Scrivener 3 – OH MY GOD I Updated From Version 2 WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO COMPILE???

So, you might have seen my kvetching a couple of days ago about Scrivener’s version 3 update.

(If you’re asking me what is Scrivener, it’s the writing software I use and love, even though I’m currently swearing at some of the revamped features until I get to know what the frak I’m doing in it. If you’re interested in test-driving it, they have a 30-day free trial, and it works on Windows and MacOS, as well as an iOS app.)

If you’re using an earlier version of Scrivener, download the free manual BEFORE you upgrade (it’s included in the upgrade under the Help menu) and take a gander at the Compile instructions.

You will probably want that PDF handy to take a look at. Go to the compile section and refer back and forth from here to it as you need to. If you’ve already got Scrivener 3, you can open that, too, and play along.

They’ve shifted a lot of stuff around in terms of how it works, including style sheets, etc. Before, you could basically go into the project’s Compile settings, and between that and whatever you set up in the editor, you could control exactly how every aspect of your work looked when you converted it to whatever format you’re using.

Well, you still can, but it’s…different.

And if you’re like me, you’re going to want to know that ahead of time.

When you upgrade from an earlier version to 3, it will convert your projects to the new version and make a backup of the old version, in case you feel the need to go back. And there are ways to export certain settings out, but I haven’t even gotten that far yet, frankly, because I don’t have time to sit and figure it out.


One of the nice things is you can set up presets for, say, a basic template for a project (like how the binder looks and acts, etc.) export those settings, then import them to other projects. Including creating a default template for yourself if, like me, you frequently create new projects.

How do I use Scrivener? Mostly for fiction. I usually create a project for a series and keep the individual books in the series separated in folders. This makes it easier keeping character and location and story notes up to date and saves me time when I need to go back and reference a character or plot point. Stand-alone books get their own project. I have my own template set up so I have minimal tweaking to do when I have to create a new project.

Keep in mind my screenshots are on the Mac version of Scrivener 3. I don’t know if the Windows version looks different or not.

My first issue was I needed to get my book that I had to submit to my publisher (Siren) compiled into a Word .doc file. They like things submitted a certain way, and before it took me seconds to pop a file out from Scrivener.

If you click the Compile button (or activate the File/Compile command) you can select the Compile For format from the dropdown at the very top center of the box that comes up. I selected Microsoft Word 97-2004 (.doc)

(Note: You can click on the screenshots and they’ll open full-sized in a new window.)

Over in the left column, you’ll see options, including Default. You can try default and see if it works for you. (Not great for me.) Play with the other preset options as well. What I ended up doing was right-clicking on the Manuscript (Times) option and using the Duplicate and Edit option. (That’s the one you see in my screenshot that’s called Manuscript (Times) – Siren Compile.

You CANNOT edit the included options. You can duplicate a default and then edit that, or you can create one from scratch (which…WHY??). You CAN edit ones you create, either from scratch or by duplicating a preset default one.

That will allow you to customize a lot of what you were used to seeing in the old Compile screen, including the font of the chapter headers, whether it auto-adds chapter headers for you, the font and style of chapter headers, the page padding, the headers and footers, all of that.

Even better? See that button at the bottom left corner? You can test your format. So what you should do is create a short document set up how you normally set up your manuscripts or projects or whatever, and then TEST it. (This also works for whatever format you’re compiling to.) I can’t tell you how to exactly set up YOUR project, because you might structure a manuscript in your binder differently than I do. I use a combination of folders and text documents.

So look at the manual for Scrivener 3 (they have a fairly comprehensive Compile section) and play with it for a while. You’ll want to start delving into the styles eventually, but if like me you just need to write and compile to a .doc, this should help you get started.

Now, when you’re doing this, you might see in that previous pop-up window, in the middle column where it says Section Layouts, a yellowish box warning you you haven’t selected anything yet. That’s because in some of the formats you’ll have options to choose from. If you want it to look a certain way, etc, depending on if it’s the chapter header or the section or whatever section you’re formatting.

(The one here I pulled from a different option so you could see it.)

Notice the button at the bottom, where it says Assign Section Layouts?

Yeah, click that button.

When you do, you’ll see a new pop-up window. It’ll give you options to choose from depending on what you’re needing to assign.


Now, what you’re doing is for every option in the left column, Section Types, you pick one of the options on the right. And you can play around with experimenting to see what works for you, change them, all of that.

This is why they warn in the manual not to do this on a time crunch.

(No frakking shitballs.)

And this happens regardless of the format you want to compile to. You’ll have to set it up basically like this, your options changing depending on the format you’re compiling to.

Please don’t message me screaming at me for simplifying this — yes, there are styles and all sorts of other things you can modify, especially if you need markup language, or specialized formats, all of that.

But if you JUST want a fricking Word .doc, or need a .pdf, or an e-book file (makes great .epub and .mobi files), then these are the basics to help you understand what’s different from what you’re used to in Compile.

If, like me, you turn off the auto-title feature and manually number/name your chapters and sections, then you’ll want the Title Options tab on the second window. Clicking it will give you this section here. See that box, the code under where it says Title Prefix? You have to remove that code for each title/section (located in the portion of the window above this, not included in that screenshot, see the larger screenshot earlier in this post) that you DON’T want it to auto-title for you. Play with all four of those tabs there: Formatting, Title Options, New Pages, Prefix, Suffix, and Settings.

That’s where you’ll find things like the line padding at the top of a new chapter/section (the default is like a ridiculous 14 lines) and all those kinds of settings to tweak what it looks like.

Yes, this looks daunting. That’s why you should play with the settings with a very short file and see what it looks like. That way, once you get your manuscript finished, you can compile it to your preset.

The other thing you need to keep in mind is what settings you have in your editor, and any styles you set up in there. That’s a whole different post.

Sorry this isn’t perfect, but I’m writing it as much for myself so I remember what the hell to do next time I’m on a tight deadline and can’t remember the new settings. LOL I hope you find this helpful. Feel free to shoot me questions in the comments, or if the comments are already closed by then, you can hit me up in e-mail at tymberdalton AT gmail DOT com (remove the spaces and change the stuff, duh) and I’ll clarify and update this post.


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