Link vs. embed research files?


Scrivener is truly amazing software. However, I’m struck by what seems to be a significant limitation. It appears that I can only import research files (e.g. pdf files) by embedding them. That is, imported files are copied and added to the .scriv package. There does not seem to be any way to simply link to my external files and have the links show up in the Research folder as documents. Is this correct?

(I realize I can link to files via the Reference panel, but this is not what I want to do; I want to be able to view and access my files via the Research folder in the Binder.)

This linking functionality is critical for me, as I have 100+ .pdf files that I routinely use outside of Scrivener. If I make edits to these files, I want the edits to appear in Scrivener.

Any idea of how I might be able to accomplish this? Or if not, can this “link vs. embed” option be added in a future version?



The binder is always going to be for imported files - this isn’t a “limitation” but a design choice - the idea is that you can take a .scriv file to another computer and know that all the files in the binder will open there, so this won’t change in the future.

You can still edit PDF files that have been imported into Scrivener, though, using the “Open in External Editor” feature (which will become easier to use in 2.0).

Many thanks for the kind words!

All the best,

Hi Keith,

Thanks for the quick response and explanation. Given the need to have a self-contained .scriv file, I can understand why imported files are embedded rather than linked. Nevertheless, for folks such as myself who solely work on one computer, this advantage will rarely, if ever, be realized.

At the same time, I would routinely benefit from having the option to link the file (e.g. via Preferences or an option when importing). If I rely on the “Open in External Editor” feature to edit my pdfs, that means I always have to go through Scrivener when working with my pdfs; this is somewhat of a nuisance, given that I’m typically editing these files in a context that has nothing to do with writing (e.g. when doing research, preparing for classes I’m teaching, or sending info to colleagues).

This seems to me to be the kind of functionality that could default in the way you mention but be toggled to support linking (as I imagine my workflow is not unique).


Although it has come up before, I’m very much against this sort of option. It just adds ambiguity and confusion. Currently you know that if something is in the binder, it’s imported, and Scrivener doesn’t have to worry about telling you that such-and-such a file isn’t available, which will inevitably lead to support questions (trust me, it will).

Although you’re opposed to it, this is exactly what the Project References are for. Also, you can just drag any PDF files that you have in the Finder directly onto the header bar of an editor in Scrivener - so Scrivener can open PDF files that you store externally already, it just doesn’t allow linked files in the binder, and won’t. (That’s not to say I don’t understand why a few people would like this - I do; it’s just that Scrivener has a clear scope and certain features are built to work within clear parameters, and the linking of files in the binder is very much out of my design scope.)

Hope that helps.

All the best,

Yes there is a work-around for this, not exactly what you probably want, but it may be of use. I use it for inserting links to files that Scrivener currently doesnt import.

Just create a Finder alias to a file of interest, then rename it with an extension that Scrivener likes (eg .jpg), transfer the alias into the Research Folder, then open the file via that alias using “Open in external editor”



Although that will import the alias file, clicking on it won’t open the file in Scrivener because the alias file doesn’t contain any data.

OK, thanks Keith (and geoffh). Sincere kudos to you for preventing feature creep. :slight_smile: (even tho’ I still desire the linking functionality).

Thanks again for the innovative software.


Months after the fact…

You can create a symlink to the file and name that with just the proper file extension, and importing that to the project binder will let you open the actual file right in the editor. Pretty sweet.