The case of the multiplying tabs

Hello Scrivs,

I use the External Sync folder to sync quite a bit because I am fond of some third-party text editors and because I am often not working on my old but aging Mac at home. This folder is synced through Dropbox. Take it easy, this thread isn’t about syncing. That part works great. I use Writeroom on the Mac and Writemokey on Windows to edit my files. The external files are in plain text format.

Can anyone explain why all my paragraphs in Scrivener start with TWO paragraph indents instead of one? I see this in the editor and in the compiled manuscript (Scrivener standard novel). This happens regardless of which external editor I use to edit my plain text files.

I can get around this by not using tabs in my external editor, but I do it out of habit and I don’t want to have to go back and edit all of my paragraphs.

Similarly, is there some kind of document that describes some best practices when using plain text files to do the bulk of your writing?


The most likely explanation for the two tabs is that there is actually only one tab plus a first line indent. By default, Scrivener is set up to use a first line paragraph indent, but if you’re accustomed to typing tabs manually then you will end up with what looks like a double tab:

If this is the case, then you should change the default text formatting (the “Formatting” pane of Preferences) not to use a first line indent. (You can convert any existing documents to use your preferred formatting as set in the preferences by selecting the documents in the binder and going to Documents > Convert > Formatting to Default Style).

Hope that helps.

All the best,

That’s awesome. I just remoted into my Mac and made the changes and it works perfect.

Is there a best practice for doing this? What do the “pros” do?

The pros separate role from formatting. A paragraph has a role in any document, so has to get marked up as a paragraph in the source text. The way a paragraph gets formatted (first line indent, block indent, line spacing, etc.) depends on how the document is going to be rendered, so doesn’t appear in the markup. i.e., just put appropriate paragraph separators in the text; use the formatting controls to set what paragraphs look like.

Thanks Pete. I’m just going to have to fight the instinct to put in that tab.

It’s easy to run a search/replace to remove your tab characters once you’re finished, though, or even to insert that replacement in the compile settings (though that wouldn’t make a difference for your sync) and add the automatic first-line indent there. So if it’s too ingrained and you’re more comfortable just using tab, you can worry about the clean-up at the end of the day, the same as with most formatting in Scrivener.

Good tips, but I think I’ll just re-train my fingers into not using the tabs. I found a setting in Writemonkey (where I happen to do the bulk of my lunch-time writing) that indents the paragraphs so I get the look of the tab without the actual tab.