Color coding comments?

Dear Scriveners,

First, you are all great. I have found this forum to be a very friendly and supportive environment, and it is one of the many reasons I like Scrivener so much.

Next, my question: I have read numerous threads on color-coding Inspector comments, but I seem to have missed a key part: Can I color-code Inspector comments with keyboard commands? I know how to change the color of a comment after I have written it (Control-click and then choose color), but is it possible to do so before writing the comment, maybe with something like Shift-Command-8-r (for red)?

I do not like to use inline annotations as I find them distracting, so all of my notes go into Inspector comments. My notes include things like: notes to rewrite/revise certain sentences that I don’t like; notes about further research and writing that I need to do; notes for clarification; and snarky notes to myself (either of encouragement or, more often, frustration at stupid things I’ve written or ideas that aren’t working–these are usually something like “THIS IS VERY BAD” or sometimes curse words). My motivation methods are a combination of excitement and self-loathing (maybe this is strange?).

What I would like to do is set a color for each type of comment (using a distinct keyboard command for each color) so that I can see it easily. I know that some people will begin a comment with a specific text marker, like “TODO” or “REVISE” or something like that, but it would be easier for me to just have these things marked by color.

So, can I set up a way to do this? For example, sentence rewrites in red, expansion/further work in blue, clarification in green, encouragement in yellow, frustration in purple (or whatever). It seems inefficient to write a comment and then change the background color using Control-click. The fewer intermediate steps the better so I don’t have to break up my work flow every time I make a comment.

Thank you very much,

Yes there is. Look up formatting presets; they’re kind of like the styles concept, except they just change the font, rather than marking the text as a block quote, title, or whatever.

Highlight a word and make an inspector comment. Change the comment to the color you want, erase any text that was auto-generated by the creation of the comment (or add your own comment code/prefix). Then select the word again and create a new preset based on the word attached to that comment. Whenever you want a comment of that color, just highlight a word and apply that preset.

To use the keyboard to create that color of comment, use the Mac OS Keyboard preferences to create a shortcut for the preset.

Hi Robert,

Thank you for your response. I tried what you said:

  1. Select a word, make inspector comment (Shift-Command-8), delete auto-text [name/date/time of comment], type in my comment [TEST].
  2. Control click in comment box to change to desired color (Blue). The comment box is now this color, as is the highlighted word in the editor.
  3. Select highlighted word again in the editor, create new preset (called p/q). This new preset is now in the formatting preset list. I checked “Save all formatting,” which includes font and font size.

But, when I highlight another word that I want to apply the same p/q color comment to, and I make a new comment for it, the entire paragraph is then highlighted in that color, not just the single selected word. So now an entire block of text is in p/q color. Then, when I select a different word for a non-p/q comment, my default comment color is now also incorrect. Did I accidentally change the default comment color, too?

Am I missing something with the formatting preset? I deleted the preset I just made and followed your steps again, but it still has this same problem.

I appreciate your help sorting this out.


Save only the character attributes when you create the preset; don’t save the font, font size, or paragraph attributes. Paragraph attributes are things like alignment and indentation that apply at a paragraph level, so even if you only select a single word, changing its paragraph settings necessarily changes the full paragraph. You also don’t want to save the font or font size–if you’re trying to apply a comment to a size 47 Times New Roman word, you don’t want it to change the selected text to the preset’s size 14 Optima or whatever. You’ll still have to watch out for cases where your original text is formatted with other character attributes like bold or italic, since that will get overwritten by the formatting of preset selection.

Changing the colour of a comment always sets that as the default for new comments, but with Robert’s method it won’t matter, since you’re always applying a comment already set to a particular colour.

Dear MM,

Thanks for this clarification. I’m working on it now, and I’ll let you know how it goes.


Dear Robert and MM,

I sorted it out! It was the “Save character attributes” option that made it work. So thank you both.

Of course, now I have a further question: Robert, you mentioned making a keyboard shortcut for these presets. Would this be like changing the regular Shift-Command-8 and adding an extra keystroke (a different letter for each type of preset)? Or would I need to set it to something different altogether?

And, I’ve tried to customize my Toolbar to add a “Preset” button, but there isn’t one in the list of available options. Is there a way to do this? It may be easier that setting up 5 different keyboard commands, so I’d like to try both ways and see which I prefer over time. I do know that I can right-click on a word and then use “Apply Preset” but this takes an extra step that I’d like to avoid if possible. Simpler is better.

Any clever workarounds you might come up with will be much appreciated.


You can create custom keyboard shortcuts for any menu item via the OS X Preferences, as described here. As long as you give your presets unique names, they’ll be listed first in Format > Formatting > Apply Preset, and that’s what the shortcut will attach to.

There’s no way to add individual buttons for presets to the toolbar, but on the left of the format bar (Format > Show Format Bar) you should see a menu button with the “¶a” icon. That lists all your formatting presets.

Much obliged!

Of note, if you don’t have or want unique names for a menu item, then you can use the full path, starting at the top level menu. For example:
Format->Formatting->Apply Preset->Your Preset Name Here

The trick is to make sure that every single word is capitalized identically to the menu, is joined only by the dash+greater than symbol, and has no extra/missing spaces.

This assumes you are using a fairly recent version of Mac OS X. I think the arrow joiner syntax changed sometime around Leopard, but I’m not sure.