Technical Writing and Tables

Hi there, I’m currently trialing Scrivener to see if it’s a better fit than MS Word for my writing. I design and code for telecommunications systems and end up with 100 pages+ of design and deployment documentation for an average size project, of which there are 6 or more a year.

I’ve got some nice templates now in Word that I use for the formatting so all the documents have a consistent style. However (and I guess this is why Scrivener exists) Word doesn’t really suit me as my work involves jumping around inside the text a lot to document each set of configuration items that must be updated for any given feature.

Typically this means a lot of tables. And there’s the rub – Scrivener seems to be very weak at table formatting. It is very buggy. Is that something that is actively being looked at, or are my choices to live with dumb grids in Scrivener and save all the table formatting till the end or to say no thanks to Scrivener?

Not being able to save the table formatting is a downer as the custom formatted tables are reused over and over so it’s a double waste of time to not be able to save them properly in Scrivener.

Apart from that I am currently very happy with it!

I also use Scrivener for technical documentation at my job, but only for capture and organization (for which it is excellent, with the exception of exhibits). Once it’s time to create deliverables, the project gets moved to Word. The advanced formatting features of Word just aren’t present in Scrivener. Scrivener was created, I believe, with creative writing in mind. Can’t really go backwards either, since updates and revisions to the project can’t be recreated in Scrivener without duplicating the labor of exporting and reformatting it all over again.

That’s been my experience; good for organization, bad for document creation.

I think MultiMarkDown may be your friend here. It looks pretty primitive on the Scrivener side, but on the output, it will be much better than the native RTF tables that Scrivener can produce. You can even neaten up the cells by setting your tab stops. The trick is getting that output into Word, as your MMD choices are plain .mmd, .html, .fodt, .opml, and .tex.

You could download OpenOffice, which can read .fodt files, and then save as .doc though, which I don’t think would be too much of a burden.
Check the “Table” section here to see how your create MMD tables, and how they typically look on output: https://rawgithub.com/fletcher/human-markdown-reference/master/index.html
The main MMD website is here: http://fletcherpenney.net/multimarkdown/

Edit: Since I don’t use MMD for much of my writing, I may be wrong about the tabs (which may trigger indentation or other undesirable formatting within your table)