*Less* formatting options.

This seems like a lot of work. Nevertheless:

You say that Scrivener is explicitly not a formatting program. Thus the lack of margin notes, etc. I agree, wholeheartedly: this wave of writer’s tools for OS X over the past couple years has all been, quite welcomely, about replacing the feature set of a word processor with features more conducive to actually WRITING, esp. in the long term. That is precisely what I want; one of the things that made Copywrite such a pleasure to use (I suppose it was my first of the breed, before Jer’s Novel Writer, Ulysses, and now… You.) was that it absolutely kept formatting OUT of the picture. You told it what the default face was, and it made it so. You could underline and bold, of course, and those elements remained on export—but things like rtf styles, rulers, single-line breaks were all simply not an option. You hit return and it created a new paragraph, because that is how one writes. It might not be how one publishes, but there’s no need to fiddle with indentation when you’re still chopping the text out of a single piece of wood. So to speak.

Thus, writing was about WRITING. Copywrite is kind of light on actual features—Scrivener’s outline mode alone rockets it several grades ahead—but its extremely simple set of font options is incredibly welcome.

That’s why it’s so vexing that so much of my time is spent twiddling with fonts in Scrivener. Not even in a tweaking, just-right kind of way—but just so things all look the same. The ‘convert to default style’ button is a godsend, don’t get me wrong. But honestly, do we even need styles at all? Wanting to export perfectly to Word is admirable. But having all of these RTF artifacts—rulers, tabs, margins (again, if only the margin settings in the preferences were all there was to it), variable font settings—it really, really gets in the way. Not only does it continuously impede on the writing, but it also makes your menus HUGE! There’s all those cool functions; I don’t want to have to wade through variable text alignment settings to get to them. Again, with the Spacing… option: it’s lovely to have, but I wonder who benefits from being able to change 6 (!) different decimals about any arbitrary piece of text in their binder. I say: take as much as you can stomach out. If you love the spacing (and the alignment, etc) I beg you: quarantine them off in their own little ‘Document Settings’ dialog.

Thoughts? I don’t want to sound too strident. To be honest, every time I use your application I get really, really excited. It’s great. I could go on about all the things I think are really GOOD, but that’ll be another post.

I am basically in your camp when it comes to formatting. You came from Copywrite, and I own that program, but seldomly used it because it never fit my workflow. I came from Ulysses, which I still keep tabs on, and use for its excellent LaTeX export. Ulysses, as you know, is even more ardent about eschewing format than anything else in the genre.

Keith has always said that Scrivener is a rich text application, and that along with organisation, was one of his reasons for setting out on the path of making a new writing application. Originally, like you, I had a bit of a problem with that – but accepted it as a small price to pay for such an overwhelmingly useful writing application. Afterall, once can always completely ignore formatting. Set it up so that it is visually pleasing (as I did with Ulysses), and then never think about it again. All of your visual choices can be erased with a simple plain text export. This will be enhanced in the future by Markdown, a very simple way of adding basic structure and format to a document, using nothing but text. Additionally, Scrivener has the ability to export to a special, export only style guide, which could be stripped down to the basics allowing you to be as frivolous as your please in Scrivener.

Since then, I have changed my position slightly. While I will never be one to embed formatting directly into the text of a document, I actually intend to do the reverse. One of the things lacking in Ulysses is the simple ability to make your own visual distinctions. Everything is one long plain text file with a few structural marks and the emphasis tool. If I want to mark a paragraph in blue, so as to mean something to me in the future during editing, I cannot do that – but in Scrivener, I can. And, using plain text or Markdown, I needn’t worry about these sort of internal references leaking out to final copy. Scrivener already includes a healthy set of tools for marking your text for revision: Highlighters, annotations, snapshots. But its rich text capabilities allow you to implement your own personal “style as meta-data” philosophy. I like to think of it as a non-destructive mark. It exists only in Scrivener, and does not actually change the data beneath it.

I cannot really say I am either on the side of keeping rich text or getting rid of it – and such discussion is fairly irrelevant as Keith has made it clear on other threads that this is something that will never change. So, I just wished to share some of my experiments with Scrivener, from one nonconformatist to another. :wink: Hopefully you will get some use out of them, and do share any ideas vice versa.

I hear what you’re saying, and I dig it. I wouldn’t raise high the plain-text flag; at the very least, I like italics and bolding. But at the same time, I feel like if you are working in straight RTF then it’s always going to be a little uncontrollable for me. It’s not that I demand my final product be unformatted in one way or another—for that, you quite rightly point to Scrivener’s bevy of export options. Rather, it’s that when I use the program, I find that every element—the fullscreen, the binder, the inspector, the outliner (ok, not the corkboard. But I would never speak ill of that.) work with me, they make it easier, smoother, and absolutely more functional to get my story in shape—both on a word-by-word basis and in larger scopes as well.

However. What keeps tripping me up is the fact that things like spacing, margins and typeface respond to every whim of OS X’s built-in RTF engine, which I have always found a little flakey. Just now, I inserted a ‘ș’ (a strange character, yes, but even just pasting formatted text from elsewhere creates style insanity) into my document, and the spacing magically changed. Then I had to fiddle around and make sure that the font for what I had pasted in was the same as the font of the stuff around it. Then, I highlighted something and pressed ‘annotate’, and the spacing magically changed again, back to 1, or 1.5, whatever it had been beforehand!

So, I won’t push for plaintext. But surely one can see: if, during the course of textual/structural operations like pasting-in and annotation, one’s work is consistently interrupted by the RTF engine trying to figure out things like styles and formatting—that is precisely the sort of thing a program like Scrivener is designed to avoid.

Oh I totally hear you on that. OS X’s RTF widget can be very frustrating. The nice thing about it is that it is free, and it allows pretty much any developer to make a halfway decent RTF editor without years of investment, but yes, the pasting from other applications bit is by far the most annoying aspect. Actually, for me part of the frustration simply comes from RTF itself. Having grown up on WordPerfect, I never did take a liking to Word’s method of applying style. I suppose that background is why I prefer some form of mark-up, where it is very clear what is going to happen when I start typing. With RTF, it is often a complete mystery if something will be bold or not – and there is no rapid way to skim through the format aspects of your document. It is all WYSIWYG, and no explanation of why it is …WYG.

Anyway, Two options to escape pasting woes!

  1. There is this little utility that I use called Plain Clip. When you run it, it destroys all format cues in your current clipboard, turning it into a plain-text set of text. Then, when you paste into something using OS X’s RTF engine, it gets inserted using the current format. You can leave it in your dock and whenever you click it, it does its dirty deeds and that is that.

  2. While that is good for applications that do not have a built in way of circumvention, it is a little clumsy for constant use. Fortunately, Keith put in the handy little “Paste and Match Style” menu function, which does exactly what Plain Clip does. The keyboard shortcut is definitely more clumsy than Cmd-V, but having used it nearly constantly ever since I started using OS X, it is second nature.

Cheers for those. I saw the paste and match style bit, but gosh, that’s a lot of modifiers. Better than nothing, though.

For now, I’ll just start doing that, and waiting until Keith drops a plaintext, syntax-highlighting, Markdown-friendly text engine into this lovely little beast.


Hmm… I think most of these comments should be addressed to Apple, given that they are responsible for the RTF engine, not me. :slight_smile:

To be honest, I’m not really sure I understand where all the problems arise - I previously used TextEdit and never had a problem. Sure, some of the RTF commands can be buggy - for instance, pasting an image into TextEdit will cause you to lose the font you were working in (though I found a fix for that for Scrivener). However, if you just set up the ruler, font, alignment and indentation to what you would like it in Preferences, you never really have to bother about it again. When you import a document, you can use the “convert to style” features, and when you paste in, you can use “Paste and Match Style” (which, incidentally uses the same keyboard modifiers as TextEdit - programs like Scrivener have a duty to be as consistent as possible with Apple examples such as TextEdit with which many users may be familiar). Whevener you create a new document, it will use your default styles.

And as AmberV has pointed out, Scrivener is designed to take advantage of the RTF engine and to offer exactly what TextEdit does in this area - so this isn’t going to change. Sorry. :slight_smile:


Do make use of bugreport.apple.com - Apple prioritise their features/bug fixing according to how many requests they get. I really think a lot of these issues with the text system should have been fixed by now, especially heading towards 10.5.

Amen. The reason Cocoa’s rich text stuff is annoying is because it improved so much with Tiger, and yet it isn’t quite perfect yet, in terms of both its bugginess and occasional cumbersome interface. But after AmberV’s heads up about keyboard shortcuts, I’ve also managed to set keyboard shortcuts for paragraph styles and lists, which means I don’t have to mess around with the rich text ruler, which annoys me to no end because it keeps global styles universally across apps – which can be handy, but which becomes a navigational nightmare.

I have just come up with a slightly scorched-earch but mostly flexible hack for the problem of style insanity.

In the Apple keyboard preferences, you can inject your own custom keyboard mappings to any menu shortcut. One thing to cut down on text hijacking your current style is to simply create a new shortcut for the command named ‘Paste and Match Style’ to cmd-V, and one for ‘Paste’ to, say, Cmd-Opt-V or the like. Then, whenever you paste, it will be pasted as plaintext.

Off the top of my head I don’t know what Cmd-Opt-V maps to. Anyone have a good idea for where to put regular rich Paste?

Good idea – and you might as well assign rich text paste to the place where plain text paste usually is, Cmd-Opt-Shift-V.

Note: You have to re-launch any app to make this work.