Compile in alternate orders/Collections

The current project is a thriller. To deliver a strong opening punch the narrative order needs to be different to the chronological order, however I can’t write something this intricate in narrative order (chronological is the only way I can maintain consistency!).

So, I would like to be able to reorder the documents for compilation.

I found this old post (macOS, 2015) in which @reepicheep suggested using collections.

I created a Narrative Ordered collection and added a folder from the main MS collection, however, although its content appears as a corkboard/outline with the sub-items, the collection itself does not reproduce the binder appearance and it’s a bit awkward this way (I have to select an item in the collection and then look at the corkboard/outline; I can’t see the whole structure with document titles).

Hence, the following questions:

  • With the advent of Scrivener 3, are there now other/better ways to manage alternate compilation orders?
  • Is there a way to see the binder outline structure within the collection?
  • Any other suggestions?

Create a collection with alternate order, then when compile choose the alternate order collection and add front and back matter.
Look at this setting in third compile panel to choose a collection.


If click collection and highlight all the files in it can show in outline view or corkboard as well

Yes, there are now ways of working with collections without hiding the binder view in the sidebar, in v3. If you right-click on the icon in the editor header bar you’ll see a “Go to Collection” submenu that will load the contents of that collection directly into the main editor.

As for overall strategy though, I would say Scrivener is going to generally work better if you establish the “correct” order in the binder, and use Collections for working orders. You can indeed compile by a collection to get an alternate order, but you’ll note it’s a flat list, which could cause issues with some ways of compiling. Collections are great as a tool for us, but overall I think it makes the most sense for the Draft folder to be organised in the same fashion the reader will take it in.

You could work either way, to be clear, and I don’t think the advantages of one or the other are super strong, but that’s how I’d do it. Hierarchy can matter when compiling, but Section Types do mitigate a fair amount of that. For me, with how Markdown works by using the hierarchy to build the heading structure of the document, a flat list wouldn’t be terribly useful—so that’s where I would prefer to draft to be the export document outline.

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Thanks @AmberV, like most things, the further you get, the more you wish you’d started somewhere else.

I thought I’d try it your way but alas I think I’ve found new bugs :frowning: , which, given their scope, look as though they scupper all use of Collections for anything more than a few items (With only the 1st ~dozen items at the top of MS the process described below produced sensible results)

(Is that what I was saying about having added a folder to the collection and only seeing that folder, and no folder sub-folders/documents? That doesn’t match my experience - not everything appears in the “flat list” of the collection AFAICT)

Issues
Alas the collection doesn’t seem to work as described :frowning: I’ve given one illustration below but basically, it’s unusable, whether it’s me failing to follow some obscure logic to its organisation, or it just not being consistent. Is it perhaps the number of documents (89) or the depth of foldering? (documents are typically 3 levels down from the root level of MS). I had intended to put everything that already IS in chronological order into a suitable collection and then to reorder in the binder. Not only did that fail miserably, I now have no idea whether I could even create an accurate “Non-Chronological” Collection to do it the other way.

Can you create such a structure and make it work? Say 5 docs per bottom level folder on average.

Example: I tried the following. Hoist the MS and expand all - relying on the fact (determined by experiment) that presentation changes to hoisted things don’t affect the binder, I then select all and add to my new Chronological Order collection. (Only short sections shown)
UPDATE: The path of “Berlin+11” is : Manuscript > Act I > Berlin +11

image

The collection then looks like this at the bottom

image

Example Problems: (there are plenty more like this in reality)

  • The Berlin + 11 folder contains - as shown in the corkboard/outline - one folder and documents in that folder… but what are the last two documents also doing outside that folder??
  • Why is the Appendix folder (last item in the hoisted binder, which exists at the same level as Act 1 in MS appear between Act 1 items (i.e. within another folder at the same level), and
  • Why is the content of the Appendix folder above the folder, also in the middle of Act 1 stuff (as well as “in” the Appendix folder, accessible via the corkboard)

PS I’d be happy to “chat” online and screenshare if that would help you.

Okay, I may not be understanding the perceived problem, or another way of putting it: you may have expectations of how the collection features works that are unstated, and in my not having those expectations, don’t see the actual problem—but I think some of your bullet-pointed questions at the bottom might hint to that, so I’ll return after demonstrating how they do work.

First a very simple test of adding a bunch of items to a collection from a large binder selection:

  1. I build a simple test structure similar to what you describe. I’ve got about 60 items in total, nested to level 4 (not counting Draft).
  2. For the first test I keep things simple. I hoist by Draft, expand all, Ctrl+A and use Documents ▸ Add to Collection ▸ New... and call it “Test 1”.
  3. Clicking the “load in editor” button, I verify that the correct number of items have been added to the collection in the corkboard footer bar. They are all there, and in binder order at this point.

That doesn’t quite sound like what you’re describing though, that you suspect only some things are being assigned but not others (maybe I misunderstand). So I try something else, based on a hunch from what your “after” screenshot looks like:

  1. Next, I first Ctrl+click on a selection of about six items from the test hierarchy, including most of the first folder’s text items. From that selection, I use Documents ▸ Add to Collection ▸ New... and call it “Test 2”. I shuffle the order of them a bit to simulate “chronology order”.

  2. Returning to the binder, I again do the Draft hoist, select all and add to Test2 using the menu command.

  3. Loading up the Test2 collection, I confirm the correct number of total entries. I also confirm that after the initially added items (whose custom order has been retained), all of the remaining items have been added to the collection in linear binder order. Yes, some are out of position with the ones added in step 1, but that’s on purpose. Adding an item to a collection that is already in a collection is not going to add it again, or move its position to the bottom of the collection. It is simply ignored when you try to do that.

    As an aside: this means it is safe to make large bulk adds like this to existing collections that have had a lot of work done in them already—it’s a nice shortcut for incrementally updating a collection. Say you add four or five scenes while working in the binder, and now wish to update them into the chronological collection. Rather than having to hunt down the five scenes by hand and add them in, you can just do the same old bulk Ctrl+A add, find them at the bottom of the list, and organise them into the existing chronological flow.

So with these behaviours described, do that make more sense with what you are seeing? Bear in mind, if you do wish to reset a collection to full linear binder order, that has been put together in several phases, then with the collection loaded in the sidebar, use the Edit ▸ Sort ▸ Collection into Binder Order menu command (confirmation will be required since that can revert a ton of work). At that point, the Test 2 collection should be identical to the Test 1 collection.

The Berlin + 11 folder contains - as shown in the corkboard/outline - one folder and documents in that folder… but what are the last two documents also doing outside that folder??

I would wonder why you are adding purely organisational folders into a collection meant to focus on narrative order for the text. Wouldn’t you just want the text items in there? The folders don’t hurt anything, to be clear, and could be useful as “dividers” to help you see where major divisions are in the binder, but they aren’t necessary.

As to the question though, what do you mean, outside of the folder? Is it perhaps not known that a collection is a list of items, not an outline? If you list “Act”, “Chapter” and two scenes from the chapter, they will still be a list of those entities one after the other. There is no outlining, nesting or hierarchy in here—that’s one of its advantages: everything is on an even field, adjacent no matter how far apart in the actual outline.

Why is the Appendix folder (last item in the hoisted binder, which exists at the same level as Act 1 in MS appear between Act 1 items (i.e. within another folder at the same level), and

I couldn’t say for sure, but perhaps the second test above would help explain things like that, and the command for “sorting” should clear up any situations where you end up with something out of binder order for whatever reason.

Why is the content of the Appendix folder above the folder, also in the middle of Act 1 stuff (as well as “in” the Appendix folder, accessible via the corkboard)

So setting aside ordering issues, and looking just at the last part—that’s kind of why I wonder why you need the “Appendix” folder in here, or any of these folders, unless you want to be aware of major subdivisions from the master outline order. If the intent of the collection is to have a grand view of the entire book in chronological order though, regardless of how the narrative is presented to the reader, then it seems to me these folders will just get in the way and present confusion, as would having appendix entries which probably aren’t chronological.

As for why folders act like they always do when you view them: you are looking at a list of things from your binder. If you put folders into that list, they will be a part of the list, and if you click on them they will show their contents normally because that is what happens when you load a folder into the editor. Scrivener isn’t going to violate that logic just because some (or all) of those items are also in the list along with the folder, in whatever order.

This is again an advantage: one could drop four or so key folders into a collection so that they are always easily available and adjacent to one another, but when you load each folder into the editor you are working with the binder, effectively. The collection is a list of things from the binder, not a replacement for it that operates in another parallel sense.

That is a careful and comprehensive reply, which I appreciate greatly. It will however take me a while to consider all that you have said and to (maybe?) arrive at a conclusion.

Just a couple of (short) comments though: I want the folders, at least initially, so that - as you guessed - major structure divisions are visible.

Secondly, what baffled me was that adding the Berlin+11 folder to the collection added both the folder (within which most of the documents are found) and two of the documents within the source Berlin+11 folder separately - that just seemed inconsistent (as well as reproducible).

More after the weekend probably, in the meantime - thanks again for the thorough examination of the claimed issue :wink:

Secondly, what baffled me was that adding the Berlin+11 folder to the collection added both the folder (within which most of the documents are found) and two of the documents within the source Berlin+11 folder separately - that just seemed inconsistent (as well as reproducible).

So if I understand correctly, you assigned the folder all by itself and three things ended up being assigned? I misunderstood the screenshot in that case. Since it seems reproducible, do you have a way of describing how to do so that I could follow?

The only instructions I could find were to “select all”, but that would contradict the stated action here of only adding one folder.

OK, I have double & triple checked this specific thing…

Actions: select MS in binder… just the MS folder. Hoist it. In the new hoisted panel, select all, expand all, select all again (to include the newly revealed items). Now every single item, folder and document, is visible and selected… right click and add to a[n empty] collection.

Results: the collection then contains e.g. the Folder Berlin+11, and in the corkboard, selecting that folder shows the single folder it contains and within that 11 documents… including the two illustrated above that are also beneath the Berlin +11 folder in the collection.

Comments & More: I’ve done it several times now and the results are consistent - two documents are outside Berlin+11 and just beneath it, but they and 9 others were visible in the hoisted MS, so I would expect either Berlin+11 folder and its 11 expanded documents in the collection, or, if it were trying to be smart, the Berlin+11 folder and none of its contained documents.

There’s also a problem with order. the order in the collection is not the same as the order in the hoisted MS… not even close. I also counted documents - not folders - in the hoisted MS and the collections and got different numbers 64 vs 61, but that could be a counting error on my part, however, with the order issue, maybe everything is in the collection, just in the wrong place.

But without order preservation initially it’s not much use. NB I have also hoisted MS, hidden most documents in collapsed folders (30 off) and then added to the collection. The number of visible documents (5) does not change, but the folder and document order is wrong, wrong, wrong. I’m really, really, sure about that. Absolutely certain, in fact. Trust me.

Without wishing to appear too precious about the MS, the only problem I have with posting the whole lot in the forum is that the document/folder names reveal many spoilers :wink: Hence the previous offer to share more privately.

Have a great weekend :slight_smile:

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Actions

Okay that’s all close to what I was doing. I was using the shortcut for View ▸ Outline ▸ Expand All instead of using the multi-step expansion approach you were, and use the Documents menu to add to a new collection rather than right-click—but these variations made no difference in the result for me. I got a complete listing in binder order.

Results: the collection then contains e.g. the Folder Berlin+11, and in the corkboard, selecting that folder shows the single folder it contains and within that 11 documents… including the two illustrated above that are also beneath the Berlin +11 folder in the collection.

That sounds correct to me.

Comments & More: I’ve done it several times now and the results are consistent - two documents are outside Berlin+11 and just beneath it, but they and 9 others were visible in the hoisted MS, so I would expect either Berlin+11 folder and its 11 expanded documents in the collection, or, if it were trying to be smart, the Berlin+11 folder and none of its contained documents.

All right, so here is where it gets weird. As you expect it should have added twelve items (the eleven including the folder). The feature is very simple: you select twelve it adds twelve. You select one (the folder by itself) it just adds the folder. It does not try to guess what you want, you are in control. But obviously something isn’t happening the way it should there.

To count how many items are in a collection though, you don’t have to manually do that, and this is a good trick to use for checking the result anyway:

  1. You select 12 items and in the corkboard it appears as a “multiple selection”. If you click into the corkboard the footer bar should update with the count of items. It should be in binder order.
  2. You right-click and add the selection to a new collection.
  3. Note the “multiple selection” is still in the editor, we haven’t clicked on anything to load, so it is still the same.
  4. If we click the hook arrow button in the collection sidebar header, the main editor loads the collection list—and it should be identical to the multiple selection used to create it.

Obviously it’s not, but that’s how you can check things—if the order of cards changes, or the footer bar counter isn’t the same after clicking the arrow button, then there is a bug.

The number of visible documents (5) does not change, but the folder and document order is wrong, wrong, wrong. I’m really, really, sure about that. Absolutely certain, in fact. Trust me.

Oh I believe you! I’m just not thinking of how to get that result independently.

Without wishing to appear too precious about the MS, the only problem I have with posting the whole lot in the forum is that the document/folder names reveal many spoilers :wink: Hence the previous offer to share more privately.

That’s completely warranted! I would not want to share anything I was working on either, even if I eventually intended to make it public. :slight_smile: Feel free to click my avatar in the top left corner of the post, and in the pop-up, the “Message” button to send a private message, where you can attach anything that would help reproduce it.

Note you can probably create a Save-As test copy and strip most everything out but just enough hierarchy to prove the problem. All I need it seems is this one folder most likely. I can’t think of what would cause this kind of error, but even if I can’t figure it out myself, if we have a trigger it can be posted as a bug and be better analysed with debugging tools.

In the meanwhile, again, don’t forget about that Edit ▸ Sort ▸ Collection into Binder Order command I mentioned above. Even if the result you get isn’t right from the start, you can at least correct it and move on.

A good weekend to you as well!

Good news… sort collection into binder order seems to have done the trick. Obviously I hadn’t got around to that :slight_smile:

Now it looks as though everything is there… my only (potentially rhetorical) remaining question would be why the ___ didn’t it preserve the order in the first place? That seems like the bug… I’ll contemplate trying to narrow it down to a M(N)WE for you.

:+1:

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Because one of the purposes of Collections is to allow you to experiment with different arrangements.

We can argue about whether the order should have been preserved in your specific example – I’m not sure what the expected behavior is, honestly – but having it be possible for the Collection order to differ from the Binder is deliberate.

Yeah, that’s one of the main purposes of the feature, to move things around after they are added, but when you bring 80 binder items into the collection at once, they should be brought in using their visible selection order. If for example I sort by a time stamp column in the outliner, like Modification Date, and add them to a collection then they should be sorted by mod date. If I add them from the binder they should be in binder order. If I add them from another collection that has been meticulously organised, then I should see them appear in that order in the duplicated collection too.

The Windows version is still a bit buggy with selection order. It doesn’t always respect it, often outright ignores it, but when it does fail it should fail to the binder order at least, and not some shuffled result. That’s the part that looks like a bug to me.

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@AmberV ~agrees loss of binder order is a bug. I’m glad there can be other orders though, but I don’t think there can be a serious argument about whether or not “the” order should have been preserved: an order should have been preserved/imposed, but there was no perceptible logic to it. I didn’t look for any collection sort possibilities initially because… well, obviously everything would stay in the “original” order.

We live and learn!