I am a relatively new user. Is there anywhere in the Help function that gives simple definitions of each aspect of the program. For example, a “storyboard” may be an obvious reference to screenwriters or film writers. Novelists, perhaps not so much.

I also have had considerable difficulty understanding the various views. Again, is there somewhere in the manual or in the tutorial that shows a basic description of how the program is structured?


Definitely go over Part 2 of the Tutorial. Note that if you are just clicking straight to that folder without having gone through the instructions, you’ll want to display the folder text which has been placed there. To do so, click the Corkboard icon in the toolbar (or if you get an Outliner view click that instead).

But, if you haven’t gone through the entire tutorial yet, you might wish to. There are a lot of fundamental concepts that it goes over, and by the time you get to Part 2, it assumes knowledge from Part 1.

I see that you are in Portland, as am I. Do you know whether there are any writers’ groups for critiquing? I am an English prof, so need to find writers who are themselves well-read.

As to the Scrivener question–I am so conflicted about this. Does it ever become simple to use this software? I cannot seem to get in mind a view of what it does. Is it database software? Perhaps I am mis-understanding it.


Two places to check would be the Multnomah Public Library system, they host a lot of events and I’ve seen writer’s events periodically, and Powell’s flagship (maybe Hawthorne too)—I think they have a monthly writer’s group, but I have no idea how big/impersonal either of those are. If the Hawthorne branch has one, it would probably be more personal.

In regards to application simplicity: That’s a tough question to answer. It wouldn’t be fair to say that Scrivener doesn’t have a small learning bump. There are some concepts and things it does which are decidedly different than standard word processing and even other applications that are focussed on large-format writing. Things like folders and text being essentially identical; index cards on a corkboard = files in a folder; the philosophy of writing in small pieces and letting Edit Scrivenings and Compile handle the merging for you. Some of these are unusual, and others have no comparable analogy out there. However with that said, I did use the word “bump” intentionally. Most people, once they grasp the foundational concepts, have a big “ah ha” moment, and end up posting lavish praise on the forum, and then merrily going about writing several novels. Rainbows and pots of gold, basically. Things do ease up for most people.

The reason why it is a hard question to answer is because everyone is different. It isn’t a matter of intelligence or even intuition: some software just doesn’t psychologically mix with certain brains, and no amount of forcing yourself will ever fix that. A rather well known and highly regarded application, DEVONthink, is a personal example. Most authors love this program, but I never got around some of its basic philosophies and I don’t think it will ever work for me as a tool. So, if you never do find the “bump”, no reason to feel bad about it, that just happens sometimes.

But do give it a shot. A lot of people have been where you are and once they finally figured it out, you couldn’t tear Scrivener away from them—and in nearly every case you’ll find that some of the core reasons why those people love the application are the very things that gave them trouble early on. They aren’t there just to be difficult or “different”: they are there to give you extraordinary power over your manuscript and tame the massive amount of text that any book represents.

Update: One other resource I forgot to mention, though it duplicates with the tutorial section a bit, is the “Index Cards, Synopses & Outlining” section in the user manual. You can find that section in the left navigation bar. In there you will find links to “corkboard” and “outliner” which go to another document explaining these interfaces further.

Hi, ancientgreek.

You may also find it useful to skim through the forums a bit, too, particularly the Tips & Tricks and the Usage Scenario topics, looking for anything that catches your interest. Prior to my purchasing Scrivener, I read a lot to see how other people were using the software, and I know that helped me when I started playing with the program. You should also check out the video tutorials if you haven’t yet and see this thread of user screenshots to get some visuals. They can be a big help just by presenting information and ideas in a different way.

Hope that helps you get started!


Thanks to Amber and mimetic! I am continuing to work on this software, but I find I am quite flummoxed by how all of the parts fit together. For example, I do not know how to access Edit Scrivenings. It is always greyed out when I try.

I shall follow up on all suggestions and am grateful for the help.


It is helpful to remember that Edit Scrivenings is a way of viewing more than one document at once, as if it were a single document. Therefore the only way to access it is by having more than one document selected, or to be viewing something that itself has multiple documents beneath it. This can be a folder or a document with children. If you select more than one file with Cmd-click or Shift-click, you’ll get the option available for selection-based Edit Scrivenings. Otherwise you can use the container-based options. Ordinarily, Cmd-Opt-1 is good enough, but in some cases you might wish to focus only on documents that are a part of the book (you can toggle documents and folders to not be included in Compile, if they are out of date, or just random notes not intended to be published), or inversely only those ancillary documents that are not a part of the book. But like I say, in most cases Cmd-Opt-1 is the easiest pick to use.

Incidentally this whole bit will be cleaned up quite a bit in version 2. It will be a lot more intuitive to use this feature in the future.

When is the next version coming out?


That hasn’t been officially announced yet, but it’s coming along!

If you haven’t seen it already, another place to look for guidance is the video tutorials section:

In the introductory video I give a fifteen-minute tour of all the main features and how things fit together. There are other videos there by David on various aspects of the program. (I assume you have already been through the interactive tutorial project available from the Help menu, which is by far the best way of getting to know the program.)

I am hoping that version 2.0 will be ready for late September. It’s worth getting to know version 1.x, though, even if you hold off on the purchase, because even though 2.0 has been refined to make the integration of features more intuitive, the underlying philosophies and functionality of the program remain largely unchanged.

All the best,

Thanks, Keith–will 2.0 be an upgrade or a purchase for those who have paid for Scrivener? Curiousity only.

I shall go through all of the material again. I like the idea of the program; I just don’t understand its conception of views and some of the functions. I’m very pleased I can get so much support. Thank you.


2.0 will be a paid upgrade - the first there has been in over three years, although that’s no consolation if you’re just buying - but it will only be $25 to registered users. There will be a free update period but it’s too early to say when that will start as yet - certainly not for a couple of months at least.

In a nutshell, I would describe the way views work thus:

• Everything flows from left to right - the binder (source-list) on the left giving an overview of the files, the editor(s) in the centre showing the current selected document, and the inspector on the right (when open) showing meta-data associated with the current document. So things get more detailed as you move from left to right.

• The Draft folder is where you structure your manuscript. Supporting files can go anywhere else outside of that folder - the Research folder is provided as a convenience for this.

• Each document can contain subdocuments - it’s up to you how you structure things. Generally you would group documents within folders, but you can convert a folder to a text file and back - there is little difference between the two other than the icon.

• If you select a group in the binder, you can view its subdocuments either on the corkboard, outliner, or as Edit Scrivenings.

Most of the confusion, I think, stems from how the corkboard, outliner and Edit Scrivenings are not currently synonymous. Sometimes you can view one but not the others, sometimes you can view any mode. This is mainly because of the way things have been added to Scrivener over the years and changed - 2.0 has been an opportunity to revisit this and refine it, so that all three modes are entirely synonymous in 2.0. For 1.x, though, the way it works is this:

• Outliner mode can only be accessed for viewing the contents of a group.
• Corkboard mode can be accessed for viewing the contents of a group, likewise. But you will also automatically enter corkboard mode when selecting multiple folders in the binder.
• Edit Scrivenings mode has to be manually selected, and can be entered either when a group is selected or when multiple documents are selected.

As Ioa said, the way you can switch between these three modes, and the flexibility of the document structure, is somewhat unique to Scrivener. Getting the integration right has been a learning curve and Scrivener 1.x didn’t get it entirely right - it was a design that arose before Scrivener had been used to write long texts by thousands of users. It’s only through the feedback of users and having used it myself for the past three years that I’ve been able to see where things fall down and need redesigning or better-integrating. No doubt 2.0 won’t get everything right either and another learning curve will begin when it is release.

All the best,

No. A document is any file in the project - anything that appears in the binder really. Usually “document” is used to describe any non-folder item that appears in the binder, but technically you could consider a group to be a document too.

None really. Have you been through the tutorial and Help file? This is explained in those places. There is also a video all about this on our videos page, entitled something like “The Flexibility of Folders in Scrivener”:

I really do recommend you go through these things in depth.

The only folders that are really different are the Draft, Research and Trash items, as these can’t be changed. But all other folders, although they look like folders in the Finder and superficially look like them, can also store text and be converted to documents/files. You can select a text document in the project and convert it to a folder. Nothing is lost - the text is still there. The only difference is the icon used and the view mode that is used to open the document by default. By default, clicking on a folder will show its subdocuments in the corkboard view; clicking on a text document will show the text of the document (and clicking on an image document will show its image). But when you are viewing a folder, you can deselect corkboard mode to show the text associated with that folder; when viewing a text document, you can select corkboard mode to show the subdocuments of that text document. Most likely in that situation the corkboard will be blank - but you can create cards there and the text document will have subdocuments.

A group is any document, folder or otherwise, that has subdocuments or “children”. Subdocuments are documents inside another document, in a hierarchical structure. (The term “group” is sometimes used interchangeably with “folder”, and “container” is sometimes used for regular non-group documents that have subdocuments.)

Don’t all of those mean the same thing? They are all different ways of looking at multiple documents at once, whether documents that have been arbitrarily selected in the binder or the subdocuments of a group. The corkboard and outliner allow you to view the synopses of documents while Edit Scrivenings allows you to see the actual text of documents combined.

See above.

This is really fundamental to Scrivener, so I really do recommend going through the tutorial, video introduction and Help guide again, where this is explained in depth. But look at it like this: when you select a folder in the source list on the left in the Finder (e.g. by clicking on “Documents”), the view on the right shows the contents of that folder. This is what the corkboard does. Except the contents (subdocuments) are represented as index cards that show the titles and synopses for the subdocuments of the selected group.

Just select multiple text documents in the binder, or click on a group (folder) that contains text documents, and Edit Scrivenings should be available.

I designed it for writing novels or any other kind of long text, and plenty of published novels have now been written using Scrivener, so I would say it is ideally suited to the task - but not for everyone. Although I hope you do get to grips with it and have the “a-ha” moment that Ioa talks of, I wouldn’t want to make any false claims about it being the ideal tool for everyone out there, given that we all think and work differently.

Glad to help.


All the best,

I would add to the definition of a document like this: a document describes a “peak” in the book which deserves notice. The notice may be for the sake of the author alone, but it could also be a visible feature in the book itself, such as a full page break, a chapter title, or a sub-section heading. In the parlance of outlines, it is a skeletal description of the work.

The Binder is a way of looking at the book as though it were an outline, the only difference with Scrivener is that the outline is the book because all of the text of the book is stored in the outline.

Now to return to the original definition, where it is a peak in the book that deserves notice. I phrased it that way because an item in the Binder can be by itself empty of text, but contain other items which do contain text. Thus it is still a semantic peak in the narrative flow, but it itself doesn’t actually visibly appear in the book to the reader. In this case it is more a tool for the author. Unlike word processors which feature outlines based on physical heading types, Scrivener outlines can be abstracted from the physical, visible structure of the book. That’s one way of using it: another way is to make it so that every visible peak in the Binder is fully represented in the final manuscript. Another way is to blend the two and have some parts visible and others not. This can be achieved by working with the three available types, folders, file stacks (files with files beneath them), and regular files.

I prefer to refer to all three as “documents” because in essence they can all contain visible book elements.

The definition of a “group” is anything that contains other binder elements beneath it in the hierarchy. Group is synonymous with “container”. It wouldn’t be right say it is only a folder though, because as you can see, text files can also be containers or groups if they contain folders and files themselves. Thus a more generic term is used rather than just saying “folder”.

Conceptually, yes. Practically, not as much, otherwise there would be no purpose to having three different forms. They all provide unique ways to interface with the structure, or the “peaks” of the work.

Corkboards provide a handy and visually aesthetic way to quickly manage the contents of a single group in the Binder. You can see text files as index cards, or containers as “stacks” of index cards; you can see the title and the synopsis of each item; and you can optionally add further information like label pins and status stamps to help in managing the emerging status of each part of the book.

Outliner has two key differences from corkboards: first it can survey a much broader scope of the book at once. It is possible to click on Draft in the Binder, choose the Outliner view, and then drill down through the whole book using the disclosure arrows. Like corkboard you can quickly review key bits of information, if the columns have been made visible, but it can also display much more about each binder item than the Corkboard can, thanks to the table interface. So that would be the second main difference.

Otherwise, these two views are, as you put, conceptually synonymous. They both allow you view the contents of things in the binder and that is all they are doing. They are just expanding and enriching the data that can be seen in the Binder alone. Practically though, there are many specific reasons to use one over the other. Many find corkboards to be a more creative interface to work in while brainstorming because of its visual analogy to working on a wall. Others find the outliner to be more useful in editing.

You may end up using one, both, or even neither—it’s entirely up to how you approach your work. Personally, I use outliner more than corkboard. That’s just because I like the ability to drill down and see multiple layers at the same time.

Edit Scrivenings is a bit of an oddball in the mix. Again, conceptually it is very similar to the above two, but it works entirely in the realm of text content and eschews nearly all information about the documents themselves. The meta-data that helps define the document is all set aside and it places the focus on the text. It’s also the only view mode that even lets you view text at all.

So you could say that corkboard and outliner are more focussed on the nebula of data that defines your outline, while edit scrivenings is more focussed on the hard text of your outline. The other key difference with edit scrivenings, at the moment, is that it can much more easily represent a non-linear selection of the outline. There are some edge exceptions to this here and there, but for the most part the fourth Edit Scrivenings mode is by definition a non-linear tool. The first three modes are much more linear—they work on a selection of the book.

Just as a simple exercise, you could create this order in the Binder:

Now click on “Chapter” and make sure corkboard is showing. You should see cards for “a”, “b”, and “c”. That is because you are viewing the group called Chapter, which has those three sections as children. The index cards are directly correlated with the outline you see in the Binder.

As a further experiment, you could click on “b”. You should get a text editor screen, but click the corkboard button in the toolbar. What you get is an empty corkboard. Try clicking anywhere in the corkboard and pressing Cmd-N. This creates a new document (shown as an index card) beneath “b”. If you look back over in the Binder, you’ll see that “b” now has a disclosure arrow to the left of it, and looks like a stack of paper now. You could click that arrow and see the new document beneath it. Now click “Chapter” again. See how the “b” card now looks like a stack of index cards? That’s your clue that it has children—it is a group.

Continuing on, with “chapter” selected, press [b]Cmd-Opt-1[/b]. This shortcut will enable Edit Scrivenings using the “All” mode. You should get an editor that is empty, if you’ve been following along religiously (if you typed in text on any of these text documents it will show up). However you can see there are now alternating bands of paper colour—this is where one document ends and the next starts.

To see how this works in action, click in the white band at the top and pay attention to the header bar. You should see “Chapter” up there. Now press the down arrow once. Now it should say “a”. You are now editing the “a” document. Look over in the Binder, and now type in something—note how the icon changes? That means the “a” document now has text.

Press the down arrow again, the header bar says “b”. Type in some text, and the empty stack of paper in the Binder that represents “b” will acquire a text-filled icon.

Press the down arrow again—you are now in the document beneath “b”. Add some text to each document.

Now try clicking just on “a” in the Binder—you should just see the text you typed in for “a” all by itself now and no alternating paper colours. You’ve left Edit Scrivenings mode and are now just working on a single document.

So one last thing, let’s try two documents. With “a” still selected, hold down the Cmd key and click on “c”. Your view should change back to a corkboard. This is what is known as a “multiple selection corkboard”. This is one of those edge cases I mentioned before, where a corkboard can sometimes be a non-linear representation of the structure.

You’ve got a card for “a” and “c”. Press [b]Cmd-Opt-4[/b]. That’s the keyboard shortcut for edit scrivenings in selection mode. You should get both the text for “a” and “c” visible.

Hopefully that helps you better see how it all fits together.

Absolutely! The way in which you define “peaks” in your book is, as I said above, entirely up to you. You can choose to conceptualise these as literal, reader-visible sections of the book if you want. Scrivener supports that way of working.

In the above example, we could have set up the final compiler to only print titles for “file stacks”, which in our example would be both “chapter” and “b”. For everything else it would only print the text. So to the reader they would only see the peaks, “chapter” and “b” in the book. To you however, you’ve defined author-specific peaks which are not expressed in the book. Their structure is invisible to the reader because the text just flows from one to the next without any kind of titling.

So yes, you can work where each “document” in the Binder is a physical chapter or even sections or sub-sections. You can work other ways too. I wouldn’t say Scrivener is more suited toward one than the other, except in that it is often ideal to not have huge documents in the Binder. It’s just easier to work in smaller pieces of text, especially with edit scrivenings around to temporarily view large portions of the book as one piece, as you’ve now seen. Some have no problem putting entire chapters into documents though, and if that is what fits best with your brain, by all means do so!

I guess my closing advice would be: Try not to coerce Scrivener’s binder items into notions like “chapter” and “scene”. By that I don’t mean it shouldn’t be used to describe these terms, but try not to say in your mind things like “Can corkboards only view the first part of chapters”. That’s not entirely accurate because it is mixing and implementation with the method. For you, a group of folders might be a chapter, and in that case yes a corkboard can view chapters, but to another person folders might be parts, and so then a corkboard can view parts too. :slight_smile: It’s more useful to think of things in terms of abstractions, I think. Otherwise you might get the idea that Scrivener only has certain “book types” and that there are precise ways in which they should be used.

Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s an abstracted structural modelling system which can be used for a wide variety of methods.

Ioa–how do I “demote” the a, b, c cards?

The keyboard shortcuts Ctrl-Cmd-LeftArrow and RightArrow handle promotion and demotion. In the above example, you could select the item beneath “b” that we created, and press Ctrl-Cmd-LeftArrow to promote it to be on bar with a, b and c. Incidentally you can also use UpArrow and DownArrow in conjunction with those modifier keys to move items up and down the list. Scrivener’s item movement is all pretty standard in terms of outliner conventions. It does also support grouping, which lets you select several siblings, press Cmd-Opt-G. This will create a new folder and automatically demote the selected items within it.

Got that. Now I see I have somehow deleted Step 1–beginnings–in the Tutorial. Is that possible? It is not in the Trash.

You might have accidentally moved it somewhere unintentionally, and if that is the case that will help reveal a few new tricks. First, use the toolbar search field to type in “Step 1”. Do you see it in the search result list on the left at all? If so, select it and press Cmd-Opt-R. That shortcut is for “Reveal in Binder”. It works throughout the interface, whenever you lose your place you can use that to zoom the Binder to the document you are editing. You should be able to drag it back to where it ought to be using the mouse, once you’ve done that.

If it didn’t come back in search results then somehow it got deleted. You can always delete the tutorial project and start a fresh one, if need be.

It did not come back. I presume I ought to close the program and reopen.

I am so grateful for your help. I am much better at reading Ancient Greek than I am at learning new programs.