I have read through some of the previous posts for footnotes and endnotes to be numbered within the text of scrivener for writers who are composing extensively footnoted/endnoted academic papers. My understanding is that this feature is not coming though, as it has not appeared in 2.0. I could even see if Scrivener wants to distinguish itself by not simply copying the MSWord format for that process.

However, I would like to make a request that instead of underlining and placing a box around a word when you create a comment or footnote, that Scrivener inserts a symbolic link into the text instead. This does not need to be numbered footnotes or comments. It could simple be a small fn symbol or comment symbol. Everything else would work as is, just the link would change.

The reason behind this is that I am using Footnotes as footnotes when I compile, and I am using Comments to house the my Citation tags from my citation manager (Sente). When I compile, I get footnotes and inline comments. Then I scan the document in Sente, and I get my bibliography. This works amazingly well, and I love the way that I can view my footnotes and bibliography through the inspector without having all the citation ids within the text. However, given I am writing academic papers that are extensively footnoted, the constant lines and yellow comments in my text are rather distracting. Ideally, these would disappear, and I would just see a link to the comment/footnote.

Again, I am not asking for full-fledge footnote/endnote capabilities that have a different in-text symbol for each footnote and that appropriately number my references in order even as I change them.

I am looking for something much simpler. Just a symbol that looks the same for every footnote and another symbol that looks the same for every comment to be placed in the text. They should just be very small, super-scripted links to the inspector. Everything else in Scrivener would remain the same. I think this would be far less distracting than my heavily marked up text at present, where half of it is underlined with one background color for footnotes, and the other half is underlined with a yellow background color for comments. It looks absurd, to be honest… I should send a screen shot!

Anyway, thoughts? Would this be possible? I think it would open up Scrivener to academic writing without changing very much of the program, and without turning it into another program. I think it would be amazing… hence the long and emphatic request! Otherwise, of course, I love pretty much everything about Scrivener.

I think part of the difficulty is stripping out the extra link symbol during compile, but anyway, I just wanted to suggest a couple options for dealing with the different colors.

First, you can set them all to white (or whatever your editor paper color is). In the preference pane under Appearance in the Editor section of Customizable Colors, you can choose Footnote Comments BG and change all the footnotes that way; to change the comments, load everything in a Scrivenings session and show the comments & footnotes pane of the inspector, select all in that pane, right click on one of the comments and change the color. You can even change the color of the linked text (also in Preferences:Appearance under the editor section) to just be black if the default blue is distracting. You’ll still get the underlining and boxes, but with everything the same color it should be much easier to block those out.

Second, if you use full screen mode with the option to override the text color (set in Preferences:Full Screen), that temporarily overrides colors for the comments and footnotes, too, so it’s essentially a quick and non-destructive way to get the same sort of view as in the first suggestion. You still have the boxes, but everything’s the same color and it’s much less distracting.

Thanks MM. I actually typically do everything that you suggest; that way of workign has been fine when only using footnotes with a default of white. But the constant loading of comments and changing their color in the inspector is less than ideal.

I agree, the problem is how to remove the link during compile stage. I am not exactly sure how the inline annotations are removed during compile stage (depending on your compile preferences), but it seems like this might be feasible to do. You could potentially structure the symbolic link to work just as inline annotation, but the link would just be a static symbol… not text you could change. In that way, I think it would be even easier to isolate and delete (or replace with the inline comment/footnote) during compile.

There are three more things that I want to point out which I think could be real advantages to my suggestion:

  1. Scrivener is all about non-linear editing, which is why we love all love it. But somehow, the footnotes and endnotes seem stuck in a very linear way of working, because they are tethered to the words in a sentence. I suggest you break them free of that restriction and use your same non-linear workflows to work with footnotes/comments. Specifically, if each footnote/comment is a symbol in the text, then I can copy, paste and even drag and drop it as I please. This would be nice, because I often use the same reference at several different places in the text. If you place the link to comments/footnotes to a symbol in the text, then you are no longer tied to the word itself. This also solves the great annoyance of when I want to change the last word in a sentence (the one that is underlined as a link to a comment/footnote). I can’t just delete the word, because I will lose the footnote/comment. So I have to go inside the link, and carefully replace the word with a new word in order to keep the same link.

  2. If Scrivener ever wanted to simplify the redundancy between inline and inspector footnotes/comments, this would be an ideal way to do it. When clicking on the symbolic link in the text, you would go to the inspector as you usually do with the text link now. However, you could also potentially right click on it so as to expand the link into an inline annotation/footnote. In other words, with a little extra coding (and if you wanted to), you could share the content between inline annotations and inspector comments; similarly inline footnotes would be the same as inspector footnotes. You would be left with footnote and comments, very simply. How the user chooses to view those comments/footnotes is up to each user.

  3. Finally, if you feel that you want to provide users more options for document markup (you would essentially go from 4 different types to only 2 different types with this strategy), I think you should generalize the whole approach to notes and allow users to add more categories. In other programs, this would be done by adding endnotes to comments and footnotes. For Scrivener, though, you could do something different.

I would suggest that you generalize the very concept of the footnote into a generic in-text note. Forget about all the these minor differences between footnotes and comments, let alone inline vs inspector. Just make a note in the text. Let the user define how many different types of notes they want to use (perhaps a maximum of 4 or 5 different types to start). Allow them to assign defaults for each type of note. They might assign a default color and symbol for one type of note, and a default symbol or color for another type of note. Some they may wish to display inline and some they may wish to display in the inspector as defaults. In either case, they would be able to click on the symbolic link and get to inspector, or right click to open the content of the note inline.

Finally, users would be able to assign each of their note types to an output during compile. Red notes might go into comments, white notes with an fn symbol might go to footnotes, those with a superscripted en might go into endnotes. But this way of working would actually be much more powerful than that. For example, a user might create a series of three different fn symbols in three different colors. At the time of output, they might output all three Scrivener note types to footnotes, but the black fn would result in regular footnotes, the red fn outputs footnotes that are in red text (to remind them they need further editing) and the yellow fn outputs footnotes in yellow inline text as references that need to be double-checked.

I think this way of working would be very much in line with Scrivener’s non-linear editing style. Rather than trying to replicate what other programs like MSWord do, it would provide far more functionality in a much cleaner, intuitive design. You would get rid of your four types of markup at present (inline/inspector comments/footnotes), and have one button for a “Note”. You could perhaps replicate this button on the toolbar in a different color if you chose to add different types of notes in different colors. It would provide a completely generalized perspective on note-taking from the user perspective. At the same time, compiling the draft would be used to reduce the richness and variety of your Scrivener notes into the stricter confines of MSWord Footnote/Endnote/Comment.

Could be great, especially for academic writers and anyone else who is extensively commenting their text.

A well-though set of suggestions, but if I’ve understood you correctly, you would be removing the ability to see comments and footnotes inline in favour of a visible symbol to whatever’s in the Inspector.

Apologies if I’ve got that wrong, but I think that would be a big step backwards. I like and regularly use the ability to cmd-shift-A/F type comment/footnote cmd-shift-A/F without having to mess around with the Inspector or right clicking anywhere. I occasionally use the inspector comments, but if I had to choose, would rather do without them than the inline notes.

Just my opinion, of course. However, I think there may be a simple solution for your problem: would this be any use?

a) to add a footnote, type [space]@ (or other symbol to choice), ctrl-cmd-8 to add the inline footnote. This will highlight the symbol (only - that’s why you need the space, otherwise it will highlight the previous word as well).

b) in compile, add [space][symbol] as a Replacement, with an empty field in the ‘with’ column. It will then be removed during compile.

This works when compiling to PDF (I don’t have Word on this machine, so can’t test that at the moment). I think it should also work with comments in Word - again I haven’t been able to test it.



Right, just tested it with Word, and it seems to work OK (forgive me if these images don’t come out right - never done it before…)

Screen shot 2011-03-31 at 11.19.01.png

The caveat is that doesn’t seem to work for comments, because replacing the symbol seems to remove the placeholder and the comment is shown inline with no marking in Word. You can use of course use the symbol in Scrivener, but not replace it during compile, then remove it and the comment in Word when you’ve finished with it.

Hope this helps,


David! Thanks so much! I hadn’t used replace in compile before. It is a bit of a hack, but I think it should works around a lot of my complaints.

In Scrivener, I keep my inline citation tags in inspector comments so that I dont have to look at them, and so that I can still use separate footnotes on export. Then on compile I actually go from Scrivener comment to MSWord inline, so the problems you note above should not effect me. (The inline comments with Sente citation tags can then be compiled into a bibliography format I choose in Sente). So I think your solution solves most of my issues… so thanks so much for your post!

I still think my suggestions above would streamline this process though, so I hope Scrivener at least considers it. Improvements could still be made to have comments default to white background, get rid of the extra space you describe, and use just one button or command to add the note rather than two. Oh well, hopefully one day… Also, just FYI, I was certainly not suggesting of taking away features from Scrivener… if you wanted inline citations, you would just set that as your default for a particular type of note (if not all types of notes).

In any case, David, you have certainly improved my writing dramatically… so thanks again for your post!

I think David’s solution is perfect - Scrivener would only achieve these suggestions in exactly the same way, so it’s not really a hack but a great way of having both possibilities.

Remember that Scrivener is a first-drafting tool - I’m not being deliberately “different” by “not simply copying the MSWord format for that process” - it’s just that Word’s process is a final layout process, and Scrivener does not have a full layout engine. MS Word, like Pages is coded by many people and has been developed over many years with final layout in mind; Scrivener is coded by one person (me) and has many other features that need tending to in the “first draft” realm - trying to add a full word processor on top would not be feasible and nor is it really what I set out to do with Scrivener.

Anyway, many thanks to David for such a great solution - I think we should add something like to the Help manual or wiki as I think some other users would that useful too.

All the best,

Glad to be able to help - I didn’t know it was possible myself, just a vague idea it might be…

A tribute to the program itself, really - it surprises me (in a good way…) every time I use it. For example, as a (footnote-related) aside, I discovered only a week ago that if you simply copy and paste Scrivener documents into DevonThink notes. Scrivener will automatically convert (both sorts of) footnotes into properly formatted end of text references (not pages because Devonthink doesn’t do pages). That is simply amazing… I annotate a lot of books / articles, but Devonthink’s text facilities are not a patch on Scriveners, so this is ideal for me. Eventually, of course, selected notes will be transferred back to Scrivener for the actual writing of the book, but that’s a long way off…


Thanks David! Yes, Scrivener just turns footnotes into regular text at the end of the main text for formats or programs that don’t support “real” footnotes - glad you found it useful!
All the best,

You can choose whether or not to replace only instance of the whole word, so if you’re not using the @ symbol (or another symbol of your choice) anywhere else in your text, you could probably just tack it on the end of the final word likeso@. It’d potentially make it a shade more difficult to easily move around in your text or copy paste since you couldn’t just select the whole thing by double clicking, you’d need to highlight just that character.

As for the default comment color…if you don’t use highlights within your text, you can take advantage of an Apple color quirk to switch your default color. Note that this really is a hack, and definitely don’t use it if you do use the highlight colors in your text, as it will cause chaos (nothing destructive, but it’ll be more trouble than it’s worth).

  1. Highlight some text in your document by selecting it, opening the Highlight drop-down from the format bar or via the menu and opening the color picker and selecting your color. Even if you already have the color in your drop-down list, you need to pick it through the color picker.
  2. Create a comment on that highlighted text using the keyboard shortcut.

From now on your comments are in that highlight color, even when not made on highlighted text (you can remove the highlight from the text now, too). This will however affect all your projects until you quit Scrivener–that could either be a pain or a bonus. The new “default” color will change if you click on a comment or make a comment on text highlighted with another color, so avoid that. You can get a couple other oddities if you close and reopen the project (again, nothing destructive that I know of, just confusing–see the bug report), so be sure to just do this and then quit Scrivener entirely when you’re done working so that everything resets appropriately. Your comment backgrounds will stay their chosen color (new ones will revert to the actual yellow default).


Wow, thanks, that works perfectly, even if it is a hack. and thanks again David for your help too!

Keith, Just wanted to say you have an amazing program, and I love it. It makes a world of difference in spending hours at a computer when you actually enjoy the software. Let me revise my request to something much simpler:

  1. Would you think about adding user set defaults for the comments color? MM has solved it, but it sounds like this is also a bit of a hack and may be somewhat unstable…
  2. I still think it would be nice if there were a one-click option to insert both the symbol and the comment/footnote, and have this deleted on compile, in the same method David has outlined in his post. It need not be complex, but rather than anchoring a footnote/comment to text, you anchor it to a symbol and dont worry about moving it around etc. This would reduce the process from space, @, Shift-Command-* down to just one click or shortcut. Obviously, you would need to have this as an option, as others I am sure like anchoring footnotes to text.
  3. I realize you do not have a full layout engine, but I was trying to make a suggestion more about composition–and non-linear markup of a document with user defined notes–than anything to do with footnotes/endnotes after compile. I still think it would be great to generalize the notes function to the above, but that is just one person’s opinion.

In the meantime, you all have figured out a way for me to add a symbol link with a white default background color, all in one day. I am entirely impressed by that… so thanks again! happy typing!

Unbelievable. I think I’ve just become a Scrivener user again. I always thought this was the most useful forum on the net. I’m glad I kept coming back.

Keith, give that man a free copy – he may not have found a bug, but he’s certainly found a “feature” that some of us wanted! And might I suggest that you publicise it more fully? It could make a lot of difference to heavy footnoters like me.

Best wishes,

The symbol substitution thing is a very good trick – thanks! And it definitely speaks to Scrivener’s flexibility and power.

I support lef23’s idea of building in the support for the symbol-footnote. I’d go further and suggest a more (sorry for the word but I can’t find a better one at this point) elegant solution to the footnote-symbol problem.

I agree that scrivener is for first drafts, but some (bad) writers like me, precisely because it’s a first draft, need to move footnotes around a lot. The current link system doesn’t work well when you’re shuffling your footnotes around. The symbol substitution trick is excellent, but I’d rather have a built-in solution and perhaps the use of another type of representation (like a star token or a fn token, ideally with a live number but I’m sure that’s an overkill) that also makes it more easy to drag and drop the thing around the text.

Sorry, but I think the solution is elegant as is, and the symbol substitution trick would allow you to do exactly what you want. And you can already move footnotes by selecting different text, ctrl-clicking on the footnote in the inspector, and selecting “Move to Selection”.

Glad you liked this solution Martin! I may well look at exposing this solution better in the future.

I’ve read several of the recent entries on footnotes and comments and am totally confused. Frankly, I could not find anything about how to insert a good old-fashioned footnote into my draft. The reference area seems to be for listing sources with url’s and many of mine are from periodicals or books. Advice? Thanks.

Have you gone through the tutorial or manual, both available from the Help file? They both cover this fairly comprehensively. I’m not sure what you mean by “good old-fashioned footnote” - you create notes which become end-of-page or end-of-document footnotes when exported or printed; as I say, all of this is covered in both the tutorial and the manual. I really recommend taking the hour or two it takes to go through the Interactive Tutorial, as it will save you more time than that in the long run.
All the best,

Thanks for all the good advice in this thread, between the replacement symbol trick and “move to selection” most of my problems with footnotes are solved.

But I have a question. I’m trying to create a sort of “macro”, so that by pressing a combination of keys on would get the replacement symbol (say, @) typed, selected and then the Insert Footnote command performed. Is it doable with Applescript or another application? Thanks!

I don’t think there’s a way of doing that, no, but I am looking into a way for Scrivener handling this in the next version for those who want it to. The problem is picking a character that is unlikely to be used for anything else but which won’t reset the font (most symbols in the Special Characters picker are only available for certain fonts and so can change the font when you don’t want it to).

Thanks for looking into this! I see the problem with the character. For instance, I don’t use “@” but ^^ – for a handful of us @ stands as a unit of measure… I imagine that any character would have a similar problem, plus the font thing… I hope there’s a way to handle this.

Keyboard Maestro, perhaps?