Scrivener Quick Tip: PDF’s

Share
This post is part of my Scrivener Quick Tips series

(I’m using the Mac version of Scrivener, v 2.3.1)

Today’s post is in response to a comment that was left on the Contact Me Page of this site.  FYI, for future reference, I freaking hate comments left on static pages.  If you want to leave a comment, do so on an actual post, shoot me an email or say hello on Twitter…

Having said that, let’s take a look at this comment.

Larry Wilson writes re Scrivener:

One of the main reasons I downloaded Scrivener was because I had several writing projects to work on that were in PDF format and this was one of the touted features of Scrivener.  All attempts to do this have failed.  I can get them into the research section which is of no help at all.  What am I missing?  Do you have any tips on this?

I’m also frustrated because I cannot get Scrivener to compile in .mobi format even after following all the (unexpected) prompts to download and install kindlegen and point to its location.

Needless to say, I’m beginning to think I wasted my money, especially since after having registered it I still get the trial nag screen.

Hi Larry!

Let’s take these one at a time, shall we?

I had several writing projects to work on that were in PDF format and this was one of the touted features of Scrivener.  All attempts to do this have failed.  I can get them into the research section which is of no help at all.  What am I missing?  Do you have any tips on this?

Okay, couple things.

The PDF format (a proprietary format created by the Adobe Corporation and officially released as an open standard on July 1, 2008) is really great for sending something to a printer or print shop if you know what you are doing.  Basically, a PDF creates a ‘camera ready’ document.  I always like to send PDF’s to print shops because then the print shop can’t mess with anything like fonts, margins, etc.  Because of that, I always make sure that my PDF’s are spot on before I send them, and if any changes do have to be made, I make them on my end in the original document (In Design, Illustrator, etc.), create a new PDF and send that along to the print shop.

I tell you this so you’ll understand that a PDF is not an ideal medium for editing.  They are intended to not be messed around with or edited.  In fact, if you go from something like In Design direct to a ‘virtual’ postscript printer to create your PDF (which I recommend, especially when dealing with files that will be sent to a large, commercial press), everything can be ‘converted to curves’ which strips out all the fonts (saving you from having to send the font and/or a license to the printer) and changes text into ‘vector graphics’ similar to what you would see from Adobe Illustrator (Right click some text in Illustrator and choose ‘convert to curves’ to see what I’m talking about).

Once you have exported something as a PDF, even if you embed fonts and leave the text as ‘editable’, ‘working’ with that PDF is going to be a pain in the ass.  No matter what software you are using.  I am not aware of working/editing PDF’s being ‘touted’ in Scrivener outside of the ability to import PDF’s to your project as research docs, or compiling a project out as a new PDF.  Version 1 allowed import of PDF’s to your project.  Version 2 allows this plus you can open PDF’s in an external editor such as Adobe Acrobat/Professional or Preview (Mac OS) and to use the tools available to you in those outside editors to mark up your PDF as needed, but actually, physically changing the PDF’s (again, except for the tools available to you in those external editors), isn’t anything that I’ve seen advertised.  The changes you make to the PDF -external- to Scrivener, will show up upon a save of the document and a refresh of the project.

PDF’s are, again, not something that you can edit, if that’s what you’re looking for.  Photoshop has the ability to open a PDF, but the text is not editable once you do.  Not even Acrobat Professional will let you do anything beyond minor edits – you can rearrange page order, delete pages, add pages, add form elements for digital signatures, but working with the text is cumbersome – probably on purpose/by design (they want you to buy In Design or Illustrator).

If your intention was to pull several PDF’s into your project and move and edit them the way you might Scenes & Scrivenings, I just don’t see that happening and don’t know where you might have gotten the impression that you could do that.  If you want to do that, go back to the original documents that the PDF’s were created from and import them.  The website talks about importing PDF’s for research, and exporting PDF’s out using Compile. And then there’s this bit:

Those working with gigantic libraries of reference material in PDF and other formats will appreciate the ability to link to original files rather than importing them into the project, giving you the best of both worlds: Scrivener’s built-in split viewing and full Binder organisation, without the overhead of storing gigabytes of research data in your projects.

Now, I can see, given how this is worded, where someone might think that this means you can pull information from those linked documents into your Project – really, I don’t think that’s what they’re saying at all.  Scrivener Links just don’t work that way.  When linking to documents from your Scrivener Project, those links are live but will (by default, I believe), open those documents for you to view them – usually in the split editor or pop up window, so you have your work in progress in one pane, and the document you linked to open in the next for reference.

When creating a Scrivener Link, you can link to something inside your Project by highlighting the text and right clicking:

If that document is a PDF inside your Project, you can pick it from the list that appears.  In the case above, I did a quick import of one of my novels in PDF format, and I created the Scrivener Link to that PDF.  Now when I click it, the PDF opens up as such:

With that PDF open, and because I am the copyright holder on the text therein, I can select the text (since it -is- text and not curves), copy it, and paste it into my Scene:

If you are not the copyright holder, don’t do this.  It’s stealing.  There are rules as to how to properly reference stuff – look them up before doing anything even remotely like this, okay?

Also, note that, even by pasting using the ‘Paste and Match Formatting’ command, there are a couple odd breaks to my text above.  That’s because PDF’s create hard line breaks on the margins.  They do not ‘flow’ as free text (like you might expect from an HTML, XML or eBook file).  So you’ll have to do editing of the text as you go, watching for those odd hard breaks.

You can also create links to external documents by highlighting the text and clicking: Edit > Add Link:

You can link to a webpage, a file on your computer, an email, etc.  99% of the time, Scrivener Links do not export as part of the compile.  There are ways to force those links to compile – and they still aren’t going to suck the text into your Scenes, but I think that’s a post for another day (given how long this post has already become).

Okay?  Let me know if you have more questions on PDF’s.

I’m also frustrated because I cannot get Scrivener to compile in .mobi format even after following all the (unexpected) prompts to download and install kindlegen and point to its location.  Needless to say, I’m beginning to think I wasted my money, especially since after having registered it I still get the trial nag screen.

On this and because it’s more technical rather than user interface stuff, I am going to refer you to the support page for Scrivener.  My own experiences with the support folks at Scrivener have been very positive.  Their knowledge base is extensive, and the forums are well monitored with people answering queries very quickly.  Check them out – I’m sure they can help you.

Okay, that’s it for today.  If you have a question for me, leave it in the comments and I’ll see if I can help you out in a future post.

More Scrivener Tips coming!

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

If you find this or any other posts on this blog to be useful or entertaining, consider donating to help keep it, and me, afloat.  I am currently unemployed and appreciate any tips sent my way.  Thanks!

Click here to visit Paypal.

~P

Series Navigation<< Scrivener Quick Tip: Formatting Basics  |  Scrivener Quick Tip: Import Web Page >>
 

1 comment for “Scrivener Quick Tip: PDF’s

Comments are closed.