How are people using keywords?

I’m finding Keywords is a really great feature of Scrivener and a very powerful tool, especially when used in conjunction with the other metadata categories - e.g. Labels, Status (or even searching on customised highlight colours?). I’m really interested to find out how people are using keywords in Scrivener - partly for a research project I’m working on, but also to share hints and tips.

Here’s how I’m beginning to use keywords to help me develop and structure a non-linear web fiction:

At the moment I’m mainly using index cards on the Corkboard to define my story elements/scenes. The card/file title gives the core purpose of the scene and the synopsis fleshes this out with a little more detail.

Then I assign a number of keywords to each of my index card story elements. I haven’t really planned what keywords to use, I’m just assigning them intuitively, coming up with new ones as and when I feel I need them. What I’m hoping - in fact what’s happening is that keyword patterns are emerging that reveal connections and common themes between disparate story elements. I’m using these emerging patterns to help define the structure of the piece (at least that’s the theory).

I’m also using labels to categorise the elements/scenes into different time periods, because the story moves from the present to different periods in the characters’ past, and I’ve customised Status in metadata to POV because the story is told from multiple points of view.

I’m finding these features really useful and the facility for saving searches based on keywords (or keyword combos) is a godsend.


I use the keywords function in quite a different way…not at all what was intended, actually. I never use keywords, in any program - Scrivener, iPhoto, anything. I’ve tried a few times, but usually they just ended up sitting there being useless because I never needed them.

So instead I use the Keyword HUD as a quick reference in which to list names. Often while writing I’ll introduce a new minor character and, as I write fantasy, they often end up with strange spellings. I list those names in the keyword HUD just to have a quick way to pop up a list of characters while in full-screen mode to check the spelling.

Far from glamorous, but it works for me. :slight_smile:

Using the Keyword HUD for a quick reference character list - or any other kind of list - is a good idea. I can imagine with characters, if someone was writing a script for film/tv/video, then assigning characters from the keyword list to the scenes in which they appear could be useful when it came to production - e.g. for working out the shooting schedule or creating actors’ call lists.

I agree there’s no point in using a feature just because it’s there. I think sometimes I can get a little seduced by all the bells and whistles. For example, at first I was too tricksy with my customization of the Status metadata. I started out creating over-complicated subject themes, but as categories they weren’t of any real use to me so I changed them to the much simpler character POV categories.

I’ve found the differently colored highlighters are a way to maximize my writing time, since sometimes you’re in the mood to work on spiffing up a clunky paragraph, or you want to expand on something that hasn’t been fully fleshed out, and other times you are ready to move a bunch of stuff around for better flow.

I used to keep a separate file for notes and switch between the two documents, but now I just browse around with the highlighting search and find whatever I’m in the mood for fixing. Sweet!

This is especially good for moving text around, because you get there, and the text is already highlighted.

Also, I’ve been learning the keyboard shortcuts for the highlighting, but I’ve been thrown by the little downward pointing triangle on the menu bar; it looks like there would be a submenu for picking which highlight color you want, but there isn’t one. I think that would be a great addition, since a lot of the time I’m using the mouse to select text, and then I could swoop up there and pick the appropriate color.

Actually your intuition served you well, this toolbar button, along with the ‘Add’ button and the ‘Edit Scrivenings’ button are dual-action buttons. When clicked once they’ll enact the default action. If you click and hold for a second, a pop-up will show up giving you further options. With the highlighter, the last colour you chose will be the default action the next time, and the colour of the icon will change to reflect this.

You can save searches??? Wow, is that in the tutorial?

Thanks, Amber!

I was using my evil PC instincts on that button instead of my Mac reflexes. It gets me in Photoshop too.

BTW, I loooove the way I’ll think about a feature, and danged if it isn’t there already. If I can’t find it, someone on the forum will point the way.

Such a program!

H InAccuFacts

Here’s how:
• using the Keyword HUD, select your keyword/s and click the search button in the HUD
• then go to the search field in top menu bar and press the downward arrow next to the magnifying glass
• a drop-down menu appears, ‘Save Search…’ is right at the bottom.

I use keywords and lables as ways of reading my story as it grows (many thanks to all that gave suggestions in this thread):

  • In the Keyword HUD I have three folders: Concepts, Characters, and Places. I could also add Eves in case I was writing a history story. Searching lets me easily read subplots, and keep tracks of each character during the story (does he disappears without doing anything? does his partial plot make sense in the geneal story?).

  • Labels, renamed POV, are used to show the most important character (either the narrator or the main character) of each index card/chapter. This helps me to diversificate.

  • An alternative (or parallel) use of labels would be tracking Situations: Action, Romance, Dialogue, Sex… To make things easier, POV could use solid blue/purple/orange labels, Situations could use solid red/green/yellow/pink labels, and Functions could use transparent labels (or any combiation you may like).

Working this way is really easy, and help one to keep a clearer picture of the story development in mind.


A real use I’m doing of categories, is in a feature movie I’m currently writing: at the basis of the work there are concepts (i.e., keywords), like “pleasure of living”, “beauty”, “fashion”, “fine arts”, and so on.

The Keyword HUD, with its Search command and all the keys one next to the others, is helping me to track these themes, in some cases helping to catch out some missing instances (“I found beauty in girls, architecture, and fashion, but not yet in the face of redeemed boys”).

What I like in Scrivener (and its wonderfully skilled author and users), is that each thing I’m discovering is a great help to my job. I’ve yet to find something that has not been extremely useful.