Scrivener and “Scrivenings View” — breaking the Gordian Knot of Formatting Errors.

One of the things I learned while creating my first self-published book, Smokeless, was that formatting and layout in Scrivener are subject to human error.

What looked flawless to me (admittedly after two all-nighters in a row) turned out to not look so smooth in the finished product.

(As a small digression: If you haven’t bought the book yet, hold off; a corrected version will be issued soon through CreateSpace along with the print version. If you have…. I don’t know. I apologize, and the best I can offer is that, well, you could consider your flawed version to be a “rarity.”)

The problem was that, because I had been composing the book from document to document, inconsistencies had crept into the project with respect to formatting and layout. I didn’t discover these inconsistencies with regard to the ebook release; they became apparent only when I tried to upload digital output to CreateSpace in order to make it possible to release the book in hardcopy.

The problem kept appearing, specifically, in “Part Three” of the book, where the text consistently ran into the “gutter” (the portion of the printed page nearest the book’s spine.)

It seemed that no matter how I tried to correct the problem with different trim sizes, different margins for the overall document, and a few other tricks, nothing was working. Part Three was in the gutter to stay, and I simply could not, in my sleep deprived state, break the Gordian Knot.

This brings me to today’s topic: Scrivenings mode. Let me give you a couple screenshots to illustrate.

Here we have the main view of Smokeless in Scrivenings mode:

Scrivenings View

As you can hopefully see in the above screenshot, each of the otherwise separate sections of the book is displayed in the style of a single document.

The reason why this is useful for editing layout and formatting of the overall document is that it allows me to execute the following process:

1. Enter Scrivenings mode by pressing the following menu button (highlighted in red):

Scrivenings Button Highlighted

2. Press the key combination Command+A (Alt+A on Windows) to select all text. In Scrivenings mode, this will select all composed text within the project, not merely within the selected Document.

3. If necessary, apply a single Formatting Style to the entire document by selecting from the menu “Format->Formatting->Apply Preset, as shown in the following screenshot:

Format Apply Preset

4. Any formatting or layout inconsistencies from document to document within your project will now have been corrected.You will now need to proceed through each document of your project, reestablishing italics and bolding where you feel is necessary.

While this solution may be tedious and inelegant, it has one benefit that nothing else I know of has: It works. So the next time you find yourself with facing the Gordian Knot, remember that you have a sword in the form of Scrivenings View.

Thanks for reading, and until next time, please remember to support this blog; do good work, and be good to yourselves and each other.


  • That’s all great, and I appreciate your helpfulness, except that:
    > Press the key combination Command+A (Alt+A on Windows) to select all text. In Scrivenings mode, this will select all composed text within the project, not merely within the selected Document.

    … it doesn’t. 😦
    It selects down as far as the end of the document I was previously clicked in, and no further.
    If I wasn’t clicked in a document (but in the binder), nothing I do has any effect on the text.
    I’m looking to select the whole project and move the right-hand margin in on the ruler, as at the moment when compiled it slides right off the side of the paper.

    Thanks if you can help!


    • John Castle

      Not a big deal, but either you missed something, or I did. When you select all text within a project, you need to be in “Scrivenings” view after selecting the top-level folder which contains all documents.


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