Adding pdf files to a folder (ontological status?)

I’m curious about what the status of a file is (in regards to its existence on the hard drive) once it’s been imported into a Scrivener document. For instance, if I drag a pdf file into a folder of my Scrivener document, is the file content that I see in my Scrivener viewer merely an image of the original file? Or has the file been physically duplicated and saved in two separate locations on my hard drive?

Which is also to ask: if I import a pdf into a Scrivener document, and then delete the original file (from its original location; say, on the desktop), will that file continue to exist within the Scrivener document? Or will the link be broken?

A Scrivener project is self-contained. Any file imported it to it exists within the project folder, and other copies can be deleted safely.

EXCEPT where you have used the “Import Research Files as Aliases” command OR the “Insert -> Image Linked to File” command. In both cases, the file remains outside the project.


Thanks Katherine… much appreciated.

Katherine, I am a brand new user of Scrivener and have some basic questions for you to consider. I am writing a book that requires extensive research and documentation consisting largely of Apple photo JPEG images that I will need to attach to the outline in Scrivener. Thus, I have three primary questions:

(1) Since the JPEG images in Photo Library contain important metadata such as descriptions of content and identifying dates and catalogue numbers that need to be accessible through Scrivener, is it possible to attach a copy of those JPEG images directly to Scrivener without first converting them to PDFs? (Or, are PDFs altogether preferable? I would assume that if a single document consists of multiple images then it is best to combine them into a single PDF for insertion in Scrivener). Alternately, I have duplicates of all the Photo Library images held in folders outside of Photo Library and can also work from these instead of directly from Photo Library, if that is best.

(2) Do you recommend an intermediary step with the use of a document manager such as Papers from which to transfer images and online links and PDFs to Scrivener? (I don’t believe the Zotero manager will transfer docs directly to Scrivener but only to Word.) Is there a document manager other than Papers that you recommend for an iMac computer?

(3) Is there a limit to the megabyte size per image and the numbers of images that Scrivener can handle, considering that there are approximately 20,000 with which I am working for my book?

I should mention that I am using ACDSee Photo Studio for Mac as my photo manager for cataloguing the images topically with keywords and other metadata. This process affects only those photos held in folders outside of Photo Library. With respect to images within Photo Library, I enter identifying data directly through the Get Info dialogue. Thus I have two sets of duplicate metadata, one inside Photo Library and the other within the external folders.

Thank you very much for your assistance and any wisdom you can share!

I don’t see any particular reason to create PDFs.

I would recommend using linked images, rather than importing the image files into the project. See the manual for details.

20,000 images is a lot. Are these strictly research materials, or do you expect to incorporate them into the text?


These are research materials (primary sources) for a lengthy biography. Few images would be inserted directly into the text, though numerous excerpts/quotations may be incorporated in the narrative and/or cited as sources in footnotes.

I plan to use screen shots of selections from the 20,000 photographs, inserted into the Scrivener outline and cork board as preparation for the narrative.

From my reading of reviews I am inclined to employ Zotero with Scrivener for linkage to secondary sources (data base PDFs, books, etc.). Then upon completion in Scrivener I will export the book in Word to the publisher, realizing I may have to re-do some of the formatting.

Your suggestion to by-pass creating PDFs for Scrivener will save me a bundle of work by just linking the images.

Any other suggestions?

Thank you!!


Hi Katherine - I am working with a collaborator using dropbox, using the Windows beta. When she opens the project, some links to pdfs I had imported are unavailable to her, with the message that they are to be found in my scrivener folder in my user data folder on my pc - ie C:\Users\xxxx\AppData\Local\Scrivener
Any ideas as to why this is?

Many thanks


Files that are not part of the Scrivener project will not “travel” if it is saved to other locations. Any file that you want to share should either be in the Project.scriv folder, or in a web-accessible location.