Help figuring out if Scrivener will work for my purpose

Hi there. I have a rather unusual ‘writing’ project and I’m trying to find the best way to attack it. I have a ~600-page document that I’m trying to analyze and, eventually, make significant changes to. The way the document is laid out, by necessity, is making referencing it hard - for example, one type of information is spread out across a hundred or so spots throughout the document, but I’d like to collate it all for referencing. Ideally, I’m looking for some way to more conveniently reference disparate information like this, without actually altering the main document.

To illustrate, one way to do this would be the ability tag sections of text, and hide or unhide sections based on those tags. Then I could have a doc with text tagged “main body” interspersed with sections tagged “practical examples,” and by hiding the main body I could easily view all the practical examples at once, example. I can think of various other ways something similar could be achieved.

Is Scrivener capable of doing anything like this?

No. Not so much.

I’d look into Liquid text. More in the line of your wish.

Scrivener doesn’t do that. (Not on the fly, the least.) It is a composition tool. (A very good one, but not quite what you say you want.)
Liquid text is designed for annotations and cross references and such things as the way you described your desired approach.

Else, as far as Scrivener is concerned, should you want to investigate one way you may achieve a basic version of what may be in the line of a good portion of your description, look in the manual for Collections.
Where you say you want to tag some text segments, in Scrivener you’d actually splice the main document in those places, making these segments smaller documents of their own, which would then allow you to filter this or that and collate a topic or thread together temporarily. (Non destructive of the original document.)


I’d recommend downloading our free trial, reviewing the Tutorial project, and experimenting with a subset of your full document. A few dozen pages, rather than 600, say.

You could accomplish what you want in Scrivener, but it may not be the best choice given that you’re not already a fluent Scrivener user.


I see kewms chimed in while I was writing. Excuse the overlap.

The “collection” feature is absolutely able to show you bits and pieces of your project. You can also save your collections, add to them, rearrange and compile them.

It could be done at least two ways.

You could apply a “dummy” ‘style’ to the sections you need to break out, then search by formatting to create your collection(s).

Or, each “tagged” (with a keyword) ‘section’ (as you described) would need to be in its own file. This is easily done with “split at selection.” Scrivener is exceptionally good at working with small chunks of work and stitching it back together.

For the second method you would create your collection by searching by your keyword(s).

Try the free trial. There is a tutorial document under the help menu. It will walk you through collections. You can also use a copy of the tutorial as a test document to practice “splitting at selection”, applying keywords, applying dummy styles and your entire planned workflow, right down to compiling a portion of the project.


Not knowing the specifics of your requirement, I’ll give you a practical example.

Firstly, Scrivener is meant to (and works best when you) divide your manuscript into working components, at the very least into chapters and scenes, if yours is a work of fiction.

A practical example might be that many characters have backstories. I have defined a Backstory Style, basically changing the font colour to green, but nonetheless as a defined Paragraph Style called Backstory.
Since many characters have backstories, I use keywords to identify the components that contain backstories, e.g. I have a keyword like BS-AK, that would identify my character Alisha Khatri’s backstory set in the relevant components’ metadata field. The same would apply to other characters in an equally easy way.
Scrivener finds all the components (scenes) containing Alisha Khatri’s backstory based on the keyword BS-AK and I can save that search as a Collection.
A Collection of components (scenes in this instance) is not a duplication but a personalised display of the required documents only. Your visual cue within the component is the coloured style, as opposed to your requirement of hiding what you don’t need. So, any editing you do in a collection component is actually a change to your manuscript, which remains in the order you created it in a Project’s Binder.
I would assume you can’t have too many backstories in a scene, else a story component suffers from too much telling which tends to bore readers, but if you have more than one, add a tag by attaching a comment to the Backstory Style identifying the character.
Identifying a themes, whether in a work of fiction or non-fiction, you might follow the same approach.

Another approach might be is you can simply split the Backstory into its own components (documents), Scrivener doesn’t mind. Scrivener has a continuous mode called Scrivenings, based on the topmost hierarchical component you’ve clicked on, i.e. it will allow you to work or edit or read the underlying components. A Collection of all backstories on a single character (person) would give you a continuous narrative in Scrivenings, with an indicative divider between each, though in a Collection, you’d need to click on each of the components.