Biggest Scrivener file ever?

Has anyone ever figured out the total capacity of a Scrivener project file before it becomes unworkable? I’m asking because I have one that now sits at 1.8 million words. It has a few PDFs in it as well.

I use this project file to keep together everything associated with an ongoing work assignment, which is into its fourth year. Everything seems fine at the moment. I just don’t want a nasty surprise one day.


How many kBytes? How many files is this document split into? What is the kBytes of the biggest files?

These are better measures of “bigness” in Scrivener.

Without knowing more, 1.8 million words seems very do-able.

You could be fine with a thousand times that many words, if you don’t open all of it at once in a scrivenings.

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I don’t know how many words were in it, but in terms of research scale the largest project I’ve ever heard of was a few terabytes in size, being hosted on a fast RAID device.

The main issues to be aware of are having many thousands of items in a single folder and using Corkboard. The amount of drawing that requires can slow things down. As noted above, you generally wouldn’t want to load a million words into Scrivenings. It’s possible, but there are surely always going to be more efficient ways to do something than loading so much text into a single scroll view at once.

Otherwise, have at it. I’ve had projects with +2m words in them before and never ran into any slowness or other issues. It just takes a little longer to back up and rebuild the index (when necessary).

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That’s a very good point. It’s sitting now at 88MB.

Thanks so much, Amber. That’s encouraging. I guess the great thing about text is that it takes up so little digital space. I’m at just 88MB now, despite all those words. So I’ll keep on keeping on.

Exactly. And having lots of only text negates the one main concern I’d have for huge projects: not being able to back up often. If it’s multiple gigabytes then keeping the normal quantity of frequent backups can fill up your drive. But just text is fine, and text compresses in Zip files really well.

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Scrivener gives us a choice, at least. Word could spend a couple of hours trying to paginate — another argument against WYSIWYG.

Word DID spend 3 hours trying to paginate a file of mine (with about six thousand erroneous track changes in it) before I killed it around 30% done. (Then I opened it in Pages with no problems.)

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My largest project to date includes 2.2 million words, 110 large-format cover images, and nearly 200 illustrations, as well as numerous PDF files in the research folder. This does not affect the usability of the app in any way, only the time needed to back up a project (when closing it) is slightly longer, but not dramatically. I’m working on a whole novel series, with now 78 episodes in one project and appreciate Scrivener for this possibility very much.


The only project that I’ve encountered that was truly unusable weighed in at over 10 GB, most of it imported web pages. So not only was it big, it was full of scripts and other hard-to-render things. And this was with Scrivener 2, not Scrivener 3; Scrivener 3 has more robust web page handling.

So a mere 2 million words and mostly text? You’re fine.


Yes, I am very happy that Scrivener can handle such large amounts of text. It should perhaps be added that regular text programmes, such as Word or similar apps, would have long since flagged “Game Over” and that, due to the file formats, a crash often means the loss of the entire project. Not so with Scrivener.

well, with Word one would never put so much in one file. Same with Scrivener the text is in many files.

A big difference is that with Word the author has to have a regimen to keep track of the multiple files whereas Scrivener gives you a regime designed for writers of big projects.

But that is only part of the truth, because in a Scrivener project you have cross-project access to all documents, reach them with one click, and can insert references (bookmarls), search project-wide and make changes. Word users have to open individual DOCX files and organise the filing themselves, manage different windows and introduce their own version management. Scrivener remains the ultimate authoring tool and I sometimes wish the initial philosophy of separating content from format had prevailed (that’s how I still use Scrivener). The additional style system tends to discourage many users from learning the compiler functionality because it is more convenient to use styles than to define a compile format.

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