presales questions

Good morning! I am testing Scrivener for purposes of buying it, and while it seems perfect for what I am doing and how I do it, I do have a few concerns to resolve before diving in.

  1. With several large works already in progress, I need to import quite a bit of material. Or is it best to just start fresh with Scrivener on my new projects rather than switching midstream with existing ones?
  2. One reason I ask that is because I’m having a heck of a time importing Word files. Seems like if they were originally created with the .doc suffix they will import, but if I add the .doc extension to those not already having it they will not import. Cut-and-paste works, but will I really need to do that with all my many existing files to import them?
  3. In this forum there appear to be many folks who have lost (or worry that they have lost) their work. Obviously I want to plan ahead to preclude that from happening. Is it feasible/wise to backup every day’s work in some universal form, like a compiled Word or RTF doc, “just in case?” Please calm my fears about this.
  4. I notice some significant frustration with Apple in your blog. Are you committed to supporting continuing OS upgrades like Snow Leopard?
    Thanks! Greg
  1. Scrivener makes it very easy to import an existing writing project. The best way to go about doing this is to save the file as an RTF, and then drag it into the Draft. Then use the Cmd-K command to split the document up into pieces. Many users prefer to split much further than they ordinarily would in other programs which are not built around the concept of “lots of little pieces”. You could start at chapters and then as you work in a chapter split it down to the scene or section.

  2. See above. RTF is probably going to be your best bet. It has slightly better support on import than Doc. Just use the Save As feature in Word to get them out.

  3. “Many” would be a bit of a stretch. Nearly always, the problem is due to choosing an unstable medium for saving the project to. Network sync drives like iDisk and DropBox are by far the least stable. Others have had difficulties with USB thumb drives. I’ve been using Scrivener (rather heavily and at times in abusive fashions in attempts to reproduce these bugs) for years now and have yet to lose anything that was not due to one of the above problems (and then the loss was intentional, so I really only lost test copies). Scrivener has a drop-dead easy to use back up feature (check the File menu) which lets you create zipped backups with two keystrokes. I use this nearly once an hour whenever I’m working heavily in a project, not only to protect against potential data loss, but against mistakes I might make myself. As for backing up to a universal format—that probably isn’t necessary unless you are worried about suddenly losing your only Mac. Even then, the Scrivener format just looks like a folder full of RTF files on other computers—so in an absolute worst case scenario, you’d still be all right.

Scrivener itself protects your data as best it can. The thing to realise with it is that it utilises a package format project file with potentially many hundreds of smaller files in it. With the default auto-save setting of 2 seconds, using Scrivener can mean quite a lot of disk activity. Common sense then dictates that the best places to save projects are going to be those that are physically wired into the computer, and known to be reliable. Read: hard disks. Anything else, including disks over a LAN, and you start to introduce the potential for transmission and read/write errors. This increases dramatically once the Internet is introduced, in the so-called “cloud” storage methods. It’s safe to use those for zipped backups, but nothing else.

Hi Greg

Welcome to Scrivener and the forum.

I’m sure Keith the developer of Scrivener will be along in a moment to address your questions, but I merely want to correct the impression you’ve received that “many” people appear to have lost or have lost work in Scrivener.

That is just not true. Keith has said it’s not true and I believe him, but in any case I’ve followed this forum from way back, and the percentage of people who’ve complained in these threads of loss of work is very, very tiny - far smaller than I’ve noticed for several other Mac applications of similar scope and complexity. Scrivener is after all explicitly designed in a number of ways to prevent the loss or corruption of work (which I for one have experienced with MS Word on Windows).

I’m sure for people who believe that Scrivener has destroyed work, the loss is very serious - hence anguished posts in the immediate aftermath with eye-catching titles such as “Lost Work!”. But another reason such threads catch the eye is because they tend to be longer. And this is because Keith and others on this forum devote a lot of time and effort in each case to trying to work out what has gone wrong - which is after all a positive, not a negative.

It does pay to RTFM/Help, the FAQ, the tutorial and most particularly the thread at the top of this section of the forum on saving externally, and watch the video on the product page. And, yes, as with any hardware or software that is custodian of high-value material, always back up. But if you follow those guidelines, the very small number of complaints on this forum suggests your work is going to be as safe as it will ever be in digital form.

I’ve no connection with Scrivener other than as a satisfied customer.


  1. Depends. I’m importing mine. I had one that I didn’t see a need to but did anyway, just to play with this weird new program I had (Scrivener), and it’s helped my work dramatically. (I even have a Windows user as my beta for that project. I export to RTF, and we put notes in square brackets.)

  2. Someone else will have to answer this one. I’m wondering if Automator could possibly help–but, um, I have problems with that program, myself.

  3. I’ve poked through those threads, myself. It seems the lost work issues come from improper saving–failing to load the application to your COMPUTER (and not leave it in its temporary download disk), or working on your project within the tutorial file, or trusting Time Machine backups made while Scrivener’s open (or made through AirPort). I’ve been using Scrivener since early this year, and I’ve not lost anything yet. If you want to stay safe, use the File menu “Backup Project to…” in ZIP format to load to some external safe place.

Thank you, Amber, Hugh, and Carradee!
Just needed a little hand-holding before making the commitment.
I look forward to hearing from Keith, if appropriate, including regarding continuing OS compatibility updates.
Again thanks,

I cannot speak for Keith, obviously, but really you have nothing to worry about on number 4. :slight_smile: We all gripe about Apple from time to time, especially the “computer-centric” among us who feel Apple is becoming too much of a “phone company” but Apple is far and away the best place to be. It’s like griping about the pipes in your home. It’s still home and nothing is better than coming back to it after a day out.

I feel that same way about Apple in every respect. Frankly, one of the great things about working with small companies like yours is that you can ask honest questions and in most cases, get honest answers.
Again, thanks.

Hi Greg,

Thanks for evaluating Scrivener. I haven’t read the entire thread as I’m under the weather with a rotten cold at the moment (hopefully not of the swine variety), so I’ll just jump in and answer your queries:

The import methods are designed with the idea that you will want to import quite a lot of material, so there’s no real advantage to starting afresh over bringing things in (2.0 will get even better, providing an automatic “Import and Split” feature, too).

Strange, I had an e-mail query about this yesterday, was this from you? If so, apologies that it took me until today to reply - for some reason the e-mail only arrived in my inbox this morning, even though it was dated yesterday (the wonders of IMAP, no doubt). Adding the .doc extension should work fine - though of course, that supposes that the .doc extension is the right one to add. If you are using the most recent version of Office, for instance, you may need to add .docx. Could it just be a confusion between .docx and .doc that is causing this? If you have a Word file that won’t import, feel free to send it to me at support AT literatureandlatte DOT com, and I’ll check it out.

There have been a handful of users that have reported lost work (although I hasten to add that this is out of thousands of customers), and I take this very seriously. However, I have never been able to link this for definite with anything Scrivener is doing. All of my own writing projects, and my main notes for the future development of Scrivener, are kept in Scrivener projects. I use Scrivener exhaustively every day and have never experienced data loss. I also know - because I programmed it - that it uses Apple’s own routines for saving data. This isn’t to say that the users who have reported data loss are in any way wrong - that would be most irresponsible - only that this is not a common occurrence. Using Scrivener’s File > Backup To feature every day to make a zipped backup of your project should keep your mind at rest, though. My theory is that data loss incidents have something to do with synchronisation programs. (For instance, a user reported to me recently that her project had somehow been restored to an earlier version of itself; after investigating, we found that she was using Forklift to synchronise, which has two panes, one the destination and one the source for the sync - but the source will always be the active pane. So if the wrong pane is active, it will overwrite your newer work with the older work if you don’t double-check everything, so we - the user and I - decided that this was what must have happened. I feel that similar issues may be at play in other similar cases, but I cannot say that for sure.)

I thought I’d recently posted something praising Apple? Nah, Apple annoy me from time to time, but their developer support is superb. And last week I finally installed the developer seed of Snow Leopard on my main machine and yesterday finished updating a lot of the internal code in Scrivener 2.0 so that it wouldn’t cause any compile problems on SL. There’s still much to be done, but yes, I’m dedicated to future development and future OSes. Scrivener 2.0 is scheduled for December/January, and it is a major overhaul with a slew of improvements, and it will be optimised for Snow Leopard though will still run on Tiger and Leopard.

Hope that answers your queries!
All the best,


You’ve gotta be kidding me. Well, that’s going to simplify things a bit…

Thanks much, Keith!
Let me experiment a little more with the .doc issue so I don’t consume your time unnecessarily. (I am not the same person who wrote you yesterday.)
Hope you feel better soon!

I just want to support Amber on your question number 3. There are very FEW people who have lost things. I have been trying to break Scrivener and have only suffered corruption of files using Time Machine, an airport and ANY package-based software ON PURPOSE in TEST situations. Follow the advice in those threads and data loss will not be a problem.

Unless a tornado goes through your town and floods both the basement (where the back-ups were) and rips the roof off your office (where the originals were). It happened to me in the mid 90’s outside of St. Louis Missouri, USA. Thus my back-up paranoia and testing tendencies…


Thanks, Apollo!
Hearing all this has been very reassuring.