Scrivener: Adding and Styling Text

One of the best features of Scrivener is that it automatically saves your work. In fact, if you have a file you want to trash, you can drag it to the trash icon and it will “file” it there. This keeps your trashed documents ready if you decide you need it after all. The trash will be there until you “take it out to the dumpster” by clicking “empty trash.” Therefore you cannot accidentally delete your work and even if your battery dies or your computer shuts freezes, you will lose less than a minute’s worth of work if you lose any at all. Whoo-hoo! 

So now you’re reading to start writing your book. If Scrivener was an actual file cabinet, you would sit down, open the top drawer, pull out your folder (labeled chapter one), and take out the blank piece of paper. This is a magic paper: it will expand to hold your entire chapter if you want it to. The most simple way to get started is to click the white paper and begin typing. 

Okay. Deep breath. We’re trying to do things simply and the most simple way is to use the default settings and leave the paragraph settings in “No Style.” This is actually a default setting that Scrivener uses to ensure a smooth export process. When you export your document using the “compile” feature, you can tell Scrivener what format you need. It will work its magic and change the look of the format according to which settings it’s on: PDF will look one way, EPUB for ebooks another, Print, a third and so on. You CAN force headings into your manuscript if you need to specify a certain way they should look but this will add a bit of work for Scrivener during export. You can also manually adjust the export settings, but all this is part of another more advanced lessons. For now, you’ll want to leave your paragraphs alone in their default of “No Style.”

You can check or change your styles by looking here. Just click the arrow down and you’ll see the presets. Note: In Scrivener 2 and former copies, the styles work like they do in Word with one exception. If you use any style, say, Heading, and then decide you want to modify what Heading looks like, it will only carry those changes to the text you add after the modification. All former instances will remain the same. This has been changed in Scrivener 3 which can be cheaply upgraded, but it’s something to keep in mind as it can add a lot of time to your formatting. Again, for the purposes of keeping things simple, I recommend beginners leave the styles in the default setting of “No Style.” When you are more comfortable with Scrivener, you can learn whichever features you need.

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Even if you have decided not to add Paragraphs styling to change the look of sections of your text, you will still want to use text styling to clarify meanings of certain words. This would include italics, bold, and underlined words. To do this, simply highlight the word and click on the change you want to make in the bar. You can change the size and font but be aware that this should only be used for parts of the text that you don’t want to be affected by paragraphs styles later in the layout process.

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So what happens if you don’t like the way your text looks in the Scrivener program? Are you doomed to work with the defaults to avoid paragraphs styles? Nope! Actually, the appearance of your project in Scrivener has no effect on what it will look like when it is exported. If you want to make your font look enormously large so its easy on your eyes, or even something fancy like cursive or a medical manuscript, you can. 

If it is only the size of your project you want to modify, you can do this by looking to the bottom left of your document where you will see a % button. You can add or lesson the percentage, which will change the way your text looks. The default is 100% which I find a little small. I like to work at 150%.

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But let’s say you want to change the font of the text or even have a colored background and colored text so there is less strain on your eyes. You can change the appearance of what you see when you work by going to the “SCRIVENER” button at the top of the page. (You may have to hold your mouse at the very top to get the menu to appear if your bar is invisible.) When Scrivener gives you a drop-down box, find the “preferences” and click.

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This will pop up a menu that looks like this: 

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From here you will click the “Formatting” icon and it will show you what your view looks like currently. I’ve made mine very fancy so you can watch it change when I take it off. Remember, this is what you as the author will look at when you type. The reader of the exported document will never see it.

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You will click on the small icon with the T in the square next to the font and choose your preferred font from the drop-down menu. If you really botched what you wanted, you can also click “Defaults” at the bottom of the menu and it will revert to the built-in styles.

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So there you have it! Your screen should be customized. Menus can be closed but if you’re ready to write and want the screen entirely distraction free, you can click on the “Compose” button on the top bar. This will bring you to a screen with only your words and paper. To get out of writing mode, just click your “Escape button” and you’ll be taken back to the home workspace.

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