Project Bookmarks vs Import as Alias


[newbie alert]

If I want to reduce project size by using aliases instead of full importing, it seems that Scrivener offers me Import as Alias and also Project Bookmarks,

The first goes into the research folder; the second via inspector or bookmark button.

Is there any difference between these two? Why one or the other?

I am thinking of hundreds of pdf files of books that I wish to write about, and what is the best way to use Scrivener for this.


I guess this is just a personal preference. I’d try both with a sample set. Try using the imported aliases and then switch to using the project bookmarks and see which one suits you best. My preference for PDFs is usually to use bookmarks, since now we can expand the inspector to a very large degree (assuming you’ve got the screen width to support it). The extra-large inspector makes it possible to read a standard pdf in the inspector, effectively giving you a 3rd editor pane (or a 5th, if you count copyholders) if your screen is big enough.

I’d also like to know what the intended difference is. Given that Keith is the sole developer and his time is understandably stretched thin, it seems odd that he would spend time duplicating existing functionality.

Well, I can’t speak to all the intended differences, but I can point to some actual, demonstrable differences between documents imported as aliases and project bookmarks to external documents.

  1. Aliases appear in the binder; bookmarks to external docs don’t
  2. Aliases automatically load into the editor, if the document type is supported by Scrivener; bookmarked documents automatically load to the inspector window if the document type is supported.
  3. Aliases gain all metadata that other documents do, such as synopses, document notes, document bookmarks, the project’s custom metadata fields, etc…; bookmarks get none of that.

I think the OP and I both meant functional differences. I’m quite able to see that they appear on different sides of the screen…

Were you aware point c? I’d consider that a functional difference well worth the effort of implementing both features.

Also, it’s not readily apparent that the inspector gives you a functional editor pane (for text documents, you can modify the contents there directly), and in the past, the inspector wouldn’t expand nearly as far as it can now. Without experimentation, I wouldn’t have realized that I could make it nearly half the size of my screen if I hide the binder and make my editors slim enough.

In general, I, and many of the posters here who volunteer our time do not assume that everything about a feature of scrivener is obvious. There are use cases that I discover here on the forums, and I’ve used Scrivener on my Macs since v1 and participated in the beta. If it’s obvious to you, then you can simply ignore the extraneous information… There’s no need to dismiss someone’s efforts on behalf of everyone else reading the thread, especially when the first poster started the thread with “[newbie alert]”.

There’s no need to be snarky. The difference between the Inspector pane and the Binder is much more significant than their relative locations on the screen. As rdale explains, the Binder brings with it quite a bit of added functionality.


There’s no need for condescending replies. OP and I are asking something legitimate.

If importing files as aliases into the Binder brings with it quite a bit of added functionality, then can you see how, for the user, given that the functional use of project bookmarks is already covered by aliases in the Binder as you state, then the intended added functionality of project bookmarks is a bit of a head-scratcher? What you’ve described is a Venn diagram of two concentric circles.

They are not concentric circles. The Binder offers one set of features, including the ability to include metadata. The Project Bookmarks list offers a different set, including the ability to call the item out as a Bookmark, and the ability to open it in the Inspector sidebar without disturbing the Binder structure.

Use one, use both, use neither. Your choice.


What does this mean? Am I at my computer calling out “Bookmark! Bookmark!”? I’d reiterate that the question is about functional differences.

I’m not sure what you mean either about disturbing the Binder structure. Do you mean that opening an alias in the sidebar does not disturb what the user currently has selected in the Binder for display in the Editor? If so, a Binder alias can be opened in: Other Editor, Quick Reference, or Copyholder.

I’m playing devil’s advocate here, but with reason. If, as it seems, there is no functional difference between Aliases and Project Bookmarks, it would appear that Keith, the sole developer of Scrivener for macOS/iOS, has devoted time and energy to duplicating existing functionality. This would of course be a trivial and needlessly pedantic point to raise, if it were not the case that Keith appears to quite often cite his role as sole developer (and so his limited time and energy) as the prime reason for disqualifying features requests/ideas that, to outside eyes, would seem standard or otherwise “missing” for software such as Scrivener.

Of course, it would have been wonderful to get a reply like “Well it may not be obvious, but the use case of Aliases are this, whereas the use case of Project Bookmarks are this, which as you can see could not be achieved with Aliases, so that’s why we spent time and energy implementing this new feature.” I would have learned something nice and L&L would have chalked another tiny win up on the board. But I guess the L&L modus operandi is arguing with users instead.

Calling out Bookmarks: there is a readily accessible list of things that the user has identified as bookmarks. For instance, a translator might want to have bookmarks for dictionaries relevant to the language they are interested in, but might not want to put those materials in the Binder, even as Aliases. Bookmarks can include documents anywhere in the user’s file system, but can also include live web pages. So, one bookmark might be for a locally-maintained field-specific list of terms that the translator has compiled, another might be for the online OED, another might be a particular client’s contact information.

Structure of the Binder: the Binder is primarily an outline of the document being written. The user might want to align the structure of the Research folder with the structure of the Draft folder, and therefore might not want to put project-wide materials in it. Or, the user might not want to have to scroll down through the entire outline of the manuscript in order to find the Dictionary of Chemical Structures (or whatever). I recently helped a user with 3000 files: the utility of bookmarks in that case seems obvious.

Different functions: Again, items in the Binder carry with them all of the metadata that is applicable to any item in the Binder. Bookmarks don’t.

There’s an extensive discussion of “why we spent time and energy implementing this feature” here: … ject-notes


Thanks for the feedback everyone. I’m going to do some experimentation, but leaning towards the Research folder, because of the metadata it offers.