Back asswards composition

Hey fellow Scrivener disciples,

Scrivener has changed how I work for the last six years. I can’t remember when I last used MS Word. Scrivener is a truly astonishing productivity tool that I’ve used for both long form fiction and non-fiction. It keeps getting better (thank you Keith). And the support is fantastic (thank you, Ioa and Katherine.)

Here’s my latest thing… some of us use more than one display. If you’re serious about your productivity you should try it. In a stable work environment, you can add a monitor. If you’re mobile (like me) you can add an iPad for extra real estate.

The blessing and the curse of Scrivener is that it’s so rich with editing tools. It’s hard to fit them on one screen and work efficiently, even with keyboard shortcuts to show/hide the Binder and Inspector. My Writing-in-Heaven mode would be Composition on one screen and Outline (with Inspector) on the other.

My workaround: 1) Open the Outline in the main Editor pane. 2) Open an Outline document in a Quick Reference pane for editing text. .

Is there some way to improve on this technique?

You can have Composition mode and the main window open on different screens - you just need to change the Preferences a little:

  1. Go to Scrivener > Preferences… to open up the preferences.
  2. Click on “Behaviors” in the Preferences panel toolbar.
  3. Ensure “Composition Mode” is selected in the list on the left.
  4. Deselect “Hide main window in composition mode.”.
  5. Optionally choose which screen composition mode should open in from the pop-up at the top of the Preferences.

Tip: When you have things set up like this, Opt-clicking an item in the binder in the main window will open it in the Composition window/screen.

Hope that helps.

All the best,

I like using the latest mac OS’s “Prefer tabs when opening documents” setting (System Preferences->Dock) setting with regard to QR windows. I like that feature with regard to everything really, but for QR windows it’s really handy to have them all in one window, which you can then maximise or combine in full screen* with another app.

I don’t use two screens with Scrivener alone though. It’s fine with Scrivener + some other app(s) though. I’ve found it too fiddly to try and make Scrivener work across two screens, and hope to someday justify replacing my rather large 21" monitor with something truly huge.

Hi Keith,

I’ve run through your instructions, but can’t get Composition mode to open.

It doesn’t matter whether I use Current screen, Primary screen or Second screen… every attempt opens the Binder file as a split screen on the main Scrivener editor (pre-existing Outline on the left).

Going straight to Composition mode from the Binder using CMD-ALT-F converted the main editor to Composition mode and nothing else.

If we can get this to work, can I also open a file from the Outline? That means I could hide the Binder in most situations, giving more real estate for the Outline and Inspector.

I must say that this would be an amazing productivity boost. Writing with focus in the pristine Composition mode on one screen while ranging around my Binder and Outline (with custom meta) and Inspector content on the other. Wow! Does Scrivener have a sub-menu selection for “Turbo-charged”?

That’s strange - you’ve definitely set it so that the main window isn’t hidden? On the Opt-click thing, bear in mind that Composition mode must already be open for that to work - Opt-click won’t open Composition mode, it will just open the Opt-clicked document there if it is already open. Are you making sure that the main window is not on the screen that will open Composition mode?

There’s no way to open documents in Composition mode from the outline at the moment, I’m afraid - only from the binder.

All the best,

Hi Keith,

My error was assuming the OPT-Click would open the Composition pane. Even when I opened Composition in default dark mode using CMD-ALT-F, there was no content, so it looked as if the screen was off. That’s because the currently highlighted document in the Binder does not open. However, when I chose a document with OPT-Click… voila!

It’s now working as you describe. Thanks. (For all your great work over the years.)


Great, glad you’re up and running! And thanks for the kind words.

All the best,

Hi Keith,

I’ve have this working very well now and I’m super-pleased with the productivity boost. Imagine (Scrivener users who don’t use this yet)… writing in clean Composition mode while having a customized panel of Binder / Outliner / Inspector on a second screen for easy reference. Bookmarks, Notes, Keywords, Comments, Meta… all there without breaking concentration to switch out of Composition mode. You can get in The Zone for hours this way.

One further tweak that would liberate more screen real estate: let us use OPT-Click to open an Outliner document in Composition mode. Then we Disciples of the Church of Ioa, who build long-form documents at extreme Outliner granularity, wouldn’t need to have the Binder open at all most of the time. That would liberate screen width so that more of lengthy Notes can be seen without scrolling.

I work for days on end under one Outliner heading with dozens of sub-documents. Yet I constantly go OPT-Click in the Outliner… Oh, right… back to the Binder for that.

Yeah, it’s an enhancement for a minority of power users. But I wonder whether it’s that hard to add, since the code already exists for the Binder.

Thanks for considering it.


That works really well. I wanted to have the quick back and forth available on my MBP as well as my multi-monitor iMac. I decided it would be great if I could have scrivener and composition modes open on adjacent desktops on my MBP. That would let a quick three finger swipe on the touch pad to take me back and forth - much easier than entering/leaving composition mode. After about thirty seconds of experimentation, I discovered the key to making that happen was to check the box, “Open composition mode in it’s own space,” in the same composition mode behaviors panel you pointed us at.



It works great.