Pan Project (Library) Searches and Settings?

What are my options for search and “Collections” accross my entire library (or a selected subset) of projects within Scrivener? How about pan-project meta-data? Documents shared across multiple projects?

Scrivener’s own searches are confined to the current project. Numerous operating system-level search tools exist.

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Defeats the purpose it’s not just finding the document finding a phrase or a string in a document. It’s finding a type associated with the phrase or string, and it seeing it in context, in the same tool that matters.

You asked what your options were.

If you want to search exclusively within Scrivener, everything needs to be in the same project.

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I’m guessing you don’t read people well. I’m obviously asking as everyone does, in the hopes that Scrivener will be changed such that one might have a library view, seeing multiple documents from multiple projects at the same time, dragging and dropping docs from one project binder to another project binder and doing pan-library searches across all projects.

You asked in the support forum, not the wish list forum. I’ll move the thread.

FWIW, dragging and dropping files from one project to another is already possible, as is seeing multiple documents from multiple projects at the same time. The only part of your request that is not possible (in Scrivener) is searching across multiple projects.

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But where is that library to be viewed? I have Scrivener documents spread around on Dropbox, local Document directories (on several Macs), local to my iPad and iPhone, and even on an external hard drive that once served as macOS Time Machine drive. How is KB, as chief programmer of Scivener, to second guess where all these projects are stored? macOS’s Spotlight can do it almost seamlessly across the local, external, and cloud drives connected to a single Mac but nothing can whether Scrivener or Spotlight can search Projects stored locally on some other Mac or indeed on an iPad or iPhone where the project is held local to the device.

Why does this always go to personal affronts? Obviously the data model would have to be changed. A library index data model would have to be adopted. Independent of document storage. Such an architecture is common in many applications and protects famous programmers from your silly guessing scenario. Several completing writing applications already do so.

Not a personal affront — unless one takes technical critique from a long-time software engineer as ad hominem — but a real example of the complexity that would be involved for anyone using Scrivener on multiple devices. You will have to explain how a programemr can find Scrivener projects stored locally on devices. Just because other competing apps do it does not mean it is a desirable feature for the majority of users.

Here’s a workaround for you which can be used right now and will work on all platforms and multiple devices.

  1. Create New Project in Scrivener as “Project Library”
    On Dropbox probably to make it accessible to all devices whether macOS, iOS, iPadOS, or WIndows

  2. For each existing Scrivener Project create a document in “Project Library”
    Use Edit > Add Link to link to the Project or for Projects local to a mobile device some other helpful identifier
    Fill in the Synopsis with a description of the existing
    Add whatever metadata, notes or other Scrivener inspector items necessary to identify Project(s) of interest

  3. Repeat step #2 whenever a new Proejct is created

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Yes, this would obviously require a new more robust Scrivener data model, one builds and maintains an optimized pan project index. This is not exactly a radical idea. Just demands a couple new data hierarchies (users and libraries). Access and manipulation behavior could be worked into the binder column or through tabs bar, or by adding another meta-column(s) to the left of the binder column. Search, Find, and Collections would need to be adjusted as required as would copy, paste, and duplicate. Be nice of course if one had access to pan library settings and pan library notes, and metadata.


Everything looks easy to a person who doesn’t have to implement it.


@Randall_Lee_Reetz How many Scrivener projects do you have and how big are they? Depending on this and what exactly you want to do, you can also use just one project, i.e. combine everything. This has many advantages and admittedly also some disadvantages. Problems can occur when searching in very large projects. But this can be solved with a few tricks.

Of course. But this isn’t a real solution. Imagine if your Mac or PC only allowed one file or one folder. Yes, you could put all of your content into one file or all of your files into one folder, but what a mess. The way scrivener effectively restricts on doc per window (yes I know about project tabs), makes dealing with my library almost impossible, makes moving docs and folders of docs from one project to another awkward as hell (isn’t even posible in tabs).

Database tools exist. Scrivener is fundamentally a tool for writing, not for organizing large bodies of existing data.


It’s certainly not my role to defend Scrivener. I too wish some things were different. But honestly, it’s becoming increasingly unclear to me what you’re criticizing.

But that’s not the case. You can have as many (nested) folders as you want. Either in one project or in as many as you want. A, B, C can be three projects. However, there can also be three main folders in one project.

Unfortunately, I don’t understand this either. A document can be displayed in at least four windows. You probably mean something else. :slightly_smiling_face:

Moving documents or folders from one project to another is really easy. Even easier than moving them within a project. But even that is not complicated.

Now, you want to be able to search in several projects at the same time. That would be nice. But it wouldn’t solve the problem. Scrivener is not able to search large amounts of data at a reasonable speed. If you want to search 10,000 documents at the same time, it won’t work whether they are in one project or four. The limitation in searching is probably the main reason why it can be worthwhile to create several projects. And to search each project individually. Until a project becomes too big again and has to be split up again. Without special measures, I consider 4000 documents to be the maximum.

I hate to contradict those who know better than me, but from my experience this is not entirely true. Organizing data / documents is not the problem. Scrivener can handle 20,000 documents or more in a project very well. As long as the individual documents do not have more than 100,000 characters, everything works fast and in the same way as in smaller projects. Only the search does not. That is a pity. But Scrivener also offers acceptable solutions for this problem. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Thank you for the kind words. When someone is talking about expanding Scrivener’s data model to support new hierarchies, though, they would probably be happier with a database tool that already has that functionality.

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Yes, for the reason you mentioned. No, for a thousand other reasons.

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