Saw a blog post praising keywords, but I can’t for the life of me see how to use them. Keithven, is there a tutorial on them?

(I tried setting up a keyword for an author name in a book reviews project with a few hundred reviews, then pressing ‘Search’, but it didn’t seem to search, and certainly didn’t find.)

Did you apply the keywords to any documents in the project? Have you checked the section on using keywords in the Help file or tutorial? There’s no video tutorial on them, but they are covered in the help materials.
All the best,

Hmm. Reading it and not understanding it. Sorry. I’m pretty stupid.

The tutorial says “try dragging keyword entitled ‘Assign this one’ to the keywords table’.” What is the keywords table?

Keywords are words that can be set up to identify or tag - and thus simplify searching for - individual documents: for instance, the author’s name if you have several reviews of her books.

It will probably be easiest for you to work initially in the keywords pane of the Inspector: open the Inspector and press the key icon at the foot of it. Then you can select words in your document and drag them into the keywords pane, or press the plus sign at the top of the pane and type in the keyword, or press the gear icon and select “Add Keyword”. Later, when you want to find all the documents that relate to that author, go to the Search entry box (with the magnifying-glass symbol) in the toolbar, press the little triangle on the left-hand end of it, and choose “Keywords”: type in your keyword(s) and press enter. That’s the basics. (There’s also the Keyword HUD, which means “heads-up-display”, but I wouldn’t worry about that to begin with.)

The real power of keywords comes if you have allocated several to your documents, in the case above, say one for the author, one for the publisher and one for the genre. Then you can specify which combinations you want to search for.

You’ll find out all about this and other aspects of keywords if you search for “keywords” in the Scrivener Manual (under Help).

Thanks, Hugh. It looks interesting, but I can’t really understand how I’d use it to improve a novel.

Oh, wait, though, have found this excellent blog post, which makes it clearer how to do this: … scrivener/

Precisely. As that blog post says, you can use keywords to identify a multitude of threads in your story: sub-plots, characters, locations, times, POVs, und so weiter.

Okay, so here’s a harder question. I’ve split a large writing project (book) into multiple Scrivener projects. Many components of the book have the same keywords.

Can I have a master-list of keywords, rather than a number of lists for particular Scrivener projects?

(I’m not about to ask for searches of multiple projects – though it might be nice for a future version.)


There might be a complicated way, but there’s not any kind of regular feature for this. Keywords are project-specific, stored in the .scrivx file. You might be better off maintaining a simple text list externally or on Scratchpad and then just matching your various projects to that. You can also open multiple projects at once and drag and drop from one keyword HUD to another. (You can’t drag and drop straight from the HUD onto a document of a different project; Scrivener uses numerical IDs to recognize the keywords, so dragging and dropping in that fashion can result in you tagging documents with completely the wrong keyword.)

Depending how you’re working, you might try just creating a template for this series of projects. Put into that all the keywords you’ll use (or at least all the ones you can think of at creation!) and then use template when starting a new project. Extra benefit is that if you’re breaking your project up by dragging files from one binder to another, any keywords you’ve assigned that were part of this original template will “stick” when you move them to the new project.

The best way to move bulk keywords between projects is to use a conveyor item, because dragging from HUD to HUD will compact multiple keywords into a single keyword. When you drag and drop items between project binders, Scrivener will do its best to update the target project with the item’s meta-data requirements. The only area it does not do this automatically in is with labels. If the original item has label and status declarations that match the target projects, it will keep its assignment, but it will not populate new labels and status into the target project.

Keywords, on the other hand, do populate. So all you need is an item with all the keywords you want to transfer. Here is an example workflow:

  1. In the project that contains the master list, create a new file in the binder called “Transfer”; placement is irrelevant
  2. Open the Keywords HUD ([b]Shift-Opt-Cmd-H[/b])
  3. Select all of the keywords with two steps
    [list=1][*] Click any keyword and then tap [b]Cmd-9[/b]; if you’ve arranged your keywords into groups this will expand everything completely. If you haven’t, it’s unnecessary to do this but won’t hurt anything
  4. Press [b]Cmd-A[/b]

] Now drag all of these keywords into the “Transfer” item in the binder[/:m]
] Open the target project, if necessary, and drag “Transfer” to its binder[/*:m][/list:o]

You now have all of your keywords in the new project. Colours will be preserved, but order will not. Scrivener cannot determine your original groupings from a flat list which is provided by the “Transfer” file.

This doesn’t solve your request for a master list, but it does make moving keywords around easier. For a master list, I would think there is less of a need for that—especially since project templates are so easy to make and work from. I have a master template I use, assigned to the blank category, that has all of my customisations which have been gradually evolved over the years. So all new projects benefit from this evolution.

The main blindspot here is when you are working in more than one like project in tandem. Developments and refinements made to project A will not be as easily communicated to project B without steps like the above.