I know this isn’t the primary purpose of Scrivener (so I’m sorry if I’m too “out of the box”) but I know a lot of people that use it for note-taking (in my law school). It would be cool to have some other note-taking kinds of features, like a Cornell note-taking template that doesn’t involve a table (tables have issues with copy and paste, and formatting with bullets and stuff).
I love the comment feature in the new version 2 - it works so well when taking notes at home when I have questions about the material or if the professor goes on a tangent. Nice!
Thanks for having this forum and thanks for a terrific product!

I had to look up the Cornell method; Wiki has a helpful article at
And OneNote has a template for it. So, if you own Word, why not use that?
Yet someone may be able to create a Scrivener template for that purpose.

The Cornell format reminds me of the PlainText interface.
Left column for topic titles, right column for notes.
Missing is the bottom pane for summaries.
Many reporters use long, narrow notebooks with a center line.
Put notes on the left, details or questions on the right.

The purpose of note systems is to help us “nest” ideas and data
Make summaries, arrange patterns; all ways of training memory
And maybe produce some insights. Scrivener has many ways to do that
With highlighter, bold, italic, synopses, comments, and notes.
Anyway, welcome to the forum…and good luck in L school.

OneNote doesn’t have software for Mac, otherwise I would honestly probably use that.
I don’t use Word for two reasons:

  1. I’m constrained in my writing space to the size of a piece of paper. I always want more width and length. I like Scrivener because I can write without worrying about when I’m near the end of the page and having things look silly.
  2. I would have to create a new word document for every class/reading in word, or else have to scroll to find where I was before. I like how Scrivener lets me create a “Criminal Law” document and then I can make pages for each case we read, and still be able to search among all of them. I can’t do that in word.
    Scrivener is awesome, but I just don’t like have to paste in a special way because I take my notes within a table and the table gets annoying. Just one more way to make it better, if it could do the side-by-side note-taking style without using a table.


Could you use the split screen and multiple documents to achieve a similar effect?
faked Cornell style.png
Rather than having the keywords/questions column within the notes document, what if you used outliner as the left editor and linked it to the right editor so that when you clicked a document in the outline, it opens in the right editor. (Click the ⇄ button at the bottom of the editor when in outline mode so that it turns blue, indicating the link.) Then you can create and title the documents with the main keyword or question on the left side and jot the notes on the right. Since it’s easy to retitle, you can always just put in a placeholder title at the beginning and rename it at the end of your note-taking session as necessary. You can also add actual Scrivener keywords and have them visible in the outliner as well.

At the end of the note taking, you can write the summary in the synopsis card, which gives the extra advantage of making it easy to sift through your notes when in outliner or corkboard.

OneNote looks to me like a rip-off of Circus Ponies NoteBook. There is a Cornell note template, there, but I don’t think it is really effective as it is now (not keeping the Questions column in line with the Notes one).


OneNote came first, I think. I tried Circus Ponies, but it crashed my Mac in a very scary and Windows-esque way. I lost all my notes and that was only going to happen to me once, so…

Mimetic Mouton, those are features I haven’t used much before. I’ll have to take some time and play around to see if that will work for me. I was previously using the index card feature for summaries (which I LOVED) and instead using the bottom segment for questions that arose while I was reading. Now, with the new comments feature I think I’ll use that instead for questions. I’ll have to see about your split screen part to see if that works for me - I wasn’t using the Cornell method in earnest, and was instead using the left side for notes I took while I was reading and the right side for notes I took during class. I’ll play with the features you mentioned and see if any of them would work for me. Thanks for everyone’s interest, help, and continuing efforts to make a great program better!

Just a point of trivia, but NoteBook and NoteTaker both are derived from a common base, Millennium Software’s NoteBook application for NeXT, and that there are two companies instead of one is the result of a philosophical difference between the two principles behind the original. The idea of having a free-form structured “notebook” that is a cross between an outliner and a clipbook is quite old, going all the way back to when such things were conceivably possible on a desktop computer in the early to mid '90s. Both OneNote and NoteBook came out in 2003, and I believe NoteTaker had its debut in 2002.

Now, for the program that best emulates OneNote’s “page based note taking” format, I would suggest the open source application BasKet, but unfortunately there is to my knowledge no Darwin-X11 port of it for the Mac.

All trivia and unreachable software aside, I do heartily concur with the suggestions to try out Scrivener’s outliner to achieve a Cornell experience. The design constraint of splitting your page down the middle with topics-left and notes-right is of course based on paper and what can be achieved in a real note pad. Software can get around the constraints of this by using more powerful analogies that might not look identical, but actually function in a similar fashion and alleviate the paper-based problems entirely. I would also add to MM’s notes that Scrivenings mode in the right column will give you a “full page” view of your notes integrated as if on a single ledger, too.

I like the idea of doing a split screen with the documents, but I think what I would rather do than with the outliner would be to have two separate documents and then link them somehow so they always open together with the split screen? Is there some what to do that? I’ve tried using the split screen method before but was always getting confused about what was opening where. I just have too much to right on the left column than I can fit into the outliner, and I’m already using the page names as my case names for organization within the binder (creating a different page for each case I read, so I can reference them all. Then I organize them under folders for topics in the Binder).
Columns might work as well (Does Scrivener do columns within a page?), or I really I could keep using the table, but the table gets confusing sometimes when I forget I can’t tab, etc.
Thank you everyone for being so helpful! This program just does so much, sometimes I don’t realize how to make it do what I want it to do (especially since I’m using it for something a-typical).

Regarding linking two documents together in such a way that they always overwrite your split setup with their own configuration, no—and that is as much a design decision as anything else; it would lead to confusion in the majority of cases and only appeals to a minority of power users. It’s pretty easy to set things up so that this is only a click away though

Try this:

  1. Set up Navigation preferences to open reference links from the main window in “Other Editor”
  2. Open the References pane in the Inspector (⌃⌥⌘N from anywhere)
  3. Drag the document you wish to have associated with the current document into this pane from anywhere
  4. Rename the “URL” from “[Internal Link]” to “*”
  5. Now click on the header bar icon menu (the icon next to the title above the main document view). At the top of the menu you should see a hotlink to the associated document, select that and it will open the reference document in the other split.

Note if the referred document is a folder (or container of any kind if you have the appropriate setting checked off in Navigation) it will open using a group view mode—so this is also a handy way of establishing an association between a document and a corkboard or outliner.

Not within the editor. You can, using RTF, compile to a multi-column layout in the Layout Options pane, but these are traditional publishing columns, not static cell based columns like a table—they are treated as “mini-pages” and will flow form one to the next in the same manner that information flows form page to page.

It really does do what you want. :slight_smile: I do empathise with your desire to find another method, though. Apple’s table implementation is a bit annoying to work with on a regular basis. On tabs, you probably have a thoroughly legitimate use for them, but do note that you can use the ruler in a cell to achieve much of what you would need a tab for, by way of indenting and alignment.

What one earns by using Scrivener as seen above, instead of the traditional Cornell note page, is that you can easily reorganize your notes. Then, notes can slowly take the shape of an exam paper.

Another plus is that you can create a new untitled document for each point of the lesson, and Scrivener automatically adds a title to the left column, based on the first few words of the right-column text. Or, if you don’t like it, you can add a title later, by selecting part of the text and choosing the “Set selected text as title” command from the context-sensitive menu.


Hello, in the picture I see that the Outliner shows a field called “Keywords”, but in the windows version I’m not able to find and add this field to my outliner. If I press the right button I see a list of field as “Title - Synopsis - Type - Label - etc.” but I’m not able to find "Keywords ".

The keywords column was added as a read-only column to version 2.0 - it will come to the Windows version a little further down the line.
Thanks and all the best,

As Keith said, the keywords column hasn’t been added yet to the Windows version, but you could use the synopsis field for the same purpose, since it’s just to add the notes for yourself and you don’t really need them as actual Scrivener keywords so much. (And you could of course do both if you really wanted.)

I’ve just learned that DevonThink Pro has a Cornell Notes template, in both Pages and RTF versions. The number of pre-fab templates is dazzling: Address Book cards, iCal events, library catalog entries, reference manager entries, and iWork, Office, or OpenOffice documents. DTP generates these items and you may export them where you wish. You may also open a web browser or a search page in Google or Bing. Or create your own templates for special needs.

This topic has been doormat for several years. I am beginning an EdD program this fall, and I am solidifying my note taking program. Though I think Scrivener is the program I will settled on, I really wish that there was a Cornell Note taking Template available. I know that the problem with having such a template might cause a problem with exporting to Pages, but I also think that I would not care to do so. I am more interested in organizing my notes and being able to search them effectively. Anyone made any headway with this template?

Have you given the above methods a try yet? The method DEVONthink Pro uses is with tables, and they are using the same rich text toolkit we are. In fact you can copy and paste their Cornell RTF template into Scrivener and with a little adjustment on the table cell sizes, it looks like a doable thing. Throw that into your document templates folder in the binder and there you go. If you don’t have DTP, there are numerous guides on the Web for creating this kind of layout in a word processor, the basics of which could be adapted to Scrivener’s tools. There isn’t anything too fancy necessary to achieve this kind of table. You might even find a template you can load in LibreOffice or something and export or copy and paste to Scrivener.

As for exporting to Pages, I don’t think there is anything that would be too difficult about that. The basic idea of using a table for this is something Pages (and just about any word processor for that matter) can do.

I wouldn’t wish to neglect the native Scrivener approach to note taking as well, referred to above. Cornell is designed to make efficient use of a rectangular sheet of paper, but if you look at the underlying model that is being constructed on paper, it already exists in the two-pane outliner concept. If all you need is the mechanism then that should do. If you need to turn in Cornell formatted notes as part of the assignment—it’s not really going to work well for that and finding a text editor based model such as a table will do better.