Scrivener Needs to Finish

Scrivener is a great tool—it took me a year of “dating” before I finally accepted that it does so much of what I need; but I think there’s room for improvement.

I wrote a blog article to detail my feedback. I recognize that Scrivener was originally meant to be a draft tool, not a finisher. But, with self-publication and electronic publication, I believe Scrivener needs to be proactive in ensuring that the finished copy has a consistent format. Maybe I have misunderstood a capability of Scrivener, but I think now the tool does not rise to the need of the emerging trend. And, of course, if I’m way off base, I will gladly revise my blog article accordingly.

Happy writing!

If I’m not mistaken, both these features are available now, at least for the Mac version.

Have a look at, respectively, the Formatting tab on the Compile dialog, and the Save as Template command on the File menu.


That seems to take away blockquotes.

If you mean that using the compile formatting options removes block quotes in the final text, you can highlight any text in your draft and apply the Format / Formatting / Preserve Text option from the main menu. The text will be highlighted in blue and its formatting will not be changed after compile.

There is a preset to do this for block quotes (Format / Formatting / Apply Preset / Essay Block Quote (Preserved), but you can of course amend this or roll your own if that’s not quite what you want.

If you don’t mean that, my apologies…



Please do try to remember that we are a tiny team and that Scrivener is developed by a single coder, and we don’t yet have the resources for more. It’s all very well saying, “Scrivener should do EVERYTHING!”, or “Scrivener should create completely submission ready manuscripts!”, but the reality is that we don’t have the resources to churn out a complete, fully-featured, Word/Pages-beating text engine - there’s a very good reason that the big layout and production tools are produced by large companies with big teams. That said, these are things that really only affect academics looking for one-stop production; such complicated layout stuff isn’t required - usually - for novels. So I’m not sure I follow what you want in your blog post - I don’t see anything in your blog post that Scrivener can’t already do. You say:

Which is all possible. It sounds as though you have “Override formatting” turned on in the “Formatting” pane of Compile but aren’t aware you can turn it off. Could this be the case? You can have Scrivener compile your text exactly as it appears in the editor if that’s what you want. Or you can change the text formatting by level. Or, if you want to override the formatting but have certain paragraphs - block quotes and suchlike - that need to maintain particular formatting, then you can use the “Preserve formatting” feature, and use the “Options” in the “Formatting” pane of Compile to determine exactly what gets preserved and what doesn’t.

There are essentially two possibilities here:

  1. A program allows you to completely change and override the formatting during export/print (compile).

  2. A program allows you to export or print using the formatting exactly as it appears in the editor.

Scrivener allows both.

I don’t understand this, either - you can set up the Compile formatting options however you wish. We don’t have the resources to create templates for every possible user-desire, but the power is in your hands - you can completely customise the Compile options and generate your own Compile formats for use in other projects. This will be easier in 2.1 (which also allows for different left/right margins for those who wish to submit to CreateSpace or self-publish).

You are talking about novel formatting, and there is very little reason that Scrivener can’t already be used as a “finisher” for a novel, if that is what you want. Scrivener is a draft tool, but for projects that don’t need more complicated layout - end-of-page footnotes, text wrapping images - then it can also be used for the final print-outs if you so wish. Novels generally don’t need complicated layout, so Scrivener should be fine for most such cases.

I recommend you go through the Compile options in more detail, and see the extensive Help file on this, to get more of an idea about what can be accomplished. I hope to provide a CreateSpace-style template with 2.1, too.

As for “knowledge workers”, as I say, yes, users will need to run a draft through a word processor first, but Scrivener’s RTF export is more than capable of doing everything they need - so they just need to open up the RTF in a word processor and print or generate their PDF from there instead of directly from Scrivener. Yes, one day it would lovely if Scrivener’s print/PDF code could do end-of-page footnotes and suchlike, but until we can afford a text engine guru or team that can make this a reality, I hardly think this is too big a chore when going from a $45 piece of software.

(I’m not really sure what your problem with RTF is, by the way - RTF is a file format; Scrivener’s editor is rich text, which is not the same as RTF.)

All the best,

Obviously, I can’t argue with the basis of your premise. It would be great if Scrivener could do everything a writer needs, from drafting to publishing the final, polished work ready for the world to consume. But it seems to me to be a bit greedy and unrealistic to expect a $45 piece of software to handle the entire publishing process. Not faulting you for suggesting it, just saying let’s be real.

Guys. I thank you for your comments. I started writing a response but got called away on a family thing, then our house power was killed because of a fast moving thunderstorm. Maybe that’s a good thing. :slight_smile: I’ll post something tomorrow as this is past my bed time and I’m an old fart.

That said, the CreateSpace template is more of what I was trying to say; not complaining as much about technical issues. I’ll have to explain when I finish my (terse) reply tomorrow.

Ouch, hope you got your power back!

More templates is something we’d love to provide, but again, being a small team, it’s very difficult to provide many templates - researching and creating just one template can take a couple of days to get right for inclusion in the program, and with everything else there just hasn’t been time enough to expand the template library. One thing we hope to do is provide video tutorials on really taking control of the Compile settings and project template creation so that users will feel more at home with these rather big features without having to go through the exhaustive Help manual for everything, and so maybe we will eventually get more user-created templates for which we can provide a place to share.

All the best,

Okay, I’m back. I keep everything in a cloud, so even if I lose a computer I’ll still have my stuff. But, when it rains it pours. The great thing about living in this part of the U.S. is power is only slightly more reliable than a third-world nation. Any thunderstorm spells outage and this one required a chain saw to get home.

Both Vermonter and Keith had very valid points about the cost of Scrivener. I bought my first Mac in Spring 2010 because I saw Scrivener as having promise beyond other tools and my willingness to develop (I’m a tool junkie). So, I invested about $1000 total to test Scrivener; and I upgraded to Scrivener 2 a few months ago when I decided I would not be developing my own solution. So, the $45 (+$25 upgrade = $70?) price point persuaded me to spend another $900 in computer and peripherals. I’m nobody special, but I actively resisted Mac for decades (since Apple II) and Scrivener got me to cave.

If you ask me “with what you know now, would you still make that investment?” Yes, though I’d have bought more power than a Mac Mini. So, take that as an endorsement. (I’m a Linux house, so I’ll never touch the Windows version without a gun to my wife’s head. :slight_smile:)

My point was not to carp on the technical aspects—I know the difference between RTF and rich-text, but you do use RTF on the back-end. If you saved the results as Markdown on the backend, or Latex; then I’d just slap my own compiler and stop whining. :wink: On the whole I’m impressed by the tool technically, and I’m a perfectionist when it comes to software. My own efforts bely my Unix background, editing in Markdown or LaTeX and having command line compilers with a tricked-out 6x9" template.

As a project manager, I totally get the resource constraint. I would disagree that larger teams of developers (over, say, 8 ) that build the likes of MS Office are more effective. There are too many communication pathways. Granted, one wee developer is a bit more concerning. You’re not planning to get hit by a bus, right?

My point was that Scrivener anticipates the author submiting to a publishing house/agent by default; which is a philosophical decision. By changing the philosophical position to “we support self-publishing,” then the default configuration of Scrivener would be more POD-friendly. The philosophical decision drives future development. POD/Electronic self-publishing is strongly on the ascent; does Scrivener actively support POD/Electronic self-publishing?

Asking me to beef up knowledge of Compile or “Scrivener can do this if [insert archane lore, mistletoe and a back rub]” suggest to me that it does not. I accept your expert position that it can do what I need it to do—you know a lot more about it than I do. Having me export to a secondary finisher would mean that Scrivener clearly does not. (Although, if it were possible to reliable export the rich-text to LaTeX I wouldn’t mind so much because I can automate that step.)

It sounds more like tweaking, documenting and tutorializing are in order. I just need more handholding because I’m easily distracted by life. Maybe I can help with the 6"x9" CreateSpace template for further incorporation—though that would distract me from my edit. :frowning:

Right now my biggest pain point is not being able to get a blockquote to stay a blockquote when I “Override text…”

Glad you didn’t lose anything at least! And I thought I had it bad in Cornwall with a dodgy internet connection.

Thank you! And much appreciated.

Ha, I can honestly say: been there, done that. The day I qualified as a teacher I got drunk to celebrate and, in attempting to cross the road to get to my taxi to get home, got run down by a big red London bendy bus and woke up in the ambulance. I have a nice Harry Potter-esque scar on my forehead to prove it. :slight_smile:

In the next two or three years, I really want to be able to bring another coder on board. We’re waiting to see how the Windows version does - with a bit of luck, that, and increased exposure, will help pay for another coder. But finding someone is difficult - I’m a perfectionist, I like control over my code, and I generally work better on my own. All challenges ahead…

Well, that depends. This is true in terms of the novel template, but there are various other formats and templates (although not enough!). There’s another philosophical problem, though: do we therefore provide a different novel template that is set up out of the box for self-publishing via epub, mobi, CreateSpace PDF or whatever? The trouble then is that the proliferation of project templates suggests that you need to choose the format you will be compiling to at the end of the process before you even create your project. But that’s not the case - in fact, that’s the antithesis of Scrivener, really. Instead, the idea is that you can compile to whatever format you want after you’ve finished. So the novel template really just provides some novel-like structure (although you could equally use the “Blank” template to write a novel - all templates were originally built off the blank template), and by default, in Compile, submit-to-agent manuscript format is selected. That seems to make the most sense, because if it’s a self-publishing format selected by default, then professional authors might think it’s not for them, and is just for self-publishers - but it’s for all. So you just choose a different format at Compile time, or set one up yourself, for self-publishing.

Yes! Although 2.1 will make improve this for CreateSpace and suchlike.

Not at all. “Compile” is the way you get your work out of Scrivener, whether to standard manuscript format, to .epub, to PDF or whatever. So getting to grips with Compile gives you complete control over the output of your work. Sure, we could use more templates but there’s nothing stopping users from creating their own, either project or compile templates. When I create templates for Scrivener, I just use Scrivener - I use exactly the same tools that are at the disposal of our users.

As I say, the one area where Scrivener isn’t a finisher is for academic papers (although it can produce .epub and .mobi files that have footnotes as good as any published work, it’s end-of-page footnotes for printing are lacking - these are things we would like in the future when we have more resources, as I say).

Ha, that would be a GIANT ask, I think. :slight_smile:

For this, just select the quote and use Format > Formatting > Preserve Formatting to enclose it in a “preserve formatting” block. This tells Compile not to touch this text, but you can use “Options…” in the “Formatting” pane of the compile panel to tell Compile only to preserve certain aspects of such blocks (such as indentations). Take a look at academic templates, if I recall correctly there are examples there, but using Preserve Formatting should be quite straightforward once you’ve discovered it.

All the best,

Hah. So, you’re pre-disastered. Scrivener has a long life. FWIW, my 21-year old got thrown through a windscreen at 2 years-old (because my ex hit a tree at highway speed) and barely lived. He also has a Harry Potter scar. It’s all the rage, I hear.

The bane of every project emerging from one developer to multiple. It’s about having code written in a fairly uniform way and finding a partner you get along with well and who will stay with the code style. When I developed I had a guy like that—except he liked tabbed indents where I liked white spaces. So, you could always tell who was in the library last because we would convert to our preferred method.

Here’s the kernel of the “problem” I carped about—but I feel much better. I might even go for a walk.

The “antithesis” is a philosophical thing. But, you said something that got me thinking. I took the blank template and built one from scratch last night—instead of finishing the last two scenes for my Confidant. I did the whole thing where I have blockquotes that preserve themselves by default, etc. Default page size dumps to 6"x9", roughly 38 lines to the page (which is seems to be the rough standard for US Trade) with a suitably large font.

So, it seems the better solution is to start with a blank and work from there. That seems to scratch my itch in the mid- to long-term. My short-term issue was to hunt down and preserve the blockquotes (turned out only one character ever texted—whodathunk? I didn’t realize that at first, but it is his character). I get close enough to the same thing. This is the first novel, so I expect it to sell better in electronic…

When I get the time, I’ll have to write an update on my blog (this week) to correct myself. :smiley:

I’m glad everyone has come to an accommodation but I must chime in and point out that one of the reasons why Scrivener is so attractive to professional writers is that it provides a clean way out to a manuscript suitable for submission but does not in any way force use of formatting during the creative process when you should not be thinking of formatting at all. Words and sentences and paragraphs, you see, not tables and ligatures and drop-caps and left indents and right indents and 12’ line to line and 6’ above and 3’ below and caption streams and footnotes and endnotes and sidebars and B-heads and Init caps and 12’ gutters.

If you want all the latter, get InDesign (a trifle more expensive then Scrivener plus of course the classes) and you’ll have control even of Hangul glosses.

Do have fun writing your novel!


Yeah, I wouldn’t go that far. Most trade paperbacks or mass market have the same simple formatting you get with Scrivener.


That’s horrible. I’m glad he was fine, but can only imagine how hideous that must have been - I could barely cope when my boy had to have an operation on his neck at 3.

Ha, this will definitely be an issue. Most objective-C coders, Apple staff included, seem to prefer the “One True Brace Style”, whereas I can’t stand it and use the “Allman” style (I had to look up what these styles were called on Wikipedia, incidentally - I always knew they must have a name!).

Glad you’ve found a workable solution. I tend to start from a blank project for everything myself, to be honest, because that way I know I can manipulate it into whatever format I want later, and drag elements in from other templates if I ever need to. The templates mainly just get people up and running quickly with particular formats or structures, but just because there is a “novel template”, that doesn’t mean that it is the only way to write a novel in Scrivener - that’s really just an example of one way you can put together a novel that I built from the blank template.

All the best,

So, I am a firm Compact Control man myself. Alas. Allman drives me nuts. :slight_smile: The Compact Control lets one add in a new statement rather easily. Though, my last few years of programming have been primarily Ruby, so blocks are quite different.

Your last paragraph was thought provoking. In the Ruby world, there are “scaffolds” that get you started quickly—but they would never expect you to keep them. The idea of the scaffold was to help rough out code quickly to present to the customer, then as real program logic was put in place the code would be refactored out. Get past the obvious parts to get to the business value.

Applying the same principle to the templates would essentially be the same, right? You have a template to quickly orient-educate the new user, then help ease them into their own template. In frequent cases, they may never need to go beyond the “scaffold” templates.

FWIW, I can be dense at times. I tried for years to wrap my head around Object-oriented programming and couldn’t comprehend all the metaphors. One day I saw a pseudo-object in Perl and it all made perfect sense.

I think that’s a good analogy. Many users will never want to look beyond the “pre-cooked” templates and will stick with them, as they will do all they want; but users who run into limits are free to create their own templates. There are two factors here: first, arranging a project with all the folders and suchlike that you want (assigning custom icons if you want, setting up document templates such as the character and location sheets, or anything else you want, and so on); and second, putting together compile formats that will take your preferred structure and compile it into a format you are happy with. There are a lot of options in compile, so it can take some tweaking, but once you’re happy, you can save the formats to use with other projects.

Regarding not “getting” OO programming for some time, it was the same for me - I tried reading several C++ books, but never understood it. Then coming to the Mac, Steve Kochan’s book on Objective-C just completely “clicked”.

All the best,

This is one of those discussions that is tremendously helpful to all users of the product. I appreciate the generosity of Keith, but I especially appreciate the generosity of @Merovech to have the conversation in the public forum. Many lurkers learn from the interaction.

It reminds me of one of my favorite jokes in all of computerdom:

Q: What do you call it when you ask for feature XXX in a program only to discover that the program already has that feature?

A: The immaculate compilation.

It seemed an appropriate joke here, especially for the double meaning of compilation in the thread.


A: What user manual?

But I’m a bit biased. :wink:

As promised, I hope it’s in order. :slight_smile:

Argh…! :slight_smile:

Many thanks for your kind follow-up article, much appreciated - although I think you were a bit hard on yourself! This thread, and another one in which a user pointed out certain changes they had to make when switching compile formats, have been really helpful. What I’ve realised is that the main problem with Compile at the moment is that it’s not as easy as it should be to switch between compile formats once you’ve set them up (or between the predefined ones). Originally the idea was that you could completely customise the compile settings to meet whatever needs you had, whether you were self-publishing, submitting or whatever. And that all works fine. But the main problem at the moment is that it’s not so easy if you want to switch between different compile formats frequently - which might be the case for those self-publishing to different formats (CreateSpace, .epub, .mobi). The trouble is that when you switch between formats, certain settings get lost that you need to set up again, and also that you have to change the front matter (title page etc). I’m therefore working on a couple of modifications that will make this much easier - so that you should be able to switch between, say, exporting a PDF for CreateSpace and printing a standard MS format document, with only a couple of clicks. And then we hope to put together a video tutorial showing exactly how to go from the standard novel template, set up a CreateSpace format, and be able to switch between the formats in future.

Of course, Lion’s out next week, so I’m not sure how much I’ll get into 2.1 seeing as that has to be out before Lion, but all this discussion has certainly been very useful and productive!

Thanks again and all the best,