How to keep documents across projects?

I’ve owned Scrivener for a while, but only now am I giving it a much closer look and trial for one project. I am thinking ahead to my next project. Here’s my issue, which I’ve not found an answer to.

How does Scrivener handle research documents across projects? When I write my own notes about “Bridget Able’s classic paper on sockography,” those notes are not accessible outside the Scrivener project where I took them. Since her paper is so important, the next time I’m doing a sockography project, I will need to see those notes, but I would have to open up the old project, locate them, then copy/paste into the new project.

As far as I can tell so far, there is no good solution within Scrivener. Rather, I should apparently use a document/bibliography manager, such as Bookends, for all my highlighting, comments, notes, etc. regarding BA’s classic. Those notes then stay with the document, regardless of the project. However, the notes are not visible within Scrivener; I have to keep Bookends open at the same time.

If this is the case, it seems like a logical outgrowth of Scrivener’s original emphasis of fiction writing. That’s fine, no program can do everything. A third (?) solution would be to do all my work within a single project, that just keeps getting bigger and bigger, and has many academic papers and my current book project inside it. That sounds very unwieldy.

Am I understanding the alternatives correctly? How do other researchers deal with this?

Chapter 11 of the manual covers this in general terms. The basic idea here is that you do not need to open/copy/paste, but with each new project you import the research files.

This still means a bit of work on each project though, and any changes to the sockography notes file would then need to be exported/imported to the other projects. A simpler method though would be to have both projects open and drag the sockography notes from the binder of one project to the other.

Your description indicates you will be working linearly: start a project, finish that paper, start another. The above method(s) should work fine for that, since you will be done with Project1 and then import all its notes into Project2. But what if you are working on different projects/papers at the same time?

For this you might look into using the Scratch Pad. This syncs with an external folder of notes that will show up in all your projects. Also, these notes can be edited in other editors and the results will show up in your Scrivener projects. People have been using the Scratch Pad to jot down notes on an iPad for example with a folder of files on Dropbox and it seems to work for them. The Manual chapter 11 section 3 explains the Scratch Pad.

One other method might work for you. This is File Import Research Files as Aliases (also covered in chapter 11). It only works on non-text, non-rtf documents – the sort that cannot be taken straight into the Draft folder without conversion. PDF, HTML files work this way. So if you find Bridget Jones’s brilliant paper on sockography in PDF format, you might open it in Preview and add highlights and notes to it there; in Scrivener you will see the file in a read-only mode with your notes and highlights (though there have been reports of problems with Apple changing their minds on how PDF is handled in OSX from one version to another, so experiment and see what works best.) Since these files are external to any one project, they can be imported as aliases in several sockography projects and any external changes to the files will show up in all projects.

There is one other strategy you might consider. If your sockography theses and papers are short enough, and perhaps few enough in number, you might think about having one Scrivener Sockography Project. All the research notes, papers, images, files go into Research folder, and each thesis and paper has its own folder inside the Drafts folder. Some novelists working on series keep all the books of a series in one scrivener project, and writers have amassed huge Scrivener projects without much difficulty. When time comes to compile, compile only the folder for the current thesis or paper; when a paper has been submitted and is completed, you can move that folder into a Finished Papers folder outside the Drafts folder.

Hope this helps.

  • asotir

Thank you for the thorough answer. I have now tried aliases, and it seems very useful for what I want. But each method has its advantages, of course. With aliases, it appears that I can’t edit the document from within Scrivener - it has to be done in an external editor. But I can create a note for it (or perhaps multiple notes? I have not experimented enough yet.)

The “best” solution in terms of taking full advantage of Scrivener seems to be your last one:

That allows me to build cumulative notes across different papers. (And yes, they often will be done in parallel.)

One giant project makes me nervous - how robust is Scrivener? But I can start small. I will also investigate the ability to export notes about documents.

Again, thanks for your help.