RTF export - "faux" styles vs. real styles

Keith, your blog entry mentions changes to the RTF filter in the upcoming version. Do these changes include a better handling of text styles?

My problem with the current export filter is that it does not seem to support styles at all. Scrivener does not export footnotes, headings, and main text as styles that can be processed in programs like Word. In Word, every imported Scrivener file is just formatted in one single “Normal” style with local formatting applied to headings etc.

This means that you don’t have any of the advantages that styles were invented for: You cannot change the font of the main text, because that change would also affect headers, quotes, footnotes and even footnote numbers. You cannot create a TOC because the document has no defined headings and subheadings. Basically, the document is useless for anything but a simple print-out unless you go through every page and apply real styles to each of the “faux” styles that Scrivener puts out. If the document you deal with is a diss with 400 pages, this would be an incredibly tedious and time-consuming task.

Are there technical limitations to the RTF format that don’t allow “real” styles to be defined in the output file itself? If not, would you consider changing the current filter so that it supports style definitions?

Scrivener uses the Apple text engine (used in TextEdit). Apple chose to use style templates rather than the true styles that you’re requesting here. Thus, we all have to wait until Apple upgrades their engine.


Other people have come up with efficient workarounds to this problem. You should search the forum for this topic.



No, I’m afraid styles are not supported. There is not actually a new RTF filter in the next update, just some fixes and adjustments to the existing one. Scrivener uses the built-in OS X RTF exporter (the same one as TextEdit and many other OS X apps use), but I have hacked a little extra on for things such as images, footnotes and suchlike. Adjusting it to include real styles would involve writing my own RTF exporter from scratch, which is a bigger task than I am unable to undertake. I’m not sure how far - if at all - the RTF format supports styles in general, either.

All the best,

Thanks for your replies, although I wish you had told me about that secret button in the export window that neatly transforms everything into paragraph styles.

Well, it looks like I won’t be able to use Scrivener for my Ph.D. That’s too bad. Its footnotes support makes it perfect for academic writing, at least in theory. The prospect of having to work with Word for another two years is somewhat discouraging.

RTF does seem to support styles, otherwise they wouldn’t show up in Word and RTF-based word processors like Nisus Writer. I’m sure that the technical details are somewhere in Microsoft’s RTF specification. But a new RTF filter would probably be a lot of extra work that only a minority of users will appreciate. (For what it’s worth, Ulysses’ RTF filter doesn’t support real styles either.) Maybe you can reconsider this request if you ever get stuck with your novel or if you’re out of new ideas for Scrivener :slight_smile:

The search only revealed some tips about using MMD/LaTeX instead of RTF, but I don’t want to use tags in my documents, and I don’t want to use LaTeX either. Are there other workarounds that I missed?

Anyway, thanks again for replying.

Perhaps so, but some time over the past few weeks a couple people have reported finishing their dissertation in Scrivener on the forum so it works for some people.


Well I can’t remember the varieties but basically assume that you will only do your first draft in Scrivener, export to Word (or whatever), and then do all the editing back & forth in Word. Set up the “styles” in Scrivener so the font appearance for each are quite distinct from one-another. When you finally export, you can do a format search in Word for your pink 12’ bold Bodoni and replace it with your newly defined Word pull-quote style. It’s a little tedious but you’ll only have to do it once. It would make sense to experiment a little bit to find out whether this will work for you before you begin serious writing.


When you’re done writing, spend a few hours adding the styles you need. 400 pages of reformatting is a few hours work, and it’s well worth the advantages Scrivener offers for the creative / writing process IMHO.

Well, I’m afraid it won’t be just a few hours’ work. A couple of years ago I wrote my MA thesis in Ulysses, and as I mentioned, their RTF filter doesn’t export styles either. My thesis was only 100+ pages, but reformatting it in Word was a nightmare. Adding headings and subheadings was the easiest part, but there were many other complications, especially with footnotes. Every time I changed a paragraph style, all superscripted footnote numbers would jump down to the baseline, and re-formatting footnote numbers and text at the bottom of the page had even more unpredictable results. I spent the final two days before the deadline trying to fix this mess by going through every single paragraph. In the end, the document was a wild mix of real styles and fake styles, but at least it looked alright.

An MA thesis is usually just a print-to-paper affair, so it doesn’t matter if the source is an RTF with bungled styles. A dissertation, however, will hopefully end up in the hands of a publisher, and publishing houses only accept well-structured .doc or RTF files. Most of them have very strict rules about the formatting styles of submitted typescripts, and if your file doesn’t meet their specifications, they won’t ask their secretary to fix it for you. I’d love to use Scrivener for my diss (in fact, I’ve already started writing the first chapter), but I’m not comfortable with the thought that I might be heading down a dead-end street.

To the Scrivener users who wrote their Ph.D. in Scrivener (apparently there are a few): How did you manage to clean up the final draft? How much time did you spend reformatting and re-adjusting your documents? Did they contain footnotes, or did you only use inlined references? Did you send your finished work to a publisher? Did you use RTF or some other output format?

This issue about dissertation formatting is one of the oldest topics on the board. Scrivener was not created for academic writers. It’s for fiction and screenplays. If a project is footnote-centric, you’re better off sticking with Pages, Mellel, or Word. That way, you control formatting throughout the entire process. And most advisers prefer to read word-processing files, anyway.

Most of my writing uses inline reference numbers and endnotes [1], so I don’t have the footnote formatting problem. I can think of several ways to make your life easier, though. Unlike your Ulysses experience, you’re prepared for trouble this time. Forewarned is forearmed.

You’ll probably find that keeping the Scrivener formatting as simple as possible is the way to go. Since you know you’ll be doing final formatting in Word anyway, give it a nice clean baseline to start from.

You might start by creating a sample chapter with test footnotes, exporting to Word, and seeing what happens. It’s likely that the Scrivener-Word transition will be different from the Ulysses-Word transition. It might be better. Certainly it’s easier to figure out how to manage the problem if you’re working with five pages instead of a hundred.

If the standard Scrivener footnotes don’t exportin a way that you can handle, you could try creating temporary notes ([Smith08]) as placeholders, with the note text in a separate Scrivener document. That will tell you what note goes where, and then you can use Word to drop them all in when you’re ready. Flag them with double brackets [[]] or some other special punctuation and they’ll be easy to find.

Hope this helps,


[1] Like this.

[Smith08] This is a temporary reference, to be replaced with a correct citation later.

Every publishing house I’ve ever worked with has wanted basically no more than you could do on a typewriter. (Except italics.) They hate formatting, styles, auto footnote numbers etc. The mss. are marked up with in-house tags which no author is expected (or even allowed) to know. The invariable answer, in my experience at any rate, is “The less formatting, the better.” Is this, I wonder, not true elsewhere?

Jan, have you actually dealt with academic publishers? I’ve published edited books with Routledge and HSRC, and they both wanted nothing more than minimally formatted Word files. Same goes for the dozen or so journals where I have articles and book reviews & the encyclopedias I’ve contributed to. If you’re in economics or math, well, you should probably be using LaTeX but for the humanities and social sciences, everything michaelbywater says is accurate. I have never seen a publisher ask for anything more complicated than 12 pt font, 1" margins, double-space, endnotes (or footnotes). (Which is far less elaborate than the formatting requirements for a dissertation at most institutions).

Look for example at
authornet.cambridge.org/informa … onic_files


press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chic … guide.html

which notes ‘Do not assign “styles” to achieve different formats for subheads, block quotes, paragraph indents, etc. The default, or “normal,” style should be the only style in your manuscript.’

Not to be a crank about this, but another option is to retype the entire thing in the new word processor. (I’m serious!) When I started revising my dissertation into a book, I happened to hear a radio interview with the late great David Foster Wallace, who said he would retype (on a typewriter) his ms. start to finish for each draft revision. I tried it, and as I recall it was about a week-and-a-half start-to-finish to take a 325 or so pp. ms. and retype it, cutting it down to about 250pp. in the process. The beauty of this approach is that it will force you to measure every word, and to get rid of all the defensive and esoteric footnotes that are the hallmark of a dissertation, but which have no place in a book. (And you can throw in whatever fancy styles you want in your WP).

It’s certainly true for newspaper and magazine articles, and for fiction in general (unless you’re Mark Z. Danielewski, inventor of The Great InDesign CS 3.0.1 for Mac Novel™).
But it’s not true for the the academic publishers I’ve dealt with. They don’t want you to “style” your text, but they have basic formatting guidelines for headings, text etc. They have very rigid rules about citation formats, and they want auto footnote numbers. (I’ve never heard of a publisher who wants static, text-only footnote numbering. And I never had anyone complain about paragraph styles, as long as they were used only to mark up the structure of the text.)

Yes. I’ve published journal articles and book articles, and all publishers had a set of formatting guidelines you’re expected to follow (e.g., “12 pt Times New Roman double-spaced for main text, 10 pt. for footnotes, 15 pt. centered for headings, 12 pt. centered for subheadings”). As far as I know, these formats are only a visual markup that tells their layouters where to place their own preset styles when they typeset your text in Framemaker or XPress or whatever software they use. But if you don’t know in advance where your article will be published, it’s easier to make your manuscript compliant with the publisher’s guidelines if you can simply change the pt height of footnotes or quotes or subheadings by redefining their styles with a few clicks. That would be impossible with an RTF or DOC that doesn’t have any styles (like RTFs exported from Ulysses or Scrivener).

In my own, admittedly still limited experience with academic publishing, it usually works like this: You write an article, you send it around, a journal or book editor accepts it and sends back a sheet with detailed formatting rules, you edit your article to comply with these rules, you send it back, they print it.

In this context, it’s only wise to use styles for the elements of your document: They save time. It’s not about “styling” or layout, it’s about automation. It is for the same reason that I’ve decided to buy a reference manager, after having wasted hours re-formatting citations by hand. Since every publisher seems to have different guidelines for citation formats, I’ll use Bookends in the future to reformat citation styles and bibliographies on the fly.

With a dissertation, being able to automatize formatting is even more important. My university has specific guidelines, and if the diss gets published, the publisher will have different ones. I would go mad if I had to reformat everything by hand.

Theoretically, I could keep all chapters of my diss in Scrivener and just change the style parameters in the RTF exporter whenever I need to print it or send it out. But that’s not practical either. After my own final edits, I want to send it to proof-readers, and I don’t want to re-import their edits and comments into Scrivener and then export the final draft again. There is too much potential for errors and mix-ups. Once the whole project has left the writing stage, it will have to leave Scrivener and become a single RTF file that can be scanned with Bookends and edited until it’s finished.

If Scrivener could export RTFs with “real” paragraph styles, adjusting your finished work to different formatting guidelines would be easier. But it doesn’t, and it probably never will, and I’m not trying to press my point any further.

Thanks for your advice, Katherine! After giving it some further thought, I’ll probably write the first draft (minus footnotes) in Scrivener, then print it out and write the final draft in Word. I’ll miss full-screen mode and the flexibility of non-linear writing, but after the first draft, the basic structure of the whole thing should be clear, and finishing it in a linear word-processor might actually have a, well, disciplining effect … or not.

I’d be a massive failure in this field of work :slight_smile: I’m in the humanities, where all publishers want RTF or DOC files. If I submitted a ms. that starts with “\documentclass[12pt{article}\title{\LaTeX}\begin{document}” the editor would take it for the first lines of a postmodern poem.

That’s an interesting point. As for the late, great DFW (the champion of defensive and esoteric footnotes), I always had the feeling that Infinite Jest was just one further draft revision away from being an immortal classic …

I wrote a similar request to Jan’s the other day on rtf export of styles and just came across Jan’s post. Sorry for the duplicate.

There is a function in Word which selects similarly-formatted text and allows you to create a style for it. This may be viable, though a pain in the butt once it becomes repetitive, more of a pain than Keith imagines, I think. What if each document is a separate chapter and I bring it into Word as a separate word doc? Converting styles to Word styles once is a pain, but doing it again and again for each chapter is untenable.

Keith (if you are reading this). I am a writer, first and foremost, so Scrivener is my creative tool. Are you saying that you would need to create a custom RTF export function? That you cannot easily make your current rtf export function convert the script or screenwriting styles to style sheets readable in Word (or Quark, for that matter)? Like Jan, I am totally adverse to using page-markup-language. I need to see my paragraphs formatted differently according to their function. But I also need to export named styles so that my page layout program can import them and recognize them by their style sheet names.

Since RTF is really text, I wonder if I could write a utility that converts styles into style sheets… (Word does not call these style sheets, which only confuses things… oh well).

Hi Bob - see my reply to your thread, but yes, that is what I am saying. As Scrivener uses Apple’s RTF exporter (which doesn’t support Styles) it can’t do any more… Although I hack into that exporter to add support for images, footnotes and comments (none of which are supported by Apple’s RTF exporter either), these things can be added ad hoc, whereas styles cannot, as their elements are scattered throughout the RTF if styles are not built into the RTF from the outset. The only way would be to write a custom RTF exporter - ouch!
All the best,

I don’t know where Scrivener stores it’s script style elements. From the looks of it, it doesn’t store them in the internal documents themselves, but rather tries to match what’s in the documents to a known type in the program definitions.

Perhaps a hack might be in order? Have a script style element option in Scrivener to prepend (or wrap) the textual content with some static text … I’m sort of doing this by hand already. For any headings that need to be “Sub-Subheading3”, I put that exact style name text at the beginning of each of my headings. Then in Word, I search through, finding those style names and setting the styles by hand to “Sub-Subheading3”.

This seems a little clunky, but it avoids the complications of writing your own RTF exporter. In a sense, I guess it’s a crude markup option, but if Scrivener could automate the first part, it’ll make things that much quicker.