Link vs. Copy Files to Binder Research Folder

Dear Scrivener community,

I am using Scrivener for some time now for my (non-fictional) university writings. Lately I was using some larger files for „research“, like video files of up to 1 GB I wanted to transcribe. The research folder in the binder was the logical place for me to put those files to keep a good overview over my material and have easy access.

The problem of this approach: since Scrivener can just copy, not link files into the research folder, putting large files there is a very bad idea. They slow down Scrivener, the duplicates (and Backups) waste a lot of disk space (this matters if you have a SSD drive and/or the Scrivener project resides in your Dropbox folder) and if the external material changes you potentially work with outdated material inside Scrivener.

I tried to use Document and Project References in the inspector pane but this approach slows me down considerably. Having the material partly in the binders research folder and party in the Inspectors Reference pane defeats the point of the Research folder in the first place. The material in the Binders Research folder is just so much easier accessible then in the (potentially hidden) inspector pane.

My Question: Is there any way to link instead of copy files into the Binders Research folder? If not, is there anything like this planed in the feature or is there a rationale for the current implementation? I can see a few drawbacks if linked files were allowed in the research folder (handling files that were moved/deleted outside Scrivener, Backup handling of extertal files…) but I’d say for advanced users, those problems are an acceptable trade-off. Linked files could just be marked with a special icon in the Binder for a start.

Your feedback and suggestions for workarounds are very welcome.

Best regards
Sebastian (from Germany)

It isn’t possible to have linked files in the binder, which I’m sure isn’t what you want to hear. A workaround, though, would be to just create a dummy file in the folder and use the document references to put in a link to your external resource. It involves one extra click than having the reference stored directly in the binder, which isn’t much work given the trade-off of not slowing down your project with huge files (and keeping your research easily accessible outside of Scrivener or to other projects). It also gives you a convenient place to take notes on the resource, apply keywords, write a synopsis, etc.

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@MimeticMouton Thanks for the tip–I will try that as a first workaround. I’d still like to get some feedback. Is it only me who misses the possibility to link files in the binders research folder, or is it worth writing a feature request to Keith?

It’s come up before as a request and Keith, while understanding the desire, has explained why it’s not something he sees as benefiting Scrivener’s design, cf. this thread.

However, I played around a little more and realized that while aliases don’t work to do this (as mentioned in the linked thread), you can in fact create a symlink to a file and drag that into the binder to basically achieve what you’re after. If you ensure the file extension of the link is just .mov or .mp4 or whatever it is when not a symlink, then when you drag it to the binder you can actually open it directly in the editor as though you’d imported the file. So that may be an option for you!

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Thanks for pointing me to the older thread–I did not find it in my search.

To be honest, I am a little bit frustrated at the moment, that links in the research folder are not allowed by design. In my opinion there are many possibilities to make linked vs. embedded resources easily distinguishable in the binder (font face/color, icons, splitting the research folder in a EMBEDDED RESEARCH and a LINKED RESEARCH area)…

Scrivener is a very flexible working environment and I am surprised that this one feature needs such cumbersome workarounds. Going to the to create Symlinks for each file I want to link in the research folder, seriously? I’d say we gave some valid points why one wants to link instead of embed files in the research folder in same cases and the possibility to do so would in our cases outperform the disadvantage of leaving the fully self contained .scriv-Bundles behind. Scrivener projects are often an intermediate product anyways, so we already have to take care of some related files (the „end product“) that live outside the Scrivener project bundle.

The language barrier makes it very difficult for me to express myself clearly, but I hope the last word is not spoken for this general problem. Maybe the answer to our problem must not even be „allow linking files in the binder“ but the situation can otherwise be improved? Or maybe linking files to the binder could be implemented in such a way it does not confuse users that much and does not trigger the support questions Keith mentioned? I mean, Scrivener already has many advanced features (say MMD support) that fall in the same category and were nonetheless implemented very well (and frequently used, I suppose).

Best regards,

Project references and document references are intended for this - anything dragged in there will be a link and not imported. The binder represents the contents of the project, which will still be there even if you move the project to another computer. And remember that files linked in the references areas, or even files in the Finder, can be dragged onto one of Scrivener’s header bars for viewing in the editor alongside other project documents.

There are no plans to add linked files to the binder at this time, though, as this the exact purpose of document and project references, as I say. Not that I rule it out entirely for the future - just not the immediate future.

All the best,

Well, you have to rememer that it’s a sneaky way to do something the application isn’t intended to do (since the “project/document references” is supplied for this need). :slight_smile: But you can definitely make this much easier on yourself with an AppleScript that just adds the option to create a symlink on any file to the context menu in the Finder or something like that. SymbolicLinker seems to be a popular plugin that does this. Also larger apps like PathFinder and LaunchBar provide this option among a lot of other tools.

Also, as Keith said, you get a lot of options for loading files from the references; in addition to dragging to the editor header, you can right click and select to load the file in either editor, a Quick Reference window, Quick Look, or the default app for that file type, or to reveal the file in Finder.

Following up on this, I just discovered that if you use Scrivener’s backup feature to backup a project as a zip file, the process converts any symlinks in the binder to the actual file, meaning that if you switch computers, your symlinked research will go with you–but also meaning that then all the enormous files that you linked this way will end up getting imported into the project after all and it will likely slow down the backup (and sync, if you’re using Dropbox, etc.) process. If you backup without compression this doesn’t happen, and you can then compress the file on your own via Finder and the link stays a link.

I think if you zip the file yourself in Finder, it doesn’t resolve symbolic links. In my tests anyway, the zip structure shows a symbolic link in the correct location. I might have changed some hidden Finder preference aeons ago and forgotten about it though!

Sorry, no, that’s what I meant to say. If you use Scrivener to backup the file without zipping it, you can zip it yourself in Finder and the symlink will stay a symlink.