Index Cards vs. Notes

When I first started using Scrivener I typed into my index cards as if they were scene cards. Something like this:


V&P marry; bad guys attack.

And that was it. Short, just an indicator of what happens in the scene. Scene cards as used by many screenwriters.

Then I dropped down to NOTES: and filled in all the details, things I wanted to remember to put in the scene when I finally write it.

When I did a search on “printing index cards” to see how to print out those scene cards I realized I’m not using them the way most people do (and that “printing index cards” isn’t evidently a practical option).

So here’s my question.

What are you supposed to write on the scene cards?

What are you supposed to write on NOTES?

It appears to me that if you use them as intended, the scene cards have “notes” written on them, which makes the NOTES area seem redundant, but I am probably missing something.

Thanks in advance!

I know what you mean; I’ve never found index cards that useful. I prefer to do my scene-shifting in the binder. But that’s one of the joys of Scrivener: you can use whatever works best pretty easily.

But I could see that maybe plot could go on the cards, then notes to yourself on the notes, such as ‘x kills y’ on the card and ‘using the gun he hid in the candelabra’ in the notes.

One of the reasons I like Scriv is that I can use beats rather than scenes. My beats tend to involve various scenes (IE new sluglines), and I don’t get down to slugline detail till I’m actually writing a script, which is fairly late on in the process.

I actually use index cards a lot and find them very helpful. I use physical index cards on a board to plot and keep my story line in front of me, so when I saw the index cards on the screen I assumed they were to be used the same way. I’m now seeing that they’re meant to hold unlimited information, which seems to eliminate the need for the NOTES function.

Unless, as I said, I’m missing something!

Just curious, as I’ll continue to use them the way I always have, I think, when it comes to my drafts. Clearly in my research each item has an index card with more info on it, but I don’t pay any attention to those unless I’m at the corkboard, as I would have the file open to read.

I use index cards a lot, and I love them. Actually, I’ve always used to use them when I had only pen and paper to do it. They make watching at you story grow much easier.

I only would love this section of Scrivener was made even more powerful. I would really love to see a way of freely moving cards on the table, or grouping and stacking them. Just like ‘the real thing’. I would prefer this to other features, in case there is no time to develop both, since this would be a feature unique to Scrivener, that I would find very inspiring.


Hi pooks,

Actually your initial instinct was correct, so I’m not sure why you now think otherwise. Index cards are intended for short synopses - the example you gave in your first post was pretty much a perfect one for their intended use. Although technically index cards can hold unlimited information, they are not intended to do so (I just chose not to force a limit on how many characters or words you could type into an index card, as any limit would be arbitrary and artificial). You are right to think that the notes area is intended for more elaborate detail on what the particular document will be about, or things you have to remember etc. I’m not quite sure why you then jumped to the conclusion that index cards were for notes just because they are not properly printable in the current version… The idea was that the corkboard would indeed work much like a real-life cork notice-board, allowing you to see short synopses of your documents all together and rearrange them. The reason I initially chose not to have them printable was that this seemed rather a backwards step. What would be the point of typing these synopses in, viewing them on Scrivener’s corkboard, and then printing off to rearrange them? You can do all of that within Scrivener itself… Because if you printed them off and rearranged them on your real-life cork notice-board, you would then only have to go back into Scrivener and rearrange them there too, so that the order of the documents is updated to reflect this new arrangement. So why not do it all in Scrivener in the first place? It seems, however, that some users still like the physical act of rearranging real-life index cards, of taking a step back and looking at a real notice board. For this reason, the next update does allow for the printing of index cards (you can even print them to Avery index card templates) - though the next update won’t be available for a couple of months. Of course, it pains me to be responsible for all that wasted paper…

Hope that helps.
All the best,

Not a plug for Celtx - but until the next version of Scrivener is released this is an excellent way of doing notes for a film. You can see your script, your scene slug lines and the notes at the same time.

It comes into its own if you are working with coverage ‘scene’ or ‘page’ notes.

It is normal practice to take coverage or assessor notes and to add them to a finished screenplay draft as NOTES.

For example - some real assessor notes:

If we began with the crash and the blame being placed on Jim (or better
still, Jim’s dead buddy Mike) and then slowly discover that this version
of the truth is not true at all, then we go on the journey with Jim … we
are actively drawn into the story, rather than passively observing it from
the outside.

o If the structure were to change, then you might find that the opening
flashback would work better if it was revealed in response to Jenny’s
asking Jim What’s the story? In scene 47. In that way, we (the
audience) are invited to wonder about the significance of the photo that
gets broken in Charlie’s office, and share in Jenny’s curiosity when she
sees it there.

o Perhaps Jim’s background isn’t revealed until Pitman produces the file
in scene 66. It would provide a more interesting a twist for us and allow
us to share the surprise with Blake and Jenny in a way that isn’t
possible with the structure as it is. In this way, we can suspect that
there’s more to this nice-guy pilot than we are seeing, and have our
suspicions confirmed for us. A very satisfying experience for an

Other notes that are supplied to writers are usually in the form of scene by scene, or page by page notes, and look like this:

Sc87: This scene seems unnecessary. It’s just repeating information that we
learned in the previous scene. These scenes that dwell on the past are
slowing down the pace of the film at a point where we’re eager to get to
the end of the story.

Sc89: Vincent challenges Blake’s argument without an objection or the
permission of the judge. Can he enter into this kind of debate during the

The notes above are real issues of structure. So, in an ideal world, notes should be visible at the same time as the SCRIPT, the SCENES and the OUTLINE and the CARDS.

So I see the solution for screenplays in BOTH writing and then in editing after the first draft is completed.


I skimmed several threads written about printing index cards and somehow picked up that idea. If I misinterpreted, then I’m not at all confused!

There are many people who still like to use real index cards. As for the waste of paper–I do recycle! (But I also keep my scene cards bundled with a rubber band for future use, so I admit those don’t get recycled.)

Thanks for setting my mind at ease. I tend to miss the most obvious things, sometimes, and thought this might be one of those situations!

Keith, THANK YOU for making the index cards printable in the next update. It is valuable to see the entire work on the wall and even with the largest monitor (26" in my case) it is still not the same as seeing all the cards at once and seeing the connections. So many screenwriters and others grew up on cards and I hate writing them but love working with them. If I had a projection system and could put more than 9 across it would be great. But without those the printed card will be the cherry on the top of the cake. This is a great program and has revolutionized all my writing. THANKS AGAIN…

I agree–thank you!

I have been using Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat card system and love it, and also love the way he recommends putting “emotional arc” and “source of conflict” at the bottom of each card. I do print out my cards and put them on the wall, and I don’t write them by hand because my handwriting is horrid; I can’t stand to look at it. Having it on the wall would make me look elsewhere!

I have found Marker Felt to be my favorite font for index cards. It’s bold, easy to read, and believe it or not, takes up less room than TNR and some of the other more standard fonts. Also, it has just a bit of the “hand-written” look that is pleasing to the eye on an index card.

Finally, from my experience, the HP printers I’ve owned and looked at (just bought a new printer recently and looked at a lot) easily take 3x5s and when you ask what size they print, they say 3x5 up to… whatever the largest size is. They are made to go small enough for index cards. The Epson printers we have won’t go smaller than 4" wide and to print a few cards on that printer, I had to use my finger to steady the cards as they got drawn through; otherwise they’d go slant-wise and end up printed on a diagonal.

More info than anybody wanted, I’m sure!

Keith is there an expected date for the new update?

I am in the throws of revising a screenplay and would love to print some of the cards to carry around with me as I replot some of the middle.

Any update on the Final Draft integration?

There is still a lot to do on the new update. It’s unlikely to see a public release before early next year.
All the best,

Thanks Keith, I know you are busy. I am living in Scrivener these days. It is where everything is developed and revised. Only the writing is done in FD. I look forward to the seamless integration coming. Thanks