Tables suck in Scrivener

Sorry guys, but as good as your software is (and it is really good), your tables suck really big time :exclamation:

I have had so much trouble trying to basic formatting (eg getting the grid lines to display with uniform appearance), that I have taken to working directly on the sync’d rtf doc using Nisus Writer Pro. Sometimes this works, sometimes it goes back to random crap once back inside Scrivener, sometimes the table is really ok, but the cells jump around the screen, depending on the width of the editor.

Honestly, you might as well adopt Ulysses’ approach and drop tables altogether!


This has been discussed a few times on the forum. Briefly, Scrivener uses Apple’s text engine, which ‘sucks’ at tables – you have exactly the same problem in TextEdit, DevonThink and all the other programs which use the same engine. Unfortunately, Apple don’t seem to want to improve it.

I suspect everyone would like them to be better, but the developer (no ‘s’) has said that he doesn’t have the resources to rewrite the table element of the text engine in the foreseeable future.

As a workaround, if you’re going to be exporting to NWP eventually anyway, do you need the tables to be cosmetically perfect in Scrivener? Some people leave that sort of tidying up until they have the text and structure perfect and have compiled the document into NWP / Word ready for final submission.

If you need to compile to other formats (e.g. Kindle etc), there are a few threads on the forum dealing with how best to do this.

My requirements/wishes are not remotely like expecting perfect tables. My problem is that the most basic formatting gets mashed or corrupted in Scrivener. I would be happy if I could just get a lined grid that maintained even lines. My tables get cells squashed on top of other cells, cells won’t display lines, etc etc.

You just need basic tables.


OK, I didn’t say you were expecting perfect tables. I’ve explained the basic position: Apple tables are limited and need improving. I’ve never had corruption though; I’ve just found them irritating to use.

Have you tried opening the same tables in TextEdit? Do you get the same problems there?

OK, here is the most benign instance of tables that I find (just in case this is not the same for everyone):

It is impossible to get the cells lower than the first row to format uniformly. From here, the issues go down hill.

Yes, I get similar problems in TextEdit. I know the story of why tables are like this in Scrivener. My point is, that for a specialist writing management tool like Scrivener, shouldn’t tables be a little better than this? Just a little? Just the ability to set a uniform format over the table, to be able to see a black lined grid would be nice.

forum post table 1.jpg

I agree that Tables (and lists) are irritating. I tried to replicate your problems with your sample table and managed to get this after a bit of fiddling:

The trick seems to be either to start with a blank table and use Add Row Above from the menu, or to highlight the relevant cells afterwards and in the dialogue box click on the border swatch to change colour – but you seem to need to click on it again for each new selection, otherwise it sometimes has no effect.

It’s irritating and clunky and should be improved, as we agreed, but it does seem possible. Also, I appreciate you said you have other more complex problems with tables, but this example is what I would term a cosmetic issue that could be more easily done in NWP at the last stage. Does it really matter in Scrivener if you can’t see the border uniformly?

I’m not an apologist for Apple on this: I don’t like its implementation. But personally, would I prefer for Keith to spent a huge amount of time improving it at the expense of other issues (assuming my wishes count for anything, which they don’t…)? I’m not so sure but YMMV, of course and I’m sure it does – I wasn’t trying to convince you in my original response, just to explain the situation if you weren’t aware of it.

I started creating my own character sheet using tables today. What a nightmare.

However a workaround has been creating them in Numbers first, and then copying and pasting them into Scrivener. At least made it bearable.

Once they’re in Scrivener I’ve decided not to re-size them or touch them unless I’m simply putting data in!

I screamed a few times this morning, and lost some hair. Apple’s tables really do blow.

I think that’s why the Character sheet document templates (found in the Novel project template) use various kinds of tab stops instead of tables. I’ve adapted to that because the tables are terrible. If I had to produce lots of tables in Scrivener, I’d probably just go with the MMD plain-text approach to creating tables + tab stops to line everything up (ish). Not ideal, but it’s all we have to work with at the moment.

I always make the tables in Excel, rather than Word, copy it over and make sure I don’t touch it later.