The Style of Compiling in Scrivener 3

As I mentioned in my previous post on Scrivener 3, one of the features about which I was most excited was the new styles system, which includes the ability to preserve styles though the compiling process. Yesterday I experimented with carrying these styles through to a compiled document. What I wanted to explore was how to apply certain styles to a document title, depending on which level it was set in my Project Binder.

Step One – Setting Up Section Types

The first step I needed to do was to define the different sections I’d be using in my test project. This is done through Project Settings, which can be found in Scrivener’s “Project” menu. Project Settings allows for many defaults to be set up for the current project 1. But “Section Types” controls how the compiler will treat individual documents and folders when it comes time to export. Each type may be applied at will to any element in the Binder during compile. In my test document I created three levels of headings, as seen below.

Scrivener Project Section Types

Clicking the “Default Types by Structure” tab at the top of the Section Types dialog allows a writer to automate which section type will be applied to a folder, document with sub-documents, or individual documents depending on it’s Binder level. This is handled via a dialog which should be familiar to anyone who who has ever worked in Scrivener 2. Each separate type of Binder element can had children added to its type. Since my individual documents were positioned three levels deep in the Binder, I created three more levels of individual documents and applied the appropriate section types for each level.


Step Two – Setting Up The Compiler

Opening the Compile brings up the main window, as displayed below. The project’s Binder Structure is on the right, allowing for each element to either keep the automatic type or select a different section type as needed 2.

Main Compile Window

The center column displays the current section layouts which are available for the current selected option, which are displayed on the left. A new format style can be created by clicking the plus button below the left column or by right-clicking an existing format and selecting “Duplicate & Edit Format.” I wanted to explore creating a Compile Format, so I created, “My Word Doc.”

Step Three – Adjusting the Styles

When editing a format the first step I recommend is applying styles. To do this, I clicked on the Styles option.


Each format will have it’s own styles in place in this window, I weeded the available styles down to only the ones I knew I was going to need. Styles may be deleted by clicking the minus button in the upper right of the dialog, or added by clicking on the plus icon. Any style which is present in the current project may be added to the Compile Format, they will then appear in the center window. Once add each style may be left “as is,” appearing as they do in the document editor. Or they may be modified in the preview box located at the bottom of the dialog.

Once styles are set up, section layouts can be designed.

Step Four – Designing Section Layouts

Section Layouts are the first option in the Compile Format Editor. Clicking on it brings up a dialog similar to the image below.

Section Layouts

In this dialog each section is able to be customized according to user preference and need. Any number of layouts can be created, and named anything a writer desires, but I found too many layouts became confusing later on. So, again, I weeded the available layouts down 3 until I had only the layouts I knew I was going to need. I also matched layout names with my section types, it made the next step less confusing.

Each layout can be set up to include different elements from any given Binder element, though Title and Text are the most common options to include. Each layout may then have it’s formatting altered by applying the styles created in step three. In my test project the “Heading” style was applied to the title for the Heading layout, and so on. If the “override text and notes formatting” is checked then the section layout may also be edited to control the look of main text as well, altering it from how it looked in the Document Editor.

After assigning my different layouts I clicked save and returned to the main Compile window.

Step Five – Apply Section Layouts

My next step was to click the “Assign Section Layouts…” button at the bottom of the center column. This brought up a list of the current sections for the project on the left, with a list of available layouts on the right. Because I assigned the same name to both my layouts and my section types I matched the corresponding items to each other. Clicking “OK” returned me to the main Compile Dialog.

Assign Section Types

Step Six – Compile

My final step was to click “Compile,” which exported the selected Binder items to the selected output type. In my test case I wanted to see if a compiled Scrivener project did keep its styles when the output document was opened up another editor. I opened my test .docx document in Pages and, sure enough, the styles were in place!

Compiled Document in Pages, styles have been preserved

With styles carried over further editing is now much easier in an external editor. Layout, adding elements like a table of contents, and font changes can be handled by altering a few styles, instead of manually selecting text and making adjustments. For me, it’s one of the most exciting features of Scrivener 3 4!

  1. Including the background for Composition Mode. It makes sense for it to be found here, but it threw me for a bit of a loop. 
  2. This is good for Preludes and Front Matter, for example. 
  3. Using the minus located in upper right. It’s a theme. 
  4. Yes, I am a nerd. 
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