas. For creating the actual book, especially with cross-references, indexes, tables, etc., it’s really best to move to the word processor. There’s a reason the folder at the top of the Scrivener Binder is called Draft, not Finished Manuscript! (For the final writing and formatting, I use Nota Bene, which is meant for this sort of writing as opposed to, well, “Office” work.)

I hope this is some help!

I had the same suspicion, Greg. I sent them an email yesterday – about 24 hours ago – and still no reply. Bummer.

Thanks for that, DavidR! That’s a decent work-around, and I hadn’t even thought to try it! I’m curious… has this bug been around since Scrivener for Windows was first born, or is it something fairly new? It seems like such a basic feature to be seeing this kind of drastically buggy behavior.

I’d love your thoughts on one other thing, if you have a sec:

I’m considering installing the Mac version of Scrivener on a VMWare partition on my PC. At least that way I’d get all the good features. But when it comes to cross-references, if I add them in Scrivener but still need to take the final export into another word processor for final touch-up, will the cross-references carry over in an intelligent way? Meaning, will another program be able to recognize them and keep them dynamically linked?

Thank you again for your help, good sir. Really appreciate it.


I don’t write non-fiction or use lists very often, but you could try making the list the way you want it and, until you’re sure of the exact order, use a period in place of the list item. Once you figure out the exact order you want it to go in, then you could type it in that way.

Not a fix and probably not the best work around, but it might be useful. Maybe.

Another good idea, Lanie. I suppose I could come up with an “unformatted format” that would be easy enough to search for during in the final production phase. Thanks.


Jeff from Scrivener sent me a very thorough email reply with some good suggestions (I sent in a ticket to Scrivener Support in addition to making this original post).

Unfortunately it’s a known bug.

Figured I’d include it here for completeness.


One more discovery:

If you don’t need outline numbering, you can produce nested lists using a standard numbered list and the (indent) and + (outdent) key combinations. This works just fine.


With a standard numbered list you can make your nested list look like this:

  1. Apples
  2. Oranges
  3. Bananas
    -----> 1. Yellow
    -----> 2. Mushy

So if you’re OK with that and don’t need outline formatting like this:

  1. Apples
  2. Oranges
  3. Bananas
    -----> 3.1 Yellow
    -----> 3.2 Mushy

Then you’re good to go.


Tim, your diligence with this is helpful to the rest of us too. WRT Jeff from Scrivener’s remarks on RTF editors and lists, I will just say that I made a very brief test with WordPad under Windows 7, and there is no problem dragging items around in lists, even with sub-levels. The formatting stays correct. However, a “sub-level” done with indenting simply continues the numbering, rather than having a subordinate series of numbers. It’s really only useful for single-level lists, at least if they’re numbered rather than bulleted.

For anyone interested in the WritingOutliner program I mentioned in my P.S., it doesn’t look too promising. Sounds like there won’t be much new development / bug-fixing happening for a while.

Here’s an email reply I received from the developer. I had asked about a couple bugs I found in the program, and when they might be fixed.