Outliner Behavior etc.

After spending some time exploring Scrivener over the last few weeks, I have a few observations, questions, suggestions. (I wasn’t sure if this belonged in Wish LIst or Feedback sections).

My largest uncertainty concerns the way in which the Outliner works. Let me begin by saying that I am a happy user of Mori who is now blown away by all the features and functionality in Scrivener geared specifically for writers. While I will continue to use Mori as a database and information manager, Scrivener will soon be my primary first-stage writing tool (before export to Mellel).

One of the ways (among many) that Scrivener is vastly superior to SG (for my purposes) is linked to its outlining capabilities. Crucial for me is the fact that a new document in the binder can be created with a second click. Skipping the old dialogue box speeds up my workflow considerably and allows me to brainstorm in the binder as fast as I would like. This simple change gives me the speed and simplicity and flexibility that Mori offers but which was lost in SG. But even better, Scrivener now has a dedicated Outliner as an overlay, where the synopsis field makes it possible to truly brainstorm and outline a piece of writing in formation. But for me this process depends on speed, simplicity, flexibility and very easy and intuitive navigation – if an outliner slows the flow, its utility decreases dramatically for me.

This is why I have found the Outliner mode in Scrivener to be a bit less functional and helpful and intuitive and amazing than it might otherwise be. Specifically I am referring to the way that the tab and return keys work in the Outliner. Based on the way the Binder and the Corkboard work (as well as programs like Mori and Omni-Outliner), I would expect that hitting return would effortlessly create a new document. Instead, it seems that return only creates a new document (new outline point, new synopsis) when the entire record is selected. But if you are in either title or synopsis specifically, hitting return sends you to the top of the list. It seems like the only way to select the whole record is to tab forward 2 or three clicks. But when I do this, my cursor/view has been moved all the way to right, to focus on a marginally important field (like include in export) and I can no longer even see the title and synopsis fields unless I do a horizontal two-finger scroll on my powerbook to shift the view back left again. (Should there be a horizontal scroll bar at the bottom when the view shifts and the fields you were working on are suddenly off screen/beyond the open window?)

What this means is that though I love, or at least want to love, the Outliner module, I waste time navigating around the Outliner view. Instead of just quickly setting out a series of ideas and possible structure, my intuitive click on return to create a new document suddenly sends me to the top of my screen, I then find myself tabbing about and losing my view, and then remember that I need to hit command-N to create a new document -– which is much slower to do than hitting return.

So – am I doing something wrong here? Should I just accept that command-N is the way to go and will soon be internalized, even if it slows the writing? Or is there some way that Outliner can follow Corkboard and Binder behavior such that hitting return from wherever you are in a record will create a new document? This seems tiny, but would make a huge difference in workflow. I understand that Tab too is designed to do certain things in Binder and Outliner – but I do miss the elegant/efficent way in which Tab I Mori and OO moves the document right in a hierarchy. Similarly shift-command-L or R is more cumbersome than simply command-L or command-R for organizing/moving documents around within a hierarchy.

The ability to reorganize and navigate quickly and smoothly is crucial for outliner writing/brainstorming – whether from within the Binder or in the Outliner. I would therefore appreciate any tips/feedback from other users about how I might better use the program, keyboard shortcuts etc. If there is any way to change some of this behavior, I would like to put it on the official wish list. But I, like everyone else, am terribly eager for Beta 2, so I would not want these suggestions to slow down the next release. And if there are structural limitations that prevent these changes from being implemented, they should be ignored. These are small concerns about a truly outstanding program which I’m ready to purchase.

Other small issues that have come up in recent discussions:
-The most important thing about the Inspector for me is the possibility of having a fully resizable/full pane notes view. So I would not want that to change. But there are times where it would be useful to be able to view my notes and my synopsis at the same time. So while I would not endorse any changes that led to fixed views/window size – I would side with those interested in making the Inspector views more customizable. (Though this is a small point).

-I would like to support the suggestion made earlier by a user who wanted a date created field in the Outliner in addition to a date modified field. Sometimes I will open a document, notice a small error and make some kind of tiny change, and suddenly I lose the possibility of recognizing it by its date anymore – because it is now listed as a recently modified document when, in fact, it really is an older document. I might be odd in this respect – but I find date created, in some cases, to be a very useful bit of metadata. (Another small point).

-I would also like to support the wish expressed by another user that there be an option in Edit Scrivenings to automatically include document titles as section headers, within the body of the merged ES document, or any printed or exported document. There are times when I would not want document titles to be automatically included in the body as headings and other times when this would be very very useful. I can learn in the latter case to actually write them into the body of the text, but the ability to instruct Scrivener to do so automatically would be a very useful option.

Most of my other concerns and wishes have already been raised and addressed for Beta 2.

I would like again to thank Keith for producing such a clean and smart writing tool that is also very powerful and feature-rich. I’m amazed at what Scrivener can do. I’m also amazed at how respectful and responsive Keith has been towards user suggestions and problems. Beta 2 will already be a significant improvement over the current beta.

My experience of academic writing changed utterly recently, and for the better, when I shifted from working in long single (Mellel) docs to composing drafts in many discrete and re-orderable chunks. I have been doing this in Mori, which is quite minimal as a writers tool and requires some workarounds and compromises and has even so been great for my writing. The ability to now do this in a full-featured writing program is incredible. Many thanks.


I agree. Perhaps, after all these months, I am used to the SG view. I am a very visual writer and find it very helpful, at times, to see the outline, my writing, synopsis and notes as I place timelines, character lists and to-do’s in my notes and use in conjunction with other pieces of information in my synopsis card and outline.

Maybe an option/preference to choose which view is most important to each writer.

Keith, absolutely love SG and have just begun to play with the new beta. It looks great! I have ten more pages to finish the rough draft of my novel then I’m hoping to import into the new beta 2 to really give it a real run through.

Hi gmw,

Thank you for taking the time to post your thoughts.

You raise some good points. I think my main mistake was in trying to make the outliner view emulate programs like OO whilst compromising to have it fit in with the other views - in the end it fits in nowhere. I don’t agree that hitting return whilst editing should effortlessly create a new document. This makes sense for a dedicated outliner, but in Scrivener, creating a new document can actually create new documents on disk. I think it is important that users cannot “accidentally” create
new documents (and in fact, you may have noted that at least one user really hates the fact that return can create new documents at all, and it is hence a preference in the next version). However, where the outliner goes wrong, I think, is that it is not consistent with the binder or corkboard. If you are editing in those modes, hitting enter ends editing and then hitting enter again creates a new document. In the outliner, though, hitting enter takes you to a new document. This feels wrong, I agree. So for beta 2, I will make the outliner behaviour consistent with the other views - hitting enter once will end editing, hitting enter again will create a new document. (For now, you can always hit Esc to end editing - Esc can be used to begin or end editing, just as in OO.) Incidentally, there is no horizontal scrollbar in the outliner view because you can resize the columns to fit. I could add one, though.

So, no and yes to this, respectively. :slight_smile: Outliner will follow the other modes in the next version.

Not strictly true - OO uses tab to move a document right in hierarchy, Mori does not. Mori uses an outliner and a table just like Scrivener, and like most Cocoa apps, when hitting tab in these views, the next responder becomes first responder. This is ingrained into the Cocoa view system. OO uses a completely custom view, which is why it has different behaviour. it also only has one main view, so you don’t expect tab to take you anywhere else, which you do in programs like Mori and Scrivener.

This is very minor - I am sure you will get used to it. :slight_smile: Bear in mind that Scrivener does a lot more than most of the applications you mention (which is not to berate them - I am a big fan of both Mori and OO), which means that there are a lot more keyboard shortcuts so they do get more elaborate by necessity. Consider, for instance, that Mori changes the keyboard shortcut for underlining text to Cmd-Shift-U, where it is normally Cmd-U (as it is in Scrivener). Cmd-U is used instead for “move up”. This makes sense for Mori, because it is primarily about outlining. Scrivener, however, is primarily about writing, so the easiest keyboard shortcuts have to be assigned to writing actions; that is, the “Text” menu. Thus, Cmd-U is underline and Shift-Cmd-U is move up; Cmd-R is “toggle ruler” (or will be, as of beta 2 - an oversight in beta 1). Cmd-D is used for duplicating documents in beta 2… And so on.

Heh heh, too late. :slight_smile: Recent suggestions and a few things that have arisen, not too mention a lack of time, have already pushed back beta 2 about a week. It will hopefully be worth waiting for, though.

Sorry, gmw and TR, but this is unlikely to change. The current set up makes sense - “meta data” is separated from “supporting materials”. Also, there were various users of SG who asked if the notes pane could be extended to take up the whole area, without the nuisance of the index card in the way. These folks are quiet at the moment, but I am guessing that if I changed it, I would be hearing from them. :slight_smile: It’s just a case of, “can’t-please-all-the-people-all-the-time”. The current set up at least allows lots of room for notes.

I’m not sure about this one. The trouble is that the more columns I add to the outliner the more fields I have to add to the inspector. You can always use the Snapshots feature for this. Just take a snapshot (cmd-5) of your document on the day you create it, and you can always view the date you created it by looking at the snapshots of that document. Probably not ideal, but I’m not sure how bogged down I want Scrivener to get in meta-data.

As I said to the other user, this pretty much definitely won’t happen. The new Edit Scrivenings view uses a completely different mechanic to the old Draft view. Displaying titles was buggy and slowed things down a lot. Note that when it comes to exporting or printing this is already possible; just not in ES.

Again, thanks. :slight_smile:

All the best,

Dear Keith,
Thank you for the quick, thorough and informative reply.

Having the outliner follow the behavior of the corkboard and binder makes a great deal of sense: first return to finish editing and the second return to create a new document (I much prefer this actually to having the first return do both as in Mori - you came up with an excellent solution/improvement here that works better than SG and better than Mori.) This will really help keep things moving in the outliner mode - thank you.

I have no problem using shift-command-L or R for reorganization. I do appreciate the many many keyboard shortcuts built into Scrivener. I agree that standard OSX text shortcuts should take priority.

I agree: the fully resizable Notes pane is most important for me - a great improvement and more important than being able to see notes and synopsis at the same time.

Your suggestion to use a snapshot for date created is a nice solution.

I didn’t realize that the titles showed in merged documents when exporting and printing - this is aready a big help. Sorry I missed that.

I’m happy to wait for the new beta as it will clearly be worth the wait. I just wanted to make clear that I was trying to offer user feedback and wish list preferences, not expecting you to slow down or necessarily change anything.

But the app keeps getting better, cleaner, clearer, and even more feature-ful. Great work, you are doing us a huge service.

Add my vote for that change. There are a lot of applications that do things the Scrivener way, where the viewer has a fixed width and all columns must fit. There are also quite a lot that do it the other way, where the viewer expands beyond the limit to accommodate a full table size. I feel the S1 is an application which would better benefit from a floating sized viewer with a scroll bar, because it has several columns which could afford extensive display, and currently cannot be display all at once, unless you use a really massive application width (rendering your line width unreadable in the editor). Such a change would promote consistency of column width, too. Right now, as I’ve pointed out before, hiding and showing window elements such as the Binder and Inspector actually change your column width preference without restoring it.

The point you raise on wanting a creation date stamp is of parallel interest to me. Actually, it highlights a problem which exists in the automatic time stamping of changes, really. The problem that frustrates you is that small changes to an old document suddenly promote it to the status of a new document. Ulysses has an, unfortunately clumsy, method for getting around this: A small check box beside a document’s modification date which when activated, will update the time stamp whenever you save the document. If it is not clicked, then saving the document does not update the time stamp. In a way, this turns the date stamp into a general tool, rather than specifically a modification or creation stamp. If left unchecked, it will remain a creation stamp, if checked, it will become a modification stamp. In addition to the automatic distinction, you can click the date text itself to manually reset the date stamp to the current time – or double click to insert your own date of choosing (good for archival).

I really like this ability in Ulysses, though I feel the implementation is somewhat hard to decipher initially. Should Scrivener have something like this? It is such a unique feature, it would certainly seem a bit like copying a good thing. But, I would certainly use this ability – I’ve used it hundreds of times in Ulysses. I love how I can keep some documents as constantly updating, and others as static. I like how I can very easily choose precisely when I want something date stamped, with a single click. I also like how having this dual function date field does not require two date fields.

But, to actually preserve when a document was made, for archival purposes, another suggestion made elsewhere is to simply put a date in the notes field somewhere. If you use TypeIt4Me, TextPander, or one of the many other tools for this kind of easy thing, it takes no time. This method also feels a bit “safer” to me. I have thousands of documents on my hard drive with inaccurate time stamps because of file system errors over the years.

Here is another idea: If you do not really need the full date, and in most cases the year and month are plenty of information (I don’t really care what day of the month I wrote something ten years later), then you can use keywords. Create a “Chronology” section, 06Sep 06Oct and so forth. Then you can quickly search for documents written around a certain time.

AmberV -

Yes you understand the problem exactly - one quick change and an old document is reclassified as a new one and suddenly my own mental map of my files and work no longer corresponds to what my computer is telling me. Not a huge deal and certainly not worth encountering the problems Keith described that would come with adding yet another column.

I would certainly find the kind of flexible time stamp you are describing very useful. But your suggestions of putting a date in the notes pane or using keywords also make much sense to me. Thanks.