Home » Ebooks, Writing Tools » Word Needs To Die

Word Needs To Die

26 March 2012

From Novelr:

I was working on a eBook conversion workflow for a small publishing house last week, as a favour to the owners. I thought I could get away with a couple hours of work: maybe write a few scripts, chain a couple of existing libraries together, and then email them my code. I was dead wrong. I gave up after two days of work.

. . . .

The problem was with Word. Word’s doc and docx formats are proprietary, clunky to work with, and incredibly hard to convert to ePub and mobi without weird artifacts and edge cases. It doesn’t help that the standard publishing workflow is in Word — many writers, editors, and publishers use Word source files in their daily lives.

. . . .

There are two likely solutions for this:

1) Write a perfect converter from Word to X, where X is any other text-based markup format. This is a technological problem, and is incredibly hard.

2) Get writers to write in non-Word formats. This is a social problem, and is incredibly hard.

. . . .

My point: moving away from Word enables writers and publishers saner publishing workflows. It doesn’t make sense for the writing/editing process to be done in a format separate from the ones used in the publishing process.

Word is a curse on digital publishing workflows. The sooner we move away from it, the better.

Link to the rest at Novelr

Passive Guy has managed to become fairly proficient at using Word to format files that he can then turn into Mobi and Epub files with Jutoh, but he still has a deep-seated dislike of the program, which manages to waste large chunks of his time with sporadic weird formatting problems.

He would jump at an alternative in a heartbeat if he found a good one. He’s been playing with LibreOffice Writer, but isn’t sure that’s the one yet.

Ebooks, Writing Tools

83 Comments to “Word Needs To Die”

  1. Since Word has to be converted to different formats for uploading to different sites for publishing what then should one use? What does Mac users use? Is it better since I was thinking when I upgrade my computers I would buy a Mac.

    • The “Word” equivalent for Mac would be Pages, but it’s got it’s own .pages format that doesn’t play well with others. So again, same problem (with the main difference being Pages is a much nicer program XD).

      I think “ByWord” is also a popular one lately, but I have’t used it. The plain text program would be “TextEdit” but it’s sort of limited.

      But there are plenty of choices that export to various things. XD

      Personally, I use Scrivener. It’s amazing & I can just compile it to whatever format the person wants it (it does everything from plain text to word to RTF to html to whatever).

      Still a hassle to get stuff back into the program, but honestly I think retyping changes helps me make sure nothing gets missed or imported wrong. But that’s me. ^^;

    • Kelly Washington

      I’m a MAC user, and have MS Word and other MS programs loaded onto my MAC. However, I write my stories in Scrivener, compile into Word when complete, and then cut/paste into NOTEPAD to nuke and/all formating issues. And… then paste everything back into a fresh Word document to complete any fancy formatting, as needed. Luckily, I do not do much fancy stuff in my writing. Just black on white.

      Agree – a waste of time… but I know of no other programs to make thise process easier.

  2. Word has been horrible ever since someone at Microsoft gave the go-ahead to “expand” the word processor’s capabilities to desktop publishing. In my former life as a technical writer, I always detested those jobs where Word was the tool for documentation. It’s clunky, slow, and not well-deigned for desktop publishing. If you used master docs to do a mutli-chapter book, chances are those files would get corrupted at some point. What did I as a technical writer prefer? Framemaker. It was stable, smooth, and damn near perfect for the task of writing and publishing technical documentation.

    In my experience, software programs can be good word processors or desktop publishers. But not both.

  3. You might want to take a look at Scrivener: http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php. It was a Mac-only program, but now there’s a Windows version.

    It lets you focus on your text – organizing and writing it – and then provides exporting [they call it compiling] to a number of formats. I’m using it to produce a PDF and a MOBI from the same text.

    It requires a bit of a shift in thinking, and I could use a few more options on exporting, but overall I like it so far.

    • I use Scrivener, but getting from there to an ebook is still non-trivial. Mobi conversion works OK but seems to require a lot of configuration (I still haven’t worked out how to get a sensible table of contents), and I still have to convert to Word .doc to upload to Smashwords. I’m not sure how the .doc conversion works in general, but I was outputting a short story to submit to magazines yesterday and it required some tweaking afterwards.

      • Scrivener compile to ePub.

        Take ePub to Calibre. Convert ePub to ePub. (Not a typo.) This strips out unnecessary code and drastically reduces the file size.

        In Calibre, convert new ePub to .mobi.

        Works like a charm and you never need to worry about making a mobi from Scrivener.

      • Yes, I was just going to recommend Scrivener. It’s awesome!

    • While I haven’t started self-publishing yet, Scrivener is the program I use too. So much better than Word. It’s different in that you do most of the formatting at the end, setting things as you want when you compile to another format.

      I still end up compiling to Word format as that’s the format most short story markets prefer, but I don’t actually have to deal with Word myself.

      • I’m completely in love with scrivener just from a sanity standpoint. I can keep all my notes in one place and move things around and it’s wonderful! now my villain doesn’t have three eye colors!

  4. I just wrote a piece using the Windows Scrivener. Worked great for me but when it came time to send it off for editing I had to convert it over to Word. Unless your entire chain uses Scrivener at some point you are back to working with Word.

    For print going from Word to Indesign is fairly simple. Word to Kindle is another story. What works for me is saving the Word file as a web page. That gets the text to me in Word HTML. As we all know Word HTML is horrible. So the next step is to load the HTML file into Dreamweaver. DW has a nice feature called “Remove Word HTML Tags” that strips thousands of crap tags out of the file. Automagically without me doing anything but pressing a button.

    Once I get that file there tend to be a few more weird tags that I take out by hand or search/replace but I can do that in about 5 minutes. The balance of the time required to get a good HTML file is just adding in special tags like the page breaks and making sure the formatting is right. Then over to Mobi Pocket for the Kindle file and I convert that to ePub using Calibre.

    The word required to fix the Word file is probably half the time required to get to a clean ebook file. The other half is populating the meta data and checking layout issues. If I couldn’t use Dreamweaver to do the Word cleanup the time required would at least triple.

    • Kevin O. McLaughlin

      Best practice I have found for word to kindle is:

      Save doc.
      Open doc in Libre Office.
      Save As odt file (native format for Open/Libre Office, also best import format for Jutoh).
      Open Jutoh, start new project.
      Fill out the project form. Load the odt file for text.
      Click Jutoh buttons to export mobi and epub.

  5. Gordon Fridenberg

    I use OpenOffice then cut and paste into JEdit. That allows search and replace using regular expressions. I use that to wrap the text with the appropriate paragraph, italic and em tags. Then save as html. Open the html in Dreamweaver and apply tags at the chapter headings then format the chapter headings using CSS. Save as html then convert using Calibre. I have Calibre use the Chapter heading tags to create the TOC. Not simple, but if done correctly gives a document that will display correctly on any device.

    For a step by step guide see:


    Someone really needs to create a Word processor designed specifically for creating ebooks.

    • I made all mine using Scrivener compile to ePub and then further refinement with Calibre conversion. Takes 5 minutes. Recently made one by exporting to ePub from the Daedalus iPad writing app then Calibre. Again 5 minutes and flawless.

      What I’m saying is that now and moreso into the future ePub export will become standard and will work well on simple but elegant and well made apps. Never on Word though.

  6. The problem is not only “social.” One of the most critical components in the self-publishing chain is the editing. I have been an editor for many many years — of books, articles, you name it — and the only program that has a half-decent tracking system for edits (because you need the writer to make the final decisions) is Word.

    • I run into this with peer-reviewed journal articles too. Reviewers use Word, so I get stuck in Word-formatted files even though I don’t own it. With my last article I did the edits using Apple’s Pages and it seemed to track the comments and edits alright during the back-and-forth with the editor.

      I’m about to do this again, except this time I’m writing in Scrivener. The only way I’ve figured out to get my images to work properly for a .doc file is to: (1) export to RTF, (2) open in LibreOffice, and (3) save as .doc. Not exactly convenient and rather one-way, so I’ll do the bulk of the work in Scrivener, go through this process to send it to the editor, then use Pages or LibreOffice for the edits. Sounds crazy, but I just can’t seem to “flow” properly writing in a “word processor” – it’s not the way I process things.

  7. Calibre is awesome, but I was under the impression it wouldn’t necessarily give you a totally “clean” file after conversion. For me, DH cleans up the html (from my heinous Word file that I use for Smashwords) then uses KindleGen to convert to mobi, and Sigil to convert to epub. That way we get a really nice, customized “look” for each different format. He’s not a huge fan of Sigil, but it does the job, and it’s freeware, and works with his Mac.

    • I get clean conversions from Calibre, however, I start with an ePub generated from Scrivener.

      • I’ve been hearing lots of great things about Scrivener lately — gonna have to check it out… if only to save poor DH a heap of work with file conversions. Thanks for the recommendation, David!

    • Don’t know whether this will help your DH with getting clean HTML, but on Mac, I copy the WYSIWYG text from a word processor and paste it into Apple’s TextEdit. Then I use TextEdit’s No-CSS option to export into nice, clean HTML with char tags (as opposed to styles with useless nondescriptive names) for bold and ital and most other stuff simply gets stripped out. I then fix the italics by checking each one by hand due to some bug thanks to Apple that makes an occasional tag jump a few chars one way or the other. Incredibly, even for a novel length work, this is the easiest way to get half decent HTML on a Mac that I have found after a great deal of looking at almost-solutions. If there is a better way to get clean-ish HTML without a billion redundant and cryptically named styles, I’d love to know about it. Most word processors put so many redundant style definitions in as to make their HTML output unreadable. So, TextEdit’s buggy export along with manual checking actually is the best I’ve found for a Mac, and it isn’t bad at all unless the author uses ital really liberally. From there I use calibre and tweak its intermediate output using the debug capability as needed. Unless he wants to control the TOC really finely, no tweaking is probably necessary aside from possibly inserting some CSS rules into calibre. I have totally removed Sigil from my workflow by using CSS rules in calibre. If need be, can use kindlegen on the intermediate output from calibre if you edit the opf slightly before running kindlegen.

      • Thanks for the tip! I’ve forward your comment to DH, and he may have some tips that could help you, too. (I’ll make sure I subtly nag him so he doesn’t forget to share *g*) Right now, he takes my basic, carefully formatted Word doc, imports it into Notepad++ and runs a few scripts to clean up the html. He has a template by now (after 5 books) and uses styles, and creates his own ToC. Then he does a manual clean, and makes sure all my formatting sticks etc., before converting to mobi via KindleGen and epub via Sigil. I check each file page by page before uploading to my various publishing sites.

        One thing I found with the last book is that because it included some Chinese phrases written in pinyin, the epub version would not allow many of the accents over various letters: the conversion stripped them and replaced with question marks. No probs at all with the mobi. Damn frustrating! Even when you’ve streamlined the process, there’s always something that’ll catch you out.

      • DH here 🙂

        I use the web editor Coda to get clean HTML from the garbage that Word creates when you save as HTML. The main advantage a web or advanced text editor gives you is the ability to do powerful search and replaces, including the use of wildcards. This can really save a lot of time and ensure that you get an entirely clean document. I also take my time to strip everything out so that there are no proprietary tags, just standard HTML. If there is a need for any styling, this goes into an external style sheet referenced from the clean document, e.g. for things like text indents, centering, etc.

        If this sounds a lot like web programming, well in some ways it is – hence the advantage of using a tool aimed at getting you a good clean web page. BTW, I’m not necessarily recommending Coda just for this job, I happen to be a web developer – so it’s my tool of choice. There are other powerful text editors out there that could do this as well, e.g. TextMate (commercial) or SubLimeText (freeware), plus heaps of others.

        Once the document is clean, you can then chop it up into separate pages for each chapter and you’re good to go for creating mobis (using kindlegen) or epubs (I use Sigil – not my favourite, but it does the job). It takes me about 2 hours to create a clean mobi and epub from a full length novel that started in Word. Then DW owes me a coffee!

        Regards, Rob

  8. Word totally needs to die, if for no other reason than being an accessory to the death of WordPerfect. I haz a grudge.

    My editor requires Word, and I get the marked-up file back. I prefer to work in OpenOffice. To generate a Word file I usually do something like this:
    -save OpenOffice file as an RTF file
    -import RTF into Word, save as Word.

    When the marked up file comes back, I open that file in one window and the OpenOffice original document in another, and make the suggested edits in the OpenOffice doc. OpenOffice has a much cleaner translation to HTML, so I’ve given up on going from Word to HTML and this process saves a lot of time.

    Plus, it justifies having two monitors on my desk … 😉

  9. I keep wishing that someone would make a Word-killer. Unfortunately, for how I write — and honestly, I don’t know how people are missing this stuff because most of the time I never touch all the stupid bells and whistles on Word — Word’s the one with the most potent Search and Replace capabilities.

    AbiWord seems pretty nifty, but it has the most gawdawful kerning in the Mac version. *sigh* Pages comes close, but isn’t quite potent enough for me to switch (especially in the face of Smashwords wanting Word).

    I think that the anti-Word people need to get off their duffs and actually compete. (Rather like the anti-Amazon sites need to stop whining and start making their own sites and searches more user-friendly.)

    (Addition to the “what are they thinking?” category: Blio.com, which has no “also bought” or even “more by this author” links, but does have a huge “New Hot Releases” banner across the bottom of every book page.)

  10. This conversation (which comes up again and again) is confused by a bunch of fundamentally mistaken notions about what the real problem is. From the point of view of a writer, there is no such thing as the Word format. There are an infinite number of Word formats because Word allows you an infinite variety of ways to achieve any one formatting effect. In addition, Word will allow you do things that can’t be represented in any ebook format. There will never be a perfect converter from Word to any other ebook format. This is not a hard technological problem. It is an impossibility. It is very much the wrong problem to try to solve.

    On the other hand, it is almost trivial to convert a predefined subset of Word’s features to a predefined alternate format. You can even make Word to all of the work, if you want. You will have to make sure that everyone in the workflow adheres to that strict subset of Word’s features. The most straightforward way to accomplish this is a custom template, a set of styles that implement all the features you want, and some VBA code that delivers the output in the target format(s).

  11. By the way, can anyone tell the difference between the bold formatting for “the Word format” and “an impossibility”? I achieved the same outcome with two different tags. There is no difference here, but there is no guarantee that those tags will be interpreted the same way on some other HTML display engine. My point is that Word isn’t the only one with this issue. And XML isn’t the answer either because it is even more flexible than Word is.

    • A screen-reader — especially an older one — might use different emphasis to distinguish between BOLD and STRONG tags. (For a long time, people were trying to have everyone use /strong and /emphasis instead of /b and /i… I don’t know if they gave up and changed the screen-readers instead.)

  12. William, your bolding didn’t show up for me at all. I’m using Google Chrome.

    I, too, find Word’s Search and Replace feature so powerful and useful that I haven’t been happy with any other writing tool I’ve tried. I think the one a person prefers depends on that person’s work style. Scrivener has some great tools for analysis, but I’m not a very analytical writer and I shudder at the thought of moving big chunks of text around, so those features of Scriv aren’t a big draw for me. I’m sticking with Word for now, in spite of a few drawbacks I’ve noticed.

    • I can’t imagine what kind of searches y’all are doing. I’ve never needed anything but the standard search and replace that comes with most of the writing apps I’ve used on the Mac. And I’ve done some fairly complicated replacements before.

      • Four things I search and replace:
        • italics/underline/etc. (the same file that had been prepped for print-submission, using underlines instead of italics… needed to have those underlines changed back to italics).
        • HTML mark-up (I post to a livejournal filter for my beta-readers and as “off-site backup”).
        • paragraph styles — change every paragraph containing Chapter to SWTitle, say.
        • invisible characters (non-breaking spaces, paragraph markers, etc.). Paragraph-markers are especially vital, as I may or may not have been double-spacing my paragraphs in the file, preparatory to that off-site backup posting.

        There are ways to make even more complex search-and-replaces (take everything between the HTML markup for italics, make it italic, and remove the HTML markup), but those are generally a bit too much even for me.

        • This is going to prove the addage of everyone’s workflows are different and there’s no one way or right way to do anything :)…

          I’ve only had to change italics/underline for someone else recently, but I used the convert italics/underline function in Scrivener. Never have needed that one before.

          HTML markup’s a cinch for me because I use .txt and Markdown for blog posts. And I’m now using only .txt with Markup for italics and bolding for my novels as well.

          Paragraph styles. Search by style? I only use two styles in a document, chapter titles and normal paragraph so I probably don’t understand.

          Invisible characters are easy on any find/replace if you use copy/paste to copy the invisible then paste it into the find. Not many people know that trick it seems. I discovered it by accident years ago.

          • 1: Scrivener is overpowered for the way I write. Distractingly so. And how about double-underline to single-underline? (Yup, did that…)

            2: I insert raw HTML as I write — nothing fancy, just {I}italics{/I}, {b}bold{/b}, {u}underline{/u}, {blockquote}blockquote{/blockquote}… That’s about it. For the journaling I’m using (Livejournal and Dreamwidth), that’s what works well.

            I am very good at inserting raw HTML of that nature. I often have to catch myself, in my plain-text emails, and change to *other* forms of /emphasis/.

            3: You don’t understand, nope. Also, it’s not that one has to do that often. It’s that when one has to do it… nothing less will do.

            4: Not all apps will copy/pasta invisible characters. Even the ones which will… don’t always copy/pasta all invisible characters. And, frankly, copy/pastaing invisible characters is a pain in the butt because if it comes out odd, you can’t see why. Changing ^p^p^p to ^p is much easier than changing


            If you see what I mean? Especially in a little one-or-two-lines-high entry box.

            I’ve got Word sufficiently beaten into submission that it kneels and calls me Queen. In that state (and it is a nuisance, which is why I hate upgrading and do it as rarely as possible), it does nearly everything I want, and does it better than anything else I’ve tried. It’s what Smashwords uses, and I can then tweak the file slightly for Amazon and upload that, just as easily. (In Amazon’s case, I go through an extra step to make sure that a Word-for-Mac bug doesn’t bite me again, but I’m still working off the same file initially.)

            So anything complaining about the evils of Word has me nodding along and going, “Okay, so make something better, then.” I’m not going to switch out of some vague moral guilt. Stuff’s gotta meet my needs, and I’ve been burned enough times by trying something new that turned out to be insufficiently powerful for my process.

        • The search in OpenOffice or LibreOffice can find most of those things, though I’m not sure whether it can automatically replace them. You can write macros (little programs) for more complex tasks – I wrote one that I use when doing critiques, which finds any text between square brackets and makes it blue. Word has macros too, though I think if you’re using them a lot, it’s perhaps a clue that you picked the wrong tool for the job.

      • I sometimes need to search on a style and change the text in it. Like say, if you have all your chapter headings in Heading 2 style, and you just numbered them, 1, 2, 3, etc. But Smashwords won’t pick them up unless they have Chapter on them. So you can do a search/replace in Word that searches on all H2 heading and inserts “Chapter” before each number.

        You can do the same thing in Open Office, but you have to add on the extension “Alt. Find/Replace” to do it (it can only replace one style with another, can’t change the text in the style). It is a little less user friendly, but usable to get the job done. But otherwise, Open Office’s search/replace is pretty powerful too. I have macros in both Word and Writer that do a lot of that work for me.

    • WORD on the Mac (2004?) would be fine if I could simply choose which features to turn on – and keep that to a small subset – and also have it make the executable file a lot smaller as a result of having stubs where the code I don’t want should go.
      I could live with that.
      Word does everything I tell it to do – but sometimes not without a fight.
      Anyone have an idea how to prune the unnecessary branches?

      • Abe, turn off all the auto-format, auto-correct crap (except for curly/smart quotes and bold/italic). Then set up style sheets and apply them to blank files before you compose or import text. That keeps the hidden codes to a manageable level.

        • Good to hear – because that’s what I do. I have styles for everything, and use a small set for all my rather simple formatting. I don’t currently even use bold, but I must have my italics. I don’t have a tab anywhere – and I know how to use wildcards and do the elaborate search and replace operations. I removed all the table of contents and index stuff I had in an earlier draft.
          It will be interesting to see how well it converts.
          Autocorrect and autoformat are evil – but can be managed. The only features I need are curly quotes (be careful – they may be inserted wrong around dashes), ellipses, and an m-dash. I find it irritating when it replaces hyphens with n-dashes (which I don’t use for anything), but I can do replaces to get rid of them in a final draft.
          Every other ‘helpful’ feature is off. When I turn the feature that lets you see paragraph marks and spaces, I don’t find formatting symbols I don’t expect.
          When I finish this novel, and do the first convert, that will be the fun part.

          • Go into the AutoCorrect details, and you may be able to turn off autocorrects you don’t want it doing. There are two places for this.

            In my case, part of my routine beating-into-submission involves taking all the smartquotes out of AutoCorrect, as I do not like the little buggers. (And one of the places I’ve written for required that one not use them, as it screwed up their Word-to-Quark transformations.) So I am well acquainted with that panel…

  13. I strongly dislike Word. Years ago, I had dozens of pages of a story EATEN FOREVER because of… I don’t even know why, honestly. I figure it must have been a file too big for Word to process anymore. Granted, this was at least 7 years ago, possibly longer, but I’ve been avoiding working with it as much as possible ever since.

    Right at the moment, I use the program called “RoughDraft” (the program published by Richard Salsbury for anyone wanting to search for the program) because it was the best freeware writing software I could find a few years ago. I also use Notepad constantly.

    I’ve downloaded LibreOffice and use that if I have to work with docs, but rarely use it.

    Looking to upgrade to Scrivener very soon. I’ve watched lots of videos of how it works and gone through the tutorial in one day. Still have 29 days of trial period left and I’m saving it for when I stop working on short stories and go back to working on my novel. From playing around with it/watching the videos, I’m excited about using it.

    • I wrote my first novel using RoughDraft, back before I moved to Macs in 2004, and have fond memories of it. First draft of that novel was 293,000 words, then the revision, so I spent a lot of time in that program.

      You’ll enjoy Scrivener. Most people do. Especially since you’re used to the tabbed writing in RoughDraft.

      I’ve moved on from Scrivener to the Daedalus app on the iPad for all my writing, but still there it’s somewhat similar to that setup of moving between multiple chapters all open on one window.

      • Yes – when I saw Scrivener did what I was used to with RoughDraft, only more so and more conveniently, it pretty well sold me on the program. xD I’m glad someone who has used both can confirm my thoughts on it. Thank you. :3

        Also, being a total creeper, I dropped by your blog and realized we’re in the same state. War Eagle, I’m afraid. 😉

    • I’ve had word eat more than a few doc files because of corrupted formatting. The nice thing about the old doc format was that even if you opened it in notepad all the text was still there, just with a lot of garbage characters thrown in. you could actually recover it.

      With docx? Not so much. It’s totally encrypted. And when your docx file gets corrupted… A friend of mine has had several of her stories chewed on now.

  14. Scrivener disappeared an entire novel of mine. I then disappeared Scrivener.

    • Horrifying. D: I thought losing a few chapters in Word was bad.

      Totally justifiable that you’d give up on it, but if you have any information on how that might have happened, I’d love to hear about it. I’m guessing you didn’t have it set up to do that automatic backup thing they were suggesting (by sending it to an external backup site like Dropbox)?

      My personal paranoia is so high I back up even story concepts I write down, but having written more than 10k in a sitting, if something ate my file before I backed it up somehow (I currently make back-ups after a sitting), I’d have lost my minimum wordcount for a week.

      • I have an external hard drive that runs constantly, backing up all my work, all day long, and store on my website at the end of every session. My potential losses are minimal at any given moment so it was not a big deal for me but it could have been devastating. I was just testing the program for the first time. Wiped it out as if it had never existed. Wiped it out on my hard drive, with malice aforethought.

        • Brr – thanks for the warning. I think I will make a folder for it in Dropbox after all. And *still* back it up via emailing it to a lurking email account.

    • I had it decide to wipe a chapter one time. It seems to store the text in two different files, so the ‘master’ file had nothing for that chapter but the .rtf file for the chapter was still there so I could open that in another editor and copy and paste the text back in.

      There’s a reason why I back everything up every night or every thousand words.

      • There’s a reason I am so paranoid that I have backup paper copies any time I’ve worked on something for an hour or so.
        To be fair, I use the paper copies extensive for editing, as I’ve never really learned to do real editing on screen (too old-fashioned, I guess).
        Super paranoid – backup copies everywhere, too. I can’t afford to lose a word I’ve written – it can take hours to get stuff right.

        • I often do “final” proofreading on paper while reading out loud. It seems to work best for me. I don’t think it has much to do with being old-fashioned so much as seeing the text in a different context. (I’ve also heard that it might help some people to print in a different font than they wrote in.)

    • I take it you weren’t using Scrivener’s automatic backup to function? Also, if you’re on the Mac platform you can right-click on the .scriv file and choose show package contents to get to all the individual rtf files that makeup the .scriv package, which may be a way to recover work if something did go wrong. I’m assuming you had a complete file corruption of the .scriv since deleted files just go in the project’s delete bin.

      In short, don’t know how long ago you lost this work but there were multiple recovery methods that might have worked, though strange things happen all the time.

      That’s why I keep redundant backups. No program is 100% safe. I have .txt backups of all my work because it’s universal.

  15. Excuse me, but WordPerfect isn’t dead. The current version is X5, it’s well supported by Corel, and plenty of people use it every day, including myself. (And if I need to send anyone a Word .doc file, I just use WordPerfect’s “save as” function, with absolutely no problem.)

    I watch other writers tie themselves into knots trying to get anything done with Word, and I just feel sorry for them. The answer is WordPerfect, it’s available now, it’s inexpensive — and Corel has released a template for creating MOBI e-books for the Amazon Kindle, which means you can go straight from your document to Kindle, all in the same program in which you wrote your book. I’ve just started experimenting with it, and it seems to work fine, in typical WordPerfect fashion.

    Granted, this only applies to PC users, as WordPerfect isn’t supported for Mac. As much as I like a lot of things about Mac stuff, that’s the reason I stick with the PC, so I can run the Maserati of word processors — WordPerfect.

  16. Being a most non-technical sort of person, it took me a while to catch on how different programs dislike each other and how to watch out for the translation errors. I use style sheets in Word to minimize introducing code, and have strip and flip down to a near science. I can now take novel sized files of almost any type and get them cleaned up, formatted and ready for Smashwords in about 30 minutes. Yes, I do concede that Word’s Search and Replace is a marvel.

    Now I’m learning the ins and outs of Scrivener, which is an amazing program. I’ve produced two pretty good looking mobi files with it. Getting the files set up correctly takes a while, but once they are in, producing all kinds of different files is a breeze. I, too, wish Smashwords didn’t require Word, otherwise I’d quit using it altogether and only use Scrivner.

    • I highly recommend running epub and mobi files generated by Scrivener through a Caliber conversion. ePub to ePub, mobi to mobi, epub to epub then to mobi (how I do it), because it will strip out a lot of excess and get the file size down. Since Amazon charges a delivery fee this can save a few pennies per sale.

  17. Kevin O. McLaughlin

    I so need to write a book on formatting. 😉 Right now I do paid formatting for writers who want that service. But honestly, the work is not that hard. I feel better about teaching others than I do about getting paid for formatting.

    My workflow, in a nutshell? I used to write in LibreOffice. The new OpenOffice. Imports doc perfectly, saves as odt, which is the format Jutoh was designed for.

    So I take a doc file from Word, or Scrivener, or whatever I am sent (rtf works fine too). I open the file in Libre. Save as odt. Open Jutoh. Use the file to format the book.

    On MY work, which I type in properly formatted (no tab keys, etc.), I get flawless first time conversions every time. On other peoples’ work, I often have to remove a lot of junk formatting they added. Still takes very little time unless I am doing a truly massive cleanup.

    I’m writing in Scrivener these days. The Scrivener exporter is awesome for epub and mobi, no issues at all. Not as much fine control as with Jutoh, so I still sort of prefer Jutoh for the ability to tweak things more accurately for better design.

    Not hard stuff though, guys. Takes me five minutes to convert one of my stories to mobi and epub.

    • I really haven’t had much trouble with my formatting because when I type, I don’t do that junk/bad formatting anymore. Tab key is evil! There are some refinements I’d really like to learn, though, and, Kevin, I’ve been waiting for a book like that!! I use Search and Replace for various things like cleaning up formatting problems introduced by the dictation software I sometimes use, and had loads of problems with the tool in Scrivener. It just wasn’t worth the extra headaches, so I only use Scriv for non-publishing related projects now. But I’m going to check out WordPerfect. I used to use it ages ago.

  18. I use Open Office Writer for most of my stuff. If you need a Word file for, say, Smashwords, the Save As function works perfectly in my experience. Not had a problem to date with that export for Smashwords.

    Also, Calibre can take an .odt file and use it to create ebooks. It does a decent job on the epub file (from which I then create the mobi file). The only big problem is that it doesn’t deal with graphics in the file well. Either makes them too big (maybe reverting to the original file size instead of the reduced one in Writer) or centered graphics will get moved around into strange positions. In those cases, I use a Write extension called odt2epub that does a pretty good job of creating an epub book from an odt file. Then import that into Calibre to to create the mobi file.

    But sometimes even that introduces glitches, in which case I save as an html file and import into Calibre to create the ebooks. The only thing there is you have to sometimes edit the paragraph styles in the resulting html file to remove “page-break: always” from any paragraph styles that should not have them. First time I used it it created a page break on every paragraph in the whole book, and it took me a while to figure out what the offending reason was. But once you remove that problem, it has always created good epubs and mobis from Calibre.

  19. Here’s what I would love. (And it’s already out there in pieces, but I haven’t found the right one for me yet.)

    I like to work in plain text only, so I would love a robust text editor. Not one that does fancier formats (like RTF) but one that does have plugins for specialized uses to help convert text to whatever format you like. (For instance converting from one encoding to another.)

    There are some features I’d like from Word and other high end word processors:

    *I like the robust search and replace.
    *I like the way it displays paragraph markers and tab characters and spaces in a non-intrusive, but very clear way.

    I would like to enhance that markup display so that I can show or not show things like encoding of special characters. There’s nothing I hate worse than getting some text with special characters from someone, and it either opens with the wrong encoding (and I have to play “what is it?”) or it will do weird things as I try to put together text from two docs which have different encodings.

    One thing I like in TextEdit (which is my favorite “word processor” to work in) is that even though the text is plain text, I can choose how it displays the type — size, font, attributes — without embedding that into the text.

    What I hate is that I can’t do the same thing for paragraphs. I would love it if there was some way to see quickly when a new paragraph starts, without needing to actually insert some kind of markup into the text.

    If I had those things, I would never need any other word processor. I would only need conversion/formatting software.

  20. I would be perfectly happy if Scrivener for Windows had some kind of escape codes for invisibles that you could use in SnR, similar to Word’s ^p, ^t, ^n, et al. What’s there now is klunky and hard to use from my perspective.

    A tip to get rid of all the formatting junk from Word files: save out as RTF. Use the RTF file in Calibre, or whatever you use, not the .doc file.


  21. I have been having great success with TextWrangler on my Mac. It is by Bare Bones Software, and it is free. But I would have no hesitation to send them a donation. It is great. Very powerful, including Linux-like regular expressions and “grep-like” search/replace for advanced users. It really could be used for any kind of programming language or just as a non-buggy, no-extra-crap-inserted word processor. After exporting from Scrivener, TextWrangler makes quick work of things. Not sure about track changes, but it has document comparison ability which I use in place of making authors track their changes. And it really is great for cleaning up the junk that Word leaves behind if you get stuck with starting from a .doc. (Even if everybody stops using Word tomorrow, there will still be all those Word-based backlists out there…)

    And it is free. If you have a Mac, you should really consider trying it. I cannot recommend it strongly enough. These are the same folks who brought us the famous BBedit, and this is a similarly high-quality tool.

    • If anyone wants complex find/replace go to something programmers use like BBEdit or its little brother TextWrangler (great program).

      • Our lead web design instructor uses TextWrangler. I didn’t like the interface for writing in, but I haven’t given it a real try. (And frankly, I don’t mind using more than one text editor.)

        And I haven’t used BBedit in many years. I should check out what it looks like now….

  22. Word-slam discussions always make me feel either like a dunce in the corner or the smartest gal in the room. Word works fine for me! I don’t have issues with it creating janky coding in my ebook files (although let’s be clear, I let Smashwords grind it for everything but .mobi which I do myself), because I carefully control what I allow it do encode in any document I create with it. I have never run into anything I needed to do that Word did not accomplish with ease, nor has it given me problems that made me seek a new tool.

    But I cut my computer teeth on Word 93 in elementary school computer lab and have used it almost exclusively as a word-processing tool for, good lord, close to 20 years now? Is that possible? (I feel so ooooold now!) The one dedicated writing program I’ve considered (am still considering I guess) is Scrivener, not because I have any interest in its conversion abilities but because I like the idea of being able to hold my research/outline/scene sketch/character notes on part of my screen and my working prose on another.

    Carry on bashing.

    • Lily, Word was great when everybody was generating paper copies. It formatted, very easily and niftily, beautiful manuscripts and letters. It was perfect when I used my word processor just like a typewriter. If the files I receive these days are any indication, many writers continue to use Word like a typewriter. I didn’t start hating it until I started accepting efiles for editing and started generating ebooks. Then all those same nifty features that made such nice hard copies became the bane of my existence.

      You’ll love Scrivener. Gone now are my Post-its, paper scraps, photos clipped from magazines, hand drawn maps, and notebooks. Even the trusty old whiteboard is getting dusty. One warning, do not use Scrivener’s novel template. The developers seem to think fiction writers still submit paper manuscripts using Courier font. Ick.

    • And that REALLY is the key, Lilly.

      Speaking as someone who’s done his own formatting, and also done it for hire, how you write the original document makes a ton of difference. If you set things up right to begin with, write in a manner which converts well, and are careful to keep in mind your intended product format, it’s really not hard to convert to ebook formats.

      Like I said, takes me maybe five minutes for my own stuff.

      Has sometimes taken hours for other peoples’ stuff.

      The difference is I wrote the book from the first word on pre-formatted for conversion. I don’t have to tweak a think, even on my first drafts, for them to convert well. Learn your conversion software, avoid things that give it fits, and you should be golden.

    • I used Word on our toaster Mac. With 256K RAM. Probably around… 22 years now? Give or take a year.

      I am very experienced in bending it to my will.

  23. Another vote for scrivener! Love it.

  24. Another problem I have with Scrivener is it doesn’t paginate, and I do POD editions of my books. I need pagination. I can’t afford InDesign, so I’ve been using Word to typeset for POD. Yeah, it can be done. But it would probably look a little more professional in InDesign. Anyway. As I said before, I think this all depends so much on each person’s preferred work style. And, like Lily, I haven’t had too much trouble with Word–but I’m not doing conversions for other people. I have seen some deeply messed up manuscripts done by people who use Word like a typewriter, which it most emphatically is not.

  25. I finally figured out how to communicate what I want in a text editor: I want it to let me customize the display exactly like an e-reader does. I want to set the font size and indents and justification… without putting that in the text. You know, just for my viewing comfort.

    All the text editors I have found will let me do it for font size, but none will let me do it for text block spacing or indents.

    You may not need it when you are coding, but you definitely need it when you are writing or editing fiction.

  26. Nathan Whitehead

    Another way to go is to write in Markdown, which is pretty close to looking like plain text. Then from Markdown you can convert to multiple output formats. leanpub.com is a site promoting this for self-publishing. Read their faq to see more, they talk about how they are betting their company on Markdown being better than Word for writing.

  27. If you’re using Word and want to turn it into an ebook, surely the easiest thing to do is save the Word doc as a html file, and then convert the html into epub/mobi/whatever? I do this all the time.

    Alternatively there’s the Atlantis program, which functions almost exactly like Word (it’s even looks pretty similar) but you can save the file as an epub or rtf file, and it saves all the formatting for you without any problems.

    • Word is AWFUL for making HTML files. It puts in SO MUCH cruft and bloat… Converting via Calibre may strip it out, or may not; I don’t know. You’d be better off switching to Rich Text Format and converting that to epub/mobi/whatever in Calibre, probably.

  28. I have a Word Macro that does some formatting, including converting italics, bold, and some other formatting to html equivalents. The only item that would be helpful is surrounding heading styles with the HTML equivalent. But that could be added in easily enough.

    If interested in getting it, contact me (rlcopple at gmail dot com). The file is on my author’s web site, but I don’t want to post it here and make PG uneasy. But after running the html conversion, it would be simply to save it as a plain text file from Word and you’d have the body of your html document.

    Also, one of the most viewed post on my own blog is my post on how to set up Open Office Writer for novel writing that will mimic many functions of novel writing programs (mainly, moving and automatically renumbering chapters and scenes). I also use Treeline for keeping a database of notes. Usually have it open while writing so it is easy to switch to it if I need to recall a bit of data. I do my plotting and character/world building in it. But here’s the link to the blog post:


  29. ¡Muera Word! I’d go back to WP in a heartbeat.

    I have to say, your “move this to this and that to that” scenarios scare the spit outta me. I’m on the verge of creating some content for direct-to-reader delivery and I don’t know the first thing about it. Why can’t Word make it so the conversions are easier? Or, better still, build an app into Office that does the conversions into the format of the owner’s choice?

    I hate every single “improvement” they’ve made to Word over the years. Not one made it more user friendly. I must use 2007 at my day job, and it drives me buggy.

  30. The one thing that WORD does that I haven’t seen elsewhere is a decent outline tool. If you are writing something big, especially non-fiction or technical material, you need an outline. Does Scrivener compete here? Outlining is certainly missing from OpenOffice.

    Give me an outliner and I’ll leave WORD in a heartbeat(Thanks, ribbon!)

    • Steven, I don’t know how you outline, but for the way I outline, Scrivener is brilliant. It allows me to see all my notes while I’m working and rearranging text is easy. I write fiction, so I can’t attest to how it is for creating non-fiction outlines. My methodology involves detailed synopses, copious notes, lists, rearranging scenes and keeping track of research materials.

      I suggest trying the free trial and going through the tutorial. It took me a while to get it through my head, Hey, this thing operates they way I think. Once I figured that out, it’s been a marvel in keeping me organized and on track.

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