Collecting data off-line. Perhaps what you are looking for can be found in Scrivener’s clipping service? I am not quite sure what you mean by collecting data without having the program open. Do you mean it is actually running, just not in the foreground – because with at least Yojimbo, you still need the program running to collect data in it – even if in a background sense. If that is all you want, then Scrivener’s clipping service is precisely what you want. Select some text in most any other program, go to the system Services menu, and you’ll see a set of actions for clipping the text to Scrivener. The selected data will be silently added using whichever method you prefer, in the background. Later, when you are ready to sort everything you have gathered, you can bring Scrivener to the front and have at it. If you use the “Create New Clipping from Selection”, method, you will end up with precisely what you want: An “inbox,” or “thought box” of individual clippings, all pre-filled with synopsis cards.
See also this thread, where I post some tips on how to make the corkboard look more like a digital diagram.
On the topic of free-dragging cards. There have been discussions on that, and other concepts which are more useful to my mind, such as being able to see more than one level of hierarchy in the corkboard. But, all of them require a lot of thought on visual implementation, as well as technical and procedural (such as the point already brought up about how the Binder should interpret positioning into a defined order.) There are applications which do parse hierarchy/list order information from a free-drag map environment, but I personally have never been overly enthused with the implementation. I am thinking of MyMind and NovaMind, here. Both programs let you drag items around freely, and then convert the results into an outline. But the resulting feel is kind of narrow and a bit cultural, such as an emphasis on left to right / top to down. The one program I do use on a regular basis that has both outlines and maps is Tinderbox. But in Tinderbox, where you place elements on the map has nothing to do with their actual order in the outline. In effect, it allows you to store two different information implementations for the same set of data. In a program like Scrivener, I am not sure if that would be of any intuitive benefit – it is a book outline, not an abstract data model.
Zooming in Corkboard is possible, but in a slightly oblique way. In the View menu, Index Cards/Cards Across/… you can decide how many cards are shown in one row, effectively zooming in and out. It is not a “real” zoom though because the amount of show information changes. Large cards can hold more visible information, and small cards less. A true zoom would show the same information in a larger or smaller card. Personally, I think the current method is more useful. If you are going to have a huge card, you might as well have a lot of text on it, not just huge letters to go with it.
Absolutely. In fact you can link not only to images in the Scrivener project, but files of any sort on the hard drive, including web locations on the Internet. With the part of the story open in the editor that you wish to establish a link to, open up the Inspector, and click the bookmark shaped icon at the bottom (or press Cmd-8). You will be presented with a “References” list in which things can be dropped. Dragging items from the Binder will establish an internal link with them. This means you can load them up in the view. If you have the option “Open Scrivener Links in alternate editor”, clicked in Preferences/Navigation, you can double-click these references and have them load in the alternate split. Otherwise, they will load in the current editor. Linking to external files on the disk will open them in their respective viewing/editing applications.