Formatting the Editor, Part I

Wow. Almost two and a half months of radio silence. Suffice it to say, I’ve been busy. During these last few days, when I reviewed all the formatting options, I saw there’s a great deal to cover so to make this easier to understand, I’ve broken this down into two parts. For today, Part I covers customization of the Editor’s screen, changing fonts from the format bar, and creating/adjusting/removing tab stops and indents.

First, if the stark white background of the Editor seems too bright  go to Preferences->Appearance->Customizable Colors (for Windows, go to Tools->Options). In the first pane on the left, select Editor. In the next pane to the right, select Text Background. In the next pane at the extreme right, click the Text Background to activate. The color wheel will open and from there, choose the color you like best. I like an ecru color, which is easier on my eyes.

Customize Editor Appearance

Customize Editor Appearance

If you want to change the font, size and spacing, the most obvious way is to go to the format bar and make your changes there via the drop down menus, but you can also go to Format->Fonts->Select Font. A window with the fonts will open and you can make your selection. 

Not happy with the tab stops and indent settings? You can readjust your indents and tab stops by clicking on the ruler of where you want to set them. If the ruler is hidden, go to Format->Show Ruler. A note about tab stops you’ll notice that Scrivener offers four different tab stops, each one is represented by a different icon :

Tabs and indent icons

Tabs and indent icons

Left: Standard tab most used. The text is left-aligned at that tab stop.

Center: The center tab center-aligns the text at that tab stop.

Right: Text is right-aligned, with the right edge of the text at the text tab.

Decimal: This is typically used to align rows of numbers. The decimal tab aligns the text with the decimal point at the tab stop. Text before the decimal point is right-aligned; after the decimal is left aligned.

To add a tab stop, you can do the following:

  • For the left tab, click on the desired spot in the ruler and drag it up into the gray space above that spot.
  • For the different types of tabs, Control-click (for Windows right-click) in the ruler and select the tab type from the contextual menu.

To remove a tab stop, drag it off the ruler until the icon disappears. Or you can go to Format->Text->Remove all Tab Stops. To move the tab stop, drag and drop it to its new location.

Scrivener offers three indent controls, which shouldn’t be confused with margin controls (something the ruler in Scrivener does not address).

Left: The left indent specifies how far away towards the right the text is from the left margin.

Right: The right indent indicates how far away to the left is the text from the right margin.

First line: The first line indent is where the first line of a paragraphs starts. If you rather work with blocked paragraphs, place the first line indent marker at the left margin.

Hanging indent: To create a hanging indent, where the first line is further left than the rest of the paragraph, you inverse which marker comes first.

And now before I forget…Starting April 7th, I’ll be teaching a six week online course for those new to Scrivener (that’s why I’ve been so busy). The course is hosted via the Colorado Romance Writers, a chapter of the Romance Writers of America. Scroll down to April and you’ll see the class. To sign up for the class, go to

Next time: Changing the default document format and presets.



  10 comments for “Formatting the Editor, Part I

  1. Seasherm
    March 11, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    Rebecca, the link didn’t work for me, but did take me to the writers page and I was able to find your workshop. Might want to check. I don’t think I’ll sign up for this one as I’ve been using Scrivener for a couple of years, but I do appreciate the detail you go into with your blog posts.

  2. March 11, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    Seasherm  Thanks for stopping by and for the heads up on the link (I should have checked it!). I’ll be teaching and intermediate class in the summer and also an advanced class in the fall. Let me know if there’s anything you want me to cover and I’ll add to my ed cal.

  3. TheFebeMoss
    June 2, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    I’ve got a project, a novel, that has the wrong first line indents. I could go through line by line and deleting the extra indent but there’s gotta be a better way. I’ve tried your suggestions here but still didn’t work. any other tips?

  4. June 3, 2014 at 9:39 am

    TheFebeMoss Try this and see if it works go to Preferences->Formatting. In the editor box, slide the indent marker between 0 and 1. Then click “Use formatting in current editor.”  This automatically indents paragraphs when you hit the return key.  If that doesn’t work, try Format->Text then “Increase/Decrease Indents” followed by “Indent First Line.”

  5. TheFebeMoss
    June 8, 2014 at 11:53 pm

    RebecaSchiller TheFebeMoss Thanks for your reply. 
    Where is the preferences located? 
    When I go to format, the text option does not have an increase/decrease indents option or a indent first line option 🙁

  6. June 9, 2014 at 5:45 am

    TheFebeMoss RebecaSchiller which version are you using Windows or Mac?

  7. TheFebeMoss
    June 9, 2014 at 10:11 am

    RebecaSchiller TheFebeMoss I’m using windows.

  8. JossLandry
    December 6, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    NOWHERE can I find HOW to change the TOP margin with my Mac. The text starts too far down and each time I compile into ebook I have to use Sigil to bring up the text, which is a nuisance. How do I do this?
    Thank you

  9. December 6, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    JossLandry Do you mean in the Editor? You’ll have to go to Preferences->Editor. In the center pane, you’ll see Wrap to editor Mode and below the margin setting. You’ll have to fiddle with it because it’s in pixels.

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