Frustrated with non-intuitive UI

Aside from being very impressed with the software I’ve purchased and looking forward to doing some serious writing with the tools, these are some examples of scenarios that I find frustrating.

  1. Need to Duplicate multiple documents without " copy" suffix
    If I have a template folder like:

Chapter Section1 Section2 Section3

And I select/duplicate the Chapter, I get the prompt to rename the duplicate, and everything is good.

But if I just want some of the documents like Section1 and Section3, I select those and go to Duplicate, they get recreated with the same name and the suffix " copy". I need to manually rename each of them, which can be a huge hassle if there are many. Is there a better way to do that?

  1. Can’t Copy documents??
    Why can’t we select just one document and Copy/Paste? Per the above I would prefer to do this rather than have a mass of documents Duplicated in the same folder. I do see this in the manual:
  1. Undocumented shortcuts
    I was looking in the configuration and on this forum to see how to Expand/Collapse just a single folder, and I accidentally stumbled on it when I started experimenting with shortcuts. A couple shortcuts like Alt+[ and Alt+] are documented, but that’s for an entire tree. I just wanted one folder, where I found both Shift+arrows and Alt+arrows do exactly the same thing.

As I look at the context menu for binder items, I see Duplicate and Rename don’t have shortcuts. But under menu>Documents Duplicate does show two types of Duplicate with shortcuts. I’d still like to be able to Rename with a hotkey rather than grabbing for the mouse to double click. Is there a hotkey for that? How could I find out. I exported the list of shortcuts but did not find Rename or many others there.

In short, I’d like to be able to find and change the hotkey for as many functions as possible. (Or is there some documentation about how to tweak a config file to do this outside of the UI?)

  1. Would like to see ability to search for feature in Help.
    Maybe I’ve missed it but it would be very helpful to have a search box at the top where we can enter a keyword for a feature we’re trying to use to get help on it. With the above examples, I’d like to simply enter “duplicate” or “copy” or “rename” and get a quick jump into the manual.

  2. Move to trash without resetting focus
    Why does focus on a trashed item stay in the trash? When we “throw” “something” “away” we don’t hold on to it in the garbage can, so why do we do this in the binder? I’d like to see an option so that shift-Del moves an item to the trash while leaving the next item in the binder selected. Or at least from there make alt+shift+up go back to the document prior to the where the trashed document was located. Is there a way to do this already, either trash and do not move focus or hotkey to go back up from the trash folder?

In summary for these points, I want to navigate the binder and the rest of the app as much as possible without having to grab the mouse. That lowers productivity and makes me think about the tool rather than what I’m doing with it. And when I get stuck wanting a hotkey for a specific function, I want fast access to learn the shortcut so that I can move on. If we put this in terms of a book or story, we don’t want the audience to be taken out of the moment for some technical anomaly. The storyline needs to keep flowing with a constant suspension of disbelief, otherwise the audience is taken out of the moment, and the otherwise well-crafted experience is ruined - or in my case I felt compelled to come to this forum and share some of my frustration, rather than writing whatever it was that I was writing.

I think I’m seeing where Windows is derived from Mac and just not up to the same standard. I have patience and will be happy to use the software as-is, looking forward to enhancements as we go.

Thanks for your time.

  • There will be improvements to the naming conventions in duplication, in the future. That particular convention came from the Mac initially, but we’ve changed our minds on how the Mac should work as well.
  • I’d personally agree with you on the copy and paste thing, but that’s just a design decision. That aside, I don’t really have a problem moving duplicated documents to the destination container after duplicating them. I usually make use of the Documents/Move/ sub-menu for that. You could say, I suppose, that I’ve grown used to it over the years. I don’t even think in terms of copy and paste when it comes to the Binder, so there is no friction. Stuff like this, where there isn’t an extremely obvious advantage to either method, often tends to work that way, I find. What really is a “mass of documents” in the same folder when they are already pre-selected and ready to be immediately relocated?
  • The use of arrow keys to traverse and expand or collapse the outline is documented in the bullet list right above the bit you quoted from the manual above.
  • Rename is just the Windows standard, F2. Esc should also toggle editing.
  • Hotkey configuration in general is a bit of a coding mess, that’s why it is the way it is. We do want to change that but it is difficult. We’ve allowed what we can in the options panel.
  • I’m not following what you mean by a search feature for help. The documentation is a PDF file, which means it will load in your default PDF reader. If your PDF reader doesn’t have a search tool, I would highly recommend getting a different one! When I search the PDF for “rename”, the second hit is on page 20 and states, “…double-click on any item to rename it (or use the F2 shortcut key).”
  • Trash focus: that looks like a bug. The selection should stay in the same place, selecting the item that follows the item you just trashed, and the trash can should remain collapsed if was initially, or was empty to begin with.

I agree with many of your points, especially the vague sense that outlining should be as fluid and keyboard-centric as possible. I beleive we already do a pretty good job of that, comparatively speaking. I’ve only encountered a few outliners that are as good as or better than Scrivener—doesn’t mean we can’t do better though; thanks for the feedback!

Thanks for your cordial and complete reply and patience.

The duplication function I was trying to use is essentially the same as document templates. Just now I created a folder with documents under Research, and set it as a template. What I missed was the ability to click the front part of the New From Template links to insert the current level-down. So clicking on the front part of a folder name adds a duplicate of that folder to my project, which is exactly what I wanted.

Sorry for missing keystrokes in the manual.

About a search feature for help: The help box at the top of Scrivener looks for text within the project. But to find help on scrivener itself, rather than opening the manual PDF and searching that I was suggesting the ability to search for help from within the UI, just like the project search. As an example, in Eclipse there is a Quick Access field that does this. In Microsoft Office apps like Word, F1 opens a search window. In Scrivener F1 opens the PDF. The difference is that in the other products the keywords are indexed and the results of the search are links into the documentation, where with Scrivener we get a single document and a simple text search without context. As an example, if I had a place to type the word rename, I wouldn’t have just found the term rename in the manual on multiple pages, I would expect to see a list of things that could be renamed - and I would have jumped right to the relevant text in the manual.

I understand the evolution of this product and am happy to watch it continue.

Thanks again.

Agreed, Document Templates serve a greater portion of what I would use copy and paste for, too. I am also fond of how you can select any level of hierarchy in that menu to replicate the entire structure on downward from that point. Great for building pre-fab bits of outline.

I know what you are referring to now. Since the user manuals are written in Scrivener, this has never been easy to provide. Given our limited resources (I personally write and maintain all four user manuals; two products for two platforms) we had to choose one thing to do right, and we chose the format that we ourselves prefer. I know some like the topically focussed database approach better, but on the other hand I know there are plenty that prefer a front-to-back book about the software, too. Perhaps some day if we have teams of people working on all aspects of the software, we can provide both things.

I had another couple examples today of the UI issues I continue to face. The overwhelming love for this software expressed by those who use it is equally matched by some overwhelming functional issues that we see expressed in these forums time and again. And while I neither love nor hate this software I do have a sentiment that it’s great but frustrating almost to a point of unusability.

  • I spent about 30 minutes trying to figure out how to turn off the display of hidden characters like paragraph marks. It’s under menu>Format>Options>Show Invisibles. Why are those things under a special Options menu rather than inline with everything else? I spent most of my time looking in the documentation for the word “hidden”. Where there are so many other features described as “hidden”, I couldn’t imaging this one option would be named “invisibles”. The main issue here (and cited frequently in the forums) is that it’s very difficult for us to get help on concepts. We know what we want to do, now where is that keystroke or feature hidden? It would be so much easier f we could type the word “hidden” into a text box and get a list of related features - or perhaps if the index on the manual were much more robust.

  • I spent more time on trying to recover from Split and Merge: I went through the same process as others have reported here. After merging documents in the binder I found that I couldn’t undo that change. Similarly, we can’t undo a split if we navigate away from the binder. This oft-requested feature has been described simply as “technically difficult”. We all face difficulties with our creations but something like this is a critical feature. My solution for now is to set unlimited backups for every manual save and then poke around in zip files when I make a mistake. Really now, why do users have to live with this kind of pain over a period of years?

  • Related to my notes in this thread about copying documents: “All I want to do is…” (I love when my clients say that…) copy the text from consecutive documents and paste that into a single external text block. I don’t want to have to do a compile to make the text contiguous just so I can select it. It doesn’t look like we can select the docs and merge them into another document, leaving the source documents alone. I need to get a backup as described above in case this goes wrong, copy the docs, merge the copies, extract the text, then delete the merged doc. Or, copy a group of docs, save them as a template, then create a new group from template, merge that, copy/export, then delete the un-needed group. Again - Really now?

Thanks for your time.

A couple of thoughts (assuming I’ve got the right take on what you’re trying to do).

Regarding turning off display of hidden characters, my recollection is that that’s off by default (I could be wrong). If display was turned on for you, they may have changed the default; or since the hotkey for that is Ctrl-Shift-, perhaps you hit it accidentally. (I’ve done that sort of thing more than once.)

Hotkeys are actually pretty easy to configure (and disable): Tools > Options > Keyboard, where you can search for specific functions, labels or shortcuts, edit or remove hotkeys, and add new ones. I was able to get rid of Alt+Right Arrow toggling the Format Bar off and on (I expect it to go forward among documents).

Regarding copying the text from consecutive documents and pasting into a single block of text, the inability to undo merges does make that not the ideal tool for this. If I needed to do this, I’d probably create a dummy target document, then split the editor. In one split I’d have the target; in the other split I’d go to each document with source text, select the text, and drag it into the target. Somewhat counterintuitively :slight_smile: , this does not move the text, just copies it, leaving it intact in the source document. Once I had everything I wanted in the target document, I could do whatever was needed.

Hope this is some help.

David - Sincere thanks for the time you’ve taken here.

However, all usability issues are simple once you know where the magic button is. The problem I’m trying to present here is that this software is full of magic buttons. Each of us gets a full understanding given enough time with the software, enough trips through the documentation and forum, and with enough patience from those who generously share their own hard-earned knowledge with the noobs who follow.

I knew there would be some responses about the specific points. I should have said something about that, sorry. But the issue is not with specific challenges. Those were just a couple challenges of the day.

Yes, I did recently enable the display of the hidden characters by accident as I was looking around that area and trying to get more familiar with the features. I confess I forgot where that setting was.

About the split/merge thing. Just look at the convoluted “solutions” that both of us came up with to solve this, both of which are essentially copying content, doing some operation, then deleting the copy. Heck, we can do that with Notepad - the one from Windows around 1992.

But again, it’s not about the specifics. It’s about the kinds of things that people post in this forum all the time.

I’m just blowing off steam for a lot of wasted time. I’m still a fan.That’s what I keep telling myself anyway.

In summary, my more constructive feedback is that this software would be much easier to use with a more complete Index in the doc, and with a Search for help on the software in addition to the search which looks for content in user docs. When we know what we want to do, help us get to answers with as few keystrokes as possible.


You have some valid feedback on the usability aspect. I think I gave up on scrivener twice on the mac a few years ago, flipping between Word,Pages, and StoryMill.

“Getting used to it” is not the bar in usability, however usability IS hard. maybe for the 4.x series, the scrivener team can create use cases and video tape novice users as they try to reach the goal of the use case.


I strongly emphasize with where you are and what you are going through. Been there! Scrivener has a learning curve and sometimes it is hard to figure out how to do what should be a simple task.

First, some hope: There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t remember how long it took for me, perhaps a couple of months of daily writing in Scrivener for an hour or two, but at some point Scrivener faded away and I stopped noticing it was there. I just wrote.

Second, a suggestion: While I agree with your request for a better index in the help doc, I have reached the point with Scrivener (and with all the other software that I use), where if I can’t figure out how to accomplish a task after 5 minutes of poking about in the manual, I just head straight to Google. For instance, googling “scrivener turn off the display of hidden characters like paragraph marks” yields the solution in the first few results. Scrivener has been around long enough that there is a lot of related how to commentary on the web, so Google’s search engine is perhaps the best index available.


I’ll not talk about usability: As a newbie, there are already many different ways “I” would have done this or that, some driven by what I am used to in InfoSelect and some by what I would have insisted upon as an IT software manager/analyst before I retired: I just respond to three specifics that were mentioned here.
(I figure and accept that user training is necessary despite my 20+ years of doing things differently.)

Yes, on my list for reporting/wishing once I got ‘moved’ to Scrivener – The Trash focus thing in Win. Scrivener 1.9.
Undoing a merge is something easily done in InfoSelect. (It inserts a separation delimiter between merged documents (it calls them notes), which it uses to undo the merge.)
If one sets up new key shortcuts (doable in InfoSelect) and they are overlaid by Scrivener for some wonderful new functionality later on, other than our saying “What the hey!?” the first time or two we use ‘our’ shortcut, do we get any kind of a heads-up in the Scrivener release notes: A specific reference for new shortcuts; A conflict popup … ? Or do ours merely go away? (As I recall, there is a way to back them up? But once recovered, would ours merely overlay Scrivener’s new use(s)?)