Organizing 200+ articles in a single project?

I’m a journalist. I’ve played with Scrivener off and on for side projects over many years. But now I think it’s time for me to take it seriously for journalism.

My job has me writing 200+ short articles per year, and I like Andy Ihnatko’s idea of keeping a year’s work (or maybe more) in a single project. But how can I keep the research and text for each article together? I’m thinking maybe collections?

Anybody here have experience with a similar situation?


Collections would be one way to do it, keywords would be another. Or you could organize your research folder by month, with a sub-folder for each article or group of articles.

It sort of depends on how much research you have, and how often you revisit the same topics. If you have a lot of research and/or need a long term research archive, you might want to keep that in a tool other than Scrivener.

As for how much to keep in one project generally, that’s really up to you. You may find that a year’s worth of short articles becomes unwieldy and that you’d rather start new projects quarterly. Or you may want to keep related articles together regardless of when they were written. It’s easy enough to change your mind at any point.


I’m a journalist too. Your requirements might be different, but for me, it is more elegant to use built-to-purpose software. That means Devonthink to squirrel away research and a dedicated writing tool for production. It would be certainly possible to use Scrivener to do everything, but it would be equally possible - and probably more sensible - to use Devonthink for everything. I’ve tried both tactics, and neither stuck for long.

For me, it comes down to the pleasure of using well-designed tools built for purpose - a principle that applies in my workshop as well as my computer.

Thanks, bashosfrog. I find Scrivener overwhelming and Devonthink REALLY overwhelming.

You might consider a small prototype or pilot file–starting small at first, say with 20 articles?

I wonder if the Recipe collection template might be a useful starting: each category could be an article, with its research contained in that folder. I sketched some possibilities.

Recipe prototype.jpg

In the Recipe template (in the Miscellaneous section when you choose New Project), there’s also a general-level folder for Resources, which could be useful. As someone who is continually struggling to organize my research (and I have a magpie’s tendency to collect), I tend to think in overwhelming terms that ‘I must wrestle this entire mess into shape’, and the monster keeps growing …

When you open this template, Collections will be visible. For clearer focus at first, it might help to hide collections (View/Collections/Hide Collections or click the folder button above the binder).
Play with the folders and see what makes sense to you: by article title, or by topic or date?

LATER, if you decide that this small-scale organizing system works for you, you could play with Collections: you can add or drag documents there and ‘collect’ by any number of categories. If you tend toward overwhelm like I do, I’d stick with simple and small at first. Searches can be saved as Collections, by the way, and you can drag files into Collections as well (they’re like folders of aliases, as far as I understand them).

Once you’re comfortable with the organization of the binder containing the articles and their associated research, you could experiment with Keywords and other Meta-Data. My tendency is to get intrigued by all the cool possibilities, and I end up having a mess of unorganized keywords, for instance. So I guess I’m writing this for myself as much as, if it’s useful, for you.

Good luck. I’d be interested to know what you decide to do, what you decide works (and doesn’t) for you.

FWIW, I’ve never been a happy DevonThinker—I do have research materials in a DevonThink database, but something about the structure doesn’t fit with my way of thinking—maybe it’s too linear, if that makes sense. I do use it, but not comfortably (also, many of the PDFs I use are not text-capable, so DT’s textual classification system doesn’t work for these).

Thanks, henrietta. I need to look at that recipes template and re-read your message again if I decide to go this route. Right now I find everything confusing.

Basically what I’m looking to do is create an individual folder for each article that contains all my research for that article, plus the article itself.

The overwhelming majority of my articles have only a few sources. An article I’m working on today is typical – It’s about a new networking product by a major vendor. I did an interview with an executive for the vendor, and have a few pages of typed notes for that. I also expect a few powerponts and PDFs for the article, as well as web pages. I’d like to put all that in a single folder with the article I eventually write, and then be done.

Scrivener seems to be set up to put all the research in ONE folder (with subfolders) and all the articles in ANOTHER folder (again, with subfolders).

That’s fine and I’m not complaining. But it may well be that Scrivener isn’t the right tool for this job.

Ulysses might be better – I’ve been using that for about a month and I like it. I started this thread in a fit of pique with Ulysses on Friday, but since then Ulysses and I have kissed and made up. :slight_smile:

That’s only if you’re actively working on your articles, or if you plan to compile a bunch of them into a single document/book. Compiling a bunch of smaller documents into a cohesive whole usually means you put your writing in the Draft (aka Manuscript aka…) folder. But if you’re just squirreling the articles and the research away for reference, then there’s no reason to keep the articles separate from the research used to write them.

Well, there is the problem that not all file formats can go into the Draft folder. So the articles + research folders would need to go into the Research folder. Or perhaps into new top level folders. But that’s minor, especially if the project is intended primarily as an archive.


I hadn’t realized that, Katherine. I’ve placed image files (jpg’s), PDFs and web pages without a problem. I hope I haven’t misled. :blush: I haven’t tried to compile these, though.

For a blog project, for instance, I’ve used the ‘Drafts’ folder for a mix of text and research–and for short writing like that, it can make sense to keep the research alongside the text. (With a larger-scale project, I’d definitely want my research separate from text I’d written.) Again, with caveats about technical limitations on the kinds of files the ‘Drafts’ can handle, and how it handles these.

For a collection of articles, the folders could just be structured like this:

The Recipe Collection template seemed the closest format to a project like this.

Maybe I’ve got the wrong end of the stick, but I think of Scrivener as a flexible container in which I can organize text and data in a way that makes sense to me. It’s the program I keep coming back to, with forays into DevonThink for research, Tinderbox for gathering and making sense of research and ideas, as well as for hair-pulling. For my dissertation, a mess of a project, I kept research and text I’d written strictly separate; for the blog project, I’m thinking more in short pieces and want the associated research right alongside that bit. For longer-form fiction, I’m keeping the research segregated.

Now if it would just corral my messy mind …

Here is a slight variation on henrietta’s idea:

[size=80]Three main folders: WIP, Current Research and Archive for old articles[/size]

Ordinarily, I’d probably keep the “Archive” folder collapsed to keep this easier to look at, but this basically provides you with a focussed working environment for the current article, with the WIP text all stored in the Draft folder (I like to think of that folder as a “document outline” not a folder of files, because that is what it is going to become when you compile it) for easy proof compiles as you go, and all of the research relating to that article stored in the “Current Research” folder, directly below it (I gave it a custom eyeball icon for clarity).

Then, once you’re done with the piece, you’d select all of the Draft documents and use the Documents/Group command to create an “Article” folder (as shown below, as a sub-folder to the expanded “Something - Oct 14” example within Archive). Next move the “Article” folder out of the Draft (Ctrl-Cmd-LeftArrow, Mac or Ctrl-LeftArrow, PC), above the “Current Research” folder and do the same thing: select the both, Group them into an “Article Name - Date” folder and then stash the whole thing into the archive.

Of course, the naming conventions and organising things into periodicals and all that is completely arbitrary. You can do that however you want: but the principle of the idea is that you keep your present tense accessible and together, and then archive old articles together with their research, using whatever organisation you prefer, in a collapsed area of the Binder so it stays out of the way.

It’s true, Scrivener’s basic design is aimed at “One work, one project”, but it’s so flexible that this can be freely violated. I have many projects where I don’t even use the Draft folder, they are just collected thoughts, notes and research. And you’re never limited to just the two (well three if you count Trash) starting folders. Those are there to help guide you into how the program works, but one can have a thousand top-level folders if that’s what works for them.

Yes, exactly what I was failing to say above: keep works in progress in the Articles folder, with supporting research in the “Research” folder. Then group the article & research into an archive folder once you’re done with them. That way your archive has research sitting right next to the article.

While you’re working on a piece, I suggest you use the references pane of the inspector to link the article file(s) to the research files as an added level of connectivity between your writing and the support material behind it.

@AmberV: As a former rural newspaper owner, publisher, editor & shop sweeper, I must compliment you on a brilliant approach to setting up Scrivener for a reporter’s notebook & toolkit. Oh, how I wish this had been available years ago …

However … I’ve got to add an observation. This paragraph contains the crux of what I perceive to be Scrivener’s most formidable stumbling block for new users:

It seems to me that the very flexibility, the “free form” nature of Scrivener, is what confuses and frustrates many new users. It took me a long time to realize that I’d become so locked in to the “folder/file” straitjacket paradigm of computing that I couldn’t see how Scrivener is completely different. Add to that an approach to drafting of what you see is not what you get and the newbie confusion re-doubles.

Scrivener’s paradigm seems, to me, to be much more like a Matisse collage. Instead of the word-processor restriction that paint, once laid down, will remain in place; Scrivener allows pieces and fragments to be scattered down in any order, any sort, layer upon layer, with total freedom to resort, rearrange, relayer, and then … magic … to output through a filter that may completely change the work’s presentation and appearance.

This is such a radically different approach to document building, it’s virtually assured that most newcomers just won’t get it. In Scrivener, a folder may be other than a folder; a file may be a multitude of file fragments, second thoughts; and a chapter is but a view composed of many alternative glimpses. Nothing in a Scrivener draft conforms to limits of conventional word processing rigidity. Even the binder is a multi-dimensional container, not a rigid cubby-holed structure. It holds one region for drafting and one region for all else. It is a worktable. Project pieces are laid about as the craftsman chooses.

It is so simple, yet so profoundly unconventional. One comes to Scrivener crippled by preconceptions.

Well, that depends on where your misconceptions come from :slight_smile:

I’m a programmer. I also do FAQ/Knowledge Base entries/blogs for the corporate entity community website. I also write (I didn’t decide to publish however, until I ditched my misconceptions about Scrivener, buy a copy and get serious about it).

The misconception I had was: Scrivener is profoundly unconventional and ‘o so difficult to get your head around!’…according to teh Google.

The logic, layout, structure, concepts that Scrivener uses and implements? Straight out of my computer background. Hell, I’d use Scrivener now instead of vi if it had a native plain-text save feature. If it had a plug-in ability, or a scripting hook, I’d use it in place of eclipse.

Totes. I want scrivener to have my babies. Oh wait … it does. They’re on iBooks and Kindle now.

:slight_smile: First post. Hope I haven’t come over as too much fan-boy. But… Scrivener. Dayyam, where have you been all my life?

How quickly straitjackets secure themselves!! The first commercially successful word processor, WordStar, was released in 1979. L&L was founded in 2006. 27 years? Word (first version, 1983) is the young upstart here; Scrivener is just a computer-based implementation of methods writers have used for thousands of years.

(I’m ignoring typewriters, having watched my father cut typescripts to pieces and move them around at will.)


Typewriter, scissors, and the iconic smell of rubber cement … for peeling and repositioning. :mrgreen:

It hadn’t occurred to me that smells could be iconic, but it makes very nice sense after all - and where better to discover such a rare item than on the Scrivener forum - many thanks

I’m a journalist with a similar output to the OP’s. Let me dissent to the premise. I tried writing and keeping all my shorter articles and attendant research in a single project, but went back to using the Finder after a couple of years, after Spotlight got good enough to let me find what I needed among my research files. Because I draft stories in different apps depending on various factors, I wanted the research and my archived stories to be available for all apps, so they’re all in TextEdit or rather txt or rtf files that any app can import. I reserve scrivener for my book and longer stories that benefit from its ability to move chunks of text and sections around. I use Pages or Google docs when I’m marking up and commenting on text with other writers or editors who use Word, which I refuse to use. I use iAwriter to draft shorter pieces that don’t need scrivener’s organizing abilities. So I just keep my research and story drafts in the finder and bring them into whatever Scrivener project I need them for. Is there some compelling reason to keep everything in Scrivener instead of the Finder?

Hi, brett! Scrivener seemed like it might be a better way to keep everything organized. Like you, I was keeping everything in Finder (with occasional excursions into Evernote for organizing). But I find Spotlight slow and hard to use.

I don’t actually know if Scrivener search would be any better. That would be another issue.

I agree that Scrivener search sometimes seems to be slightly faster than the Finder, for whatever reason, but not so much that it really improved search results for me. Along with the Finder keeping my research more easily accessible to other document-making apps like iAWriter and Pages, I just saw no reason to add another layer of organization to my research docs when the Finder could do the job just as well at ground level. But please do let us know if it works better for you; I’m happy to reconsider.
Oh, and if Spotlight isn’t working for you, there are other alternatives, like Alfred and EasyFind.