Scrivening disappointment

I really think L&L ought not to market this product for Windows until it is possible to use it. In terms of writing an academic book my problems include but are not limited to large chunks of imported chapter 1 being transposed into a foreign font; the lack of a visible ruler meaning no control over margins; formatting at paragraph level is impossible and looks inconsistent; page view is inconsistent - chapter 1 shows text extending across half a page but in print view it is full page; all the other chapters display as full page width even though the original word text was consistent throughout; graphics made in Word and imported to the document are distorted.

Quite frankly I have wasted at least a week on trying to do what L&L said was possible - to import files into Scrivener that have been created in .docx. This was eventually possible but all the graphics were mucked up completely and, as above, show as distorted in print view in any case, however many times or workarounds I try.

I will write the book in Word. I managed to compose a 90k thesis in Word, so I can do a short book in it. I started with the free version of this software, was seduced by the tutorial into thinking that it would do all the things claimed for it, but it won’t. I want my money back please. This product may be beta but it is not ‘as sold’.

You have my email address, I do not have yours. Please contact me off list and arrange a refund.

Jan Cambridge

Hi there Jan.

Sorry to hear you have had problems getting to grips with Scrivener. As I’m sure you will appreciate, no software can suit every user and as you rightly allude, using good ol’ MS Word has worked for a great many people.

Still, I can’t help but wonder why you purchased the program despite having a 30 day free trial if you are this unhappy with it. 30 days is a long time to find out that something doesn’t suit your way of working, especially as the free trial isn’t for 30 consecutive days, but any 30 days of actual use. I can also assure you that it is not a ‘beta’, it is a fully working program and there are thousands and thousands of very happy users. Myself included (I don’t work here).

You complain about not having the LitNLat email address. I suggest you try: )

As for your complaints about the software, it does sound like you’ve slightly mistaken the basic paradigm that Scrivener works under. It is essentially a drafting program, not a layout program (like MS Word), and is designed to let you forget about formatting and cosmetics and focus on the task of getting words down. As such it doesn’t really have a thing such as a “Page View” mode, and yes, it’s picture layout options are very basic and would need finishing in a dedicated publishing / layout program (again, like MS Word) after final compile.

Other issues, such as formatting and rulers are all available if you know where to look, and plenty of users (like myself) would be happy to answer any specific questions here on the forum if you are having issues finding certain things and the Manual / Tutorial / Videos aren’t making things any clearer.

But if you really can’t get to grips with it then explain your situation to David at the address and you never know. I suggest apologetic rather than angry is probably the way to go, though.


Nearly all formatting glitches that result from importing text from another word processor can be cleaned up with the Documents/Convert/Formatting to Default Text Style menu command (and I don’t think it is fair to expect this to be a seamless process. Pretty much any word processor is going to stumble over another’s format—especially when it comes to MS Word as their formats are proprietary, meaning every single other word processor that supports their format have basically arrived at that point by reverse-engineering one of the most intentionally complicated and arcane document formats on the planet). There may be a few esoteric things that tool doesn’t catch, but for basic indent reset, font and other paragraph settings it does a good job and will save you hours of messing around with rulers (which, incidentally can be toggled with Format/Show Ruler) and such. What I recommend people do is import the .docx, split it up into comfortable sections using the Documents/Split/ tools, and then select the whole lot and run the format conversion tool to clean it up. Depending on the source, there may still be more fine-tuning you need to do by hand after that, but for most people that will be the end of that phase.

Regarding images, it depends a lot on their format and display properties. You said you created them in Word, it could be they just aren’t easily handled by our importer in their current state, and would do better exported as PNG or JPEG and then placed into the project.

At any rate, I’m sorry you had a rough time getting your WIP into the software. Our main focus, as pigfender pointed out, is being ground zero. The expectation is that most people use this software to start the project. Naturally, when you just start that won’t be the case as you will have existing material you’d want to try the new program with, but it seems hasty to me to discredit the entire system which is designed for organising and managing original writing, based on a bad experience with the importer. Perhaps if that is your only complaint, you can try spending a few minutes with the tools I suggested above, see if that goes more smoothly and re-evaluate the worth of the software not so much on whether it can flawlessly import a .docx, but rather if its entire approach to writing, not as a single mammoth file, but as an articulate piecemeal approach, is worth adopting for future projects.

And of course, if you’d rather just not do that, or if you still have serious issues with using the software the way you intended, please contact us at the aforementioned address.

I’ve removed my original snarky comment. Sorry. Am turning into a cranky old man…

What’s really frustrating is when people, such as the OP, do download the free trial (as the OP said they did), and use it for a short time, decide to buy and only THEN do they realize that they don’t like the program. I mean, come on, what did you need to do that you just couldn’t until you ponied up the money? Everything that the full version does, the trial version does. And, just like Pigfender says above, you get the trial for 30 working days, not 30 continuous days. That could last a long time, long enough to figure out what the software will and won’t do and whether that would be a hindrance or not to your own work.

In addition to the suggestions above, you may want to try changing the converters for the import. If you open Tools > Options and click the Import/Export tab, you’ll see an option to enable the Microsoft Word converters for .doc and .docx import and export. These require a licenced version of MS Word 2007 or higher installed on the machine, but I assume you have that since you’ve been working in Word with the DOCX format. After you’ve enabled this, try again to import the .docx file: you may have much better luck with the text coming across more cleanly with the correct fonts.

The Documents > Convert > Formatting to Default Text Style command that Ioa referenced above will clean up the formatting of the selected document to match the default settings for new documents. You can set this however you want it by going to the Editor tab of Tools > Options… and using the format bar and ruler to adjust the sample text. (The blue A button on the left of the format bar opens the font options.) Click OK to apply the changes and close the Options. Your new defaults will apply to all new documents you create (in any project) and you can then update any existing documents, including the imported text, by selecting them in the binder (Ctrl- or Shift-click to select multiple) and choosing Documents > Convert > Formatting to Default Text Style. That should take care of any trouble with text wrapping at the wrong places (or running off the edge).

As pigfender said, much of the formatting control you mentioned is available, although not necessarily all the print-layout functions–I’m not entirely clear what you’re looking for there or what you were comparing in Scrivener, to be honest, but if you want more help with that there are plenty of users on the forum who are happy to answer tech support questions if you can explain what you’re doing, what you want to happen, and what results you are getting. To turn on the ruler in the editor, for instance, you can choose Format > Show Ruler. This should make it easier for you to format individual paragraphs.

I am currently using it to write my thesis and am very happy with it. It is helping me enormously! I didn’t have to import much - because I didn’t have much done. Since importing what little I did have, I have added a considerable amount more of work that I am HAPPY with. It helps me structure the work without having to scroll up and down a long page. I can move from one section to another with no problems and when I import it into word to finish it off, the formatting will be a once and for all final job that I will do in Word itself. It’s getting the words down in the correct order and structure that Scrivener is helping me with. I see the formatting as a later job.

Yeah, on one of our computers, we haven’t needed to enter a serial yet. (There’s one waiting for it, but we keep forgetting to put it in.) We don’t use that computer much, but L&L is generous with their trials.

I found that when I imported a 65,000 word Word document, it came in with various distortions, many that seemed kind of random, like font size changes and paragraph spacing that can’t be accounted for by anything in the original document. I use a handful of styles, mostly Headings and subheadings, and a variation of Normal. So the formatting of the original doc is pretty consistent, without much “local” formatting other than bold and italics and so on.

I tried a few different things to see if I could get it into Scrivener without the formatting being off. It wasn’t terrible, but it was distracting (and used Times or some other serif font that don’t like to work in.)

Because my intention was to bring it all in as a single Scrivener document, and then split it up, instead of importing it using the Import function, I tried simply copying the whole thing – all 65,000 words – from Word, and pasting it into an empty Scrivener document.

I found that it came in virtually perfectly. The only thing that got lost was a style that I use for inline comments to myself, with red text on a yellow background (so I can’t possibly miss it!) With that style, the yellow bg was missing, but the red was otherwise there. So no big deal.

The only other thing I notice is that even though the fonts and sizes are correct – with the main body text being Calibri 12 pt – I need to zoom in about 135% to get it to display on the screen at roughly the same size as it does in Word at !00%, which seems kind of odd, but is of no real consequence.

Because I preceded each heading and subhead with a separator line of plain underlining like this, ______________________________, that was always 30 characters long, I was able to use Find to locate my split points. It was only later that I noticed the option to Import and automatically split, which worked really well on a test project when I told it to split at my heading separators – except that the formatting was still off. So I’ve been using my copy/pasted and manually-split version. And enjoying it immensely.

I don’t know if it was just a peculiarity of my original Word document that didn’t translate well through Scrivener’s import function, or if others are having a similar experience. But the copy and paste method worked beautifully, so I thought I’d mention it here, since unfaithful importing was apparently the source of the OP’s disappointment.

That’s a good point, sometimes copy and paste can be a better way to transfer if the source word processor isn’t producing a file that imports well into Scrivener. What is put on the clipboard is not the same as what is saved into a file.

It’s all a bit abstract on a computer, what the baseline is. Zoom percentage is a bit like two different measurement systems. You can specify the same length with both centimetres and inches, they just use different numbers to specify that length. I believe Word’s “100%” is based on a printer centric model, it is attempting to approximate 12pt on the screen with 12pt on paper (this rarely actually works, but it is close enough for most people). Scrivener is just using the system resolution to calculate the font size at “100%”. So on a screen with a higher resolution than 72dpi (which is pretty much all of them these days), the text will appear smaller. Hence, we set the default to 135%, which should match Word’s offset. Hopefully that makes sense.

You could also paste into Scrivener, then export that as RTF from Scrivener and do your split & import command on the file Scrivener created. In theory that should work with zero formatting errors. There may be a few odd cases where it doesn’t.

And it deserves mentioning again, that in nearly every case, using the Documents/Convert/Formatting to Default Text Style menu command can clean up all of the problems that may arise from importing.

That’s a good idea. I might try that with another large, similarly formatted document I’d like to bring into this Scrivener project.