Difference between folders, files, and documents

I have been doing some writing with Scrivener. But I have a question that I can’t seem to find an answer for. Here is a screen shot of my document:

Note: As the above demonstrates, I have not figured out how to insert an image into this message. I have also tried .docx format, but that is also refected. What format is acceptable?

In the Binder, some of the segments have an icon comprised of a box and then a small box inside.

Others have two boxes, one on top of the other.

Some are simply an empty box.

Some of the boxes have a blue color, others no color.

Would someone please tell me what these different icons mean. I have not found any explanation in the manual.


You can only attach an image file with the images, you would need an appropriately sized jpg, or png image file, not embedded into a word processing file. But in truth, I am never certain an image will get posted here. Below is a link to a screenshot of my current project.


It’s hard to tell from your descriptions what you are seeing, but The colored vertical file, which should look like a folder (sorta) should represent a folder. That is it is a high level container for text and notes.

The other two (I think from your description) are either text icons or note Icons. when there text in a text object, my icons get little lines in them, as do my notes icons. When a text object funcions as a high level container for a note, the icon looks like it is stacked.

I THINK the colors are coming from the Labels function. It allows you to create color labels that you find meaningful so that you can see the status of an object with a single glance. These are optionsl. In windows, you right click an object and select Labels.

Hi Mike,

Is this what you mean?

See the Windows manual, section 7.2, for additional info.


Your post is exactly what I need. Thanks much.

I am attaching a jpg file of my binder.

As you can see. the structure of this project is a mess.

Can you give me one more bit of help by telling me which options I should be using for different kinds of levels. The second level (e.g., Introduction, Being, Mind) are book sections. The sublevels below them were intended to be chapters (Deep Structure: Matter and Energy). Then below that are sections of chapters; for example, the item labeled “The First (supposed to be Next) Step Forward” is a text box that goes at the beginning of the chapter. I wanted it to be separate for easy access while editing, I was planning on putting different sections of each chapter in a separate level, but now I realize that this latter approach may not be tenable.

Please give me your suggestions.

Thanks again for your help,

I don’t know whether this will be helpful, but in my understanding Scrivener’s folder/file/document metaphors are very flexible. If you create a document and type some text in it, then in the binder drag another document on top of it, the first document becomes a folder with the second document under/inside it. If you have a folder with two documents under/inside it, and you decide they should all 3 be at the same level, in the Binder you can “outdent” the two subdocuments one level and they will all become independent documents (i.e., the first one will become a document instead of a folder); and then you can make them folders by dragging or creating new documents under/inside them.

I’ve come to like this myself, but it can be a bit disconcerting or hard to follow at first. Especially for people (like me) who expect an object to be one thing and stay that thing, instead of changing on demand. Sort of like my age: what, a calendar said something and now I’m a different year than I was? :smiley:

It’s not quite accurate to say that a document “becomes” a folder. It stays a document, but now it has other documents nested under it. The distinction matters because the Compile command can be told to handle documents and folders differently. This lets you differentiate between divisions that are part of the final structure of the manuscript – like Chapters – and divisions that are just there for your convenience as the author.



First, the caveats. I am no compiler expert. The fiction I write has very simple structural requirements, at least relative to what it seems your non-fiction book entails. I use Acts, Chapters, Scenes, and only the Scenes have text. So perhaps a fellow non-fiction writer who has worked through the kinks of the v1.9 compiler will pop by with more detailed advice for you.

That said, your structure for the most part makes sense to me. Something to be aware of is that the v1.9 compiler is driven by structural level and by type (folders vs. docs, as Katherine points out above). So, for example, you can specify that Book Sections will print differently than Chapters. The idea, I think, is to aim for consistency. So if you want all Chapters to print with the same formatting, than it makes things easier on you if the Chapters are always the same type and at the same structural level.

(Just FYI, the Windows v3 of Scrivener will bring an overhaul to the compiler, in that it is less dependent on structural level. Nothing I’m advising below will be broken in v3, but having consistent types at the various levels will no longer be necessary.)

Using folders as Book sections is fine.

Your chapters are sometimes folders and sometimes documents, and this inconsistency may cause you complications later when it comes time to compile. There may be a case for using documents as chapters, but I couldn’t tell you what that is. :frowning: I would use folders, and enter any chapter specific text inside the folder itself. You can convert from folders to documents and back by right-clicking on the thing and choosing “convert”.

Similarly, your sections of chapters are sometimes folders and sometimes documents. I would use documents for these, unless you are planning on another sub-level, in which case I’m not sure which type you should use, and maybe in that case it would help if you could provide more info about what you’re trying to accomplish.

Does the above make sense to you?

One other thing. I hesitate to throw this out there, but another approach you can take is to leave your structure as is for now. In other words, write the book, and restructure it as needed when the time comes to compile it. Or maybe the middle ground is to make a reasonable attempt to structure it now with the compiler in mind, but not get into nitty gritty details of output compilation until after you’ve written the thing.


The “Scrivener-like” answer is to write the book and worry about the Compiler when you’re ready to compile it. That’s the whole point of separating the writing piece from the final assembly piece as Scrivener does. That’s especially true the earlier in the process you are, as if you’re just starting to organize a significant non-fiction book now, there’s a good chance you won’t be ready to compile it until Win Scrivener 3 is either out or in a very late beta. As JimRac said, the version 3 compiler is much less fussy about the outline hierarchy.


Much thanks to everyone who has responded to my inquiry. It has been very helpful. I am studying your input.


Thank you for the correction, Katherine. I don’t do compiling in my particular workflow, so I wasn’t aware of this.