Way to see WYSIWYG when writing in script mode?

I’ve read in passing that Scrivener has never been intended as a WYSIWYG editor. However –

As a screenwriter, knowing exactly how long my scenes are is crucial. Seeing exactly what 1 page looks like is crucial. Having to repeatedly compile to see – is my Act 1 too long? On which page does my midpoint fall? Did I just write a 2-page scene or a 4 page scene? – is a slowdown.

All of these things are crucial. And although I can jump through repeated hoops of compilation, it would be a big opportunity for improvement to remove this slowdown. Screenwriters need this if this is to be the most efficient screenwriting tool.

Or am I missing some combination of settings that will give me precise, countable screenplay pages in the editor that look identical to the compiled versions?

So far, you’re not missing anything. Page View is the most accurate representation of the expected output. Unfortunately, it’s a little off (just a little, but that’s enough to royally mess with accuracy).

You need to use 12-point courier type (or some other monospaced font).
You should turn hinting completely off. (Options (F12) → Editing → Options; about 1/3 of the way down the dialog, “Font Hinting”. It’s likely set to default. Click the arrow and choose “No Hinting.” Hinting lets it add or delete space from the characters; you don’t want that.

Set your right margin to 0.9 in File → Page Setup (for your display). Set your right margin caret to about 6".
(oddly, the margin caret at 6" will allow a 60th character; the page margin at 1" will not at 6" width.)
Set your right margin to 1.0 in in Compile → your compile profile → Page Settings → Margins (for print or PDF output).

You’ll want to set your line spacing to allow the precise count of 55 lines per page. I had to use less than 1 line spacing.
Your mileage may vary, of course, and you may need to adjust these a little for your machine, your display, etc.
The on-page result looks like tight line spacing, but I seem to remember typewriter output looked like that, back in the day. This was with 0.75" top and bottom margins.

Just tested all this, and the 60 character lines run over every line by 3 characters after Compile to PDF. And the error is obvious; the inter-character spacing is too wide. A Courier font should fit exactly 60 characters in 6". Managed to do that in the page view, but the output print is off by 3 characters per line (only 57 characters fit in 6").

I hate to suggest compile to Word and print to PDF from there, but at this point, that looks like the workaround. Or maybe compile to plain text.

Earlier in the beta, the compiler printed 60 characters per 6" (I tested it specifically). Now it does not.

I believe this to be a compiler issue. I don’t know what it’s doing, but it’s doing something wrong. It doesn’t get the line spacing correct, either; I’m getting 59 lines per page, not 55.


Here’s a partial screenshot of Page View at 55 lines per page:

And here’s a shot of the PDF output:

Thank you RWFRANZ! This is exactly the sanity check I was looking for. I’m surprised what a difference the hinting was making.

With your help, I’ve now got the editor Page View giving me pretty much the same result as Final Draft.

Excellent catch on the compile error there. That’s great to know.

The line spacing of 0.82 is because Scrivener (and most wp’s these days) are not trying to emulate a typewriter except vaguely.

Seems that word processors ignore the original 6 per inch line spacing, and choose 0.20, or 5 per inch line spacing. So to get 0.1666" line spacing (1/6 of an inch), you have to use 0.82 (In Scrivener, I couldn’t get the lines to fit properly using 0.83, which I should have been able to do).

Word probably suffers the same issue; to get 6 per inch, you’ll need to change paragraph height to 0.1666. I had to do this with Libreoffice, to get Scrivener’s output to fit correctly. The output converter did not convert the line heights from Scrivener into the ODT format.

Screenplay standard still assumes 6 per inch vertically and 10 per inch horizontally – a Pica typewriter.

And that’s a bug with the Screenplay format that comes default with Scrivener. It uses 3 per inch vertically as its standard. (No style uses both 24-pt leading and 12-pt leading).

Summarizing the bugs found:

  1. PDF output is too wide by about 5% using Courier (New or Prime, doesn’t matter). There seems no way to adjust this. 12-pt Courier output should be 10 CPI regardless. For now, output to a different program so it can output PDF seems the best option.
  2. PDF output is too cramped vertically by several lines per page. There is no way to adjust this. For now, output to another program so it can output PDF seems the best option.
  3. Screenplay Template does not match Standard Screenplay Formatting (screenwriting.io/what-is-standa … ay-format/), and must be adjusted to match. NONE of it matches except the typeface and the right margin.
  4. Compiling to ODT evidently does not output line heights (or, at least, LibreOffice doesn’t recognize them). I don’t expect docx output to be different (I don’t have a copy of Word to truly check).
  5. Line spacing should give 6 lines per inch using 0.83; it does not. 6 lines per inch should give 54 lines in 9", making 55 lines per page easy. Even using 0.82" line spacing, 55 lines per 9.5" page was just possible. Because of this, it seems that Scrivener’s line height algorithm is inaccurate. Understandable; Scrivener is not intended to be truly WYSIWYG.

FWIW, Final Draft’s default format is 54 lines per page. FadeIn and WriterSolo both default to 53.

Proper screenplay formatting requires a 12-point, 10-pitch monospaced font. Courier New is not spaced properly for screenplays. Courier, Courier Final Draft, and Courier Prime will work correctly.

I’m on a Mac. I love Scrivener’s organizational tools, but the screenplay processor is not up to professional standards.

As a workaround, I do most of my screenplay writing in WriterSolo, the free non-cloud version of WriterDuet. I paste the finished pages into Scrivener. WS is the only app I know of that can copy and paste screenplay formatted pages back and forth with Scrivener without losing the formatting.

WriterSolo is avialble on Windows and Mac.

Thanks popcornflix – I didn’t know about WriterSolo. It looks great. Nice to know about the copy/paste compatibility!

You would think that Scrivener could see you go into Script Mode and be like “I GOT THIS” and just make sure all the settings are standard and give you WYSIWYG. It could let you change away from them, of course, but getting the page to look and feel like the industry standard formatting should be out-of-the-box / default functionality.

That’s what I would think, but… I think they were trying to combine several scriptwriting modes into one. That template does a lot of things that other templates don’t (like offer a popup menu on some new lines, which might actually be useful for script/screenplay writing). But the basic formatting is still not right. I’m sure it can be fixed to work correctly, and I’m sure the PDF output functions will be fixed eventually.

Good to know about WriterSolo. Better option, perhaps, than using LibreOffice as an output intermediary.

Glad to help.

The Scriptwriting Mode in Scrivener will never get any better, AFAIK.

The main reason is that L&L isn’t interested in making it any better.

The secondary reason (at least on the Mac) is that Scrivener relies on Apple’s built-in programming for its word-processing, just like Text Edit, the free notepad that comes with the Mac. Any bugs or limitations in Apple’s text system appear in Scrivener.

Scrivener is the only professional screenwriting app built this way. All the other products (Final Draft, Fade In, WriterSolo, etc.) have custom-made, purpose-built word processors that operate at a professional level. The developer of WriterSolo/WriterDuet has said that he wrote his screenplay processor in a weekend.

The Scrivener Scriptwriting mode has problems that I find unacceptable in a professional screenwriting app. If not for Scrivener’s exceptional organizational features, I’d have stopped using it years ago. Scrivener can’t even cut and paste dialogue without messing up the formatting. (It can work if you view hidden characters and are very particular about what you select, but compare that to the free WriterSolo app.)

That’s why I just bypass Scrivener’s scriptwriting except for fixing minor typos.

Shout out and many thanks to L&L for adding “Paste Plain Text As Screenplay” in the Edit menu – this allows me to paste from WriterSolo into Scrivener and retain all the formatting.

It will have to do untill L&L decide to code a purpose-built screenplay processor, which doesn’t seem at all likely.

FWIW, I keep my license of Final Draft current mostly for output. I’ve found that it produces the best PDF and FDX output of the available software on the Mac. FDX files from some of the other apps have had trouble being opened by studio budgeting and scheduling software.

Just being curious, may I ask what your workflow is? If you have FD, why do you need WriterSolo? Why don’t you write in Scrivener (for its organizational features) and output to FD for formatting?

Thanks very much for your tips and the info about WriterSolo. It is also available on Linux.

L&L kindly added “Paste Text as Screenplay” feature which converts clipboard from Final Draft, FadeIn, MMScreenwriter, etc. to screenplay format. However, Scrivener copies RTF to clipboard, which FD can’t figure out. WriterSolo is the only app I’ve found that can paste from Scrivener’s clipboard and retain screenplay format.

I use WriterSolo so I can copy/paste back and forthe with Scrivener, and not have to use Scriverner’s script processor. As mentioned previously, Scrivener’s Screenplay Mode really isn’t up to snuff professionally, and the free WriterSolo does a much better job at typing script pages.

I use Final Draft for final output, and for inputting scripts I’m hired to rewrite.

I see, thanks.

UPDATE: Final Draft 11 (11.1.3 Build 83 here) now supports pasting from Scrivener’s Script Mode and retaining screenplay format.

That means you can round-trip between Scrivener and Final Draft by copy/pasting. On the Scrivener side, you need to use Edit>Paste Text as Screenplay. (I’ve set up a Keyboard Maestro macro to take care of that with a keystroke.)