Annotating for organization

Is there a way to annotate large chunks of text for the purpose of organization? I’d like to be able to highlight several sentences, or a few paragraphs at a time, so that I can give it a quick title/description for the purpose of organization prior to exporting to another word processor. I tried highlighting the text and adding a annotation/footnote but those buttons become inactive when text is highlighted.


I’m sorry, but I’m not quite sure what you’re trying to accomplish. What is the end result that you would like to see in the exported document?

Given a section of highlighted text, you can do any of the following:

  • split it off into its own sub-document, where you can give it its own title, using the Document -> Split -> Split at selection command. You can also apply Keywords, Labels, and other markers to individual subdocuments.

  • Format the text as an inline annotation or footnote, using the Format -> Inline Annotation/Footnote commands.

  • Apply an inspector comment or footnote to it, using the Format -> Comment/Footnote commands.

(I just checked, and these last four should definitely be available when text is highlighted.)


Thanks for the reply, Katherine. I’m attaching a screenshot of what I’m working with and have annotated the image in such a way that tries to illustrate what I’m trying to get.

I’ve placed a box around the text I want to annotate with a short description describing what that chunk of text is about.

I’ve placed a box around the inspector controls for comments/footnotes. If you’ll note the buttons are inactive for me.

The arrow points to where I’d expect the descriptive note/comment to go.

Thank you for the explanation.

I believe the Comment option is grayed out because the highlighted text already contains Annotations. (The references appear to be in annotation form.) It’s not possible to nest the two.

Given the amount of annotation you seem to want, my suggestion would be to split the text into smaller component documents. That will give you many more options for each subdocument: labels, document notes, synopses, and keywords, among others.


I’ll back up what Katherine is saying. Many of us (and I say “many” because I’ve been reading the forums for a very long time and have seen many mention this) break down our documents into very small chunks. For example, I often break text down to the paragraph level. In combination with Scrivenings view, it makes little difference in the editing of the text, but has enormous benefits when using labels, document notes, keywords, etc plus the added benefit of much easier structural editing (e.g. this bit actually belongs two paragraphs up, this part would be better in chapter 1, I need to add a link between these two sections).

I often review and annotate papers of considerable complexity in Scrivener. With rare exception, I find it is not really necessary to flag the exact part of the just previous text my comment pertains to. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred the annotation text speaks for itself. So, you might just do what I do, and place your insertion point at the point where it is most logical to interrupt the flow with your remark, and type your annotation there. (I prefer those nice red in-line annotations myself. Marginal comments remind me too much of post-it notes.)

Another option, if it would be acceptable to actually mark the text, is to underline that portion of text an ensuing annotation is referencing. (This will be clearer with in-line annotation than marginal notes, I should think).


Thank you Katherine. That explains my situation. The annotation that is already there is for footnote/citation purposes, not meta identification purposes. Am I using it incorrectly?

I think I might try this. Does the binder become unwieldily with so many entries? Do you use folders for larger divisions?

Thank you for your input, everyone.

I use layers of hierarchy to organise things, myself, though to what degree I will do so depends on the work. For fiction I tend to have about three levels for chapter->scene->subscene, whereas in something more complex and massive like the Scrivener user manual, it can go down to five or six levels of outline depth, such as Writing->Scriptwriting->Creating Your Own Script Formats->Format Tabs->Auto-Complete Tab->(Mac Features). :slight_smile: In both of these case, you can see that I often work at a level that is “beneath” the visible book structure, with other parts of my outline exposed to book structure. That is a flexible concept in Scrivener.

The Binder can get a little unwieldy in extreme cases. Again with the manual, which has about 1,000 outline nodes in the Draft alone—yeah I don’t actually browse through all of that in the Binder. I load sections of it into the editor as an Outliner and then drill down from there in the right split (thus using Scrivener kind of like a 3-pane e-mail viewer for this project). The argument for avoiding awkwardness in the Binder is, in my opinion, not only mitigated but exceeded by the awkwardness of working in a mammoth text file and/or having a lower level of specificity in searches and meta-data relevance—a problem you’ve already spotted with sections that are longer than a topic. The more precisely your sections fit to topical shifts, the more useful Scrivener’s more innovative features become—and you really aren’t penalised too heavily for working that way with Scrivenings editing mode and the compiler.

I’ll answer also as my use is a little different than AmberV’s. BUt first, the simple answer to your question is “No.” :smiley:

I find that use of both folders and documents is very helpful. Remember that, in Scrivener, they are functionally equivalent (folders are also text documents and documents can contain sub-documents) the key difference is the visual cue in the binder and the options when compiling. So, for me, I use folders for visible structure in the finder manuscript: chapters and parts (or scenes). I use sub-documents for paragraphs within a part, sometimes going two or three deep. e.g. In my thesis, I had a section of a chapter on leadership theories and subsections on different types theories. These were folders and sub-folders within chapter folder in my Scrivener project. For each of these theories, I had several paragraphs, each one a separate document. If a particular idea required more than one paragraph, I used sub-documents. It reads as more complicated than it really was.

Here is where the benefits come in. Because of the hierarchical structure of the binder, I could collapse any sections I wasn’t working on. This made the binder easier to use as, most of the time, I would see only the chapters in the binder plus the structure relevant to the section I was working on. Further, it made it trivially easy to rearrange and restructure if I could see that a different way of presenting the data made more sense. Or, using split view, I could see a different section of my thesis in one pane to ensure I was addressing everything I needed in the active pane - and, because of the use of such small units, I only needed to display the paragraphs that were relevant (instead of entire chapters), making it faster and easier.

Finally, come time for compile, I could set different rules for Folders and Documents such that each folder came with a different level heading (visible structure) but the level of subdocuments was ignored (all documents within a folder just treated as one long document).

Every way I look at it is a win. Easier. Faster. Simpler. More flexible. More compile options. Structurally more nuanced. Etc. :smiley:

From a screenshot, it’s hard to see what form of annotation you are using. Scrivener supports:

  • Annotations, which are in-line comments with distinct formatting.

  • Inline Footnotes, also with distinct formatting.

  • Inspector Comments, which are shown in the inspector pane and associated with a block of selected text.

  • Inspector Footnotes, also associated with a block of selected text.

You can use all of these for whatever purpose you like. For instance, I use inspector footnotes for citations, inline annotations for reminders to myself, and comments for questions posed to my clients. This flexibility is one reason why there are so many options. However, it’s not possible to nest one kind of note inside of another. So if you already have an in-line footnote or annotation, it’s not possible to put it inside the selected text block for an inspector comment. That’s why what you originally tried to do wouldn’t work.