Thanks for all the detailed information. I used to use WriteNow (Classic only) for short documents, and still use FrameMaker for complicated docs that need cross-references and the like. (Also in Classic, since Adobe didn’t bother to port it to OS X, even though there’s a Unix version. Go figure.) FrameMaker’s great for content like my research notes (7 volumes to date, 80,000 to 135,000 words per volume, indexing, cross references galore). It works okay for writing books. I think Scrivener will be far superior once it uses named styles, or if I can use macros to bash it into approximating them.
Once I get all my WriteNow files ported to something else, I plan to get a MacBook and run FrameMaker under Linux. Unless I can find a program with its powerful features to which I can port my FrameMaker files. (Any suggestions?)
Getting Scrivener and styles working together
FrameMaker’s an incredible power tool, but like you say about InDesign (which I haven’t used):
Yes, yes, yes – that’s exactly what I want.
I don’t want to have to think about styles – which I do in Scrivener. I don’t want to have to muck about with them when I export documents, ditto. I just want to apply styles and forget about them, and have them work and keep on working, as in word processors that use named styles competently.
OTOH, I don’t want to have to think about document structure, and separating content into documents that aren’t mutually searchable, and where do I file that little note I just made so I can find it again. Word processors stink at that; Scrivener excels. (Thanks, Keith!)
Styles are still in the stone age
You are right that the current way that most people use styles is clunky in the extreme. Why shouldn’t people use QWERTY keyboards that are designed to slow typing? (I switched to Dvorak when I got my first Mac in 1987.) Why shouldn’t desktop computers lose all unsaved information if the power goes out for even a fraction of a second? It was good enough for grandpa; why even think about doing it differently? And why shouldn’t styles be right where they were when the first WYSIWYG word processors came out in the late 1980’s?
I haven’t talked to Apple about styles yet – I just registered so I can use their Bug Reporter to suggest a styles upgrade as Keith suggested. I’m seriously thinking about doing a YouTube video about how to use named styles for all the people out there who don’t understand them. This might get the point across to designers at Apple and elsewhere. In my experience, it’s difficult for most people to get the idea of styles from merely reading or hearing about them. When they see me do style wizardry live, they are amazed and want one too. (Any interest on collaborating on a video, or critiquing and offering suggestions?)
What Adobe programs don’t use named styles? I’ve only used FrameMaker and their graphics programs.
Encoding style information within Scrivener
I’m not willing to add markup tags to my documents as I type – for me, they’re too distracting when I read. Fortunately, FrameMaker’s search features are sufficient that I could search for all instances of, say, 12 point Monotone Bimbo and apply a named character or paragraph style to them. (FrameMaker + QuicKeys – YES!) Making each Scrivener pseudo-style a different font would make such conversions easy, though ugly to read on-screen. Clunky, but doable.
Scrivener’s styles would be more useful if the pull-down style controls were concatenated so that applying a named “style” would apply font, ruler, and number/bullet settings all at once. It’s clunky to have to change several separate settings to get a paragraph styled the way I want – and then to have to do it again when I want a paragraph somewhere else styled the same way. I’ll set up some macros in QuicKeys, but a real fix would be better. (Are you listening, Apple?)
Could the Web improve word processor style implementation?
I haven’t used XML styles. How do they differ from HTML?
Completely separating named styles from display in exported documents, as you suggest, would indeed simplify things for programmers. An RTF functionality similar to HTML + style sheets would simplify export and import while still preserving style overrides like correctly formatted HTML does.
IMO, HTML styles are better implemented in many regards than any word processor styles I’ve used. For instance, let’s say I set up the following styles:
Bulleted list item
Numbered list item
Now let’s say I have a numbered list item that requires a couple of paragraphs of explanation and a bulleted list inside it. These need additional space on the left so it’s clear that they’re internal to the numbered item’s content. In a word processor, I have to set up separate additional styles:
Indented paragraph padded
Bulleted list item padded
Adding additional styles require additional mental overhead. They make the document’s style list longer. They create more stuff to deal with when I export the document to another application. Whereas in HTML I can set up an indent style that adds padding on the left side (for our demo I’ll name it “indent-1”), then do this:
[content goes here]
Voila! And I can apply “indent-1” to anything – subheads, tables, you name it. Simple, simple, simple.
Unfortunately the HTML style interface is anything but simple, nor have I figured out how to make it simple. But I do think that morphing HTML markup from read-only to something that can be used under the hood for word processor input would simplify a lot of stuff for programmers. (They could just use existing HTML display engines, once these were adjusted to allow input.) Doing this would make it easy to implement better named style interfaces, and make it way easier for naive users to port content from document A to document B and arrive with styles intact.
Author of a bunch of articles at ManagingWholes.com and elsewhere, plus a nonfiction book due out in June 2008