If you’re a writer who has been writing for a bit, there’s a better than average chance you’ve been using a word processor like Microsoft Word as a writing tool.  Switching to Scrivener (or any other writing platform) can feel daunting when you consider transferring what you have over to that new platform.

Heck, I started writing on an old manual typewriter.  When I converted to one of the first electronic word processors (essentially an electronic typewriter with a monitor and floppy disc drive for storage), the idea of retyping everything was a huge barrier.  (then I built my first PC box and eventually bought a copy of Word for DOS, then Windows and Word for Windows, etc. and so on.)

Before I get into the nitty gritty, just a quick personal history – I became less and less enamored with Word starting around 2006.  I still used it, but I didn’t like it.  As I moved back into the Mac world and away from PC, I still used Word, but found myself increasingly using Mac’s very simple Text Edit instead.  It worked better with browsers and I was pushing stuff out on the blog a lot back then and copy/paste from Word tended to break things.  Anyway, by the time I jumped onboard with Scrivener, I had a nice mix of Word and Text Edit files sitting on my HD.

I bought a MacBook Pro as my ‘dedicated writing machine’, installed Scrivener, did NOT install Word, and started playing around.  To ‘import’ Word files, I would upload them to Google Docs, open them, select all, copy, open Scrivener, and paste.

This was, my friends, stupid.

Little did I realize, Scrivener natively imports Word and a slew of other formats – EVEN IF YOU DON’T HAVE THE PROGRAMS INSTALLED!

Yeah.  Cool, right?

So.  How do you import your Word Docs?

File > Import > Then Choose from the list:

Import to Scrivener

When you click ‘Files’, you are presented with your normal Browse for a File window.  Just navigate to your Word Doc and select it.  When you do, you’ll see this warning that your file will be converted to RTF as it’s imported:

Warning! Warning! Conversion, Will Robinson!

The thing to remember is that it isn’t changing your Word Doc – it’s just converting it into something that plays nice INSIDE of Scrivener – your original file remains untouched.

Once it’s done, your Word Doc is now available as a Scene or Text Document in your binder.  In my example below, I imported it directly into my Chapter Folder so it became a scene inside that Chapter:

Evermist! Poor Eli doesn’t get much love these days…

Once imported, you can do lots of things – the Doc is now part of your project.  Anything you can do with a native Scene/piece of Text, you can do with this.  Including breaking it up into Scenes, Chapters, etc.

Converted Word Doc to Scrivenings

In the above example, I changed the formatting to the default Project Formatting, then I used Command K to split the piece into 6 Scenes inside the Chapter (insert your mouse point where you want to split the text into a new Scene, then hold Command and hit K – now you’ve split the scene. Move to the next break and repeat to quickly split a long piece of text down into more manageable chunks.).  I also moved my previous Scenes into a new Chapter 2 Folder.

Supported Formats Scrivener will Import:

  • RTFD (rich text format directory) A proprietary Apple rich text format commonly used by Mac Cocoa applications.
  • RTF (rich text format) The universal rich text standard.
  • DOC & DOCX (Microsoft Word format).
  • ODT (Open Document Text).
  • TXT (plain text).
  • FDX(FinalDraft8+format).
  • FCF (Final Draft 5–7 File Converter Format).
  • OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language).
  • .indexcard (Index Card for iPad files).
  • No extension. Documents with no extension get imported into Scrivener as plain text files (note that this can often be a source of confusion – if you try to import an RTF or DOC file that has no extension, when you import it into Scrivener you will see all of the raw code because it will be imported as plain text.).
  • As well as these text file types, Scrivener also supports all of the main image file types (TIF, JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP etc), all of the main QuickTime audio/visual formats (MOV, MPG, WAV, MP3 etc), PDF files, HTML, and .webarchive file types for importing saved web pages from Safari and other Mac applications that support it.

More Scrivener Tips coming (every Monday?)!

Don’t have Scrivener?  You can try it free here (no, I don’t get paid for pointing you at them!).



  • David D. Levine Posted February 20, 2012 9:22 am

    “ged the formatting to the default Project Formatting”

    Is there a simple quick command to do this?

    • Patrick Hester Posted February 20, 2012 10:22 am

      With your Scrivener Project open and a scene, chapter or folder selected in your Binder, click on Document, Convert, formatting to Default Text Style.

      Default Text Styles are handled in Scrivener Preferences. So if you need to control / play with those settings, you can do it there and then apply it to the Project using the method above.


  • Paul (@princejvstin) Posted February 20, 2012 11:30 am

    The thing to remember is that it isn’t changing your Word Doc – it’s just converting it into something that plays nice INSIDE of Scrivener – your original file remains untouched.

    Excellent. I’d hate for it to mess with the original file.

    Thanks, Patrick. I do like these tips.

  • J.T. Evans Posted February 20, 2012 10:46 pm

    Great write-up! I’m one step closer to converting to Scrivener for my fiction writing. Though, right now I’m eyeball deep in my RPG, which needs fancy layout goodness. Once I return to Laurin and her tales, I’ll jump into Scrivener. Glad to see it handles ODT files since I (currently) use LibreOffice for my writing.

    • Patrick Hester Posted February 21, 2012 9:42 am

      Been working on that social media/marketing thing for the group, but maybe I need to do a Scrivener workshop too >_>


  • Alva Posted February 25, 2012 5:07 am

    Hello, I imported a word document that had shapes and drawing elements. When I imported it into Scrivener, only the text imported and not the drawings. Any idea on how to import this document and retain the drawing elements?

    • Patrick Hester Posted February 25, 2012 9:45 pm

      From the Scrivener Manual: l DOC & DOCX (Microsoft Word format) As with TextEdit, Scrivener ignores images, footnotes and comments in DOC files, so if you have these elements in your documents and need them preserved when importing, re-save the file as RTF in Word and import the .rtf file into Scrivener instead of the .doc file. Only Leopard and greater supports .docx files.

      Hope that helps!


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  • Nancy Posted March 10, 2012 5:21 pm

    Hi Patrick,
    Thanks for the great Scrivener information.
    I am having trouble getting my Word documents to load into Scrivener, however.
    I go to import, pick Chapter 10,all files, open, but I get a No User file message. Inspite of that message, Scrivner is trying like crazy to convert. But, even though the file name appears under Chapter One, there is nothing in the file. What am I doing wrong? Thanks, Nancy

    • Patrick Hester Posted March 10, 2012 7:48 pm

      Hmmm. Not sure. Try saving your Word doc with another name and reimport. If that doesn’t work, open the file in Word and Save As a .RTF and see if you can import that.

      If you still have issues, check out Scrivener’s Support area: Maybe someone in the forums there has seen this before and can offer some other ideas.

      Let me know what happens.


      • Nancy Posted March 12, 2012 8:27 pm

        I tried your suggestions, but nothing worked. So, I will try Literatureandlatte. Will keep you posted. N

  • S. M. Worth Posted March 11, 2012 6:17 pm

    I downloaded the trial version of Scrivener and began toying with it in the fall of 2011. I initially used it for outlining, I loved the corkboard feature. I then decided to give it a try for NaNoWriMo 2011. It was the first year I finished. Attribute it to the intuitive interface, great tools or just having all your writing, characters and research in one program. I love writing in scenes and being able to drag and drop these as I need to rearrange my story is priceless. There is a free trial so why not give it a shot!

    If anyone decides to buy Scrivener I was given a limited use coupon here You’ll get 20% off – until it expires. Enjoy!

  • Nancy Posted March 15, 2012 7:54 pm

    Yay! Everything is working now. I’m not sure why, but who cares? Instead of directly importing a chapter from a huge Word file, I created a file for the chapter in Word, saved it as .docx and it imported beautifully into Scrivener. Maybe the fact I’m using a pc changes things — but, oh well. It works. I love Scrivener.

    Thanks for your wonderful blog. I’ll be checking in frequently. Nancy

    • Patrick Hester Posted March 15, 2012 8:03 pm

      cool! I’m glad it’s working! 🙂


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