Actual Outline tool within Scrivener

I attempted to look for a post on this already but since Scrivener has an Outline mode, I couldn’t find anything that was not about that or referencing that.

So, I would love if there was an actual outlining utility in Scrivener. I currently use Omnioutliner prior to using Scrivener and I feel that if I could eliminate one more tool then I would be able to use Scrivener even more. The Title and synopsis is not useful to me. I am sure it is useful to a lot of people. When I would love would be to have the ability to have multiple cards/sections/indents underneath the header. And then to be able to do the same to each of those. There would only need to be a few levels. This doesn’t need to be a full blown outline tool.

There doesn’t need to be a to-do list. It doesn’t need to sync to any outside tools. Doesn’t need anything else but to be a basic outliner. OR if the outline mode had added utility to be an outliner, that would be fine. Something more than Synopsis. Something to built the skeleton of the story and slowly be able to put all the pieces together in a more granular way than a synopsis allows.

All that can be done with the outliner. Have you read the manual about the outline mode, and done the interactive tutorial?

I had looked at a tutorial and it was not at all the same. It’s possible I had looked at a different tutorial. Do you have a link? As for the manual, well, I haven’t cracked it open since I got Scrivener, probably whatever date is next to my name which I can’t see at the moment. I’ll take another gander at it but not seeing anything very obvious in Scrivener to make it seem like it is able to do what I am looking for.

“Multiple cards underneath the header.”

Create new text or folder items, indent as needed. Use Synopsis to add detail. Repeat to whatever level of granularity required.


I guess that could work but feels very clunky to me. Everything is spread out and feels like this is using a tool for something it wasn’t designed for. You can’t really do things quickly and would have to convert text to folders before being able to add to beneath it, instead of quick indent/outdent short cuts. It may work for some people but I can’t see myself using it that way. I’ll just have to stick with an actual outlining tool and then use Scrivener for everything else.

Text documents can have subdocuments too.

Indent/outdent shortcuts can be found on the Edit → Move menu.

This is exactly how Scrivener is designed to work.


So, I did fiddle around with it some and it does work similar to what I was asking. I guess I will have to decide if it works like I want it to work. I think that it is still acting like a tool that is doing something that it was not necessarily designed to do. What I mean by that, it is too much. I don’t know if it is how I approach outlines or if it is something else but I am definitely intimidated and think there is too much going on. Even turning off targets, progress, and something else, there is just too much. By that I mean, there is a text item. For each item there is a title. I am glad to say I can probably use the title area to do what I need, but I can sometimes run long. Then there is a synopsis area. After all of that there is the actual text area. Not everyone is the same, so, again, I believe this is probably good for some, but that is too much for what i need. When I do the outline, I want it to be ‘simple’ in that I have a lot of stuff all about a chapter and then when i go to write, I only have one text to worry about. For my chapter 1 I have 15 bullet points. They are not all discrete parts of the chapter, but separate enough that it helps me to have them be called out.

Anyway, I wish there was a simpler outline tool within Scrivener but there is a way to do an outline.

It can be as simple as you like. Only use what you need.
A suggestion: use the synopsis field for your long “titles” and make the real document titles fairly short, more like short version of the title.
Converting some levels to folder icons can be done later, if you want to. It’s basically only the icon you change, nothing else.
And hide both the Binder and the Inspector while you are working in the outliner.

If I had fifteen bullet points for a single chapter, I would break it down into smaller units, each with no more than about five bullet points. Or I would use a Scapple board, rather than a linear outline. But that’s just my process, YMMV.

If you have more notes for a single document than will comfortably fit in the Synopsis, you have several options:

  • Put them in the Document Notes.

  • If you have a chapter folder, with scene documents contained in it, it’s pretty easy to exclude the text of the folder document from your output. So put your notes there. Think of this as sort of like writing on the cover of a physical folder.

  • Create a separate document called “Chapter 1 Notes” or whatever, and put it wherever you like.

There are abundant ways to make these notes visible while you’re working on other documents: Split editor view, Scrivenings mode, Quick Reference panes…