Practical Improvements

Here is my take on improvements that would enhance the use of Scrivener

  1. Integrate a full-fledged outliner and cork board. Now outliner and corkboard are limited to title and synopsis. It would be nice if content, that is, paragraphs could be included, going deeper into the structure of the text, with expandable and retractable parts.

  2. Mindmapping capability but especially a horizontal outliner in the likes of Tree. I am marveled at the ability of horizontal outlining. Tree can display three importante things. 1) hierarchical horizontal outline, 2) vertical outline, 3) family outline. This last one is composed of a segment of the outline, which opens separately in a second tab. Also, one can work on only part of the outline for clearer productivity; the ability to retract everything but the part you’re working on is fabulous.

  3. Ulysses III came up with the idea of sheets, which is a second binder that Scrivener lacks. Right now Scrivener will display the outline on the left panel and composition panel on the right. What it is lacking is something like a second-level binder between the binder and the composition panel. This second level binder would contain the sub document titles (and their paragraph titles/synopsis) Third panel would be the composition window.

In my opinion these features would enhance what Scrivener already offers, and would not detract from the main philosophy and mission of the software. Let me know your thoughts. I am writing a dissertation and Tree is helping a great deal in fashioning a a solid roadmap to be expanded in scrivener.

This really goes against what Scrivener is. Scrivener’s outliner and corkboard are for manipulating binder items, chunks of text that have a synopsis associated with them. They are not analogous to an outliner in a word processor and never will be, because that is not what they were designed to be and not what I would ever want them to be.

I’ll check out Tree, as it looks like a cool app, but I’m not sure the horizontal outliner approach would be appropriate in Scrivener, where you are working on what is essentially a synopsis or outline of a manuscript. In this case, a vertical outline seems to me much more appropriate as it allows you to read through the summary of what you are writing in a linear manner.

Actually, I think OS X Mail came up with that idea. :slight_smile: But Scrivener has been able to do this since version 1.0:

Simply split the editor vertically, load the outliner in the left split and hide any columns you don’t want, and set the outliner to affect the right editor by clicking on the button with the two arrows at the bottom to turn them blue. You could also set the binder to only affect the outliner if you wanted.

KB, thanks for taking the time to answer all my questions marks. I am learning to work deeper into categories, keywords, and labels. I think I need to split not only sections but paragraphs into documents, as I have read in the forum. That will give me more options…

I use within-document outlining extensively and there is no reason you cannot do this in Scrivener. It is a simple matter to set up paragraph style presets in Scriv for increasing levels of paragraph indentation* and then assign them handy key commands in Apple’s Sys Prefs. I recommend trying this. It is true this will not get you collapsibility, but in my experience that is a convenience rather than an essential of outlining.

For what it is worth, I am also a big advocate of mindmapping for all kinds of uses and I find that Scrivener and mindmapping software make powerful companions.

But I have to say I think Tree’s tree view is not a good exemplar of the form, as it quickly throws things that should be close very far from each other. Mindmapping works by letting you focus on a “local region” of something that might be part of a very large structure and using horzontal space to keep it in context (unlike an outline which is basically all vertical) – but this effect is highly dependent on the graphical representation of “local regions” of the map. More than other mindmapping software, Tree maps quickly get super tall and gappy, and siblings get separated by miles and miles of empty empty space – and worse, neighboring levels are likewise filled with such gaps, so one is soon scrolling around in columnar empty space without a tether. Whatever cognitive virtue the mindmap representation has is quickly lost by that. I really wanted to like Tree, but could not. Truth is Tree is an outliner with all the inherent limitations of an outliner, and its tree view does not give you maps – but outlines with super-big indentations – and this is their weakness.

So, not Tree, but some kind of mindmapping software and together with Scrivener you have a powerful combination. I have also thought that integrated mindmapping in Scrivener would be a great thing, but I wonder. For some reason, though the basic functions one wants in mindmap software are relatively few, it is apparently hard to get it right – at least if the trove of mindmap applications available is any indication – since they almost none of them give you something fluid that you could really be happy working in.


  • In fact, I set mine to match the indentation styling I have set in my Word’s Normal template for the outline levels, so copying MS outlined text and pasting into Scriv preserves outline structure exactly. Also very useful.

Yes, I am learning now to use extensive outlining in Outliner, and basically slipping my material in separate documents under the thread. Learning the trade of keywords, labels, and categories is potentially useful as I can see.

The evidence that mindmapping is lacking in Scrivener is clear by the launching of Scapple. This is helpful, and goes on to underline my point. Scrivener has no way of providing the big picture of the whole document. It controls every single part of it, but does not afford one big look at the forest.

Tree is doing that for me, and I am avoiding the pitfalls you called attention to by switching between horizontal and vertical outlining with a single click. The good thing is that is provides a space to replicate synopsis used in Scrivener, so you have title nodes and synopses included. If information starts to overwhelm I simply retract information to focus on what I am working at the moment. Family split is marvelous in doing that. It’s all about splitting one segment into another tab and then coming back to the big picture.

Tree is providing a miniature picture of a big scrivener file, and the exchange between macro and micro perspectives is outstanding to foster synchrony between the texts. Tree provides a hubble telescope picture of my file, way from out there, and scrivener takes me to travel in my virtual world.

Now, if scrivener could work something of the sort in corkboard that would be something. All in all I have to congratulate the Scrivener team; every day I learn something new through the forum.

Mindmapping isn’t lacking in Scrivener any more than a dishwasher is lacking in a bedroom. :slight_smile: Mindmapping just doesn’t fit into Scrivener. There are good reasons that Scapple is a separate application.

Tree seems a wonderful application, so I’m not sure why you wouldn’t want to just keep using it. Its horizontal view wouldn’t play too well in Scrivener because of all the other columns you can view in Scrivener’s outline. The horizontal view is only really suitable for a limited amount of data. All of that said, I have now played with Tree and it’s horizontal outliner is nice.

Did you check out the Mail-style three-pane view that you asked for?

All the best,

I follow what you’re saying. But in the future the industry might lead Scrivener to adopt a “Studio” floor plan where “kitchen” and “bedroom” share common interests.

Correct, I intend to use Tree as a companion to Scrivener. Glad you tried it. I am now using the Mail-style pane view in Scrivener. Thanks for your tips.


There’s no way to do that little trick with the outliner in one pane and the editor in the other in the windows version, right? There’s no “title & synopsis” column available, and that is exactly what I was hoping to get. That nice neat, bold file name with a bit of smaller text beneath it is the look I want to replace the binder with for my default layout.

You can do it on the Windows version but not with the title and synopsis in the same column - that is coming in a future version, though, definitely.

That would be pleasant, thanks :slight_smile: