How to Make Word Behave Like Scrivener

2775952906_5ba8ce091f_mby C. K. MacLeod


There's been much to-do about Scrivener lately. And for good reason. Scrivener appears to be able to solve some problems that traditional word processing software hasn't been able to adequately address.

One of Scrivener's strengths, its Binder feature, allows writers to manage and keep track of sections of a book-length work rather easily.

ScrivenerBinderWhat many writers don't know is that Microsoft Word 2010 has a similar feature: the Navigation Pane.

Word's Nav Pane isn't ready-to-use when you first open Word, but a few simple tweaks can get it working for you:

Quick Steps

  1. Open Word. Sketch out your book outline by listing chapter titles, scenes, plot points, or story beats.
  2. Using Word's Style menu, apply a heading style to each item in your outline.

Word 2010 Styles menu3. Open the Navigation Pane in Word by using the keyboard shortcut CTRL + F and clicking on the left tab in the Nav Pane. This is Word's answer to Scrivener's Binder.

WordNavigationpane4. Click on entries in the Nav Pane to navigate the document, and when you're feeling wild and crazy, move them around. Moving entries in the Nav Pane results in moving sections around in your running document.

In sum, by setting up the Nav Pane, you've essentially set up Word to behave like Scrivener’s Binder.

There are ways to tweak Word so that it serves you better. Learning how to use the Navigation Pane will make book-length works easier to manage.

For further discussion on setting up Word's Nav Pane, read more at the Beyond Paper blog.

8 thoughts on “How to Make Word Behave Like Scrivener”

  1. I loved this - it never occurred to me to use the pane like this - I use it for normal stuff such as TOC and to check my chapter headings are all neatly styled so they're recognized and embedded. Thank you!

  2. I find the Navigation Pane invaluable in my writing. I have it set up with four top-level headings (i.e. 'Heading 1' style), namely Act 1, Act 2, Act 3 and Unplaced Scenes. Each scene is then given a 'Heading 2' title, which can easily be removed, or replaced with Chapter headings, when the book's finished.
    One big advantage with Word over Scrivener is that a Word document is a single file, rather than the plethora of files generated by Scrivener which cause havoc with synchronization services such as DropBox. I also find Word more usable on a tablet than Scrivener.

    1. Hi Matt.
      Thanks for your comments—and for sharing how you use the Navigation Pane to organize your writing. If you can figure out how to use the Nav Pane, you will have imitated one of Scrivener's most popular features—the Binder. Word is also a great tool for self-editing, particularly if you know how to use revision macros.

  3. Hey, thank you for this article, it was quite helpful.

    However, I still have an issue with the lack of the "Binder" feature of Scrivener on Microsoft Word. The reason is: sometimes I want to have separated documents, in a way that I wouldn't mix a draft or some note with the main text.

    I writing my master mémoire, and I want to keep some files, informations and notes in the mais file, but, not in the main text.

    I still haven't found a way to do that... I don't feel completely comfortable with Scrivener's interface and Pages won't fulfill all I my needs. 🙁

    1. Christiano,
      Word and Scrivener are different in one major way: Word stores your writing in one file, and Scrivener stores your writing as a collection of files that are bundled together as a project.

      Because Scrivener is a collection of files, it will allow you to store research and notes alongside chapters in your manuscript. You're also able to keep several drafts of a chapter in one project file as well. But you're right. Learning how to use Scrivener can be a bit intimidating at first.

      Those who write in Word tend to use Evernote to store research. Evernote is free and easy to use, and I've written an article that will get you started in 5 minutes. Granted, you may need to have Evernote open while you're writing in Word, but that's not a deal breaker. In fact, Evernote is a great research tool: it has mobile apps, so you can dictate or write research notes while you're on the go. Many writers who use Scrivener use Evernote, too.

      Word doesn't have anything that resembles Scrivener's right-pane Notes feature (that I know of), but you could use the Comments feature in Word to make notes to yourself in the margins. You could also try the Sticky Notes add-in for Word. I haven't tried it, but it might be worth investigating if it's available in your region.

      As for storing drafts of a chapter, the best way to do that is to save the entire word file with a new name (MyMemoir1, MyMemoir2), each time that you rewrite a chapter. You can use the Compare Documents feature in Word if you ever need to compare versions of your manuscript.

      I hope this helps. And best of luck on your memoir!

  4. In addition to Word's wonderful Navigation Pane, the Outline View (on the View tab) provides a great way to get started on a project. It automatically uses the Heading Styles as you enter and tab your headings and sub-headings. You can move things around, etc.

    I personally don't want to work in one massive Word document, so once I've got my first draft of a manuscript I move everything into Scrivener for the ease of working in smaller components while still seeing everything in the Binder.

    1. You're quite right, Sheila! Thanks for sharing this tip. Word is wide and deep, and there are lots of ways to do the same thing.

      Like you, I use Scrivener to write a book. I do things a different order, though. I begin in Scrivener, and after I've completed my first draft, I export my book to Word. If you're curious as to why, I explain my process in 3 Essential Tools for Publishing.

      Happy writing!

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