Increasing the amount of text visible on the Corkboard

Hi everyone - my main interest in Scrivener is for using it to move large amounts of notes around into an outline and into different folders (as one would say with index cards on a table - putting them into different piles).

At the moment the small amount of text in the preview of the cards on the corkboard makes this very difficult. Is there an option to change the amount of text the preview shows?

It depends on how much text you’re typing on the card. If you want more you would need to type more.

If you don’t type into the synopsis then the first few lines on the document text a shown in lieu of an actual synopsis.

I have created the cards using the import and split function. So there is plenty of text there already, but a very small fraction of it is shown.

I had wanted to use Scrivener in a way similar to Speare (an index card app) i.e. import a document split into different notes which then appear as index cards and can easily be sorted out into different piles or folders. The very short restriction of the text preview will make that difficult.

I did think another option would be to open the text in the other editor when clicking on a new index card (I could then read the text in full and make a judgement about where to move it to). If I do that, however, I can’t click on (and move) more than one card at a time. If anyone knows of either a way to

  1. increase the amount of text the index cards show
    or 2) create some sort of shortcut so that when clicking on a new card the full text is automatically displayed

I’d be very grateful!

The outliner view is also not much use for this as it only displays a few words as a preview.

I definitely get what you’re saying, and I do agree with you that Scrivener’s preview text limiter doesn’t make a lot of sense at the user level:

On the left we have an index card that I’ve typed in myself (well, I copied and pasted several thousand words of lorem ipsum, but never mind that). You can’t even see it all until you double-click and scroll. On the right we have a card left blank, showing a preview of the several thousand words in its editor. One is really only left to wonder why the right card stops so early like that? What possible reason could there be for giving up after a sentence or so and thinking that’s enough, when so much elaboration is allowed in a card you’ve written yourself?

I have no good answer based purely upon “what makes sense”. I suspect it has less to do with what makes sense to us that are using it as a tool, and makes more sense to what goes on internally to make this happen. Looking at two cards side by side like this makes a point, but we have to design for more than a showcase. We have to design for the plausible circumstance of a corkboard containing 50k words of preview text on it. Hardly anyone is going to write that much synopsis, but it would not be unusual to have that much preview text! Will this use a lot of RAM, will it slow the corkboard scrolling to a crawl? Does it mean having to pull from a very large search index repeatedly in order to draw any corkboard, after running a calculation based on card height and font metrics to extract the right amount, instead of pulling from a prepared database of tooltip-length blurbs made specifically for this? As I drag the “Aspect Ratio” slider to the right in my corkboard appearance settings, would it require the software to go back and read hundreds of thousands of words over and over and over as it builds gradually ever larger previews into the cache?

I don’t know for sure, to be clear, but these are just a few things that come to mind as potentially the kind of optimisations you have to do while programming around bottlenecks and limitations, particularly in a program where it is expected that people will be slinging whole books of text around.

Tech talk aside, I would consider that left side for a moment. Would it be conceivable to do initial drafting and thought capture on the corkboard itself, largely ignoring the text editor?

Bear in mind that once one is ready to move from that stage into using the main editor as designed, there are is a command in the Documents ▸ Auto-Fill ▸ submenu worth looking at (and as you might expect, designed precisely for this way of working): Append Synopsis to Main Text. This command can be run on a plurality of selected cards, transforming an entire project from card-based into editor-based.

There is also a preference for facilitating this approach, in the Behaviors: Return Key pane: Return ends editing synopsis in corkboard and outliner views. With that checkbox off you can now more easily write multiple lines. The second one is fine to leave default, it’s quite nice to be able to make a new card with that key if you aren’t currently writing in a card anyway.

And I suppose one could even compile this way as well, never once using the main editor. But you’d probably need to be more inclined toward the Markdown way of writing (which Scrivener fully supports incidentally), either that or have no need of character or paragraph level formatting.

Thanks for that very detailed reply! I am very grateful (and do understand the tech problems entailed, even if for my purposes it does probably make the Corkboard - and hence Srivener - likely inappropriate for what I intend to use it for).

Essentially I have thousands (at least 4000+) of notes/index cards/individual paragraphs that I want to sort into different folders (as one would with say in an email app). I used to do this physically, reading an individual (printed out) paragraph and placing it into a particular pile, folder, or envelope. I had hoped to find a digital solution but - somewhat surprisingly - there are very few applications that allow you to simply select multiple chunks of information at a time and move them. The fact that you can import a document and split it - and then rearrange those items using the corkboard to multiple select cards and move them into folders - did make me think I had found a solution. The problem is I often need to read the whole text of a card before deciding where to put it.

Copying and pasting thousands of paragraphs into each individual card for the corkboard won’t be practical (and would be completely unnecessary if the text preview was just that bit more generous).

Another option would be for me to just click on each individual card/paragraph in the Binder and then decide where to move it to. But having to do this for each card individually (rather than having an overview and being able to select multiple items at a glance and move them at once) would take far longer and perhaps means I should look at another application.

That said, I am impressed by the sheer range of functions on Scrivener. There must be a way to accomplish this I would have thought.

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Thanks for sharing a bit more of what you’re looking to do. This does help, as I agree with you that using the corkboard precisely for what you had thought it might be useful for, probably isn’t. I was thinking this was something more organically grown rather than managing a very large quantity of existing data. Even the menu command to populate the synopsis from the main text isn’t of use since it also truncates very early.

It is fair to say that my screenshot above is an outlier, and that overall the synopsis concept in Scrivener is meant to be small, and that brevity is what all of this was designed around way back in the day, years before the preview text enhancement even existed—making assumptions like the ones you see a bit more understandable, on top of the tech speculation.

The best solution I can think of that might work for you is a setup like this:

Configuration checklist...
  1. Split your editor down the middle with View ▸ Editor Layout ▸ Split Vertically.

  2. Use the Navigate ▸ Binder Selection Affects ▸ Both Editors menu setting, and click on a folder to check the setup. It should load in both splits simultaneously.

    Optionally: enable the subsidiary option in that menu, “Open Non-Group Items on Right”. Try selecting individual text items from the binder as well as folders, to see how that plays out. Better result, I’d say, then getting two text editors.

  3. In the right split, hit the Ctrl+1 / ⌘1 keyboard shortcut, or use View ▸ Scrivenings.

  4. This might be a bit too opaque from what you need though, so use the View ▸ Text Editing ▸ Show Titles in Scrivenings.

  5. Click into the left split, and in the footer bar locate the button (toward the left side) that looks like an arrow coming out of a box. Click that so it turns blue—or use Navigate ▸ Outliner Selection Affects ▸ Other Editor.

To illustrate what we are working with here: Select a folder in the binder, it pops into both splits simultaneously, each using their own specialised way of viewing that data. Select cards on the left corkboard, either with the mouse or flipping through sequentially with arrow keys, and as we do so the long concatenated view on the right scrolls to the selection. Select two or three cards and observe how the text view narrows its scope to the selection. Ctrl+Click on a card to remove a card or add another. Now you’ve got a good way of verifying your selection as you build it.

As you review, jot down notes in the editor view on the right, maybe with inline annotations, or pop open the inspector and flag things up with metadata like labels and keywords.

Ready to file the selection away? Use Documents ▸ Move To ▸ ....

At this point the corkboard on the left is purely preferential, you could just as well use the outliner on the left side (note the View ▸ Outliner Options ▸ Use Fixed Row Height) setting gives you a bit of a preview if the synopsis field is enabled.

With all of that setup done, use Window ▸ Layouts ▸ Manage Layouts... to save your settings! Now you flip back to something a little less rigidly set up, or adopt this framework in any project that needs it. It’s a very simple setup, kind of a 3-pane navigator approach like an email client might use. The only real downside I can think of is that Scrivenings mode has no length limiter. If one of your cards has an 80,000 word novel in it for some reason, it’ll merrily load the entire thing in there along with the rest of your selection.

Then again, Scrivener’s design does strive toward reducing such lengthy runs of text down into something more “card sized” so to speak. So while one might encounter more scrolling scrolling early on, as more refinement and filing is done, the data may become more efficient.


In my Scrivener installation (Mac) this approach works. Splitting the editor, setting one side to corkboard view and the other to single doc view. On the Corkboard side enable “Automatically open selection in other editor”. Then when you single click on a card, you see the doc’s full contents in the other editor. You can still select multiple cards and move them around (in freeform corkboard mode or otherwise). In fact, if the second split is put in Scrivenings View Mode, then when selecting multiple cards, one gets a compilation of the doc text in the editor (though this might not actually be useful or desirable).

So, I think I am able to do just what you were suggesting might be a way of making a go of it. This might be down to a difference in capability between the Mac & Win versions, but maybe there is but some lever that you just need to pull?

(You can also save this Layout so you can switch to it whenever you want to work this way.)

Needless to say manipulating index cards and running the second spplit of the editor will want some significant screen real estate.


Thank you very much both of you for these suggestions! They sound very promising (and if I can find a solution to this, I will be very grateful indeed). I will try implementing them first and get back to you.

(it does still seem a bit of a drawback that one would have to click on each card - just to see its contents - as opposed to being able to look at them as a glance - but this might be the best method available in Scrivener - if anyone does know in the meantime a way to simply increase the preview text that would be great)

It might make more sense once you set it up as described and play with it. That’s definitely not how it would work! The approach gives you two columns that work on the same data in two different ways: an organisational and scope selection column and a content skimming column. Both break the contents boundary by nature of how they work.

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I also think you will find the way it works nicer than you expect.

But I am going to go out on a limb here and go so far as to say the opposite of what you say above is true! Carrying the skeuomorphic idea through to the ninths would not really be for the best here. You want to be able to read an entire document’s text right on the index card, right? Given that, as you say, you have a ton of cards, how could that be possible without unnecessary trouble? Are the cards giant? Then manipulating them will suck. Is the text really small to make it fit, then that will suck too. Are the cards index-card size and you are going to scroll scroll scroll a small text box to read it? None of these troubles is worth it. Having a text area to the side (that you can set view size independently) that shows you the doc contents of any card you click on is, after all, a much better idea.

Now, maybe you do not really have that much content in these docs, so the above seems to you an exaggeration. But that suggests one of two things — the content of each doc isn’t really so complicated as to not be at least roughly classifiable from a sample of the text. Or if the contents really are so complicated or diverse, maybe you are not splitting your text out finely enough. Some of these cards should be split into more than one.

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I think it’s definitely worth thinking about @gr’s suggestion that maybe the cards aren’t granular enough. Regardless of how much material Scrivener shows on a card, there’s a limit to how much you can reasonably show on a screen. Even though you might draw the line in a different place, there’s always going to be a tradeoff between showing detail about each card and showing a lot of cards. Especially when people import a large amount of existing material, it’s quite common for them to feel “locked in” to whatever the existing structure is. Which often isn’t the most efficient structure for working in Scrivener.

Depending on the nature of the material, you might also find it helpful to use the Project Search for a preliminary sort. If you have 30 cards about cats, you might want to separate them from the dog cards first, then break them down into tabby cats, jungle cats, cat food, or whatever.

Interesting! Thanks again for the reply - I will give the suggested setup a go and get back to you.

Just on the point of the size of the cards: they can vary, but being able to see more than a couple of words would usually be enough to remind me of the content of the card. Most cards are around 200-400 words in length. In fact (and this is where the lack of preview does irritate) if the preview text simply took up the space Scrivener already provides for the cards as standard, that would probably be sufficient. At present it doesn’t manage much more than two sentences as here:

Even then, some of my content is only a sentence or two long (or the first sentence would allow me to remember the content and categorize). But for those longer paragraph length notes, I do need to skim over more than the current text preview allows and (for my purposes) I wouldn’t split them up more than already have (and certainly not down to the 1 or 2 sentences that the current preview text size would require).

But that is a very long digression - I will try the methods suggested before commenting further (and thanks again for your suggestions and thoughts)

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Hi everyone! Thanks very much again for the suggestions offered a few weeks back.

In the end I have gone with a slightly different method whereby - as I go through my text on the right hand side, I simply highlight what material I want and move it to folders on the left. I didn’t realise (for some silly reason) how easy that would be and more intuitive. I am really enjoying this method so far.

Incidentally, in terms of increasing the amount of text on those cards I had not realised there was an option simply to convert the text in each document to the synopsis - thus resolving my original query.

I do have a follow up question though if anyone might be able to help me with it.

My workflow now consists of reading my notes on the left hand side (view document), highlighting chunks of text, and transferring to different thematic research folders in the Binder. These folders (and subfolders) tend to be quite specific, however, and I often want to create new folders as I go along.

Is there any shortcut or way highlight text and move it to as yet uncreated/new folder (and be able to name it) - as opposed to just amending text to documents etc.

Alternatively, when I do move my cursor to the Binder to create new folders is there a way for my view document screen to stay on the original document (at the moment when I click in the Binder to add new folder it, it changes to whichever folder or note I have right clicked on to get the menu up to create new folder. I hope that makes sense.

The screenshot below might give a better sense of what I mean - I wish to move the highlighted text to a new (as yet uncreated) folder below the ‘Examples of clerics causing disruption’ folder without losing the original document on my screen.

Thanks for all the help you have provided so far!

You can highlight your text, then hit Alt-Shift-L to lock the editor in place so that when you click in the binder, the document shown by the editor does not change. Press Alt-Shift-L again to unlock the editor.

The menu item is Navigate->Editor->Lock in Place.

Right-click, and choose the option to “Append Selection to Document.” “New” will be one of the options, and will allow you to give the new document a title (defaulting to the selected text) and place it where you like in the hierarchy.

Navigate → Editor → Lock in Place for the pane you want to lock.

Thank you both for the Lock in Place suggestion. That is extremely helpful!

As for the other point, I was looking to move the text specifically to a new folder (and be able to name it) - not append selection to a new document.

kewms answered to that also.

Apologies but unless I am being blind there is no option to create a new folder with that method, only a new document.

You could Crete shortcut to Convert to Folder then just use that to turn your new file into the folder you want.