Best Practice Using Image PDFs?

Hi all,

I’m jumping on the Scrivener bandwagon terribly late, given that I switched to a Mac almost three years ago. Nanowrimo and Script Frenzy brought it to my attention, though, and having played around with a couple fiction projects and a script, I’ve now gone ahead and bought it and raved about it to the few other Mac users I know (probably to the point that they wish I’d just can it). The tutorial, web videos, and especially the forum have been wonderful tools to help me get a grasp on how to tweak Scrivener to my style, so thank you all! And thanks, Keith, of course, for this amazing program. I wish I’d known about it years ago; I’d have switched to Mac sooner.

Thus far I’ve only worked on fiction projects with Scrivener, but I’ve got a non-fiction project I want to bring in. I’ve read through a bunch of forum posts about working with PDFs already, so I’m pretty sure I have the basic scenario for how best to do this, but before I begin the process I wanted to see if anyone had other ideas or if I’m missing something. I’m working with a bunch of handwritten notes or old printed materials that are all image PDFs rather than text. While I’d love to be able to convert them, chop them up into Scrivenings, etc., I can’t afford OCR software and it’s really not that crucial. So I just want to figure out the best solution to work with these files in Scrivener. I know I can annotate and highlight them in Preview and bring them in as individual pages, and my plan is to do that and use document notes, keywords, and the synopsis to pull the relevant bits out to be searchable in Scrivener or else to just make a summary or transcription Scrivener document with all the same metadata and just use the document references to link to the PDF.

What I want to make sure I’m not missing is whether there’s any way to search for words in the PDF annotations and comments made in Preview. I haven’t seen anything on this in the forums, so I feel like it’s either clearly impossible and I should know better or it’s clearly so easy I should also know better.

Second, Preview lets you add keywords to PDFs which are searchable via Spotlight. Scrivener seems to be unable to access these keywords (they don’t show up anywhere once I import the PDF, nor do they come up on a search), but apparently the metadata is still with the file, because if I export the PDF again it has retained the original keywords. I suppose that’s just a curiosity with the system, but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing something obvious.

Lastly (sorry to drag this out so long), when I view a PDF in Scrivener that I haven’t imported, it initially shows the title of the file in the title bar. All well and good, but after a while, when I’ve opened and closed some other documents in the alternate editor, the title of the PDF disappears and I can’t figure out how to get it back. Clicking on the header doesn’t do anything. Is there a way to get the title to display again?

Thanks for any insights!

I’m no expert by any means, but it almost sounds like you need an application between your scanned pdfs, and Scrivener.

I’ve been using “Papers” to manage my pdfs with some success - and found it particularly useful as a searchable, annotatable repository - so much so that I’ve stopped storing pdfs in Scrivener. Mind you, I have a lot of pdfs with varying degrees of overlap from project to project, so my usage scenario is probably very different from yours.



Thanks for the kind words. I’ve answered as best as I can inline below.

Unfortunately there is no way of doing this, no. The reason for this is that when Scrivener indexes the searchable text of a PDF file, it just asks PDFKit (the PDF engine that runs Preview and the PDF viewer in Scrivener) for the text in the PDF file, and the PDFKit only returns the main body text. I think there is a way to extract the annotation text, too, although its slower and more complicated, so this is an improvement I may add in the future (I’ve made a note of it in my development notes).

Yes, those keywords are embedded into the file itself. I’m afraid there’s no way to have those brought into Scrivener automatically as the keyword systems are different. Again, it might be possible for me to extract those keywords in the future, but I’ve never looked into it.

I’m not quite sure what you mean by this one. The alternate editor shouldn’t have any effect on the title of the other editor. Can you explain in more detail what is happening, with steps to reproduce?

Thanks and all the best,

Thanks for your quick replies!

Paul: Yes, I thought I’d probably need a more dedicated program to really do anything classier than the arrangement I described above. Unfortunately I don’t think this project justifies buying anything new at the moment (maybe it will turn into something huge and wonderful and I will just have to get something!), but I’ve bookmarked your suggestion for future reference. Thank you!

Keith: Thank you for your explanations. That’s pretty much what I expected, since (as I’ve seen all over the forum!) Scrivener isn’t trying to be a PDF editor as well as an amazing writing program, but I would’ve felt rather ridiculous if I’d found out in a month that there was a much simpler way I’d missed. I’d of course love to see the integration with searchable annotations and comments if possible at some point in the future, but it’s not a big deal to just paste everything into the metadata by hand or put it there in the first place. (Happily for me, I haven’t actually annotated all the PDFs yet, so I won’t be redoing everything and I can do it right the first time for working with Scrivener.)

As for the disappearing title, I’ve poked around a little more and have determined that the title disappears as soon as I create or delete a document. I’ve tried it in a couple projects and with different referenced (not imported) files, PDFs and a TIFF, and it’s been consistent for me.

  1. Open a document, drag a reference to the document reference bar.
  2. Open the reference in the alternate editor. The title appears in the header. (Focus remains on the other, current, editor.)
  3. Create a new document or delete an existing one. The title and icon of the referenced file in the alternate editor disappear from the header. This happens whether I create or delete a document in the binder, corkboard, or outliner.

In case I’m getting the terms wrong, I’ve included a little picture of what I’m seeing below.

Once the title’s gone, I haven’t figured out how to get it back. Focusing on the alternate editor doesn’t do it, and nothing happens if I click the header (I wouldn’t expect it to let me change the title anyway, since it’s displaying an external file); also there’s no underlining to show focus since there’s nothing to underline. Is this a bug, or am I just doing something goofy?

Thank you!


Aye, that be a bug. :slight_smile: I hadn’t noticed that before… Or maybe I did, because I just tested it, and it’s fixed in 2.0 (which has had a lot of things changed and fixed). It’s basically receiving a message to update the title area when a document changes somewhere else, but then it’s lost track of the title from the referenced document. 2.0 is much better in general at keeping track of things.

All the best,

Yay, I found a bug and it’s already been fixed! Don’t you feel productive?

So 2.0 is coming out in a few months, right? :wink: Meanwhile, I’ll just create all my documents before I start working with the references. Or–gasp–remember what it is I’m looking at. (Mmm, nah, that sounds much harder…)

Thank you!