Switch from Word

I’m in the middle of writing a non-fiction book for a university press. My word processor is Word for Mac 2011 but I’m seriously thinking of switching to Scrivener. I spent three hours yesterday working on a document. When I deleted an endnote, the whole document disappeared and can’t be found.

Q: Is there any chance this is going to happen in Scivener?
Q: Does Scrivener handle footnotes and endotes ?(I haven’t been able to find anything on the site)
Q: I have developed several macros in Word which I have found useful in my writing style. Will these transfer to Scrivener or can I write new ones?
Q: Because of my typing style I rely heavily on Word’s Aurocorrect. Is a similar feature available in Scrivener?
Q: I am very disappointed in Word’s Search and Replace facility. What does Scrivener do?
I very much appreciate feedback and comments. I guess what I’m looking for is a system I can mold to my style and Word isn’t proving flexible enough .


Hi ken and welcome to the community. I’ve written an academic book in Scrivener – plus lectures, papers and a couple of grant applications – so my experience may be similar enough to be helpful to you.

Ouch. I’ve never seen anything like this in Scrivener. I suppose there’s a small non-finite chance of anything, but flippancy aside, the only real source of data loss in Scrivener seems to be from people accidentally getting newer files overwritten by older ones when they use automatic backup tools like Dropbox and work on more than one computer. So if you use those kinds of tools, be careful about your documents – not just Scriv docs, but all of them.
Scrivener has some built in back-up features that provide a fair amount of cover for user mistakes.

By the way, Word is well-known for corrupting documents. Track-changes mode and the Master document feature are known to be implicated. If you want to try to track your problem down, you might ask the helpful people at http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/mac/forum/macword

It has two distinct note streams: inline and at the side (in the ‘inspector’). When you export your writing from Scrivener to rtf format (to open in a word processor, using the ‘Compile…’ function), either or both of these can be converted to endnotes. In addition it has two streams of annotation, inline and at the side (in the ‘inspector’). These can be made into comments, footnotes or endnotes on compilation. I don’t much like the inline notes and annotations, so I’d use the sidebar notes and comments for footnotes and endnotes. Your mileage may vary, as they say. Anyway, it’s a pretty flexible system, and easily enough for most academic work.

No, and no, I think. Word macros only work in Word. And Scrivener is not scriptable. What do your macros do? There may be features in Scrivener that capture some of the functions you need.

Yes. Have a look at the Auto-Correction pane of the Scrivener preferences. Unlike the Word auto-correct system it hooks into the Mac OS X auto-correction system.

Is it the search part or the replace part that you are disappointed in? Scrivener has several different search functions: Project find, which searches all of the files in a project, and is always available on the toolbar at the top of the window; project replace; ordinary find, which finds (and replaces, if you like) within the current file; and find by formatting.

Scrivener is very flexible indeed. It can be used in a very simple way, but it also has quite a lot of powerful features. Whether it will suit you is another matter, though. You know that you can download a free trial version? If you haven’t already, I’d recommend doing that and running through the interactive tutorial that comes with it. It is really excellent and will give you a good idea of what sort of thing Scrivener is: it’s quite different from a word processor, as you will see.

One potential concern: does your publisher want text marked up with paragraph styles, or just ordinary text with suitable formatting? Scrivener will do the latter with elegance and ease, but it doesn’t do the former, so if you need that, you’d need to put the styles in after compiling – you could write a Word macro to do that.

Many thanks for the prompt reply. That was quick!

  • What do your macros do? There may be features in Scrivener that capture some of the functions you need.

There are four that I rely on quit often. One fixes my transpositions. E.g., if I type “lsat” rather than “last” I can put my cursor after the “a,” hit the macro and it corrects. Auto-correct may take care of this so that isn’t a big concern. Another caps the first letter in a word: if I type john I can go to any place in the word, hit the macro which goes to the beginning of the word, caps the “j” and then skips to the next word. That one i use a lot. The third and fourth are very simple.If there is a p[lace where I need more detail I insert QQQQQ, and I use XXXXX as a place marker to show where I stopped editing.

  • Is it the search part or the replace part that you are disappointed in?

A little of each. If I’m trying to find a particular file and I search for James Smith, I get a whole ton of responses, most of which are not pertinent. Can you do a boolean search in Scriv? I’ve tried a search engine (Tembo) and it performs even more poorly than Word. On search and replace, Word seems unable to discriminate on plurals. If I’m search for “Marine” it also finds “Marines.” And if I want to replace “Marine” with “marine” it finds “Marines” and replaces with “marine.”

  • does your publisher want text marked up with paragraph styles, or just ordinary text with suitable formatting?

No, this is not a problem but thanks for pointing it out.

Q: Can I import my Word custom dictionary into Scriv?

BTW, you’re absolutely right about Word corrupting files. It’s happened to me quite a few times.

Many thanks


That’s built-in to the text engine; no need for scripting. Just put your cursor in between the messed up letters and press Ctrl-T.

Already a feature for that, you just need to add a shortcut to [b]Format/Convert/To Title Case[/b]. If there is no selection, then Scrivener will capitalise the current word.

Sounds like a good spot for inline annotations. Since inline annotations are special blocks of text directly within the main editing stream, you do not need to use anything crazy like long strings of seldom used characters, as searching for them is greatly simplified by the fact that they occur within an annotation. For example:

[size=80]Example usage of start and stop markings in an annotation[/size]

You can search for characters within annotations using the [b]Edit/Find/Find by Formatting[/b] tool. Annotations are easily stripped from the text when you compile, so there is typically no need to bother with them and remove them later on. If you wish though, it is easy with the [b]Edit/Copy Special/Copy without Comments and Footnotes[/b] menu command; and then pasting directly back over the spot you just copied with that command.

Additionally, you might just try using revision marking for edits, as this is rather what it is meant for. Here is the same paragraph only using revision markings to highlight the edit:

[size=80]Example usage of Revision Level 1[/size]

Of course, the start and stop is implied by the extents of the red marked area. This only works for additions though, so if you are more interested in blocking out an entire area that was editing, regardless of the specifics of the edits. Revisions (found in the [b]Format/Revision Mode/[/b] sub-menu) can of course have custom shortcuts applied to them. I use Ctrl-1 through 5; and the nice thing is that Ctrl-1 assigned to “First Revision” in the OS X System Preferences Keyboard pane will work to toggle it on and off. The current revision colour will be applied to any overstrikes you use—and overstrikes can be set to be stripped out of the text when compiled.

Revisions can be searched for using the same format finding tool mentioned above. They can also be easily wiped out, either during compile, or using one of the options in that mentioned sub-menu in bulk, or by level.

But, if you want to stick with the QQQ XXX thing; consider adding a Substitution to your Mac. Quick way to get there is via Scrivener’s Corrections preferences tab; click the [b]System Text Preferences...[/b] button.

In Scrivener you’ll want to set the search criteria to “Whole word” instead of exact phrase to avoid sub-string matching like that. Of course the search engine itself is wholly unaware of such constructs as plurality and Grammar in general—it’s just that ‘marine’ falls within ‘marines’. Whole Word mode forces the supplied string to be within a word of its own.

So you’ll find Scrivener better than Word in that regard (though it shocks me that Word does not have a similar setting somewhere).

You can’t do Booleans though; at least not in one step. You can use the search tool to get a Selection, and then use a second search to search using the Selection as the source instead of the entire project—but even then you typically cannot search for a negative.

I’ve yet to come across a trick for doing this using the Macintosh version of Word. I’ve seen some very ugly looking checklists for getting words out of Office on a PC, but that’s about it.

Scrivener uses Mac OS X services for spelling though, so frame your Google searches in that light when researching this. You’ll find more hits than looking specifically for Scrivener tricks on this.

No need to be shocked. It does have an option ‘Find whole words only’.

It also supports regular expressions: http://wordprocessing.about.com/od/wordquicktips/qt/wildcard.htm

(I’m noting this here because I suspect a lot of us often have to move to Word after Compiling in Scriv. Word’s Find and Replace is surprisingly powerful, and it’s worth knowing that.)

Thanks, that’s what I always thought. Whenever I pulled up Word’s find and replace palette in years past, it always seemed to be bristling with features to the point of becoming self-aware. But with the dumbing down trend that has been going on for a while; well you never know.

I think it’s quite well done. It has a flippy triangle (like Scriv’s compile dialogue) that hides/reveals the advanced options. Given that it has regular expressions and find-by-formatting it can do some pretty advanced things, but normally none of that is visible to scare the average user.