Improvements for PhD dissertation

These observations are influenced by ConnectedText 6, which I read about, a premier software for Windows.

  1. Inspector should have a pane for brainstorming. For example, cloud words.

  2. Inspector should have a pane for outlines, that is, separated outliners specific for each documents. Yes, you have already document notes, but we the ability to construct outlines, which can be linked in part or whole to the binder. See this: … ectedtext/

  3. Last item is related to the ability to develop themes, which work in tandem with binder, but also independently to it.

  4. Wikis would be far more useful to work with instead of the cumbersome method of linking internal documents. Texts portions, sentences, should be available for linking as well. Not just documents.

Thanks for your consideration

I write large scale academic documents, and it’s always been my experience that playing to the best of dedicated software is a good way to go. For the connected text kind of stuff there is Tinderbox, and for lighter brain storming and ideas chasing there is the wonderful Scapple - both of which I use. For more wiki-like experience there is Voodoo Pad - which I don’t - and for flexible linkable Outlining there is the amazingly inexpensive (though initially complex) Neo, which I used to use but which has been left aside more and more for Tinderbox.

In my workflow Scrivener is a writing (and writing structuring) programme, and I like having it separated from the other research tasks, but maybe I’m out of touch and Keith and the gang can, and will want to, add something in the way of these features to make it more of a one-stop shop …

Having an outline for every document in the document would be incredibly confusing and is also antithetical to the whole idea of Scrivener which is that the documents themselves are part of a larger outline.

Scrivener’s internal links do a good job, I think, for the purpose for which they were intended, and I don’t see any advantage in turning a writing program such as Scrivener into a wiki. Linking to individual sentences and such would require tagging of individual sections and would add more complexity.

So I’m afraid that both of these suggestions are out of scope for Scrivener, and I agree with Dr Dog that it’s best to use individual tools for their intended purpose rather than trying to shoehorn everything into a single application.

All the best,

I believe most of these are already addressed by the software.

  1. This isn’t, but it is not really the role of the Inspector to provide that type of function. This tool is for managing the meta-data of a single document. Brainstorming is better done with the tools designed for doing so: Corkboard (freeform/standard alike) and Outliner.
  2. Again, this is not the role of the Inspector. This already exists however in Scrivener’s basic philosophy. Everything in Scrivener, even pictures, have a de facto outliner because they are a part of an outline. Simply hit Cmd-3 to start outlining, and when you are done, use the same shortcut to return to your text. This works directly in the Binder structure. If you at a later time do not want this outline anymore, you can simply delete the structure or move it elsewhere. You can also brainstorm “under” a document with the corkboard, via Cmd-2.
  3. I don’t know what this means.
  4. Your cumbersome is my elegant, and vice versa. But since you do not like linking documents, why not use hyperlinks in Wiki form? You may find the option, “Automatically detect [[Scrivener Links]]” in the Corrections preferences pane to be useful. You can link to existing documents (note [b]Edit/Complete Document Title[/b]) or create new ones via this method. You can also select existing text and use the right-click menu to create a Scrivener Link. When linking, you will automatically get a back-reference as well (via our “clumsy” document linking system).

One can use Scrivener quite a bit like a Wiki program though—more in the vein of VoodooPad Pro than ConnectedText though, as it does not use a modal editing interface. For maximum Wiki-vibe, disable the Binder and Inspector.

I also second the recommendation to check out the Tinderbox trial. It’s a solid program, and it can read Scrivener projects with quite a lot of depth, so it is useful for visualising them.

Dr Dog - Thanks for putting some perspective into the issue. I will keep Neo in mind. Especially Tinderbox, but the price will keep me at distance for now.

Fair enough, I respect you opinion. From my perspective though, outline capability can be tucket away in the inspector, or binder (as categories are).

As of now documents are part of a larger outline because there is no other way to edit them. There is no way to brainstorm their content within a sub-outline. I know I can use a preliminary software before coming to Scrivener, like Scapple, or DevonThink for that matter. But I wish I could grapple with the text in Scriv with some sub framework, i.e. an outline with triangle signposts to hoist content, guiding the development of content (like themes that could be partially incorporated into the binder at will).

AmberV- The corkboard is not the place to brainstorm the content of documents or organize it; it serves only to give them title and synopses, plus metadata info. The same goes for the Outliner, which is fixed to the binder. The freeform is an option, but again, it’s only for whole documents, not any sub sections inside documents. For that to happen we have to turn paragraphs into documents, which should not be the only option to structure the project.

You gave me some much needed instruction about wiki links. I am trying to learn them now. Thanks for all those who participated in this thread. Sorry for any connotation “cumbersome” or “clumsy” may have caused. Scriverner continues to be my primary editing environment, and I am looking forward to future versions.

I don’t see how you could outline separately from the binder. What would be the point? Since documents in the binder can operate at a paragraph level, it seems pointless (to me) to create an outline for a paragraph. At any scale larger than a paragraph, I can create separate documents and move them around at will. What functionality is missing?

What am I not seeing? :blush:

I really don’t think one needs to use external software to develop an outline, prior to using Scrivener. One might do so out of preference for a particular approach. Scapple for instance gives you the blank sheet of paper approach. Mind-mapping programs can help for those that are very visual and like the outward expanding radial idea map. But again, in my opinion these are not necessary prior to starting a new Scrivener project and to say that Scrivener’s own outliner is not an outliner doesn’t make sense to me. To say that Scrivener’s freeform corkboard, which allows you to develop broad ideas component by component in a spatial context is not a brainstorming tool—I don’t understand this. That is the entire point of their existence. :slight_smile: Don’t think of index cards as documents. Think of them as nodes if you will.

Perhaps it is that, a bit of a terminology block. If you think of Scrivener’s Binder as a document organiser, like one might organise fifty 200 page .doc files in a fancier system than Finder provides for, then I can see why there would be friction toward the idea of using Scrivener’s corkboard/outliner in the same way you would a mind-mapping or pure outlining program like NeO. One might conclude, as you say, that the corkboard only exists to embellish documents with meta-data. But really, it’s not. That’s one of the fundamental principles of Scrivener: that documents can be broken down into small pieces and organised thematically; that one can gather a maelstrom of ideas in small pieces and assemble them into a larger, what we might traditionally refer to as, documents. “Documents” in Scrivener can be paragraphs, sections, half-a-sections, snippets, whole chapters, or entire works. The system is designed to scale as you need it to. You can even leave things that way, with the conceptual underground right in your final work, by turning off the “Include in Compile” checkbox in the Inspector for these outline items. That feature is there so you can brainstorm and outline and take notes directly within the final material.

Apologies if you already get this, it just seemed to me as though you were thinking of the Binder in terms of a file manager, and in that sense you would be right, why on earth would somebody create 15 documents to express an idea when all you need is 15 short lines. That’s not how Scrivener works though. You don’t need to go any deeper than the item title, if you wish you can elaborate further with the synopsis or write fifteen pages of exposition in the main text / document notes if even that is not enough. Do what you need, the flexibility is there and you won’t be penalised for going a little crazy in the Binder. Maybe just give that a try. Use Scrivener’s Binder just as you would a normal outliner, point by point. When you’re ready to start fleshing out those points, select the ones you wish to work on, hit Cmd-1 to enter Scrivenings mode, and dig in. Later on if you desire you can merge these points together into a single document. You may never have to do that though. Take a look at the official documentation project, available on our website. You’ll see how the user manual is broken up into nearly a thousand individual pieces, most of them quite short and containing a single portion of a topic.

Another approach to consider is the non-linear. Instead of outlining beneath the sections that need conceptual work, use the Scrivener Link feature I referred to. Link the sentence or paragraph to a new folder somewhere outside of the Draft and make your freeform corkboard / outline there. Now as you read through your manuscript, if you come across something that required further work you can just click on the link and see the outline pop up in the other split. That outline may not contain any data beyond the headings themselves—that’s fine, or it can have hundreds of pages of content. That is fine, too. Personally I think hitting Cmd-3 right out of your writing session to do a little thinking in outline mode is more convenient, but if you don’t like what that does to your Binder, side-lining these thinking areas to another area of the Binder is valid.

Althought Scrivener’s outline function does work for getting the bigger picture, what is absent is the granularity for control. It is true that in Scrivener, you can split your thought to the level of the sentence for each binder document;but I tend to get lost if the narrative becomes too fragmented (Perhaps this means I need better organization). With a dedicated outliner, the content of the article can be created to the level of the sentence without losing the structure of the document.

The posts that explain this the best are: … -outlines/ … -notebook/

I see no reason why Scrivener would need this granularity of control. If I am writing something complex, I prefer to have circus ponies notebook in one window and scrivener in the other window. I can then control how much of the structure or material that I need to see. When I was using Scrivener alone, I would get lost in a mess of Binder documents. Once again I am sure better organization would have overcome this, but my mental load was decreased by just using a dedicated outliner in combination with Scrivener.

It’s taking me sometime to get used to the whole thing. But right now I am developing content provisionally in folders and documents outside the Draft folder, until they are ready to be merged.

AmberV - Thanks for your detailed description. It’s not easy to find good customer service like LL.

  1. To think of index cards as nodes is more helpful. Better terminology leads to better conceptual use of Scriv.

  2. Your last paragraph was the better option. To use a non-linear approach through links in the text is very good. Thus a target folder can be accessed outside the Draft for better corkboard-outliner brainstorming in the left pane.

  3. My documents are now divided into smaller options to avoid excessive scrolling on the right, with index cards showing on the left. These are increased in size to store my sequence of ideas in summary form.

  4. Something you have not mentioned and I found important. The use of inline annotations for guiding the flow of arguments is proving efficient as well (excluded in compile).

  5. DevonThink links to specific PDF pages are inserted in footnotes (hyperlinks excluded from compile, but not footnote content), and their quick access helps in the writing process.

  6. I hope to be able to make use of the reference pane, but I depend heavily on the comment and footnote pane and don’t like to click back and forth. Is there a shortcut

Anyway, thanks for mitigating my stress and opening new ideas.


I use within-document outlining all the time in Scrivener. All this requires is to set up a suitable set of paragraph presets in Scriv and then assign them handy key commands.

Because, besides expand/collapse functionality, all outlining consists in is a handy way to block indent paragraphs to create visual structure. But it turns out the expand/collapse functionality is not really essential. Scrivener binder structure handles the large scale outline, so your document-level outlines are never epic in scale, and hence on-the-fly expand/collapsibility of your in-doc outline is something you won’t even miss.


Niran, thanks for this timely post. I was already aware of CPN and Org. Creativity website, where good research technique it to be found. But CPN does not appeal to me very much, so I decided to go back to OmniOutliner (version 4 to be released soon).

I am using OmniOutliner to store selected DevonThink pdf links and notes which find their way into Scrivener. My OO use is restrained to a cell, sentence level (FIRST LEVEL). I am just learning how to better develop paragraph flow (SECOND LEVEL) within Scrivener. I hope to improve coherence throughout the project (THIRD LEVEL) thought means like selective nodes or documents in Scrivenings, and internal links and wikis.

@Nhaps: Great, from your last description I thought maybe the linking alternative would suit what you are going for best, as it allows you to have many outlines per section, rather than just one.

Inline annotations: I hadn’t thought of them as being relevant to this discussion specifically, but I can see how they could be. You’ll probably find, as you explore the software, that it has a very “toolbox” based approach. We give you a bunch of things, integrate them in useful ways, and then let you fabricate a workflow out of that. Finding the combination of tools that suits you best will be a matter of personal discovery.

Yes, they are all located in the [b]View/Inspect/[/b] sub-menu, but basically just combine Ctrl-Opt-Cmd, with one of H-N-J-M-K-L to access the individual panes. Hit the associated shortcut a second time to put the cursor focus in it.

Incidentally you can do that trick in reverse as well. Each Binder item can be linked to from an external program/document via a URL. Just right-click on it and “Copy Document Link”.

This discussion is quite interesting but I am feeling a little out of my depth but curious at the same time. I get the feeling that I am missing something more profound it terms of clarifying thought as reflected in more coherent document structure. Could anyone post screenshots of their setup ?

I am interested in :

  • how does one use linking to improve flow
  • I understand the first two. What does the THIRD LEVEL physically look like ?
  • What does this look like ?


This is going to look just like you expect, but here is a screenshot of some within-doc outlining in Scriv.


I hope that I may jump in here. Because you can run multiple instances of Scrivener, and drag and drop between them, just set up your main project, then create subsidiary projects. Expand, contract, and drag back and forth to heart’s content. Get yourself two, three, or four screens to make it more fun. kraml

GR - Thanks for the screenshots
Krami - Heck, that’s a good idea, duplicating projects…

What is really calling my attention is the versatility of the outliner, which was not pointed out to me at the time of this original posting. AmberV now says one can fashion the outliner into pretty much a secondary outline. See this:

In writing long academic papers I am moving to Scrivener, which I have used for fiction and organization for a few years: My problem? I really very heavily on Zotero, which is open and free-as-in-beer bibliographic software. Zotero offers (and I use) a standalone version. (Many use a Firefox-bound version). Zotero provides integrating macros for Word and OpenWriter. Is there any way L-and-L could create or request from Zotero Project (George Mason University) a connection for Scrivener? Zotero has very good support from two large U.S. foundations, and I expect its use to only grow amoung students and academics.