Scrivener – Great Software, Lots of Quirks

Just before Christmas I downloaded Scrivener for my Ubuntu Linux laptop in the hope of finding joy in the tool so many writers apparently swear by. I’ve finally finished reading through the tutorials and had a play.

Although the Linux version of Scrivener is “unofficial”, it is built with the Qt framework libraries which provide (among other things) platform independence. This means the same source code can (should) be used to build the software for Mac, Windows and Linux with minimal differences in behaviour. This is how we build software where I work. We use Qt to build the same software for Linux and Windows and it works a treat. Therefore I will assume the Linux version is similar enough to the Windows and Mac versions with respect to functionality.

Now, having said that, I found some interesting bugs/features which may or may not be a result of Scrivener being a Linux version. If wonder if any Windows Scrivener users have noticed the same problems and either have a fix or a work-around for them. Alternatively, if any Linux users have seen the same things I have. Please let me know.

Can’t Import MS Word .Doc files

I started by trying to import the .doc and .odt files from my current serial novel Rochelle’s Briefcase. I started the project with OpenOffice saving as .doc files then changed to LibreOffice and its native .odt format. Scrivener’s import dialogue defaults to all supported file types yet .doc and .odt files are not listed and none of them appear in the file list. I have since used LibreOffice to save them as .rtf files which Scrivener can see (see screen shot below).

ScrivenerImportDialogue

Import file dialogue box. Note the missing .doc files in the Supported File types entry.

Anyone else had trouble with this? I’m guessing the Windows and Mac versions do allow .doc files to be imported.

Page break is inserted after Folders as well as before

There are at least two places you can specify a page break. One is in the Inspector for each individual document, another is in the File -> Compile -> Separators dialogue for the various combinations of folder/document transitions. A third place is the File -> Compile -> Contents dialogue which has a Pg Break Before column which seems to reflect the Page Break Before setting in the document meta data Inspector.

Regardless of where I set the Page break Before, I always get a page break both before and after the said document. If I turn off any or all of the page breaks I get none at all. Never get just one page break before the required folder.

There was a warning in the documentation that it’s best to spit out the final version as an MS Word or .odt file and use another word processing package to fix the formatting so maybe my whinge is moot.

Inconsistency with feature scope

This problem I may have already figured out while investigating further for the purpose of writing this post. When I compile my document it seems that some of the formatting is defined by the local document settings and other settings are taken from the compile formatting. I’ve just seen some sections come out inconsistently and I haven’t gone to much trouble to track it down but then I discovered the “Override text and Notes formatting” box in the File -> Compile -> Formatting dialogue. The output looks far more consistent when this box is checked. Specifically I had trouble with indenting which you have to specify with left and right margin rather than typical editors which have standard indent and outdent buttons.

Another thing was the huge difference in output of compiling to .doc, vs .odt vs .pdf. But again there was the recommendation to use another word processor for final formatting.

Sometimes the document icons in the binder would spontaneously change to blank documents and not be included in the final compiled document regardless of the Include in Compile option. I’d have to use CTRL-A in the binder to select all to refresh the document state. Alternatively scrolling from top to bottom in the binder would also fix it. No idea what triggers the fault and cannot reproduce it on demand.

Tracking Loose Ends

This was one of the main things I’d like to find a tool to help with. It’s probably more necessary for serial novels where the plot is largely or partly determined by the reader as opposed to a properly planned plot. Or maybe it’s my habit of deliberately leaving little cliffhangers lying around that I tend to forget about. I had hoped Scrivener would have something dedicated to this but it doesn’t appear to. Since taking a break from writing this post I’ve realised I could use the document notes with a specific unique word, (not a Scrivener keyword, although that could help keep it consistent), such as “LooseEnd” followed by short but descriptive code. I would use this where the loose end is first referenced and have a different keyword like “LooseEndTied” with the same descriptive code to indicate that the loose end has been tidied up at some point further down the line. A search for “LooseEnd” in document notes will list all LooseEnds and LooseEndTied and a further search for the codes will reveal pairs for all the tied up loose ends, and orphaned loose ends that still need attention.

Keywords

Keyword scoping seems inadequate. I was hoping to use keywords to track characters that appear in a scene as well as tracking the POV character separately. Why? Because I can. Or I had hoped I could. I created parent keywords called “Characters” and “POVs” and put the same character names as children of each group. It seems Scrivener can’t tell them apart so I can’t add the keywords for the characters Rochelle and Tina as well as the POV of Rochelle. The only way would be to prefix or suffix the POV character name such as Rochelle_POV or similar. Maybe it’s overkill, I don’t know. Anyone have any other suggestions?

More?

I hope to play with Scrivener more over the next few weeks. I will try writing Chapter 9 from scratch with it and probably import The NaNo project, The Rogue to Scrivener as well and try some more tricks. If I find any more glitches worth mentioning something that might actually help people, I might put up another post.

Happy New Year! 🙂

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