Import PDF, Compile mobi

si
silverquill
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Sun Nov 11, 2012 1:45 pm Post

After so many rave recommendations, I bought Scrivener windows. I read the manual, watched the tutorials, read lots of tips. It simply won't work. I can't import PDF files despite claims to the contrary. Well, they go into the research area, but not into the draft area where they need to be to work on them so what good is that? This borders on misleading advertising. Bust.

I've also tried to compile Scrivener files into .mobi format but have been unable to do so. Another hidden fact is that one must download an external program for this feature to work. So, I downloaded and extracted kindlegen, followed the dialog boxes to point Scrivener to its location, but still just get the prompt to download the program. Repeated many time. Bust.

I made one attempt to compile to epub and that didn't work either.

These were the two feature that attracted me most - the ability to import my pdf projects so that I could work on them, and the ability to end up with .mobi formatted files fit for publication.

To top it off, after paying my money, I still get the nag screen for the trial version which I have to click off every time. (Yes, I got confirmation that it was properly registered on this machine, running Windows 7.)

br
brookter
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Sun Nov 11, 2012 3:08 pm Post

PDF files are meant to be imported into the Research folder, not the Draft folder, because you will not be compiling them into the final document. But of course that doesn't normally stop you working on them at all and people do so all the time.

What problems are you finding exactly?

si
silverquill
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Sun Nov 11, 2012 10:39 pm Post

Okay, I get it about PDF documents. It's just one of those misleading things that gets put into the hype about Scrivener. "Imports PDF!" Well, sort of. Sure, it shows up in the research folder, but all one can do is look at it. Nothing has changed. It is just the same as having it in another folder, except that it is more convenient and linked to a specific project now.

My problem is that I have material in PDF that I do need to incorporate into a book, and Scrivener is of no help with that. I've tried using third-party conversion tools and then importing, but the results have been poor.

The issue I do have which appears to be a true Scrivener problem is the inability to compile into .mobi format. After downloading kindlegen and following the dialog to point Scrivener to its location, I click "compile" and the same prompt pops up to download kindlegen. I'm at a total impasse on that one.

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temporalranger
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Sun Nov 11, 2012 11:21 pm Post

I don't think you can really say that Scrivener is being misleading about it's features or "hiding" complications - they have a 30-day, free, fully-featured trial that you can download, try and see exactly what you're getting before you consider whether you want to put down money or not. Plus, the need to download kindlegen is mentioned in a footnote on the Windows features page... and it's a free download.

Scrivener has hundreds, if not thousands, of features... of course their blurb doesn't go into full detail about each! No one would read it. Does that mean they're hiding them? No, because you have the opportunity to look and see exactly how each feature works, what it does, and what it's limitations are, before purchase. That's pretty transparent.

On the .pdf issue:

.pdfs were originally created to be secure and uneditable after creation. That was their ~thing~, if you will. This is why most third party software make a right dog's breakfast out of converting them. They're an end game format, not an mid-game format. That said, your best bet to convert them is probably to download the also free, also 30-day trial of Acrobat Pro from Adobe, rather than trying to use third party software. Your results will probably be a lot cleaner. It also helps to use ctrl+shift+v when copy-pasting into Scrivener - this will strip off the extraneous, often messy formatting and match it to the style you have set in the editor.

On the kindle .mobi issue:

Have you tried uninstalling and reinstalling kindlegen? It's easy to make a slip of the finger. If that doesn't work, try posting with more information - system, any other relevant details that would allow someone in dev to recreate the issue - if they can't recreate it, they can't figure out what's wrong. ;) They're usually very good, and very fast, at providing bug fixes and work arounds.

In the meantime, as a workaround, you could always compile to .epub, then use Calibre, also free, to convert to .mobi.

Whether you create the .mobi in Scrivener or Calibre, you're probably going to want to tweak it and edit it using Sigil - as the Scrivener write-up makes clear, Scrivener is more about getting you to the final draft stage then the final fiddly formatting. You're almost always going to want to open it in another program for the finishing touches.

gl
glaedr
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Fri Nov 16, 2012 2:08 am Post

I've never tried to import a PDF so I can't really comment on that part but I'm having problems with Mobi files as well. I wasn't sure it had installed properly even after several attempts because I get this very unspecific error message when trying to compile. :

"The following error occurred whilst compiling the Kindle book

..."

I read that Kindle Previewer comes with it included, so I installed that too to see if it would work. And on its own it does convert ePubs to Mobis. But as I said in another thread, I'm having to work in Safe Mode right now, and Kindle Previewer is one of the things that will not load in Safe Mode. The above error message however, was one I was getting before I had to start load in Safe Mode. It's rather irritating as I like to preview and test my Mobi files on the eReader on my phone to see what they look like on another platform, and my phone will not load ePub files. I didn't have this problem with the Linux version of Scrivener. I'm using Vista, if that's any help to anybody. I think it's running SP2.

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MimeticMouton
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Fri Nov 16, 2012 9:14 am Post

silverquill wrote:The issue I do have which appears to be a true Scrivener problem is the inability to compile into .mobi format. After downloading kindlegen and following the dialog to point Scrivener to its location, I click "compile" and the same prompt pops up to download kindlegen. I'm at a total impasse on that one.

Are you using the NaNoWriMo trial or the 1.5.0.5 beta? You mentioned also not being able to get rid of the trial message even after registering, which would happen if you'd tried to register either of these versions, as they use a set expiration date rather than the standard 30 days or use. There does appear to be a bug compiling to .mobi with these versions which is not in the current 1.2.5 release. So I'd recommend uninstalling your current version and then downloading afresh from here. Uninstalling will not affect your existing projects, which are saved externally to the program (in your Documents folder by default, though you may have chosen another location when creating the project).

silverquill wrote:I've also tried to compile Scrivener files into .mobi format but have been unable to do so. Another hidden fact is that one must download an external program for this feature to work.

As mentioned, this is stated on the website. Amazon has their own legal conditions for downloading and installing kindlegen which users must agree to, so we cannot package it with Scrivener's installer.

silverquill wrote:Okay, I get it about PDF documents. It's just one of those misleading things that gets put into the hype about Scrivener. "Imports PDF!" Well, sort of. Sure, it shows up in the research folder, but all one can do is look at it. Nothing has changed. It is just the same as having it in another folder, except that it is more convenient and linked to a specific project now.

I'm sorry you feel misled by whatever you read or heard about Scrivener, but as others have pointed out, we do offer a free 30-days-of-use trial so that you can try out every aspect of the program before deciding whether to purchase. Nor do I believe our site gives the wrong impression about the PDF import, which is mentioned in the section on keeping research conveniently accessible:
No more switching between multiple applications to refer to research files: keep all of your background material—images, PDF files, movies, web pages, sound files—right inside Scrivener. And unlike other programs that only let you view one document at a time, in Scrivener you can split the editor to view research in one pane while composing your text right alongside it in another. Transcribe an interview or conversation, make notes on an image or article, or just refer back to another chapter, all without leaving the document you’re working on.


It sounds like what you're looking for is a conversion tool, and that's beyond Scrivener's scope, at least for the time being. For the most part this process is rarely going to end up with a completely clean output, let alone intact formatting from the original. You mentioned already trying some other tools for this without success, but I hope temporalranger's suggestion helps you out.

temporalranger wrote:In the meantime, as a workaround, you could always compile to .epub, then use Calibre, also free, to convert to .mobi.

Better would be to download Amazon's Kindle Previewer and open the .epub in that, which will convert to .mobi using the most up to date kindlegen. As far as I know, converting to .mobi from Calibre won't include the KF8 format, which is what you'll want moving forward. That said, switching to version 1.2.5 of Scrivener should address the current problem of being unable to compile to .mobi directly from Scrivener.

glaedr wrote:I get this very unspecific error message when trying to compile. :

"The following error occurred whilst compiling the Kindle book

..."

This sounds like a separate error from the one silverquill is experiencing, where Scrivener cannot find kindlegen (which error message is helpfully entitled "KindleGen Not Found" ;)). If you're able to compile an epub from the project with the same settings, then this is specifically a kindlegen conversion problem, e.g. it doesn't like certain characters used. Converting the .epub to .mobi in Kindle Previewer will give you the opportunity to easily access the conversion logs, so you may be able to see better there what's going on specifically; I need to see if we can make those accessible from within Scrivener, since yes, this sort of error message is particularly unhelpful.

Have you tried just using the command line to convert the epub file with kindlegen, skipping Previewer? That will also give you the logs, so you may be able to see what's happening.
Jennifer Hughes
(MM for short)

gl
glaedr
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Fri Nov 16, 2012 4:56 pm Post

I haven't tried the command line yet, but I'll give it a go next time I need to compile. I don't think I've used any unusual characters. In fact I don't think I've even used any numbers. But I'll have a look through what I have so far to double check that something hasn't appeared somewhere accidentally.