Aliases: a Binder entry in two places at once?

Sometimes I want to file the same piece of research in more than one place…it would therefore be great if Scrivener would allow me to create an “Alias” to an item in the Binder. There would only ever be one copy of an item’s content, and I don’t think the alias functionality needs to extent to folders. Of course, there would need to be extra functions to manage the aliases, e.g. a Reveal Original in Binder, and managing deletion is tricky - e.g. deleting the Alias would not delete the original (like in the Finder), but deleting the original might need some safety checks to ensure no orphan aliases were left.

A big piece of functionality, not a major must have, but just a thought.

P.S. and, yes, I know the answer might be “use keywords”, but I’m old-school and I like the hierarchical and visual nature of folders. :slight_smile:

Hi Dan,

This is something that has been suggested before and it is something I would be interested in adding one day, as I think it would be quite a nice addition. However, the way the document structure is set up internally at the moment means that to add something like this there would need to be quite a back-end overhaul, and although I like the idea I don’t like it quite enough to rewrite as much as I would need to! So, it’s an idea that is still on the backburner for the future - not for 2.0, but maybe for a later iteration of 2.x or 3.0…

Thanks and all the best,

Nice to know you’re still considering it.


Thanks Keith, definitely keep it on to “to do list” – this is a feature I have wanted for a long time. I can see it useful in testing out different sequences of sections, chapters, poems in a collection, etc… Would be very useful for playing with these different options and yet having them all update at the same time when changes are made.

I thought aliases would be useful for chapter folders’ text, which for me just contain line breaks and the chapter numbers. If these could be aliases, then if I change the number of line breaks, or the format of the chapter heading/number, then I only have to change it once, rather than go through and change the same thing in each folder.

In the “good old” DOS-days, there was a program called “ThinkTank”: basically an outliner (no mouse, of course, all keyboard) that provided the possibility to create aliases (called “clones”). I never came across a similar functionality since.

The logic was very simple and straightforward: As soon as you created an alias of an entry, both entries pointed towards the same text. It didn’t matter which one you edited, and it didn’t matter which one you deleted. There was no distinction between the “original” and the “clone”, they were all alike.

Say you had an item in branch A, you cloned it and you put it into branch B of your outline (there where even functions like “clone all entries that match some conditions and collect them at a given place” etc.). As long as at least two clones existed, they where recognizable as such, but say you deleted all of them but one, the one left appeared as a normal entry, no matter how it was created.

So, this works different from what we have in the file system of a modern OS: Here, we have the “original file” and the “alias” that only links to it. If you delete the alias, the original remains, but if you delete the original, the alias becomes useless. This distinction might be a good idea for a file system (although I’m not sure about that), but if you are working with an outline, the “ThinkTank”-logic makes a lot more sense.

You should look at DEVONthink. It implements this exactly, but they call them “replicants.” They are not like aliases in the Finder. I use them a lot in DEVONthink. It would be nice to have this functionality in Scrivener.

The outliner TAO, notebook Mori, Devon line of organisers, and cross-platform outliner/document assembly Leo all implement this form of cloning where all represent the same internal object, and there is no “parent” object; you can delete them in any order and whichever is the last one standing will be the eventual root. This metaphor is not widely spread because it is generally considered to be a bit “advanced”. It can be confusing to have your data represented in more than one place at once.

You are wrong about the file system not having them, though. There are two types of links available on a Mac, symbolic and hard linking. The symbolic is a bit more like an alias, except it has a static pointer and so is useful for different things, it also acts more like the original file itself, whereas an alias often just acts like an alias. A hard link creates a setup similar to the above, where a single internal file is fully represented in two or more different places (that is the end result, but internally all of your files are essentially hard linked already to the original place they appear, so you can then see how making a second hard link is essentially composed). Subsequently, hard links can only be created on a single volume.

Honestly, if Scrivener had clones I don’t think I’d use it often if at all. I don’t use it as an organiser or outliner, but a non-linear document editor. The idea to create chapter headings with it is interesting, but strikes me a “duct tape” way of doing thing. It would be better to expand the abilities of compile, I think, so allow for more procedural and contextual document naming. You are basically wanting a formulaic titling system, but trying to replicate that formula with text files, when an engine generating titles would be the best response.

This is a good point, but there will be a better solution for this in 2.0. You’ll be able to set this up at the Compile stage, with title prefixes, suffixes and page padding (number of line breaks etc), so there will be no need to store chapter heading text or numbers in folders for this sort of thing any longer.

All the best,

P.S. Just to re-iterate, there will be no clones in 2.0, but there will be a way of collecting the same items in different “collections”. And just a reminder (I’ve deleted the offending post) not to respond to wish list items with “+1” if you’re not going to add anything, as I don’t work on a voting system. Thanks!