Displaying multiple projects in one project

I am an epic fantasy writer and recently I switched over to Scrivener. I love using the software because of the organizational capability it gives me. Right now I am keeping all my world building details as they evolve in a separate folder below my manuscript folder in the binder for my story project file. However, this world building file continues to grow and I am getting to the point where I am doing lots of scrolling whenever I need to quickly access one of the world building notes in the directory.

I am wondering about splitting my story project file into two - one for the story, one for the world. I can always open both projects and use alt+tab to switch between two, saving me the scrolling (that is the present plan). However, I’m wondering if there is a way to still move my world details into another project, then display the root folder directory in the binder for my story project file. I know there are collections available, but so far I can only create collections from files within the same project.

If anyone has some tips or ideas they think would help me with this expansion issue I’d appreciate your input. Thanks!

Are you against the idea of subdividing your “world building” folder? You could have multiple folders within that folder, each containing a different set of background data (one for languages, one for family trees, one for geography, etc). Then you’d only have to open up the necessary subfolder, saving you binder space and eliminating the need for scrolling.

If I am understanding you, you are wanting something like cross-project binder aliases/shortcuts.

But wouldn’t this just reproduce the scrolling problem that splitting data between projects was supposed to alleviate? Hmm.

I suppose the result in any case would be a static set of aliases (shortcuts) which might be a bit of a pain to maintain.


P.S. I can really only speak to the Mac version of Scriv, but in that you can create a cross-project Scrivener link to a document by right-clicking on a doc in the Binder and choosing Copy Document Link. The result is something like this


This link can be put in another project. Such a link would have to live in a document there, though – would not be its own clickable item in the Binder.

Grouping things together into subdivisions really are meant to be the tool of choice here for keeping lists of items tidy and topical. One of the chief advantages of the outline model is that you can obscure massive amounts of structural data by collapsing leaf nodes you don’t need to be referencing at the moment. Secondarily, I would say the dual or tri-pane navigation model makes that approach even more scalable. Consider, for example, how many folders and tens of thousands of e-mails you can manage with a simple outline and multi-pane approach. Scrivener can do very similar.

As projects grow larger, what I find myself doing is only keeping groups to a certain level of depth disclosed in the Binder. I might only have two levels of hierarchy visible, and to access anything deeper, instead of expanding it in the Binder, I just click on it and view the contents of that group in the Outliner, where I can drill down further as needed. The Binder then gradually becomes something more like a topical index.

Thanks to everyone who has chimed in so far. I don’t have the ability to make links to other projects in Windows version of Scrivener. If there is a way, it’s not the same as for Mac. That said, though, I don’t think that would solve my problem.

I use nested folder arrangements for all my data within the world folder. This makes it efficient to find which document will contain the data I need to either enter or retrieve there. The problem with collapsing trees, however, is that often when I am writing I need to access multiple locations, quickly and efficiently so as not to lose too much forward momentum in the story I am writing. Right now I am using an intermediary technique by creating, at the end of the current scene doc I’m writing in, a tail of point-form notes labelled “to be filed”. At a natural break in the storytelling I will file this information away into appropriate categories. This still doesn’t solve the problem of needing to access information while writing - though I suppose I could just “guess” then add an additional list to the end of the scene labelled “to cross-reference”, modifying that part of the scene accordingly based on what I find when I look things up.

Presently I am going to split my manuscript into two projects, one for the story, one for the world. Using Alt+tab is a quick means of taking me directly without scrolling to the location I’d like. I am picturing this a bit like having multiple filing cabinets. I look forward to Windows 10, which purportedly will have multiple 3D screen arrangement options - that way I can actually have the screens for these project directories more accessible as I write.

I will keep an eye on this thread for any other advise. Thanks again for the help!

One thing I haven’t seen mentioned: are you aware of the ability to split the window so that you have two editors (the buttons are on the right-hand side of the header bar)? This tool is meant to be precisely for this, designed with the idea that while we are writing we often need to look up other things, write down notes or maybe even work/reference in two places of the same section at once. Furthermore these splits views are meant to be “microcosms” of the project, if you will. You can navigate within them throughout the entire Binder tree (save for the top level—but if all of your material is in the main research folder, that’s your starting point for everything else. Some tips:

  • Check out the navigation shortcuts in the View/Go To/ and the Documents/Open/ sub-menus (you can also just double-click on an icon in Outliner/Corkboard view to load it in that editor split). “Enclosing group” lets you traverse up the tree from the current editor location. And of course the entire Binder is in the “Go To” menu, also accessible from the editor header bar icon menu.
  • What if that Binder list is big enough that using the menu is awkward? That happens in larger projects. Check out Documents/Favorites/. Use this to elevate points of your hierarchy to the top of these navigation menus. You can jump to your archive of world location descriptions with a grand total of two clicks, no matter how deeply nested it may be. It should be noted that Favorites also make filing things with Documents/Move/To/ easier. I use favorites extensively to make a large Binder more compact and relevant.
  • Consider the References pane, unique to each section you create, as a sort of “localised favorites”. Drop items that you know are relevant to text you’re working on into its References inspector panel, and now you have quick access to any of them. These can even be folders. Project References pick up where items are commonly used this way (like a folder full of minor characters).
  • Just like a web browser, there are history buttons in the header bar, just to the left of the title. Everything you click on is stored into that editor’s history queue, so each split has its own history (making it useful when coupled with the above). You can jump to a folder in your editor (perhaps without even using the Binder at all), add a note, and then jump back with a few clicks. Note you can even do this from the other editor while you are writing, via the shortcuts in View/Editor/Other Editor/. I’ll often “pre-load” a half dozen or so documents that I know I’ll need to reference as I write a section, and then while I’m writing I can flip through them without changing splits, losing my place or reaching for the mouse.
  • To clarify what I briefly described in my prior message, using one split as a dedicated “second-level” navigator so that the main Binder can largely fit on one screen height is kind of the same thing in principle that I’ve described above. You can make this workflow less chaotic by setting View/Binder Affects/ to your “research” split, so that even if you click on the Binder while writing a scene, the thing will be loaded in the other side.

There are other features that may work better for you, depending on your preferences. Collections are a nice way to build auxiliary binders, focussed on the material you gather within them. Even just typing in your thoughts right directly into the scene, selecting the text, and using the right-click “Append Selection to Document” menu to file the text to a notepad, or even create a new document in the location of your choosing (again, note that Favorites impact the accessibility of important containers and items in this menu). Then just hit backspace and keep writing.

I routinely work in +1,000 item projects with detailed levels of organisation at the meta-data and outline level, and I can honestly say that I’ve never felt the urge to split a project into two or more pieces, strictly to facilitate routine working around within it. Granted, I’ve been using these mechanisms for years, so they are all second-nature to me at this point, some may take some acclimation, but from this vantage point over here—the software is virtually transparent and rarely gets in my way.

But you wouldn’t be alone if you do go ahead with splitting into multiple projects. That’s a perfectly valid way of working (especially considering that you can drag and drop items between binders), and I wouldn’t want to discourage you from using it—I just wanted to make sure you were aware of the software’s extensive navigation and data management features, because at the end of the day, this program was designed so you can throw thousands of files at it and still remain as efficient as when you had ten.

AmberV–this is extremely useful and helpful information! I am going to make a point of trying all of this out and adopting whatever I feel I can make use of. You’re right in that there are numerous ways to accomplish the same task. Yesterday, I split my project into three documents - character, story, world, and have found I am much more efficient now at accessing information. As years go on, I anticipate these files are going to grow enormous, so this basic split is really meant to help me compartmentalize very disparate types of data. That said, I still will run into the binder access problem and I think that, until and unless operating systems evolve to allow for 3D arrangement (though that’s probably only a 5 or so year away) splitting beyond 3 is not efficient. Some of your indexing methods using history and favorites sounds like it will help me to get to some core directories quickly. I have also made use of the split pane feature and find it’s especially helpful when I’m writing a scene and I need to view something as a static reference.
By the way, I just downloaded Scapple and look forward to integrating that with my Scrivener experience.

This is an update for the benefit of anyone following the discussion in this thread. I discovered a very useful software called Window Tabs ( windowtabs.com/) which displays open windows on the top of the screen as tabs, much like how internet browsers do. This has allows me to solve my problem of creating a quickly clickable list of scrivener projects. So far, I have found that splitting my project into multiple projects has dramatically eliminated search times, but this new program has added a new edge to that by eliminating the need to flip through open Scrivener windows using ALT+TAB. Definitely something to check out for any other users here who can relate to the problem I’ve had with Scrivener’s limitation to listing only files that are contained within an individual file.