Cut & Paste strips in Outliner


I love the software. I won’t write with anything else at this point. So, well done, first of all.

The one additional functionality that would change my composition experience for the better would be the ability to cut and paste strips in the outliner mode.

I write in the outliner mode, split screen, with the outline on the left and the text of whatever’s highlighted on the right.

When I go to move around strips - I’m calling them that, they are the individual items under “Title and Synopsis” in the Outliner - it seems I can only do that by dragging them. It would be a great help to be able to select items individually, consecutively or non-consecutively, as you already can, and cut them, then paste them at an insertion point in the outline, instead of only dragging them, and often popping open every strip with subordinates along the way.

Thanks for listening,


If you’re basically looking for a more keyboarded way of getting items from A to Z, you could try using the Ctrl-Cmd-ArrowKey shortcuts, which move items around spatially. They won’t pop anything open unless you specifically use the RightArrow combo to tell an item to nest within the one directly above it. But you can also avoid popping items open by just moving quickly over them, or around them, in an arc instead of directly over everything. If you aren’t looking for a keyboarded way to do this though, then I don’t understand the argument because if you’re going to move the mouse up to a spot where you intend to paste, it doesn’t really make any difference if you do so with the mouse button held down, and thus you might as well just drag the items there.

Hi Amber,

Thank you for taking the time to reply. The Ctrl-Cmd-Arrow function doesn’t address my need, but I wasn’t aware of it, and it seems very useful for promoting/demoting items in the Outliner, so thanks for the knowledge.

I’m not only concerned with popping open sub-elements in the Outliner, or with navigating via the keyboard vs. the mouse. What I’m interested in is making decisions about where to move scenes and notes within the outline of my story.

For example, if I have a not with an idea for a story point, or piece of dialogue way down at the bottom of my outline, and I want to move it up to an area of my outline that contains a particular subplot, but I’m not sure exactly where it will go yet, it’s not easy to do dragging things by the mouse. Because with the button depressed on the mouse I can’t go in and look at the outline elements in detail in my editor. The drag has that locked up.

So, I often end up looking through my outline for where I want the note to go, going back down to where the note is, and dragging it up. But, if I could highlight a note, or strip, or whatever they’re actually called, and cut it, then I could look through my outline to my heart’s content and when I find where I want it to go, paste it in at that point without having to go retrieve it again.



Okay, I think I better see what you are going for now. This is indeed a common problem with the drag & drop model. For instance in Finder, if you know you want to move a downloaded file somewhere vaguely, but not precisely, it can be difficult to get there after you’ve started dragging—and if you prefer to use Finder like Explorer with only one or two windows open, your options are more limited. There are a number of models for addressing the problem. Cut/Copy/Paste is one such model, though personally I feel it is a little opaque to most users. The “drop box” model is one I do not see a lot of, but it works nicely. Path Finder uses this method to good success. You can drop files into a special spot of the interface to basically “mark” them, then navigate and browse to your heart’s content, and when you’re ready to move them you can drag them out of this little area of the UI. Then of course the most natural solution to the problem is to provide the user with more than one browsing interface.

Scrivener uses this latter model with the split editor interface. If you’re working in an outline and you identify some scenes that are flat in their current location, you can select them and then hit the split window button to view the outline in a second area of the interface. In there, you can navigate to entirely different parts of the story, using the Binder, collapse or expand areas of the outline as needed, and basically use all of the navigation powers you have to locate the spot where the scene will work. Once you have it identified, you can just drag and drop your original selection from the other split to the target location, and then hit the close split button (or Cmd-’). As with Finder, you can either drag normally to move, or Opt-drag to copy.

Why not just add cut/copy/paste at the binder item level? The last time I checked there were technical issues with doing this, so that is why I’m looking for alternative solutions to help you out.

Again, thank you for taking the time to reply. You’ve got it exactly. I hadn’t considered using the split screen, since I already have it split, and like to keep the text editor in one of them. I’ll use the binder as you suggested. (three panes) It’ll be a big improvement over the outline-wandering I’ve been doing.

I used to use a program specific to scheduling film shoots - not writing software - called “Movie Magic Scheduling,” which let you cut & paste strips that represent scenes in just this way, and I found it really speeds things up. It’d be particularly helpful in the dizzying process of keeping everything in your head while plotting/beating out a story. Perhaps I think of that as the best solution because I’m habituated to it. Your suggestion will change my habits and definitely improve my experience. Thank you again.

Okay, I also just noticed the “Alt-drag,” or “Opt-drag” to copy you pointed out, which I was never aware of, that’s great.

The history buttons can help out a lot here. I’m always jumping around and using splits for maybe twice their weight in tasks, but it’s super easy to do that since I can just hit Cmd-[ when I’m done to get back to where I was (or hold down the click on the back button to jump back non-sequentially, just like in a web browser).

A three-way split may be something considered in the long-term future, but under the current design it wouldn’t actually work so well because the the application is designed around the concept of these two splits working together. You can scroll the other editor while typing in the second, for instance, control its history “remotely”, pause and resume media for transcriptions, swap and automatically load selected data from one split to the other. These functions would become meaningless or overly complicated if there were more than two splits.

But yes, the Binder can in many cases be considered a third split, especially if you become accustomed to [b]Opt-Cmd-L[/b] ([b]View/Editor/Lock in Place...[/b]) so that Binder clicks do not mess with your split layout.

I agree with you, switching to new software often requires breaking habits, and I think Scrivener is better than average at doing that since it approaching the concept of a “document” in a fairly unorthodox manner—but I do also feel that learning the way it is designed to be used can be very beneficial because in my opinion it has a great core formula. Like you, I something think, yeah three splits would be great because I could do more—but then I see how integrated the two-pane design is and how a History feature, while not as trendy as tabs or whatever, is extremely efficient. There is a lot of depth to the overall UI in that it employs a small handful of simple concepts (like [b]View/Binder Affects/[/b] which forces binder clicks to only impact one split instead of whichever is active) that can be combined together to make flexible and efficient workflows.

The View-Editor-Lock in Place command is going to work very well for me. It’s another functionality of which I was unaware. I think I’ll use the three-pane screen, Binder, Outline, text, just because I often want to be able to read the text inside a strip to know where to place things.

And this is all really only for the process of beating out the story. I use the split editor for research, making notes, and actual composition. Definitely agree that Scrivener’s base concepts are outstanding. It’s clearly writing software created by a writer. Really, I’ll never use anything else I’m not forced to. I don’t even write in Final Draft anymore - just format. When something’s well-designed, it’s worth the effort to learn it on the assumption it has something to teach.

I’m very grateful for your time/help. Already today was a better experience than yesterday for your insight. Now, if I can only get this plotted so I can write it!

Great! Glad to hear you’re getting on better with the program. If you prefer menus, you’ll find Lock and a few other commonly used tools conveniently located in the “header bar icon menu”, which you can get just by clicking on the icon next to the name, as indicated below: