Outliner and Subdocuments

In the binder, if I select one document, I can see the synopsis in the inspector side bar, and only there. If I select two documents, or the folder that encloses them, I can see the synopses in the main document window. I would like to be able to select one document in the binder and choose to view either the document or its subdocument (synopsis) in the main window.

When I first worked with Scrivener, that seemed an intuitive application of the “view mode”. I realized that was not the case, Scrivener is more nuanced than that. But this is one action that would be preferable to me. I work exclusively in the outliner for drafting. Once I have my draft in shape I switch to the main document and write, referencing the synopsis in the inspector. The synopsis encourages good behaviour on my part.

Having learnt so many programs over the years, I always try to adapt to how the programme thinks, not how I think it should think. Loving Scrivener. It is immensely flexible and does the job it’s supposed to do; getting out of the way of my writing.

Thanks for the kind words.

I’m afraid your suggestion is antithetical to how the view modes work. When you switch to the outliner or corkboard, you are viewing the subdocuments of the current document, not the document itself. Thus, if the document has no subdocuments, then there is nothing to show. This is useful, however, because you can then start adding subdocuments if you want to, either by dragging them in to the blank corkboard or outliner, or by clicking on the “+” button.

When you select more than one document in the binder, you are no longer viewing a document and its subdocuments in the editor or on the outliner or corkboard - instead, you view just a list of the documents you have selected (either in scrivenings, corkboard or outliner mode, whichever is selected in the editor).

There’s no way to show just the synopsis of the currently-selected document on the outliner or corkboard without breaking the existing behaviour of allowing you to then add new subdocuments.

I hope that makes sense.

All the best,

If you’re trying to tighten up your work space, you could try hiding the binder and using just the editor in outliner mode and the inspector. Load the Draft in the outliner, then choose View > Layout > Hide Binder to get rid of that so you just have the outline and the inspector. You can drag the divider beween the two to make the inspector wider, giving you more room for working in the synopsis at the top. You can also collapse the “General Meta-Data” section in the middle if you want more room for document notes–I like to use those a lot during the outlining stage, in addition to the synopses, and you can easily edit the status and label from the outliner.

If it can’t be done, it can’t be done. I’m OK with that, I’ll move right along …

… but let me just take a moment to poke it with a stick …

But intuitive behaviour to someone unencumbered by the original concept or privy to the underlying code.

And to flog this already dead horse,

Great, no problem … but perhaps you could allow me to have just one document in a list too!?! :wink: :smiley:

And just to finally nail this ex-parrot to its perch,

Although if you select two adjacent documents it suggests you can, but you can only add to one doc. But it can’t be done, so I’m moving swiftly along …


Many thanks for the suggestion, I’ll give it a go. I use the binder for navigation but I’m always up for trying something new. Work space isn’t so much a problem as my zipping around between character, pitch docs, rudimentary outlines and whatever other rubbish has accumulated in my project, via the binder. I always end up messing up my carefully arranged windows when coming back to my doc.

Meanwhile, I’ll just select two docs (in the binder), instead of one, thereby tricking Scrivener (and myself) into throwing me straight into the outliner.

It has nothing to do with the underlying code but is a very conscious design decision made for very good reasons. Your idea would severely limit the use of the outliner and corkboard. When you select and view a single document, the view modes give you complete access to viewing that document’s content and to adding and editing its subdocuments via the corkboard and outliner (which is the primary purpose of the outliner and corkboard). You can access its synopsis via the inspector.

If the outliner and corkboard showed you a single row or card depicting the selected document, you would no longer be able to add subdocuments to that document via the corkboard or outliner - a severe limitation in usability. What’s immediately intuitive isn’t always what is most useful. What would be the point of suddenly turning the outliner and corkboard into areas you couldn’t do anything with, just to show a piece of data you can already view in the inspector?

No problem - just put a single document on its own in a folder and view the contents of the folder. :wink: Also, if you want to view a document in its context, use the Ctrl-Cmd-R keyboard shortcut (View > Go To > Enclosing Group), which will open the parent’s folder and select the current document in the corkboard or outliner or whatever view mode is selected for folders.

Well, yes, because that doesn’t break the existing behaviour, does it? When selecting more than one document, there is no single container to edit. Although if you select more than one group, then the contents of those groups are combined in the outliner or corkboard (and editable). We decided for selecting multiple individual documents, though, it made more sense to show them in a multiple list rather than their empty containers. So that multiple selection of individual documents is the exception to the rule as it seemed the most useful approach, but that is the odd fish out, not the showing of the empty container in single-doc mode, which is absolutely the most useful way of doing things.

I really don’t understand why you would want this behaviour when you can already view everything you need in the Inspector - that gives you all and more the information you could get from viewing the document as a single row, while not breaking behaviour that very many users find useful by clipping a core aspect of the software (the concept that any document can become a container).

In conclusion, though, it’s not that what you are asking for couldn’t be done technically - of course it could - it’s just not how I would ever want the software to work.

Thanks for the long and detailed replies.

Because with a screenplay I write the outline in the outliner then switch to the document in Screenplay mode. Essentially what I’m doing is swapping the “focus” of the main window back and forth between doc/screenplay and outline. The inspector is a small window and not fun to write in.

I’ve found a way that works for me. Maybe I’ll send you some screen grabs, so you can have a chuckle.

This sounds suspiciously like a workflow that would benefit from splitting the editor with the outline on the left, and locking that editor. By clicking on the double-arrow icon in the bottom of the outliner’s half of the window, you force the right editor to display whatever you select in the outliner. But you can also let the binder dictate what is displayed in the right editor, so you can still bounce around looking at research documents too, then come back to the outliner to continue writing a particular document.

I would think it would benefit from a split editor with the outliner loading the selected document in the other editor, too.

To elaborate on Robert’s reply, try this:

  1. Split the editor vertically.

  2. Load the outliner in the left editor so that it shows all the documents you want to work on (probably by selecting the Draft folder in the binder).

  3. Click on the double-arrows icon button in the footer of the outliner so that the arrows turn blue.

Now, clicking on a row in the outliner opens that document in the right editor (you could equally split the editors horizontally). You could lock the outliner pane (Opt-Cmd-L with the outliner focused) so that clicks in the binder don’t change what’s visible in the outliner.

@robertdguthrie and @KB

Thank you both for running down that scenario for me. I’ve set it up and it looks good for working on the two documents side by side; outline and editor. Un-clicking the double arrows when I’m looking to go off-piste. I’ll definitely practice that way of working.

That said, I am a recidivist when it comes to bastardizing software implementation to suit my own nefarious workflows and I find my own way, binder on the left (two docs selected), outliner on the right, still the most elegant solution for writing beat sheets.


In trying out your suggested workflow I stumbled into - “Opt-Cmd-L” either a selection of docs, or a folder (containing docs), I get pretty much the behaviour I’ve been looking for. I can …

  1. Stay in outline mode and move around from single doc to doc, without it bouncing out into screenplay mode.
  2. Up and down arrow through the docs and the current doc is highlighted.
  3. Keep the binder open, and use that to navigate.


Ah, glad you found a way of achieving what you wanted! Sorry I didn’t suggest that before, I think I misunderstood some of what you were trying to do.
All the best,