Using Scrivener to format books of Poetry

I am new to Scrivener. I went through the tutorial which struck me as TMI and not what I was most interested in.

I am looking for a software that unlike other text editors with which I am familiar, can automatically format and map tables of contents and lists of first lines and titles for poetry collections. I find using standard software (e.g. MS Word), that I must change the page number of every poem if I shift just one poem up in my collection. With a book containing some 300 verses and 275 pages or so, this is cumbersome to say the least.

I am also interested in an approach to creating footers which permit roman numerals for front matter and numbers for most but not all of the rest of the pages. I find that the software with which I am familiar is incapable of e.g. labeling page 10 in a document “page 1”. It seems to me that this should be trivial, but it is apparently not.

Since I don’t code and had the misfortune not to learn LaTex (which I imagine can do these tasks somehow), I am hoping someone has had similar experiences in putting together a book of poetry? Any input would be appreciated.


Scrivener is not intended to be a page layout program, and is probably not the tool you want for this task.

I’m surprised you had such trouble with Word, though. My experience with complex formatting in Word is relatively limited, but I thought generating tables of contents and similar elements was one of its strengths.


Hi, Conor. Take a look at Nota Bene. It’s designed for scholars (as opposed to novelists, businesspeople, or poets). But it does very well at this kind of automatic renumbering of TOCs and resetting of page numbers (including different footers with different numbering schemes). Be prepared for a bit of sticker shock and learning curve, given its specialist market; but it might be worth a look, depending on what other kinds of work you might want to do with it.

Thanks guys.

Katherine, I also made the assumption that Word would suffice: alas and alack! Its the rearranging and re-paginating that make the process so gruesome…

Thanks for the lead David. I will take a look. And we shall see whether time permits me learn how to use the software if indeed it can do what I want it to. Once had a computer science professor who had to decide whether it would take more time to code a matrix inversion algorithm or just do it manually (with the assistance of some clumsy software available). Always a trade-off where learning curves are concerned.

But I suppose the moral is that it is own fault not to have mastered LaTex long ago when I was a (weak) physics student…


Rearranging things is where Scrivener excels. Put each poem in its own document in the Binder, then drag them around to your heart’s content. So one alternative would be to do that in Scrivener, then Compile the result and do the final formatting in Word (or whatever).

If you go that route, do yourself a favor and take the time to look at the Interactive Tutorial, available from the Help menu.



Thanks again for the help and advice. But I already played around with that.

And the problem persists because Word is deficient for my purposes. Scrivener seemed ideal for the reasons you specify. But I need code that permits arbitrary footnote numbering (in roman numerals or numbers or blank), and which auto-maps the index of first lines to the poems.

This is pretty standard for books of poetry. I’m surprised that only professionals have this software (or are ruthlessly exploited to do what I do grudgingly do for fun).

I suppose if I ever become a software engineer I can become as rich as all the poets who profit from my labors… ;)


From what you describe as your requirements, Word should be able to do the majority of things you’re after easily (they’re standard for most types of books), but there are a couple of things which are more complicated: it depends how much you need them.

  • You can definitely have different types of page numbers for the front matter and for the main text, e.g. starting with page 1 on page 10 and roman numerals before that. Just have a section break between the front matter and main text, then give each its own footer — you can have as many different sections as you like and they can each have different footers and headers.
    [attachment=0]Screenshot 2020-10-03 at 11.10.22.png[/attachment]

  • You can definitely have tables of contents and an Index of First Lines, changing to reflect any changes to titles / page numbers you make. All you do is right click on the TOC or Index and choose Update Fields.
    [attachment=1]Screenshot 2020-10-03 at 10.39.00.png[/attachment]

(The screenshot is from a dummy Word document I set up to test this post… the index was created using the Insert > Index and Tables… > Index feature with each first line marked manually.)

The two areas which are a bit more complicated are

Automatically marking the first lines to appear in the index of first lines.
It is possible to do this automatically, but it seems to involve writing a macro to replicate the manual process.

The manual process is simply:

  1. Go to the title of the first poem
  2. Go down a line to the first line and highlight it
  3. Press the Mark for Index button
  4. Go to the next poem…

If you record a macro of you doing this once and give it a shortcut, even 300 poems won’t take all that long to mark manually: a pain, but not undoable.

You could of course write a macro to automate this even further: this link suggests one way the macro could be written: but this involves programming and is probably over the top for a once-off operation.

Different footnote streams
In your first post you talk about different footer page numbers for front matter and the main text, which is easily doable, but in your last post you talk about different arbitrary numbers for footnotes, which isn’t…

AIUI, Word only allow you two different types of footnote marker — one for ‘footnotes’ (which appear at the bottom of the relevant page) and one for ‘endnotes’ (at the end of the section/chapter/book/whatever). You can have different types of marker (roman, arabic, symbols) for each type, but all footnotes must stick to the same type, etc.

It seems to me that the only dealbreaker is the need for different footnote / endnote markers, everything else can be done within Word.

If you can live with that compromise, as Katherine says, you could concentrate on getting the structure and words right in Scrivener and then deal with the footer pages, TOC and Index in Word. Then you’d get the best of both worlds.


I was planning to say that, apart from different footnote streams except footnotes vs endnotes, all this should be pretty easily do-able in Nisus Writer Pro, so it should be do-able in Word. What puzzled me was the footnote question, whether you were confusing footnotes and footers with different page-numbering in the Front Matter and the main body.

If you are referring to having different footnote streams, then all of this is possible with Mellel, though there’s something of a learning curve in moving to Mellel. It’s very powerful but, to my mind, somewhat idiosyncratic. For that reason, although I have had Mellel since OSX 10.0.0, I’ve hardly ever used it once Nisus Writer came on the scene. In testing, I find it it opens Scrivener RTFs without problems, however currently it doesn’t open DOCX created by Scrivener with both footnote and endnote streams.It’s currently £39.95 in the UK (in comparison with several hundred dollars for Nota Bene!).

I would be willing to work on a template for your needs if you’re interested in trying it; it would finally give me a reason to get to grips with Mellel’s idiosyncrasies! :slight_smile:


OOPS … I’ve just realised this is the Windows forum, and Mellel is Mac only. Sorry, but I’m still willing to help if I can! :blush:



I wondered about the footnote/footer thing, so I gave both answers. I too have had Mellel for more than ten years, but haven’t installed it since I started using Scrivener sometime in the late noughts… I’ve never tried NWP though.

Wow. What a helpful, friendly bunch. Seems like the majority of respondents are not Americans. Maybe that has something to do with the welcome affability… :wink:

You are correct Mark: I conflated “footer” and “footnote” in my posts. I am not so concerned with footnotes. Footers on the other hand would be a blessing if they could be segregated as Brookter (HTH?) suggests they can be in Word.

I am going to take a careful look at what Brookter posted and see if it facilitates what I am currently doing in the most painstaking, error-prone and time-consuming manner conceivable. I certainly hope Word can handle what I assumed from the first it could. As for writing Macros, I’m not sure I’m computationally literate enough to do this. But perhaps I’ll figure it out. If anyone has time to expand on the explanation, that would be helpful and welcome.

Thanks again to all. Mark, I’m in the market for a new computer, so should it turn out that I need different footnote streams I may well take you up on your offer. But I had not contemplated having footnotes until you discussed it. It might elucidate some of the more subtle cultural references for my readers, so some basic footnote functionality could prove a desideratum. We’ll see.

Again, very impressed with your computational erudition and thanks to all!


When OSX came out, the only capable word processor I could find was Mellel, but it had a problem; although it could import DOC files, if the document was in Chinese, I had to run it through TextEdit first before Mellel would open the resulting RTF. I was in China already and needed the Chinese. About a year later, I read in the online MacUser about a program called “Opito Composer” programmed by a certain Charles Jolley, which could open DOCs in Chinese, so I installed that and used it, leaving Mellel aside (though I have always kept it updated). It was developing well, but then he moved over to join Nisus who were working on an OSX word processor to replace the very capable Nisus Classic. I believe CJ was the person who developed “Linkback” for Nisus—sadly, it wasn’t really taken up by anyone else at the time and after a while CJ and Nisus parted company. By then, I was totally committed to Nisus Writer (Pro).

Word 5.1a for Mac was brilliant; Word 6 was so awful, I haven’t really used Word since 2001.


My pleasure Conor. Yes, follow @Brookter’s advice. As I say, I have avoided Word since the awful Word 6 for Mac, so I can’t help you with details.

Good luck.



Hi Conor,

There are two sorts of macros in Word. The first is basically “Record what I do, then play it back to me when I press a key” — they’re really easy. I don’t think you’ll need more than that if you’re happy to press a single key to repeat the actions until you’ve finished (it’s what I’d do).

Behind the scenes, Word has a powerful computing language which enables you to extend it a lot. I don’t think it’s worth learning it for what you’ve described.

Now you’ve made it clear that you just need different footers for different parts of the book, rather than a complicated footnote scheme, I don’t think that it will be too difficult to get a manuscript which will do what you want (bearing in mind always that Word isn’t a full publishing program so there will always be some things it can’t do).

Your requirements aren’t all that far from the standard use of Word, I think (it took me about 30 minutes to knock up a test document, and I’ve not use Word in anger for about 10 years). If you look at tutorials for the following, I think you’ll be most of the way there:

  1. How to use Headers and Footers: numbering, sections, etc

  2. How to use Styles with a Table of Contents (the entries for your TOC will come from Styles — in the example I set the Poem titles to use Heading 1 style and the TOC picked it up).

  3. Creating and modifying an Index.

  4. Footnotes (very easy: basically Insert > Footnote!)

There are plenty of website giving information about all this, so I’m sure you’ll be able to get it sorted. This page by someone who published a poetry book may give you a starting point for the index:

Good luck!


Just for fun, as it’s such a disgusting, cold, wet, windy day here, I’ve been playing around with Mellel to do what Conor wants, including separate page numbering for front matter and creating two footnote streams for random footnotes on a single page. It’s taken me a bit of time as clearly the more you can set up in advance as a template, the easier it is to produce a document. There are things I’d tweak further, like the use of rather small superscript for footnote markers, but I’m going to leave it as it is for the moment.

I started from a project set up in Scrivener for the purpose, and opened the compiled RTF in Mellel. Here’s a PDF (A5 size) of the result, set up with facing pages.
This has also reinforced my reliance on Nisus Writer Pro as my go-to word processor … so much easier for normal purposes … which doesn’t include indexing first lines, or multiple footnote streams. However, I’ll come back to this to do the additional tweaking and turn it into a template in case of future need.



Much thanks again to David and Mark. I have managed to get word to give me section breaks and footers that facilitate my task. The issue about accomplishing in word what Mark seems to have achieved with other software remains (for me). I have no aptitude to code and this is likely to be a one-shot deal, so learning algorithms is not on my timeline.

I was hoping David, Mark or someone else might elaborate on David’s instructions:

"Automatically marking the first lines to appear in the index of first lines.
It is possible to do this automatically, but it seems to involve writing a macro to replicate the manual process.

The manual process is simply:

  1. Go to the title of the first poem
  2. Go down a line to the first line and highlight it
  3. Press the Mark for Index button
  4. Go to the next poem…

If you record a macro of you doing this once and give it a shortcut, even 300 poems won’t take all that long to mark manually: a pain, but not undoable."

I am not familiar with the “Mark for index button”. The links provided in the last post were certainly helpful, but I am still unsure whether I can reliably map first lines to page numbers to indices. If this is indeed possible without too much fuss, I would be very interested in further information. The ability to reorganize the order of large poetry collections and safeguard against manual errors involved in creating one’s own index of first lines, would be enormously helpful to all the poets, who wander mad far from silicon valley… (don’t know if the reference will take but I’ll hazard it).

Best to you gurus,


I did figure out how to map first lines to page numbers to indices just now. The issue remains: When I alter the position of a poem in the collection the index remains the same. If it were to adjust a tremendous about of creative flexibility would be unleashed.

If this is what Mark has accomplished with his software I ask whether it could be done in word?


You probably just need to select the text in the index area and execute the Update Fields command. Word does not dynamically update computed fields; you need to tell it to do so.


P.S. The show fields command might be revealing to you, so you would have a better sense of what is static text and what is computed fields. Your TOC and your index will show a lot of fields.

Hi Conor,

If you look at my post (the long one) you’ll see this screenshot:

[attachment=2]Screenshot 2020-10-03 at 10.39.00.png[/attachment]

This shows you the context menu for the Index — all you have to do is right-click inside the index and choose ‘Update Field Codes’ and this will update all the titles and pages numbers. This is exactly the same way you update the Table of Contents

As GR says, it may help to know that the Index and Table of Contents are actually governed behind the scenes by a series of ‘Field Codes’, which determine what Word will show on the page. You can see this by right clicking in the Table of Contents or Index and choosing “Toggle Field Codes”: this will show you something like this:

[attachment=1]Screenshot 2020-10-06 at 08.39.41.png[/attachment]

To see the actual TOC and Index again, just run the same Toggle Field Codes command again, which gives you:
[attachment=0]Screenshot 2020-10-03 at 11.10.22.png[/attachment]

The code for the index effectively says : go through the document from the beginning and find all the phrases you marked and show them with in one column (“C” “1”)with the numbers aligned to the right.

When you click on the ‘Update Field’ menu item, all you’re doing is telling Word to run the same process from scratch — and your text and page number will be updated accordingly.

Word’s indexing feature is quite sophisticated and so it can get complicated, but it basically boils down to 1) Mark your items for indexing 2) Insert the index with the format you want 3) Update the Field code whenever you’ve made changes.

There are too many possibilities to list them all here (and I’m not an expert anyway, but I hope explains what’s happening and why. This page on Microsoft’s website gives the overview and should help:

I’m getting to the end of my knowledge about Word (I haven’t used it in anger for years!), so if you have any more detailed questions about how the indexing works, you’ll probably get more sense out a dedicated Word forum, but I hope this has given you some useful pointers.

Good luck with the book!

Since this has become a Word support thread, I’m moving it to the Software forum. – Katherine