Harlowe Story Format for Twine

The Harlowe story format for Twine provides a number of built-in features to make it easier to enhance your stories.

The Harlowe story format for Twine provides a number of built-in features to make it easier to enhance your stories, even if you have no experience with HTML, CSS, or Javascript. The toolbar makes these features easier to access, providing simple ways to format text, set conditional states, or manage variables. However, Harlowe has so many options that it has its own learning curve. I’m still learning about what’s possible with Harlowe myself, so I’m documenting what I have figured out so far.

I’m using version 3.2.1, the current default format for Twine 2. Consult the full documentation for Harlowe for much more detail than I will cover in this post. I find the official documentation assumes some prior experience and background, rather than being a step-by-step guide.

Harlowe Toolbar

The Harlowe toolbar gives you access to a number of features without having to know how to code them.

Screenshot of the Harlowe toolbar
Harlowe toolbar

In past versions of Harlowe (and current versions with other story formats), a passage appears with a title, tag, and space for the passage text.

Older version of Harlowe with no toolbar
Older version of Harlowe with no toolbar

Formatting text

Formatting text with bold, italics, and strikethrough styles works like other text editing programs. You don’t have to remember the markup language, but it will appear that way in the passage.

If you want to change the overall look and feel of the whole story, it’s a little more complicated than just formatting a short passage of text. For example, the default styling for Harlowe is a black background with white text. I don’t personally like this, plus I think the blue links are hard to read. (WebAIM’s color contrast checker puts it at 4.33:1, so it fails for normal size text.)

Screenshot of a branching scenario with a black background, white text, and blue links.

I’d rather have a white background with black text so the links are more readable.

  1. Create a new passage. This passage doesn’t need to connect to any other passages.
  2. Add the title “Style” or something easy to identify.
  3. Select the Text and background color button on the toolbar.
  4. Change the text color and background. I used the default black for the text and a slightly off white for the background.
  5. Set the Affect to “The entire page.” This is what makes the change format the whole page instead of just a passage.
  6. Select Add.
  7. Remove the placeholder passage text if needed.
  8. Add the tag “header” to the passage. This tag adds the style to every passage in the story automatically. (Note: tags are case sensitive. “Header” is not the same as “header.”)

Text and background color options

Screenshot of the style passage in Twine with generated formatting code.

Screenshot of the passage with new formatting (black text and blue links with a white background)

Could you accomplish the same thing without using the toolbar? Yes! You could enter the same “enchant” code shown below to make these adjustments. However, if you aren’t used to using Twine, this format may be hard to remember. That’s what Harlowe tries to accomplish; making it easier to generate these codes without consulting the documentation each time.


More in Harlowe

The Harlowe toolbar also gives you access to features like advanced links, variables, and macros. These are more complex, but I plan to write more about these options in future posts.

Read more about Twine

9 thoughts on “Harlowe Story Format for Twine

  1. Hey so, here is my thing. Can you please tell me how to open the Harlowe tool bar in 2.4.1 is theres a keyboard shortcut to it. Im tryna look for it but it doesn’t show up. There used to be a arrow that opened the toolbar but since the enw update, idk how to turn the harlow passage toolbar.

    1. Harlowe 2.4 was a significant change to the interface. Not everyone is happy with it, and I expect some more tweaks in the next few versions.

      In the new format, in the top menu, select Twine > Story Formats. Can you verify which version of Harlowe you are using? It should be Harlowe 3.3.1. If not, that’s probably the issue.

      Personally, in the new layout, the passage opens on the right with the toolbar immediately available. I don’t have an arrow, but all the tools are visible by default.

  2. I have Twine 2.3.14 and Harlowe 3.2.2 but I don’t have the toolbar. Can’t find anything about it online. Do you know if I can fix it somehow?

    1. Two things you can check:

      1. On the main page of your Twine application, select Formats. Check if Harlowe 3.2.2 is the default story format or not.

      2. Open your story. Select Change Story Format. If you originally created it in an older version of Harlowe or a different format, that’s probably still in use. Change it to Harlowe 3.2.2.

      If neither of those work, let me know and I’ll see if I can figure out something else to test. Fingers crossed!

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