I’d try opening a second split and then clicking the double-arrow “auto-load” button in the footer bar for the Outliner. This will cause it to act like the Binder, in regards to the other split: single clicks will load up there automatically. This will cause Scrivener to work more like OmniOutliner when notes are shown in a pane rather than inline.
There are four ways to get this information without disturbing your binder selection:
- The header bar for the Scrivenings session will print the name of the section the cursor is active within, after the session name itself (usually the folder title). Hovering over the title area in the header bar will also print the full path.
- The Inspector’s index card can be used to briefly check the title if the header title is too long and truncated to be useful.
- The “Go To” menu in the header bar icon menu will automatically hoist to the current session, and place a checkmark where you are. This is also a good way to jump from one section to another.
- Finally, the most obvious and useful method that you mention yourself, does in fact exist: Format/Options/Show Titles in Scrivenings menu command. You can edit titles when they are printed in the text like this, too.
We also have some cool new ideas coming down the way for the future that should make reactive outlining more seamless.
Speaking personally, I’m a “retrospective outliner” as you put it. I tend to type into holding containers until I know where I’m going with them, and split things up and re-organise as I go.
Overall, Scrivener’s approach to outlining is more of the “2-pane” variety, be that with the Binder + Editor, or Binder + Outliner/Corkboard + Editor, than the embedded outline philosophy used by word processors and some dedicated outlining programs, as well as mark-up based formats like Markdown+Folding Text and Org-Mode. The idea behind Scrivener is that for large form material, such as books or dissertations, it is more useful to separate structure from content into two separate mechanisms, while keeping those two things tightly integrated, rather than merging the structural mechanism directly into the content mechanism. I would not say that either approach is better or worse for prospective vs. retrospective outlining. They both have their pros and cons—I would say Scrivener’s approach is better at keeping the bird’s eye view just that, without have to collapse and expand content sections repeatedly. On the flip-side, being able to push aside all structure and just read the text as a reader will is also something that is not as easily done in an embedded-outline environment. You can usually hide notes, but not headings!
It is also worth noting that although the content is mechanically separated from outlining, you can do a bit of “outlining” within the editor view too. Hit Ctrl-Cmd-R to pop up an indent level (either broadening your Scrivenings session, or switching to Outliner/Corkboard), creating and splitting new items can be done within a Scrivenings session as well, just call the commands from within the editor, and with option #4 on, you’ll find this even more seamless as the cursor won’t jump out to the Binder at any point to get a file name from you, as you can just type it into the editor. I often do quite a bit of organisation work directly in the editor itself.
The main thing I would agree with is that for pure outlining via the keyboard, a dedicated outliner is usually going to have Scrivener beat, mainly because you have to create and then move new nodes, rather than having a four-point option to establish the relationship from the current node (sibling, child, prior-sibling and parent-sibling). You can do all of that of course, just not in one move. For straight node creation though, the Enter key is a nice way of building out a bunch of ideas.
For advanced stuff though? It’s great. Hoisting, collections for advanced non-linear marking and gathering (physical and by proxy), sorting by meta-data components, custom fields, component based output, type and depth based stylesheets… all stuff you’ll only find in dedicated outlining programs (and to my knowledge, not in any writing programs like Scrivener).