Magic research folder?

Hi there,

I really hope this isn’t covered elsewhere else. I tried searching for quite a while and found no answers.

I’m a historian writing a book. I’d like to have quicker Scrivener access to the ~1700 pdf files that are in a separate folder on my hard drive. As it is, I have the file number listed in Scrivener but have to Spotlight to find and open the file (used to do it in Alfred but something broke). The files are often big (scans of twentieth century magazines), so I was thrilled when I discovered the feature that allows you to have access to such files by importing them as aliases. However, the import feature doesn’t seem to work for a whole folder, i.e., you can’t just tell Scrivener to import everything in a specified folder. It looks like the files have to be grabbed individually and put in a newly created folder in the research area of a project’s binder.

My question:
Is there a way of ‘alias importing’ a folder so that any files added to the folder in the Finder also get automatically aliased to Scrivener? If this sounds like magic, it probably is, hence the wishlist tag. I think I can probably think of ways to do what I want, but via many steps, and far from automatically.

any advice appreciated,


Not an answer to your question, but if I had 1700 PDF files I’d use DevonThink to manage them. Managing large data archives is its reason for existing.

Scrivener can link to an item in a DT database, but mostly I don’t bother and just have the two programs open side by side.


Well one thing to note is that the dialogue box that lets you import stuff as aliases allows for multiple selection. So if everything in a folder is something you want bulk imported as aliases, you can just hit ⌘A in the dialogue list to do so.

Otherwise, the general purpose answer to “I want more…” of this feature is that these are just aliases. There is nothing too special about them, so any kind of alias you have, however you got it, when dropped into the binder will work the same way. The dialogue box is merely a convenience and more easily learned way of doing this.

This can also avoid “newbie gates”, like importing aliases of .docx files. This is prohibited in the dialogue to avoid FAQ level “why can’t I edit my text files?!” questions popping up constantly… but if you know what you are doing and don’t expect an alias to be editable—go right ahead and reference whatever you want.

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Fastest reply ever, AmberV!

Yes, the select all solution had occurred to me and I tried it with a smaller set of files. This way will absolutely work to get the stuff (no .doc or .docx, purely static pdfs) seen by Scrivener. I assume each time I add a file to my research folder in the Finder that I’ll have to import its alias into the corresponding folder of aliases in Scrivener. Right?

To me, this is much more a glass 80% full situation than a disappointing one. I hadn’t known that the aliasing was possible at all.

bye for now,


I can look into that as well. I moved from FileMaker Pro/Word to Scrivener because it was a one app solution, so will try the aliasing idea for now.

p.s. You were even faster than AmberV, but I saw her reply first.

cheers, Len

Again, this is not addressing your question but @kewms suggestion is the way to go, IMO. I’m a historian and have written several books using Scrivener and Devonthink as integral parts of my workflow. I understand the desire for a one app solution, but for the use case you describe I think combining a specialised database tool with an incredible writing tool will get you better results. To my mind, Scrivener is an excellent ‘light’ database solution, but once you’re into heavily source-based work, you need a better database tool.

You can link to pdfs in Devonthink from within Scrivener, though like Kewms I personally prefer to have them open side by side, or to use Cmd->Tab to switch quickly between them.


This looks more like a bibliographic reference management issue than a desirable Scrivener feature. Although Scrivener is not too good at bibliographic processing in general I would solve the problem by importing those PDF not into Scrivener but into BibDesk which is a more approriate tool for this than “naked” Scrivener. Unlike other suggestions, DevonThink for example, BibDesk does not come with $100 price tag but a $0 one instead.


Devonthink is, of course, not the best option for bibliography management. But it is among the best for source management. It’s value is similar to Scrivener - I paid for it when it was in 2.X, got eight years of development updates, and then paid for v3 in 2020. Cost of about €250 over the last eleven years, I think. Scrivener has cost me about €120 over the same period. I consider both to have been excellent investments. Anyone doing serious scholarly work would benefit from Devonthink’s flexibility and power.

Bit if bibliography management is what suits the OP best, then Bibdesk or Bookends (v affordable) are excellent choices.


I don’t use a reference management system as such, but I see your point here. With the alias importing capability, I can accomplish most of what I need to do. I will look at BibDesk and have downloaded the trial version of DevonThink to give that a shot too. Thanks for the suggestion.

Have downloaded DevonThink to try it out. It’s not a biblio management problem so much as wanting a quick way to zap to the document when I need to read it for information or quoting. Thanks for the suggestions.

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