Friday, September 23, 2016

What Scrivener does poorly (or not at all)

There’s a lot I like about Scrivener, a writer’s integrated development environment with compilation to platform specific documents. I’m not the only person who wants to like it, there are many enthusiasts online.

It’s easy to find tips and advice online, it’s harder to find a list of what doesn’t work. That’s important to know up front, before you commit to Scrivener.

This is my working list. I’ll expand it over time…

  1. PDF export has no page footnotes. The footnotes become chapter endnotes instead.
  2. Table creation within Scrivener is quite limited (Scrivener uses macOS text editing services).
  3. Table creation in compiled output is poor or unusable. Formatting in PDF and RTF loses font information, formatting in Word .docx defaults table to Word “auto fit to contents” instead of “auto fit to window”.
  4. It’s easy to get formatting drift between chapters, there’s no ready style enforcement (there is a process for redoing all formatting to a default)

Some of Scriveners’s limitations seem inherited from macOS text handling, others may be limitations of third party libraries. Scrivener could be more forthright about what works and doesn’t work, but that’s asking a lot of a small business.

Scrivener works best for writing fiction, though even there style support is a big issue (see also, below). It works less well for non-fiction — we need things like tables. If I do continue with Scrivener for my own book I’ll have to treat Word output as a forked version — with late stage editing being manually replicated in two locations. That’s not ideal, but it might be doable. The alternative, of course, is to use Word from the start [1].

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[1] At least in light use Word for Mac is now useable and the bugs are manageable. With the rental model Office 365 is also quite reasonably priced.

See also:

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