Filing a Linked Document

Is there a way to automatically link a linked document as a child of the document from which it is being created?

Here’s my usual scenario: I work in a file, and certain questions emerge that I need to explore in a different file. I usually write the question: [[Where else does XX mention YY?]]. Then I can choose where to file this newly created document. Since I work in one file, I have many subfolders, so the menu of places to file the new document is overwhelmingly large even if I choose the option “Show only containers in destination list.” I would find it useful if the new document is filed as a child to the document from which I am creating it. Is there such an option?

My workaround is that I file everything in an Inbox and then I use backlinks (thank goodness for them!) to see where they came from, and I move the files accordingly. However, it is a time-consuming option, so I was wondering if what I need is possible, but I am not aware of it.

There isn’t a way of doing that in one move that I can think of, but there are some approaches that could make this process simpler than a central inbox system and periodically filing things where they should go. Here are a few disparate and potentially useful ingredients I’m thinking of:

  • If you drag an icon from anywhere in the project window into the text you get a link to that item.
  • Hitting ⌘3 or ⌘2 while writing will open up the Outliner or Corkboard for that item, respectively. This makes outlining with a text file a simple matter, you can hit the Return key to make a new note. When you’re done, turn the view back off with the same shortcut and you’ll be right where you left off.
  • Dragging a document’s icon from anywhere in the project window into the header bar with the Option key held down will open that item in a Copyholder.

Incidentally these come with their own icon, suitable for dragging—meaning a Copyholder can be used as a kind of “parking spot” for link creation. I sometimes open Copyholders for no reason at all other than to have that icon parked. It can be great when I’ve written a new section that needs to be cross-referenced from several different locations.

  • And incidentally document links function as “icons” for the purposes of dragging them around in some but not all contexts of the project window. Where it does work for instance is in replacement of the the above tip: drag a hyperlink from the file you’re working on into the header bar with Option held down.
  • From an outliner or corkboard view, you can easily open a selected document into the other split with ⇧⌘O.

That is probably only scratching the surface, but here are some ideas for how some of these tools could be synthesised into a workflow:

  • Work the other way around from what you’re doing: make the item first and then link it. I think this method specifically works best by changing one option: in the Behaviors: Navigation preference pane, set Space key opens selected document in: Quick Reference Panel.

[*] Using the Outliner/Corkboard tip, jump into the text files child list and create a new item. Once you’ve named it, hit Spacebar.

  • Type in your note.
  • Switch back to the editor, close the Outliner/Corkboard, and drag the icon from the QR panel into the editor to create your link.

That’s just one way of doing things. Maybe you don’t like Quick Reference panels or the thought of having to switch between windows and cleaning up panels as you work. Use of simple navigation in the editor (Spacebar to open in the editor) and history you could achieve much of the above. Of course you lose the drag and drop icon, but you can still type in the [[name of note]] as you’re used to doing, only now it points to something that already exists, and as such the ⌃⎋ shortcut can help out (or you could even Copy the title at step #1 above for later pasting in the brackets).[/*:m]

  • In a variation of the above, you could do this at the start of a session, or whenever you first need to, and then just leave the configuration on screen until you’re done working in the section:

[*] Drag the icon of the file you are writing in from the header bar back into the header bar with the Option key held down (alternatively use Navigate ▸ Open ▸ in Copyholder, and consider putting a shortcut on that if you do so frequently). You now have the file open twice.

  • In the main editor, switch to Outliner or Corkboard, then expand the Copyholder and use that as your main writing area.

You may see the advantage immediately. We now have a list of this document’s child notes all of the time. Instead of jumping into and out of Quick Reference panels or using history, we can simply toggle between these splits, making new notes, dragging them in as links, etc. The same could of course be accomplished with regular splits—but a Copyholder is nice because you can keep using the split for other stuff, and also it takes up less space if all you want is a simple list of notes to work with to the side/above/below the main editor.[/*:m]

  • Continue with the “inbox” approach, but more seamlessly manage the filing process as you work. For this one, it might work best to change the Behaviors: Document Links preference, Open new document links in: Quick Reference Panel, or “Other Editor” (I believe one of those is the default actually, I tend to run with “do not open” so that I can continue writing and address the link later if need be).

[*] Create your link using the method you already use.

  • When you’re done typing in the note, switch back to your main editor.
  • Open the Corkboard or Outliner as before, and drag the icon from the note editor/panel into the list. Flip the view back off and continue writing.

Again—there are probably a 1,001 features that could be useful for this kind of thing, and a bunch of useful combinations I haven’t explored here. So hopefully none of these appeal, you’ll get some ideas from them.

I do something very similar to you in that I really like being able to keep notes and ideas as a child outline to the text I’m working on. That shortcut to flip between view modes is perfect, and with Scrivenings mode I can get the whole enchilada at once if I want. I don’t as often link from these notes in my text however—why? I guess because it is so easy to jump to them when they are organised this way. Having them as child items automatically associates them. I can see the appeal of wanting specific notes tied to specific bits of text however, and I do that as well, just not it seems as consistently as you do. So for me the overhead of clicking and dragging and such described above isn’t too bad, and once one finds a good system they like, it can become second nature once taken as a habit.

Thank you, Amber, for the detailed response. I have been experimenting with some of these suggestions, and I like the results. Would you mind explaining how placing links in a copyholder document helps you to create child documents? I was not able to understand this point quite well, and it might be a great solution for me. Thank you for sharing your workflow!

The idea is less about using the Copyholder to make links inside of—that all by itself doesn’t do anything a regular editor doesn’t do—the idea is more to take advantage of this facts:

  1. Editing a document in a copyholder is pretty much like editing it in the main editor. But like Quick Reference panels, they only show text.
  2. So if we want to work with a document as both a list of child items and a text document at the same time, we can use the Copyholder for the writing and the main editor as the list.

It means you can click over into the main editor, showing the contents of the text file, make a new file as a child as you normally would, and then once you’ve done that, you can drag it from the outliner/corkboard into the Copyholder where you are writing to create the hyperlink to it.

Instead of making a link and then moving the document into the right place, you’re making the document in the right place, and then dragging it into the text (which is in a copyholder) to link it. Here’s a screenshot of what such a workflow could look like:


The actual editor is of course along the bottom, where we can see an outliner view of “scene a”. The text of “scene a” is loaded into the larger copyholder, placed at the top of the editor. The key thing is that in that bottom half we can do everything an editor can do. We can double-click icons to load the notes, use history buttons to get back to this list, navigate to other areas of the project, etc. Meanwhile that top half remains resolutely fixed on the content we’re working on.

P.S. you can position the copyholder by right-clicking within its narrower header bar. By default it will come up along side the list, which you may prefer. You could also have the text on the bottom and the list of subdocument notes on the top. I like this way though, as it feels a bit like “footnotes”. :slight_smile:

Amber, thank you once more. This is such a great solution–it is so counter-intuitive for me but works great! I tend to think of the copy-holder documents as the children, but it makes so much more sense to use it for the main document.

I tend to lose where I am in my project as I keep developing my ideas, and I rely on any tricks that Scrivener has to tell me “You are Here”.

Could offer a suggestion for how to manage the following scenario, in which I find myself fairly regularly? I would have both main editors with some key documents, and I might have a copyholder open alongside one of them. From any one of these places, I might need to create a link, which would open in a Quick Reference Panel. I start typing in my ideas, I can now easily file it as a child to one of the main documents. But here is where I hit a snag: as I work in the Quick Reference Panel or a Copyholder document, I would need to create another link which I want to file as a child to the Quick Reference Panel document. I do not think I can switch to a corkboard view in the Quick Reference Panel or a Copyholder, so I am not sure how to go about filing that new document. I would really appreciate your tips. May be you already suggested one above, and I have not realized it.

Your suggestion to switch to corkboard view, drag the new file from the icon to make it a child, and then use the shortcut (Shift - 2) to go back to the main document is a huge improvement for me. Many thanks!

It is counter-intuitive to me as well! :slight_smile: We’re using the main editor as an auxiliary list view and an auxiliary “copyholder” to do the main writing. It’s all backwards—but it works.

Okay, as to your follow-up question: there are two different ways I would approach that—both extensions of previously discussed ideas:

  • If the new note document is meant to be filed underneath the note that you just created to be filed underneath the text you are working on, then in essence both notes can be easily filed into the same place, using the same approach you are already using:

[*] I’d use Outliner for this for the nesting. So hit ⌘3 to open the editor’s outline view.

  • Drag the first note into the editor to file it as normal.
  • And now from the second QR panel you can drag its icon into the item you just filed for the second level of notes. Both levels of notes are accessible from this one list.

But, if you prefer Corkboard, consider enabling Allow drop ons in corkboard, in Behaviors: Dragging & Dropping. In that way you could drag a note within a note, from the main document’s Corkboard, by dropping the nested note onto the original note’s card.

  • But if things are quite a bit more tangential than that, and the new note you’ve created isn’t directly related to any of the files in the main editors, here is what you can do:

[*] Use the same principle for filing a QR document, only instead of dragging into a Corkboard/Outliner, drag to the editor header bar. This opens that file into the main editor (without moving it).

  • And now from there with the note front and centre, you can switch to Corkboard and file the new note in the second QR panel into the first.
  • To clean up, simply hit the Back button in the editor. And of course as you edit QR panel 1 further, if you make a second note you want to file, you need only go Forward in history to get back to that document in the editor.

Regarding a “You are Here” mechanism, I posted some tips here a while back. Skip down to the paragraph starting “Using Project Bookmarks is similar…”. Coming from Scrivener 2, it is perhaps easy to think of Bookmarks as how it treated References: more a tool for listing resources and research, but the name bookmark is definitely meant to imply providing a sort of similarity to how we would use bookmarks in a book—marking even multiple places as we go from one point of reference to another, so that it is easy to return eventually—and most likely setting aside the paperclip, post-it, or whatever we used as a bookmark, once we do so.

I did that for this post in fact. I looked up our previous conversation, filed it as a bookmark, and then the above post I linked you to. Then I proceeded to draft the response. Whenever I need to jump back to either of these two archived forum posts, I could do so reliably, even though my history buffer is at this point cluttered with the results of having jumped around to other things.

When I’m done, I’ll be navigating to the archive of our previous post, and then from the bookmark list, dragging this response beneath it, so that it and the original posts are all filed together neatly. I’ll then clean up the three bookmarks I made.


Thank you for the super helpful tips! It did not occur to me that I could draft the QR icon to one of the main editors. Such simple tips help tremendously. (In the past I was dragging the wrong icon–the icon for the project, not for the text, and now a whole new world has opened up :slight_smile:

One last question (at least for now): is there a way to create a new note (Project > New Text) and automatically have it open as QR? I would like to have this option especially when everything else is already occupied with other texts, e.g. the two main editors and the two copyholders and most likely one QR already have documents in them. When I create a new text document, I do not quite know where it is in the binder, so currently I have a bunch of empty documents in the bookmarks section, and that is where I write new ideas, and then file them using your suggestions. It is not a bad option, but there are so many cool features in Scrivener that perhaps I am not aware of this one too.

Many thanks again for your detailed and patient responses!

You’re welcome! That icon dragging trick made such a difference for me, and is probably for me one of the single biggest reasons why going back to version 2 feels awkward now. It’s just so much nicer to be able to move documents around no matter where they are currently, merely by having an icon for them somewhere in the interface. Being able to load them in splits and in and out of QR panels is gravy.

I can’t think of a way of doing that, no. But depending on what view you create it within, it should be an easy matter to open it as a QR panel. For example if you create a new note in the binder, hit Spacebar to open it as a QR panel. To make that work in Corkboard/Outliner, you’d need to change the Space key opens selected document in… setting, in Behaviors: Navigation. From the text editor, if that is what you’re in when you create the new document, the Navigate ▸ Open ▸ as Quick Reference command does work (even to pluck out one piece from a Scrivenings session). I make enough use of that one that I have it on a hotkey for the laptop that doesn’t have a Touch Bar (we have a dedicate button for doing that there).

But it’s possibly also worth mentioning that if you open the Bookmarks sidebar on a QR panel you can create new documents from there, with the + button below the sidebar. That naturally keeps things right in the QR interface—and it is meant to replicate the old Project Notes workflow from version 2. That process can be streamlined by having new notes you create there always made into an “inbox” type folder, so you don’t have to choose every time. Of course that also designates the item as a Project Bookmark—maybe that means extra cleanup if that isn’t what you want, but it’s one way to work “outside” of the project window setup if you desire.

The + button in QR is the option for me! I got bogged down before thinking that I need to determine the folder in which is should reside, but now because of the icons, I can drag the new document whenever I see fit.

Fantastic! Thank you again!

I just wanted to say thank you once more for the tips because my workflow is so much smoother than before!

Glad to hear they have passed the test of use and time. :smiley: