Better web pages in Research; shared Research

I’ve really not been using very Scrivener very long (only on day two of my trial - though I’m going to buy it as soon as I’ve finished writing this post!) but so far I really like it. In fact, I was musing on the possibility of coding something very much like it for myself, then realised Scrivener already does nearly everything I was planning on, and much more!

There are two things that I think would really improve it, though; I’ve tried to search through the forum to see if they’ve already been suggested, please accept my apologies if I’ve overlooked an existing request, or there’s already a way to do this that I’m not aware of.

(1) Better handling of web pages as Research. Saving web pages as PDF is all well and good, but what I really want to see is the web page (e.g. in an embedded browser control), not a clumsily-formatted printable copy of the web page at some point in the past.

(2) Shared Research. If I’m writing multiple stories in the same setting - sequels, even - I’d really like my research to be available in whichever project I happen to be working in at the moment. Re-adding all the research documents to each seems a slow and awkward solution. Unless there is already a better way?

Also, (3) this is a tiny one, but could it be possible to (optionally) make document titles in the binder match the first line of the document itself? I’m thinking in particular of things like Character Sheets - the name of the character is used as the name of the document, and the title on the first page of the document. It’s a minor annoyance to have to type the name twice, or keep them in sync if I change my mind about a character’s name. Not a very big deal though, so only if it’s not too much work.


Thanks for trying out Scrivener and picking up a copy!

Well first of all the design intention for saving web pages into Scrivener is to archive them—as they were when you did so. In that sense we consider point #1 a feature. If you don’t like PDF though and would rather view the thing with its original HTML/CSS/JavaScript/Whatever, then try changing your settings to MHT, in the Import/Export options panel (Tools menu). Although Scrivener in its current form cannot directly view these files (that will come in an upgrade, we wanted to make the option available before then so you could start capturing research with the format) it’s easy enough to load them into a compatible browser. These are “offline” archives as well though.

As for viewing pages in their current state, Scrivener has several different ways for storing links:

  • References: in the inspector sidebar, click on the bookshelf icon. You can toggle between global project references and individual document references. For the latter case, that means each item in the Binder can have its own set of bookmarks.
  • Regular old hyperlinks, either in the main text area or in the Document Notes area, also in the inspector under the first tab. You can also toggle to Project Notes here as well for links you want accessible from anywhere in the project.
  • The archive itself. When you archive a page you should get a link to the site at the bottom or in references, depending on the import format, so it’s both a static copy that is impervious to the website vanishing, redesigns that break URLs, etc. Meanwhile for cases where that doesn’t happen, you can view the current version with a click. And of course as a binder item, an archive can have its own list of references and hyperlinks in the notes field.

I would give some thought to using one project for a series that has shared background and research information. The program is designed to be “one project one work”, but it has numerous concessions for “one project many works”. I’d suggest doing some searching around on the forum for how others are approaching trilogies, serials and other such things that benefit from not only shared research, but having every prior scene immediately available. It’s not an uncommon way to use the software. You can rotate the current WIP into the Draft, or even just set up the compiler to only export portions of the Draft folder at a time, treating them as “the book”.

It’s not for everyone though. If you do prefer to keep individual works in their own discrete project containers, that is fine as well. Project resources can be bulk imported into other projects (the File/Import/Scrivener Project… menu command), you can open multiple projects at once and thus have all of this information available even though they are in separate windows (sometimes I like to “half and half” my screen with a general notes and ideas project on one side and what I’m working on in the other half), and even drag batches of items between projects to copy them around.

There will be a more dynamic approach in the future, but for now, so long as you have the Automatically name untitled text documents upon saving option enabled in the General options tab, that should pick up the first line for you. Like I say it’s static once it does that though, so if you change a character name, you’ll want to select the new name in the editor and use the Documents/Set Selection as Title (or press F2) command. No need to type it in twice, even without it being dynamic!

Thanks for the feedback, I’ll try out some of your suggestions and see how I get on!