Custom meta-data

Back with the tutorial. I have put a “characters” item into my “Custom Meta-Data” field, and a “Time” item, but I can’t see how to use them.

At the moment I’m breaking up a 13,000-word story, the start of a novel, into scenes. Am I right in assuming that the custom meta-data thingy is like keywords, that it’ll allow me to set a time for a scene, and a point-of-view character, or does it allow me to have a bunch of characters listed? And the date - do I list it as “2012 March 7” or 2014/3/7 or what? A little confused here.

Whatever you want - POV character, characters in general, location, tension, conflict level, emotional intensity, structural points (inciting incident, mid-point of Act 2) etc. etc. The world, as Arthur Daley used to say, is your lobster (although I believe one can get too analytic, if not too anal, about all this).

Having marked your scenes in this way, within the Outliner you could then sort your scenes or search against the meta-data, to find out which of your scenes are most suspenseful, where your POV characters fall, how well your locations are distributed etc. You may not want, to take an extreme example, 92 of your scenes from one POV and only two or three from others; on the other hand this may be just what you want, but it could be useful to know exactly what you’ve got.

If you go down this road, it may also be desirable to have a column numbering each scene so that after a sorting experiment you can easily return to your original structure.

Hugh, I don’t seem to be able to add more than one character to the ‘Characters’ item I’ve set up in any particular scene…?

How is this used differently from the keywords, say, or labels?

Hmm, I don’t know why this should be. This is a column I use, and I just type the characters in, although (writing from memory) I think the software remembers them after they’ve been typed once and a pop-up menu offers a list the next time.

It just gives you more choices. I use keywords and labels for other purposes - such as indicating what stage in the writing and editing process each scene has reached: “Draft 1”, “Draft 2”, “Revision 1” etc etc.

Hugh, where exactly are you typing the character names, and how are you separating them?

And with the dates, the tutorial says to express them backwards for sorting (ie start with the year), but how otherwise?

I create a column in the Outliner called “Characters”, by opening Project > Meta-Data Settings > Custom Meta-Data, clicking on the + sign in the bottom left-hand corner of that pane and filling in the line circled in blue that opens up.

I then click on Draft (or Manuscript) in the Binder and open the Outliner pane by clicking on the Outliner icon above “Group Mode” in the application’s Toolbar (or click on View > Outline, or Cmd-3).

I then right-click, or Option-click, on the grey bar containing the headings of the columns of the Outliner and ensure that in the drop-down menu that then appears, “Characters” and “Titles and Synopsis” and any other columns I want to see, are ticked. If not, I click them.

You should then have your Outline with a number of columns, including “Characters”. Finally, locating each scene in the Outliner, I can double-click in the “Characters” column and type in my characters for that scene. I separate them with commas. (N.B. I was wrong in saying that a pop-up menu appears thereafter with suggestions derived from what you’ve already filled in; that happens for Status and Labels, but not for custom meta-data.)

You can follow that procedure for any custom meta-data you want to add. It may sound complicated; if so, that’s because of my explaining. It’s actually very simple. It boils down to: you set up the column, then you fill it.

Everywhere on my Mac, I enter my dates as follows: (e.g.) 2012-03-07. I have a Textexpander-type shortcut to do the same for today’s date. I’d forgotten that the Tutorial advises this; perhaps that’s where I picked up the habit. It certainly makes sense, and just makes sorting easier.

Hugh, this isn’t quite working for me.

I hadn’t noticed this header, but on your describing it I tried option-clicking, and it did nothing. Then I noticed a little >> symbol on the right and clicked that, and checked Characters and Time. (Later tried ctrl-clicking and that worked btw.)

I tried double-clicking Characters, but no dice; then I double-clicked it and then hit Return, and a field opened underneath, in the lined field where the Editor pane normally is. I typed a character name in there, then repeated it and typed another character name in.

Hunky dory, I thought (sob) and tried the same with Time. But no - the field under Time has the same entries, for the two character names.

I’m obviously doing something completely wrong…?

Oh, by the way, that chapter has now turned into a folder, with two files inside it with the names of the characters.

Edit: when you say you type in the names of the characters, where exactly are you doing this? In the Inspector’s Custom Meta-Data, or under the column headings in the Editor pane kinda place?

You can enter this information in the Inspector pane, but the procedure I outlined above is not for the Inspector but for the column headings in the Outline view, i.e. the view that, yes, replaces the Editor view but shows you a grid, like a spreadsheet.

I prefer that way of entering the information because I can see it all in one place.

I’ll try to paste in what I see and see if it relates to what you see…

Yes, that’s what you want, although you also need to see some titles and possibly synopses for your scenes in a list under the column heading on the left. (Is this just a test project, with no titles or synopses?) Then if you read across horizontally from a particular scene and double-click in the space below your heading “Characters”, you’ll see the cursor appear and you’ll be able to type in the characters for that scene.

This is in a particular scene. But if I type in the character names…

and then go to the Time tab and type in a time

(not sure if adding both files is going to work here) it looks like this.

Oh, and showing both sides:

I’ve added a “Characters” column to the Outline of the Scrivener Tutorial above. A box opposite “Part 4: Text Tools” remains to be filled, having been double-clicked.

The titles and synopses of the parts are listed in the left hand column, because the Draft/Manuscript folder has been selected in the Binder.

I could set the faint vertical grid lines via Preferences > Appearance, and checking the box in the Outliner section “Has vertical grid lines”.


I might not be understanding what you are attempting to do here, but it looks like you are creating subdocuments instead of adding meta-data. The outliner is like a spreadsheet, not a form.

Click to Expand

Green arrows: The Money item is in the Draft folder. The Draft folder is selected, so the contents of it are showing in the outliner—hence since the Draft has one item in it, “Money”, so does the outliner. Note the inspector. The green arrow points over there to show how the inspector is showing the details for “Money”.

Blue box: Click that in the inspector to view custom meta-data. If you find the outliner too confusing, this might be an easier way to add data to items.

Pink arrows: See how the meta-data is in cells aligned with the “Money” row? This is where it is like a spreadsheet with cells arranged in rows and columns. Don’t get too carried away with that analogy, but that is more what it is like than what I think you were doing in the other screenshots. From where the origin of each arrow is, to edit these in the outliner you need to double-click in the actual cell to edit them. Not over in the title area for items, but underneath the column which pertains the meta-data you wish to edit.

Ah, it was mainly a question of view - I was trying to view a file in the Outliner mode, rather than a folder and the files within it.

So now that I know that I can list, say, three characters who are in a scene, and the date that this scene takes place, how can I use this?

I tried setting three characters, Osiris, Hamlet, Ophelia and then searching using Meta-Data as the search parameter; it wants “exact phrase”, though, so I can search for Hamlet or Ophelia, or “Osiris, Hamlet”, say, but I can’t search for Hamlet and Ophelia.

Sorry abou this - it looks like an interesting thing to use, but I can’t quite see what it’s for.

There’s a good video on how to set it up here (I sense the tracks of Keithvin), but will hunt further to find one on how to use it.

Well, as with most things in Scrivener, if you don’t see a use for it, then don’t use it. I don’t always use this feature in every project. It often is not necessary, but when you really need to record something that can be made easily visible in the outliner like this, it’s very useful. From the user manual:

Ah, right, I see. Thanks. (Keywords autocomplete?)

Bedad, they do!