Bullet Lists - Working With Indents like an Outliner


What I’d like to do is create a bullet list with multiple levels, so that at the top there’s (for instance) “1”, then if I tab-indent the next line it automatically becomes a child, “a”, and so forth on down for several levels. It’s a common thing with outliners, and while I know Scrivener is not Workflowy, etc., I can’t see a way to do this using the Bullet List. All I get is “1” on the first line and then it switches to a short-dash symbol when you Tab indent. Is there some Style setting or another way of getting Scrivener to do this?

Anyway, any suggestions please send my way. Thanks.

For in-document outlining, I have a set of custom defined paragraph styles with increasing levels of left paragraph indent (and handy keyboard shortcuts assigned to them). I have named these styles in the same manner Word does, which facilitates communicating with Word when needed. Heading 1, Heading 2 etc.

I do not use outline autonumbering, but you can achieve what you want (at compile time) using Scrivener’s placeholder system. The basic idea would be to have Compile add the relevant placeholders at compile time and then these will produce the hierarchical numbering you seek. Note: You would not see any numbering in the Scrivener editor, but only when you compile to output.

So, suppose you have defined some outline styles with increasing levels of indent. Now, customize the compile format of your choosing as follows: In the compile format editor add each of your outline styles to the Styles panel there – this is so we can tell the compile to do special things with paragraphs in those styles.

Note there is a field for each listed style there in which to enter a prefix string for Scriv to prefix these paragraphs with. Here are the prefixes you need for each of three levels of outline paragraph styles:


Each of these prefixes should be followed by a single space character. (The tags used here ‘level1’ etc are independent of the style name you used for your outline para styles.)

The system you indicated you want to use (if you really want 1ai) sort of peters out after three levels, so you would need to decide what you want to do at that point. You could use A1ai instead, for example, and get four levels or just switch to numbers at level four (as above) or whatever. Your choice.

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Thank you very much for this–you sound as if you have put a lot of thought into it. I can’t claim to understand everything you’ve included, but from what it sounds like it seems this system is for Compile whereas I just want to take some notes with one related subject indenting beneath the main point above it. It seems very strange that Scrivener doesn’t do this quite-basic thing from the get-go. Or maybe it’s a lot more complicated than I’m assuming it is . . .

I take you to be saying that what you really want is hierarchical auto-enumeration that will show in the Editor pane as you go along writing some notes.

Maybe it is worth asking yourself whether you really need your outline-structured notes to be enumerated. I know you /do/ want that, but do you use those 1ai numbers in some way? The purpose of such enumeration is so as to be able to refer (or cross-refer) to specific passages. But is that a substantive part of your note-writing practice?

Because if you drop the enumeration part, then doing what you want is simply accomplished with a set of custom defined paragraph styles (e.g. Heading 1, Heading 2,…).

If you look at MS Word’s dedicated in-document outline mode, you will notice that you do not see any enumeration as you work. The visual paragraph indentation does the work of informing you what is the hierarchical structure. Maybe thinking this way can work for you too.

((Scrivener has, of course, a dedicated Outline mode, too, but it is for structuring sets of documents, not in-document outlining.))

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Yes, that’s a good point. I can probably work around it, but it still would be nice when indenting for the bullet to appear as a bullet rather than the en-dash, if only for aesthetic reasons. Just seems a bit strange to me why Scrivener doesn’t do this by default.