Better support for story threads

I would like to see a little bit more support for story threads (A, B, C stories, subplots). As it is now you can use labels, add colors in the binder and outliner, and even arrange by label in the corkboard, which is nice. It is also possible to search on a label, so as to see only documents with a certain label.

What I still miss is:

  • Ability to filter on one or more labels in the binder, outliner and corkboard. You should be able to select from the set of labels and then only see documents with that label.
  • In this filter view it should be possible to rearrenge the order of documents and do whatever else is possible in normal view. (Taskpaper is an app where you can focus on items with a certain tag and also rearrange items.)

Rationale: Working on novels it is often nice to be able to separate a certain story thread and work it out in its own.

Have you explored the use of Collections? You can do what you describe with collections.

I do not seem to be able to rearrange the order of documents in a collection. But just being able to do that would go a long way.

Other than searching in the binder, which you already mentioned, as well as saved search collections and the ability to view those in the main editors, you can also filter in the outline and corkboard views:

  1. With the keyboard focus in the editor, press regular old ⌘F.
  2. Expand the search interface by clicking the arrow on the right.
  3. Set up a filter to “Include: Items with Label: X”.

That’ll work on anything you can view on the corkboard. So it can be combined with search results, Collections, folders, non-linear selections, etc.

The only thing you can’t really do there is multi-label searching. You’d need to use the regular project search tool for that, and load the results into the corkboard. And on that note, you mentioned that not being possible in the binder—try using the “Any Word” search operator instead of “Exact Phrase” or whatever it is currently set to.

True, but TaskPaper does have the advantage of this mechanic only needing to shuffle lines of text around in a regular old text file. With Scrivener we have some oddities to contend with that could make this rather awkward. What if you have a selection of draft items, PDF files and trashed items with the same label and all showing together in the same list? You’d be be able to drag some things some places, and then in other cases suddenly drag and drop would stop working, and then maybe start working again, based on the contextual position of the thing you’re dragging over.

The result would be kind of weird too though, right? What about bringing a non-linear group of items together into a linear view and then moving them around among each other implies that those moved items should become transformed into a linear sequence in relation to their plot line? Would it not nearly always be more direct to move the item to directly where it should go in the narrative flow—thus implying one can see the big picture, meaning the binder or an unfiltered split view would make for a better drop target?

When you look at it that way, Scrivener already does what you’re asking for, it just doesn’t allow for potentially very awkward binder-spanning jumps by letting you move things somewhat blindly in a filtered view.

But if all you want to do is experiment, Collections are a pretty good way of going about that. True the implementation of that experiment may not be automatic, but I think overall that’s not a huge negative considering it avoids a good amount of weirdness. More importantly having an area to play in with impunity before committing to a new order is likely more creatively liberating than something that may be difficult to undo once you get a good ways into it. That’s the idea behind both Freeform corkboard and Collections, really.

On Thread Refresh:

For a search collection you are correct. The results are sorted by whatever criteria is shown in the header bar and thus cannot be moved about. But if you select the search result entirely (⌘A) and use the Documents ▸ Add to Collection ▸ New Collection command, you’ll end up with a freeform list. Click the “load in editor” button in the header bar, and now you can even use Freeform corkboard, Arrange by Label—everything you would do with a folder can be done here.