Need Software to Pull Highlighted text from pages

Hello and thanks in advance,

I am working on my long thesis – using Scrivener, of course ! – but I am going to need another piece of software.

I have a number of long documents to work with, and I will be using the computer to highlight sections of those. Usually it’s just a small amount of text to be highlighted: a name or a book title.

But then I need to pull out all those highlighted terms to a separate document. No, it’s not a bibliography: I just need to collect these ideas together. It’s more like an Index.

I guess I could do this all by hand – in other words, as I hightlight the term, I could press Ctrl-C then Ctrl-V … but I think I would not survive that physical exertion.

Any suggestions of what software might work, would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks … RB

I think the easiest way to do this would be with a clipping service.

Various programs come equipped with this feature. The program I use for clipping is Circus Ponies’ Notebook, so I’ll use that as my example.

It works like this: you’re reading an article and you want to make note of a certain bit for later. But instead of selecting the phrase and highlighting it, you just select the phrase and press the clipping hotkey. The text will automatically be ‘clipped’ and annotated to the bottom of the Notebook document for which you have the clipping service set up. You don’t have to switch to the Notebook window and paste it, it’s all done automatically in the background. I think you can even configure it to automatically include information like the date and time the clipping was made, the name of the file or website it was clipped from, etc.

I think this is actually easier than the kind of massive all-at-once importing of highlighted bits from hundreds of different files…if a program to do that even exists.

Good luck!

I am going to investigate that. Thanks very much !

Scrivener has its own clipping services, with two options … to append to end of current document, or to create a new document out of the clipping. You find them in . You can use to set up shortcut keys for them. I have never used it, so I don’t know how it compares with what is offered by software like Notebook, Together, Yojimbo and so on, all of which give these options, and clearly you need to ask yourself whether you want to use a separate application for organising this material and then pull it into Scrivener later, or whether to have the clipping dropped straight into Scrivener for you, but perhaps with less meta-data.

There are lots of options for you; you need to work out what’s best for your own workflow … and your budget!


Thanks very much, Mark. That’s great for me to learn about those various options.

And yes, I would much rather do it in Scrivener, if Scrivener can do it – and it sounds like it can.

I’m going to try it on Thursday morning – and then I will let you know how it worked out.

Best wishes … RB

I just thought I’d add. I haven’t used the clippings feature, so I don’t know the details.

But I know Keith was improving it for either version 1.5 (just released) or version 2.0 (coming later in the year), so it might be worth keeping an eye out for those changes, which should make the process even smoother.


Could you use the annotations feature inside Scrivener instead of highlights? I ask because in Scrivener there is the option to export just the text that is marked as an annotation. So you could do exactly what you want in Scrivener if you could use annotations instead.
All the best,

Yes, that Annotation feature is just the thing.

Now, there’s a joke about a man who wanted to help his neighbor, because his neighbor lost his job. So the man buys a 50-pound sack of potatoes, and knocks on the neighbor’s door. He says: “I heard that you were needin’ a little help, so I brought you 50 pounds of potatoes.”
“And the neighbor looks up and replies: “Are they peeled?””

Well, that annotation feature is going to save many hours of time for me, and I’m sure I can also get some good use from the other Scrivener feature that takes highlighted text and moves it down to the bottom.

So I don’t want to step over the bounds of forum hospitality, by asking for just a bit more help now. But I do need a bit more help.

I need to go through thousands and thousands of pages and pick out a short phrase (book title, essential idea, name, short phrase, etc … an average of 2 to 6 words per item) – and this step is precisely the bottleneck that makes this job so tedious.

Let’s say I were going to use the Scrivener annotation feature:
Can anyone think of a way to highlight some words faster than just moving the mouse there, and then dragging the cursor over the text that needs selecting ?

Thanks again, everyone. … RB

You could use a dictation software, of course. Not integrated into Scrivener, however (though it would be a nice feature indeed :wink:). But then, even the best dictation software will stumble over authors’ names, so by solving one problem it would probably create a bigger one (you’d have to edit a lot after dictating…).

Leaves you with the usual shortcuts for selecting: instead of exactly clicking on the beginning of the selection and then moving the cursur exactly to the end, just double-click the first word and drag to the last one (works for paragraphs as well, with triple-clicking). Or, click at the beginning of the selection, and instead of dragging, press the Shift-key and click at the end.

But you certainly were already aware of these options. Excuse me for explaining the obvious…:wink:


I looked long and wide for a “highlight and gather” feature. Notebook and Notetaker are no good . They work on a cell basis: if you highlight a couple of lines , then the whole cell(which could a page long) is highlighted and this defeats the purpose. This why I gave up on them. Except Skim for PDFs , there is no “highlight and gather feature” which was in some outdated software as I somewhere read. This could be a fantastic feature for Scrivener 2.0. No one else has it ! Its frustrating!!!

Yes. Click the mouse in at the beginning and then just shift-click where you want the selection to end. Often easier than trying to drag your way–especially if scrolling is required.


To further expound on Greg’s suggestion, there are other shortcuts for selecting, including option-shift-arrow for words and paragraphs, and command-select for selecting non-contiguous text.

I like to use iClip sometimes to gather bunches of text in a document or website, but it sounds like Scrivener’s clippings or annotation feature will work best here.

Also double click to select a word and triple click to select a paragraph.

I remember coming across an AppleScript once that, when triggered, would append the selected text to a pre-designated text file. I have a suspicion it was from Merlin Mann, which, come to think of it, might mean it’s a QuickSilver trick rather than an AppleScript one. I think he used it to collect all kinds of little snippets, but you could use it exclusively for your project. Sorry not to be more specific. Does this ring a bell with anyone?

Another application that handles appends well (through OS X Services) is DevonThink. Command-@ appends selected text to whatever document you were in before. Bean (free software) also has a Paste Selection into Current Bean Document command (again, via OS X Services); unfortunately, you have to manually insert a space or return between the selections you paste in. VoodooPad also has an OS X Service called Append to Services Drop Page. This is simply a page that’s pre-designated as the target for this specific Service. All told, I guess this is probably the best option, as VP isn’t that expensive, the developer is very reliable, and I suspect anyone buying VP would end up finding unexpected uses for it (including simple and robust creation of websites). You can export the Services Drop Page (or any page, or your whole VoodooPad document) as RTFD, text, HTML, or Word.

Hope this is of some interest to people wanting to do something along these lines.

Yes, there is a Quicksilver action which will append or prepend selected text to a text file. As far as I know, this Quicksilver feature only works with text files. I think of clips as text which may contain formatting.

OmniOutliner Pro can also collect snippets. Unsure if the regular version does this as well.