New user: basic questions on GUI and using Scrivener

I am a scientist looking to organize my ideas in papers and projects, and I think Scrivener is just the thing to help me out - it looks like a perfect improvement over my current Microsoft Word workflow because I need to work with a nested outline of ideas and keep associated materials with each item in the outline. I’m sort of drowning in all the demos and details on-line and am hoping someone can help me arrange it the way I need:

I want 2 windows/panels: on the left, I need a vertical (narrow) view of the nested outline of my thoughts - topics and subtopics and documents of actual content. On the right, one big window/panel showing the contents of whatever document is selected in the outline so I can work on it. It’s almost how I want now, but:

  1. What’s the difference between the items under the Binder panel called Notes, Ideas, Research - how are those different from the actual Manuscript item?

  2. I need to be able to keep a bunch of information - links, embedded PDFs, images, etc. for each item of the outline to help me create the content. How do I do that - is there a separate way to keep data/content corresponding to specific items of my Manuscript or do I put everything into the Manuscript pages themselves?

  3. When I insert a PDF into a page in the Manuscript itself, I see the whole PDF itself - it takes up most of the page; is there any way to show it as an icon only?

Have you worked through the Interactive Tutorial, under the Help menu? It should answer some, if not all, of your questions, as well as enabling you to get a better picture of Scrivener for long-term use.

Specifically, it should deal with everything under your question 1, and some of question 2. As far as question 3 is concerned, the direct answer is no, but there are other ways of keeping files available but outside your manuscript, for example References and Alias Files, (both of which you can also look up under those names in the index of the Manual, best regarded as a kind of Scrivener encyclopaedia, which is also available under the Help menu).

On question two: have a look at the References feature, in Step 5 of the tutorial. It is designed for precisely what you are describing, if I understand correctly. I sometimes create items in the Binder solely to hold a few references.

Second to references, I’d recommend checking out the Document Notes sidebar pane as well. It’s like having a little scratch pad for each section of your outline, in addition to the main text area (which will become part of the singular exported document, when you compile). You can put hyperlinks in that sidebar as well.

This capability is intended to be used for including vector graphics (tables, equations, illustrations, etc.) in PDF containers, not as a way to attach whole documents. If you have a series of PDFs you need to provide with the main document after exporting, I’d recommend keeping them in a folder so you can easily export that folder from the Binder when the time comes, with File/Export/Files….

For the rest, as Hugh notes, learning about the Draft folder (it may be renamed to “Manuscript” in the project template you used), Research and all of that are things covered in the introductory area of the tutorial.

hmmm. I tried activating the interactive tutorial under the Help menu and all I get is the spinning beach ball of doom (the cursor turns into a color pinwheel) and it stays frozen. No luck there.

What I need is to keep relevant materials (sometimes whole PDFs) together with the various pages of my outline, so that when I’m writing that part of the text, I can consult the materials I had clipped to it. It’s not for exporting or compiling - no one else will need to see it, the stuff just has to be there while I’m writing, attached to the correct places in the text. Is there a tutorial downloadable somewhere that will let me see how this is done? Meanwhile I will look at References and Document Notes sidebar in the manual. Thank you all!

Depends on what project template you started with but the Research folder?

I see the research folder, and I can dump stuff in there, but how do I keep appropriate materials linked to the right piece of text? For example, suppose I am writing a book with chapters, and I have all kinds of material saved that will be fodder for each chapter and sub-chapter. How do I keep the PDFs and other stuff I need to write about linked to the right document?

 Super. References looks like just what I need, but I also want text Notes - is it possible to see References and Notes at the same time? In the Inspector, it looks like one goes away when I ask it to display the other one.

Cool, but it seems I can drag a PDF into the Notes but not double-click (or even right-click) on it later to see its contents. I need to keep science papers (PDFs) next to each document, to consult as I’m writing that part.

You can make appropriately named folders in the research folder to match your chapter/subchapter structure, and put your research material in the requisite folder, then open it in a second split of the editor and have the material open next to the chapter/subchapter being edited… You could probably use Scrivener Links to automate the selection, but I haven’t tried that as I haven’t needed in my work.

Mr X

One thing to note with References pointing to things inside the project (as opposed to on your disk or the Web) is that if you double-click them, they will load. How they load is determined by your settings in the Navigation preference pane. I myself prefer references to load in the same editor I started in, because I use it as a form of secondary navigation and am very comfortable with using the Back feature to return to where I was before branching off into research or tangential subjects. But another approach (which is the default) is to have References target the other editor, creating a split if necessary.

The system works equally well with folders of research as it does with individual research items. Some people like to store research topically, in an organised tree that describes the material itself. For that approach, the research you need for chapter six may be all over the place, but References can pull all of those disparate items together into a list. Or if you prefer the approach Mr X describes, keeping research organised in a congruent filing system with your work, then you can just merely list that folder as a Reference. Now when you double-click it, you get your research folder loaded in one or the other editor (for this approach, I would not recommend using the QuickReference option in Navigation, as those can only show content, not groups of items via Corkboard or Outliner).

If at any point you find yourself wanting lists to be a bit more global, well there is the Project References list for one, but also look into Collections. They are a bit like References, only they exist in the other sidebar, and thus have all of the powers available to item lists coming from the left, such as being able to select six PDFs and viewing them as index cards with your summary notes.

Anyway, the tutorial, not sure why that isn’t opening for you. If you’ve already created one (try using the File/Find All Projects in Spotlight menu command if you are unsure of where it went) I would move it to the Trash in the Dock, and then use the Help menu in Scrivener to create a new one. A simple reinstall may fix the problem if you’re experiencing difficulties creating a new one. Worst case, let me know, I’ll PM you a copy of the project.

Well like I say, embedding a PDF file straight into a text editor is meant for figures, not documents. I’d just hold down Option key while dragging instead, then you get a link. The preview is useless anyway since it isn’t designed for PDF documents. You’ll note by default links open items alongside where you are working, in a second editor split. That’s going to be better than trying to read a PDF in a cramped sidebar anyway. Again, you may want to tune how Scrivener Links work in the Navigation preference pane. By default they open in a new window, but if you want them to target the other split (or even the same split, making them act more like a web page) you can do so.

No, but it’s pretty easy to switch between them once you get used to the keyboard shortcuts. They are listed in the View/Inspect/ sub-menu. On most keyboard, it is simply zig-zag pattern between H and L, so you don’t even really have to memorise them. H is Notes and N is References. I use nearly all panes of the Inspector frequently, and this just becomes second nature after a while. Unless you hate keyboard shortcuts I suppose. :slight_smile:

Having no skin in this game, at least not for the moment, I just want to compliment Amber V for wishing I did have. I love the way Amber V (repeating the screen name as I’m unclear of gender) and the rest of the L&L team take all of our musings seriously and go to such great length to make Scrivener useful whatever our needs.

Absolutely - this is clearly a great (and complex) piece of software and I appreciate their attention to detail (and everyone else’s help).

Sure. You can do it by using the QuickReference Panel, which opens a subsidiary view on any document and its associated data. It’s an extremely useful feature which it is worth getting to know.

Say you’re working on a document in the standard view (binder visible on the left, editor in the middle, inspector on the right). In the inspector, choose either the references or the notes panel – your choice which.

Then select the document name in the binder (i.e. the focus is in the binder not the editor or inspector) and press the space bar. This will bring up a small window showing the same text (it’s called the QuickReference panel). At the bottom right of the window is a drop down box which by default says ‘none’, but which allows you to select any of the inspector panels, including notes and references to be shown in a split panel below the text. So you can have notes in the inspector panel and references in the QuickReference window – or vice versa. You can drag the divider bar up and down to size to taste. Once you have the window set up as you wish then Window > Float QuickReference Panel (ctl-cmd-Q) will keep it permanently in view.

You can have as many QuickReference panels open as you wish – but only one per separate document. The space bar shortcut is the quickest way of activating the panels, but you can also click the icon on the main toolbar (a square grey box with a pen) or use View > QuickReference and select the document from there).


super, that works great!!