Keywords Feature Working in Every Scrivener Project Except Main One

A few days ago I decided to start using the keywords feature in Scrivener.

I am using Scrivener 3 for Windows.

For some reason, the feature is working in every Scrivener project except my main one - my Novel.

Specifically, after setting up the keyword(s), and attaching it/them to a specific document or documents, nothing happens when I invoke the keyword feature, absolutely nothing.

But when I set up the keywords feature in my other projects, the binder changes to reflect a list of the document or documents containing the keyword(s).

Since I know that the keywords feature is working in the other projects, I know that I am setting it up correctly, so I can only conclude that there is some setting or something of that nature in my Novel project which is preventing the feature from working properly.

The only differences that I can see between my Novel project and the other ones is that I make more use of things like colours, and that the hierarchy of folders is slightly more involved in my Novel, but not in a way that I think would (or should) make the keywords feature impossible to use.

The folder hierarchy in my Novel project is:
Manuscript Novel Folder
Part 1 Folder
File 1
File 2 etc.

Part 2 Folder
File 3
File 4
File 5 etc…

I would appreciate any help anyone can give in figuring out why the keywords feature is not working in my Novel project, and in getting it to work.

Many thanks.

What do you mean by that? It could mean a lot of things:

  • Creating keywords
  • Assigning them to documents
  • Project Search by keyword
  • Selecting a Collection derived from a keyword search
  • Using the <$keywords> placeholder in Compile
  • Color-coding in the corkboard

What are you doing, and what’s not working?

You wrote “keywords”, but are you sure you didn’t mean “labels”?

Asking because Labels will affect the binder, while Keywords will not. (Although you can view Keywords as color chips in the outliner.)

To show Labels in the binder, go to View > Use Label colors in > Binder.


I am betting you have your project search parameters set differently in that one project.

When you do a project search, the search can be set to look at various things — body text or keywords or labels, and can be set to look only in certain places — and can be set to exact or include. All these search parameters are under the magnifying glass of the search field. Check to see if the parameters in the Novel project are set somehow different.

Hi drmajorbob, JimRac, and gr.
Thanks for your replies.

To clarify, I am trying to assign a keyword or keywords to various documents in my Novel project so that when I press the Search button, the documents with the keyword(s) in them display in a kind of list, as shown at 3.29 in the ‘Tagging Documents with Keywords’ video, here on the L&L website (I have included the link to the video below).

I am using labels to set colours for the titles of some of my documents in the binder, and have not done that in any of my other projects, but cannot see why that would interfere with the keywords functionality/feature/process.

gr, thanks for your suggestion that I have Project Search parameters set differently in my Novel project.

I do not think this is the case, but I will check.

‘Tagging Documents with Keywords’ video

What happens when you attempt to search in the problem project? Nothing? Erroneous results? Something else?

My guess is also that the search parameters are off.

Thanks for your question, Katherine.

Searching seems to work fine in my Problem Project.

I cannot find anything off in the Search parameters from the quick look I just took over the past 15 minutes, but if you could suggest something specific to look for, I would be grateful.

I also have a question for you, too.


I am noticing something interesting.

In the projects in which I am able to successfully create and use Keywords, when I click on the Search button in the Project Keywords panel, the results that I am getting included all the documents in the Project containing that Keyword, even if I have only assigned that Keyword (in the Inspector - Keywords area) to one document.

Is this functionality correct, or should I only be seeing the single document (in this example) to which I have attached this Keyword?

If seeing every document in which this Keyword occurs is correct, then isn’t this just a glorified search, and what is the point of assigning a Keyword to one or a selected number of documents, if many other results are also going to be included in the resulting Keyword search?

There are several parameters defining what and where to search. Everything? Just assigned keywords? Just document text? In all documents? In just the currently selected documents? In a specific folder?

Inappropriate search parameters are the number one reason for anomalous search results.

In the project that gives no results, I suspect you are searching only a limited subset of the Binder. In the project that gives too many results, I suspect you are searching the body text, not just the assigned keywords.

Consult the manual for full details about using search parameters. Note that the search button in the Project Keywords pane just launches the standard Project Search, with whatever parameters you previously specified.

This actually proves that your project search parameters are not set correctly for what you want! (and presumably are in fact set differently than your other projects)

Open the project search field at the top of the Binder, and once that field is showing, click on the magnifying-glass icon at its left and this will show you the search parameters you currently have set in the project. The most central thing you want there is that project search should Search In: Keywords.

Thanks, Katherine.

Sorry it has taken me so long to circle back to this, and to reply.

Please see the screen shot I have posted below - not sure if that is the relevant part of the Search parameters, and if it is, whether I have things set properly.

Thanks, gr.

Apologies for taking so long to respond.

Please have a look at the attached .png, and let me know if I am looking at the correct Search parameters, and if I have them set correctly.

I have taken a look at the manual, but worry that I am not understanding it correctly.

I can’t help but notice that the keyword panel in your screenshot is empty. That means there aren’t any keywords in this project! That would certainly explain why you don’t get the search results you expect. So then the question is how does it happen no keywords have been created, but you think you have made them and assigned them to various documents?

The remainder of this post was written before I attended to the fact noted above. I leave it here in case the above can be explained away, in which case the below may still be useful.

Is this the same checkboxing you see in your projects that work as expected, or is it different in some way?

Suggest you uncheck all the items in the Search-within area except Keywords.(1) You might also try unchecking Exact, for testing purposes.(2)

Then use that project search field (not the keywords panel) to search for your keyworded documents.


(1) The telltale result I flagged earlier was the fact that your project search results turned up any document that had occurrences of your keywords in the body text. That was because you have Search in TEXT selected — as shown in your screenshot. But you obviously don’t want that, so why do you have it checked?

(2) Searching exact might get unexpected null results. For example a “keyword” is not really a word — it is whatever string you typed into the keyword entry field. If Search Exact is turned on, typing in a substring of what you put in the “keyword” you created will fetch nothing.

Hi gr,
Many thanks for your reply.

The reason for there being no Key Word(s) in the Key Word Panel is that when I last posted about this issue I had erased/deleted the key words I had created and which I had been testing the Key Word Search feature.

As I noted in earlier posts, I had created and searched for Key Words many times (and then, before trying to get the feature to work again, I would erase/delete the Key Words from the Panel that I had used in my previous attempts).

So, your questions are good ones - I will open the other projects (the ones in which I have been successful in getting the Key Word functionality to work), and report back here in answer to your questions about the check boxes being the same or different.

EDIT - The selections in the check boxes in the Projects in which the Key Words are working as intended, are exactly the same as the selections in the check boxes in the screen shot I posted for the ‘problem’ Project.
And since I have never altered these check boxes in any way, I presume these selections are the default selections for the check boxes. That leads me to look for other answers to why this is not working in my problem (Novel) project.

When you suggest that I “uncheck all the items in the Search-within area except Keywords.(1) You might also try unchecking Exact, for testing purposes.(2)”, are you suggesting that I just to a ‘normal’ Project-wide search (using the Search box at the top of the Scrivener screen - the Project Search Field)?

If so, previous searches (in the ‘problem’ Project) using that Search box have always been successful.

I probably have Search in text selected because I do not yet fully understand the full functionality of Search, so thank you for asking that question. Forgive my ignorance here, but what does Search in Text mean, if not searching through the Project’s text? Does it refer to the text of the currently selected Document?

Regarding your last point, I do not think that the Search for an exact Key Word match is the problem here, because when I do a regular search, I do get results for the word for which I am searching.

Thanks for your help.

If you do not have Keywords assigned to a document, a Keyword search will not find that document. Keywords are a separate piece of metadata from the body text of the document.

The specific check boxes in your screen shot tell Scrivener to search both the body text and the Keyword meta data, and this search will find the desired “Exact Phrase” in either the body text or the meta data. But the results of this search give you no information about whether the “Keyword search” function is working or not.

I am suggesting you set those checkboxes so the only thing that that project search field will search is the Keywords assigned to documents in the project. Then try your search for one of your keywords and see if that nets the correct docs.

As kewms clarifies, Keywords are not in the text body of your document, so for the search you say you want to do, you don’t want all those other areas searched — just keywords.

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An example for testing.

Create a brand new project. In this project, create the keywords “Tom,” “Dick,” and “Harry.”

Create a document with the text, “Tom and Dick talk about Harry.” Assign the keywords “Tom” and “Dick” to it.

Create a document with the text, “Harry worries that Tom and Dick are talking about him.” Assign the keyword “Harry” to it.

If you search body text for “Tom,” “Dick,” or “Harry,” you should get both documents. If you search for keywords “Tom” or “Dick,” you should get the first document but not the second. Similarly, searching for the keyword “Harry” should give the second document but not the first.

If you get different results, please post a screenshot of your search options.

Thanks gr.
Catching up on my replies.

I will experiment with this, but do not seem to have had any problems recently with this, although I did notice that it worked when I did one thing, but not another (nothing to do with choosing any options in the search options).

Will post again about this on Monday, 1st. March, when I can get around to testing it again.

Thanks, Katherine.

Will post again about this on Monday, 1st. March, when I can get around to testing it again.

As I said above to gr, though, I was able to get Keywords to work properly without changing any of the search options, but there was a quirk to it (will post more on the 2nd.).

Actually, I was referring to the Search field that appears at the top of the Binder (when you yank on it) in particular.

To do a search for keywords you want it set up the parameters in this search and you need to associate keywords with the file/folders you want. Have the inspector open with the metadata window so can see that the keywords you want are associated with the files you want. ONLY search keywords when do this, the keyword, not that word in text is what you are looking for. If after do this you save the search as a collection, you then create a dynamic keyword search that will run and search your project everytime you open it. Note if use space or comma can search for documents only containing a combination of keywords. If use for characters, then scenes with those specific two characters.

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