A Simple "Notebook"

Scrivener is such a great program, and, like everyone else, I have that one suggestion that would make the program absolutely perfect for me.

When working on a project, say a screenplay, I keep a “notebook” where I jot down quick ideas: some dialog, scene ideas, possible themes, etc.

The current notetaking programs overcomplicate what I want. I don’t want titles for each entry, and it should all be on one page, so it can be easily scrolled through. The ideas can be separated by a simple solid line between them.

Functionally, what would make this different than just one long file is the ability to recognize they are separate notes, and be able to tag them with categories: dialog, scene ideas and so on. One could then select to see only dialog ideas if they want. Another great feature would be a checkbox, so you can keep track of which ideas have made it into the project and those that are still unused.

Currently, you could accomplish something close to this with a separate file for each idea, labels and Edit Scrivenings, but the effort and space makes it more complicated. It would seem there is an easy way to program a special “notebook” file that does the pared down version of functions already used in the program. This would also be easier than doing a full integration with a program like Evernote.

Anyway, thanks for listening to the suggestion. Scrivener works so well and with this addition I could do everything I need within one program.

What part of the current process would you describe as having too much effort and bulk? Something that might help you out a bit are these three tricks:

  • Option-clicking on the folder that contains the notes will automatically create an Edit Scrivenings session with all of the enclosed notes
  • Pressing Cmd-N while typing in an Edit Scrivenings session will insert a new document after the current one you are typing in, without asking for a title, so you can start typing out the idea immediately.
  • Opt-Shift-Cmd-D inserts the current time and date. Useful for non-title titles. At least that way you don’t have a zillion “Untitled” entries.

For me anyway, the first two options make Scrivener act like you are simply adding dividers to a document. In fact even easier than that, since most programs with dividers do not have a shortcut key for doing so. You have to muck about in the Edit/Insert/Special/Dividers… or wherever they’ve stashed it. Plus you get meta-data for each section you divide off, if you need it.

For Used and Not Used, just use labels. Create two labels, say Red and Green, and use them for your notes. It doesn’t matter if you use labels for something else in the Draft. Having several different purposes for labels doesn’t mess up Scrivener, it doesn’t care what you use them for.

Hi Amber. What you wrote does come very close to what I was seeking (and thanks for taking the time to answer) but I still think it could be improved by a special “notebook” file.

With the current version, I will be creating hundreds, maybe over a thousand, separate files. I think this does add to the bulk of file size and slows down the program. When I type a command-N the page disappears for a moment while a “loading text” message appears. Also, when I close the Binder and type command-N it automatically reopens the binder and expands the folder, revealing a page full of “Untitled.” These could be considered small distractions, but part of what I’m loving about Scrivener is the visual feel of it.

I’m new to the program, so I’m asuming there is a way to select only certain labels and statuses for using the Edit Scrivenings mode, but I haven’t found it yet.

Less then you might think, all things considered, but I think you would perhaps want to analyse whether or not you need “thousands” of ideas in a single page. I would, for my own uses anyway, split things up into categories if the number was that big. I could have a folder called “Characters” and inside that folders for each character.

The nice thing about hierarchy in Scrivener is that you can use Edit Scrivenings on the lowest fork to focus on a single character, or step back up a branch and focus on all major characters, or a step further and read notes on every single character, and so on. You could use labels for all of that, but why? This is a job that folders can do exceptionally well, and have for decades.

Yes, having thousands of notes in a single session is a bit much, but to me that would be a mess in any program. I can’t think of anything that would let you view everything as if it were a single document, with dividers, that would not become a massive pain to use with that kind of volume. This is why most note programs do not function like that; the presentation mechanism is really only useful with a few dozen separate notes. A scroll bar can only do so much, and the human eye can only read so fast as notes scroll by. If you were not opposed to using titles you could use the “Go To” menu in the header bar (click on the icon). That operates as a table of contents in Edit Scrivenings, but of course it’s rather useless if you do not title anything.

In short, what you are asking for really isn’t something that is plausible as a theory, and I don’t think any kind of software set-up could address what you are looking for. The only thing I can think of that comes close is Tinderbox—but it doesn’t really have an editable combined view like Edit scrivenings. It has a combined view, but simply as a read-only mechanism. To edit you need to find the note and open it. I’m not recommending Tinderbox, incidentally. It’s main intention is pointing completely in opposition to what you want. It’s about complex note clouds, not a simple linear page of notes.

You might just be better off with a three-ring-binder. :slight_smile:

But here is one more trick: If you want a simple on/off that you can sort by with Edit Scrivenings, consider putting your notes folder in the Draft itself. Don’t worry you can always move it back out later once it comes time to compile and distribute the manuscript. There is a feature in the Inspector called “Include in Draft”. It’s a simple checkbox (and you can show this in a column in Outliner). We won’t really bother with what it is intended to do, since none of this is really meant to be “in the Draft”, technically. The reason I chose that checkbox is because there are two Edit Scrivening modes that filter by that flag. You can view all, all included, or all not included.

Below is a screenshot of Scrivener’s Outliner, doing something that appeal to you:

Here I’ve put the notes themselves into the Synopsis (rather than the text field), remove the Title column, and am using the Include in Draft column with its checkmark. Now I have a simple, linear outline of notes—titles irrelevant—with a checkbox. If I wanted I could add the label column on the right. Now you can use Scrivener more like an Outliner. You can put notes beneath other notes and so forth.

A clever “abuse” of the Include in Draft checkbox. Something I could use, too. Very nice.

–Greg