Headings in editor


I’m new to Scrivener and I’m really confused about the usage and utility of headings when using the editor to write text.
How do you use headings ? As it is in the iOS app, it is pretty limited : you only have two headings level in the presets and it’s hard to customize. I don’t know if headings’ levels are of any use when compiling…
I may have some bad habits from other apps and maybe headings should be avoided altogether in a Scrivener document. The document is then an unstructured piece of text (besides lists) and all the structure is handled by the binder. I don’t know.
This is an example of documents I’d like to write with a few headings to define minimal hierarchical content (in markdown to help understand my point) :

Document title (headings level 1)

Some text

some headings level 2 title

Some text

some headings level 3 title

Some text

How do you guys structure simple documents as the example above ?
(I don’t want to manually define a style for each title, that’s a lot of work and it’s not reusable)

Thanks for your inputs.

Hi, Seb,

Welcome to Scrivener and the forums! You have options on how to do the headings you want. Details below.

  1. Scrivener for iOS does not at this time have all the preset customization options that the desktop vesions do. On the desktop, one can make and save custom paragraph presets. These can also be exported for use in iOS Scrivener. But the iOS app doesn’t (yet?) have the facility for creating and saving new presets directly.

  2. But you can copy and paste formatting. So, if you have a heading style set in one place, you can copy and paste it onto all the other places you want it. The copy/paste formatting is under Fornatting (aka paunt brush) under Formatting Options. There is another way to get what you want – see below.

  3. As to structuring your project in Scrivener. Scrivener is very flexible and will work the way you do, but I think generally, if the project you are working on has a structure, your best bet is to structure it in Scrivener in the same way – that is, if it comes in parts and subparts, then your project should probably live in a series of documents (sometimes folders) arranged hierarchically as parts and subparts in the Draft folder in the Binder. (Though there is no reason you cannot break the smallest sections of you project down into even smaller document chunks too (below the level of the overt stucture of your text), if you want. Many Scriv users do.) If your Binder reflects the structure of your project, working with your project, no matter how big will seem effortless and natural.

  4. A virtue of structuring your project in Scriv this way is that your compile settings could format your section headings for you. What if you could just put your section headings in as the title of each section folder (instead of putting it in with your body text at all) and have these titles appear in your compiled output formatted for you? That is entirely possible.

  5. One thing to understand about Scriv is that it is designed as writing software – with the guiding idea that (as far as possible) one should separate the task of writing from the tasks associated with typesetting. The writing environment is devoted to writing and you can set it up in the way that pleases you as a writer – break it into the pieces that you like, see it in the font you like to draft in, etc. It is the Compile process that is the transition which takes what you have done and yeilds something in the form you want to see it as a finished thing (perhaps with some post-processing depending on your specific needs).

  6. The appearance of your compiled output is largely controlled by the Appearance setting in the Compile dialog box. Whether the titles of folders or documents show up in your compiled output and how they are formatted are contolled by these Appearance settings. And, importantly for the case at hand, whether and how those titles are formatted can be made to differ depending on how deeply nested your folders/docs are in your Binder hierarchy. You can even choose to have these sections and subsections automatically numbered for you. Consider the following Binder structure:

…Introduction (folder)
… …Some text doc(s)
…Historical Background (folder)
… …Some text doc(s)
…Plan of the Paper (folder)
… …Some text doc(s)
…The Received View (folder)
… …Some text doc(s)
…Conclusion (folder)
… …Some text doc(s)

The sections and subsections are all represented by folders and the text is all in text documents inside appropriate folders. The Appearance setting for a compile could be set to include the titles of folders in the output (but not doc titles) and to format those titles as differently formatted headings depending on the level of the folder in the hierarchy. It is relatively easy to duplicate an existing Appearance format and adapt it to your customized needs.

I am not sure you are ready to dig this deep into Scriv compile settings at this point, but since you know Markdown, you will find the YAML language used to make custom Compile appearances easily understandable.

For more info on this and how to view or make custom compile formats, see the provided Scriv Tutorial : Draft > Export and Printing : Appearances.

  1. Before getting into all that, I would set up a play project with a structure like above and try out the provided Apprarance formats to see if one of them already does what you want – or gets close.


Hi gr,

Thanks a lot for your answer.
I had a look at the Appearance setting and the help section seems to indicate that headings in a document are nothing more than a style without any structure associated. Indeed, there’s no rule to transform headings in a Scrivener YAML template.
In conclusion, I can’t do what I wanted to do in the first place and headings inside a document should not be used as a way to structure text in a hierarchical manner : this is the role of the binder.
I think this is sometimes overkill as you need then to create documents just for titles/headings for case like this :

headings lvl 2

headings lvl 3


In the above example, “headings lvl 2” is a document by itself with no text in it.
On the good side, thanks to the keyboard shortcut cmd+k, I can quickly structure the binder the way I want.