Having an outline without corresponding parts

I have been using Scrivener for almost a year now and love it. For every paper, book, or anything with substantial length I always jump to Scrivener. However, for some shorter projects, sub 3000 words, I still want to outline my ideas just to get them on paper. I want to use an outline mode to do this, however with small bodies of text I don’t want to divide the piece into each outline insert. So now I use OmniOutliner for a simple way to do this, but would rather use Scrivener.

So in other words, can you have an outline without breaking the body of text.

If not I am fine with using OmniOutliner, but would prefer a built in process.

No, there’s no way of doing this, I’m afraid; the whole point of the outline in Scrivener is that it represents different documents.

All the best,

P.S. I’m moving this to the Technical Support forum - the Usage Scenarios forum is for discussion of how you use Scrivener.

I am an inveterate outliner…so in addition to the Outline view of documents in Scrivener, I have a styles-based strategy for outlining within documents.

In Scrivener, I use a series of user-defined styles for this purpose. Named, O1 through O5, they differ only in having increasing levels of paragraph indent. (There is also an OB, to get back to normal zero-level indent.) These styles live on the Styles pop-up menu on the Ruler in the Editor area.

Using System Preferences>Keyboard>Shortcuts, I have assigned keyboard shortcuts to each of these styles.

This gives me the ability to visually structure the paragraphs in a single document in the manner of an outline.

This does not give you all the features of a genuine outlining mode, but it captures the one essential feature.

One of the beauties of this approach, is that I can freely structure text for myself, and still Compile it as normal paragraph text without having to “flatten” my outlining at all. This is due to the happy way in which Scrivener allows you to keep separate how you want things to look when you are writing and how you want things to look when it goes out of Scrivener. For the way I use outlining, this is quite ideal.


P.S. I found outlining in OmniOutliner deeply aesthetically unpleasing. Can’t remember the details of that assessment now, just the upshot. At the time, it also seemed to me that OO was founded on a wrong-headed school-book idea of outlining, not on what people really do with outlining–uh, well, not what this person really does with outlining anyway–and that was both surprising and ill-boding for an app dedicated to outlining. Maybe things have gotten better. [This is one domain in which I have to giving a grudging nod to Word (though one does have to completely redo the ghastly default styling of the outline levels there).] Between outlining in Scrivener and mapping in MindManager, my outlining needs are pretty well served.

I was a big fan of OmniOutliner and even continued to use it for a few months after discovering Scrivener. But eventually I weaned myself off it when I realized that Scrivener’s Binder can be the outline itself. We think of outline elements in OO (or any outliner) as different from the files in SCrivener, but really they’re the same thing – bits of text arranged hierarchically – viewed through different interface metaphors. Once i’d retrained my brain to see the Binder elements as outline points, I found I didn’t really need OO anymore. I don’t even use Scrivener’s Outliner view, though it and the corkboard view can certainly also substitute for an outliner.
Of course, YMMV depending on your working style, and there’s nothing wrong with continuing to use OO – an excellent app. But so far, the Scrivener Binder has become my outliner, whether for 500-800 word columns or longer stories.

Just to pitch in with the rest: Cutting up your stories into smaller chunks is probably one of the largest conceptual hurdles with Scrivener. Three thousand words is a huge chunk of contiguous text in ScrivenerWorld. It really is best to think of the Binder in the way you would think an Outline with Notes (text area). Scrivener has two tools for supporting this notion of working in small chunks: Edit Scrivenings and Compile. The former makes your job easier by presenting twenty small bits of a chapter as a single file that you can edit. Compile makes the post authoring process easier because the final result will be a single document you can open in a word processor, or send straight off to the editor.

Yeah, what Amber says. Scrivener totally removes any “punishment factor” associated with splitting things up as much as you want. You will almost certainly find new and liberating ways of working thanks to Scrivener.



Tree is lovely: smooth, efficient, neat. One might even say elegant. Alas, one must also say expensive. It costs right now more than Scr. – 3980 JPY = $44.50 US. Seems steep for an ancillary app that clocks in under 4MB. (Granted, size is not necessarily commensurate with value, nor does a smaller footprint prove less effort – often the reverse. Still…)


Apache web server, 6.5MB, free.

Oracle Enterprise database, 1.7GB, USD 672,750 (with options & 8 processor licensing.

Hmm. You might be on to something.

What? How dare you make the obvious correlation between Vista and OS X/BSD and Linux?

Linux, 200B (if you are me), free (unless you want to yell when it breaks)
OS x/BSD, 3GB (but mine is bloated), $149 or $1k depending if you need a system.
Vista, All available space, Your soul.†

†[size=75]If you haven’t figured it out I very much dislike Microsoft anything.[/size]

I tried to calculate the cost of soul and got a division by zero error!

For any of you that may be looking for a dedicated outliner, I am going appear from the shadows of lurking and recommend Opal. No affiliation. Bought it a couple of years ago; it’s clean, easy to use, and works like a damn. No crashing, no weirdness, great design, great functionality. (Always been surprised it doesn’t get more ink.)

Here - a-sharp.com/opal/

FWIW, I found - and find - the screenshot offputting, but used the preferences to change the font to helvetica and the background to white, and I was good to go.

Best of luck.

P.S. In case it needs stating, Opal exports to OPML, which Scrivener now imports.

What most intrigues me about Tree is that its tree view gives it some of the visual feel of a mind mapping application.

I am anxious to dump one of my monster maps into it to see if the tree view gives one that same (hard to describe) cognitive edge that working with a mind map does.


P.S. Tree’s OPML import has a failing which is quickly becoming my pet peeve for OPML import: if your OPML file has any markup which Tree does not recognize, instead of ignoring it like a good app should, your outline/tree gets squashed flat–the rest of your nodes get imported but all at top level. Sigh.

P.S. Tree does seem too expensive, but when I think of how much too-expensive I paid to get a decent mind mapping application…

I’ve been playing with Tree and it seems delightful. It does work remarkably like a mind map, but without all the silly icons and squiggles. Very clean and calm. Dead simple to use. It is crazily expensive, but so is a Yamamoto shift dress - or so I’ve been telling myself this afternoon.


Lord Lightning - My pleasure re. the Opal heads-up. And yes, you are correct sir, it is just an outliner, not an outliner/tree-view combo like Tree.

And back to lurking I go.

Thanks edmo,

Your intelligent, sensible voice will be missed. You don’t need to ‘lurk’.