Request: make Scrivener’s outline view more like an actual outliner

I’m so surprised that the outline view in Scrivener has almost no traditional outliner functionality.

To me, an outliner is about … quickly creating an outline, preferably from the keyboard. I should be able to hit “enter” and get an item underneath the line my cursor is currently in. I should be able to hit “tab” and indent the currently selected line one level. Etc. etc. Everyone’s familiar with these basic outliner functions, whether we’ve met them in Workflowy or Checkvist or Wunderlist or what have you.

This seems obvious enough that I actually wonder if I’m missing something. Are there just unorthodox keyboard shortcuts that I don’t know about, for using the outliner in Scrivener?

Both of these functions exist already. Enter to create a new item, Ctrl-Cmd-arrow to shift it up, down, left, or right in the Mac version, Ctrl-arrow in the Windows version.

Are you actually in the Outline view, or elsewhere?


You might have disabled return key item creation, in the Behaviors: Return Key preference pane.

We did experiment with using the Tab key for a while. The problem is that Tab is also used to jump between editable text cells in the outline. That meant the shortcut would do one thing if your cursor was in one place and another thing if it was in another place. Overall it felt very inconsistent and even after several months of trying to get used to it, it was too unpredictable for muscle memory to figure it out.

Meanwhile the spatial arrow-based movement keys consistently work in every view mode, including the binder. You don’t have to learn one set of shortcuts for this view and another for that. In fact, they even work on text itself, moving paragraphs up and down and changing their indents. Couldn’t do most of the above with the Tab key!

Second tip: to make outlining even faster, hide synopses (right-click in the column header bar area to set up column settings). With synopses, the first Return goes to the synopsis field, and then the second return ends editing, and then you need a third to make a new item. With synopses off you only need to hit Return twice to make a new item—still not quite as smooth as you might like, but if it really bothers you ⌘N works better.

This is all very helpful. Thanks especially for the practical, time-saving tips about turning off synopses and using cmd-N for a quick new item! That’s the kind of effort-saving stuff that makes a program pleasant to use.

However, I believe I have discovered a bug! The tab-alternative shortcuts mentioned (ctrl-cmd-arrow) stop working when I fuss with columns. I had this occur twice, in two separate projects: at first, the shortcuts were working just dandy. Then, so I could start doing some focused outlining, I deselected most of the column view options (label, status, etc.), so I had just the “bare” outline in front of me. Suddenly, ctrl-cmd-arrow stopped working.

I work on both Mac and Windows. I’m currently on my Mac, running High Sierra 10.13.4, and using Scrivener 3.0.2.

Hmm, I haven’t encountered that one myself. If you find a route to reproduction it would be appreciated. On the Mac though, do make sure that in managing the column headings you didn’t at some point click on a heading (you’ll see an up/down arrow in the header row if did). That’ll mean you’ve sorted the view—and obviously that would inhibit manual movement of items.

I did neglect to notice your forum tag. On PC the shortcut is Shift+Ctrl+Arrows (not currently applicable to the text editor in the stable version).

You’re good, hah! Both times, I had, in my fussing with columns, accidentally activated the sorting function. On your suggestion, I made sure it was turned off, and then it worked just fine. Thank you!