SCENE NUMBERS

Hereby a request from a screenwriter. I use Scrivener as long as possible when writing scripts. First of all I must say how much I love this program as it is a really effective tool and an inspiring workspace.

The feature request: scene numbering possibilities expanded from de index cards to the binder and scene heads in Scrivenings. In such a way that Final Draft takes over this numbering when exported.

(The fact that this feature is missing at the moment must be a serious hinderance for other screenwriters too.)

The matter of numbering things in the binder and outliner comes up from time to time—undeniably, some way of persistently numbering items would be useful for authors of all stripes, there is no debate over that. The problem is how to do it. You’re saying it should be scenes that are numbered—but what are scenes? Are those individual cards, and if so are they file type cards or folder type card? Are they level one or level 5? The problem is that there isn’t any such construct as a “scene” in Scrivener. You might have some things that you refer to as scenes in your project, but in another person’s project “scenes” might be something else entirely—they might not even be broken out into individual pieces in the binder outline. They would want the numbers to be in the text editor itself, much like Final Draft does where it renders a depiction of the a page in the window. Scrivener does have a mechanism for counting lines in the sidebar. There is the Format/Options/Show Line Numbers, which could perhaps be coerced to only number lines of a certain element type (like “Scene Heading”), but then you run into the non-linear problem. If you load a document in the middle of the Draft, how does Scrivener know to start counting at 80 instead of 1? Final Draft and other similar programs can do this more easily because it’s all one huge document, but in Scrivener it’s a bunch of small files. Making all of the files aware of the other files enough so that counting can be contiguous would be expensive in terms of processor usage.

So basically, the short answer is: It’s of course a good idea, but there are problems with turning the idea into an implementation that does what people want without a great amount of configuration complexity or slowing down the computer.

I forgot to mention that there is also a form of soft numbering already in place when using the Corkboard. You can turn it on with the View/Corkboard Options/Show Card Numbers menu command. You probably want the variant that does not start numbering over with each section (section being defined by the containers the scene cards are sorted into, if you separate acts into folders or what have you).

To view multiple folders on the corkboard at once, Cmd-click on the folders themselves in the Binder, or Shift-click on a range of them while they are closed, so as to not select any sub-document cards as well. The trick is to only have containers selected. Since corkboards only show one layer of depth, this works even if you separate scenes into beat cards or something more detailed. Only the top-level scene container card will be numbered and represented.

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Amber, I get your point about the problem of numbering in a non-linear software made of many subdocuments. But still: I have to pick up the megaphone in the name of many screenwriters I know:
Because at this point, scene- and page-numbering is the ONLY reason why I (and many colleagues) still go back to clumsy, buggy, ugly & overpriced FinalDaft. The writing in Scrivener, and then, at the end, it’s meeting your old foe FD again. But alas: Two hundred dollars for putting some numbers left & right? Please, Scriveners, save us from that!

My thought for Scrivener is this: Usually, scene numbering becomes important when you finish your screenplay. I wouldn’t (or rather shouldn’t) go on numbering scenes all the time in Final Draft as I write, knowing that all the time I go back and re-order.

So, wouldn’t there be a way to solve this in the compile process?
I know that you can number chapters, but as of now this is still a somewhat tricky thing, that needs some serious software study for a poor writer.

Couldn’t there be a specific screenwriting feature in the compile settings, that would auto-number ONLY all the lines written in scene-heading format? (left AND right would be great, like Final Draft does it)

For a second draft, you could actually re-import your finished & numbered script, with the numbers.
And, allow me to go on dreaming, for shooting drafts, where you have to keep certain numbers, and auto add new ones to added scenes - might there be a way -again in the compile settings- for Scrivener to auto-recognize those scene numbers, and only add new ones (like 24A, 24B) where needed?

I know it’s a very old issue.
But I still really, really think it would be worth the pain.

All the best,
ocab

If each scene is in its own file, then wouldn’t something like this already work for what you are describing?

Take note of how things are selected in the Binder, if you’ve never seen a stacked corkboard view before. If you select only containers, it will display each of the respective corkboards in a stack (which can be viewed horizontally as shown, or vertically).

Regarding page numbers, since scriptwriting uses a rigid format, it is possible to use the View/Page View/ feature to get a rough estimate of pages. See §20.2 (pg. 276) for tips on how to set this up.

Even if you could get perfect scene and page numbering (which is possible, so long as things are set up to work right with the software), I think you would still need FD for final polish. There are things like inserting continuation text where dialogue is cut between pages that Scrivener cannot do.

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Hey Amber,

sad to say that the corkboard view trick, even though interesting, doesn’t help much about my issue.

The thing is, in a screenplay, scene-numbers are mostly for the final reader, for production and for reference in the development process. And as such, they have a predefined format (the way Final Draft does it). The whole point would be to have them on the page for the final printed/pdf’ed screenplay, rather than on the screen while writing.
That’s why I proposed a predefined (quick&easy to use) shortcut in the compile process.

I do get your point about the Dialogue Cont’s - but those, at least in where I write, are pretty secondary. Whereas it is simply unthinkable to enter a screenplay that has no scene- and pagenumbering.

On the other hand, as I said, from a user’s side it simply feels absurd to work on a software that you love, but then have to pay 219,00 Euros for another one that you don’t like, and that doesn’t do anything real for me apart from adding some numbers and cont’ds. Obviously that is none of your business, but it’s just so out of proportion that it makes you feel a bit helpless, like with the mafia bully that squats in your favorite bar and asks for a little protection fee, or else… And everybody acts like this was normal.

Anyway. Just trying to make the point why some of us, or at least, me, tend to get a little tickly about this issue.Clearly, its one of those instances where programmers’ arguments and users’ point of view kind of clash.

So… what to do?

Maybe, if in Scrivener itself it’s not feasable, the solution would be in a little (modestly priced) additional app / add-on?
Something that simply takes a script already compiled and exported from scrivener (or maybe even from any simple texteditor, for all that it’s worth), then recognizes the sceneheadings and pages (and maybe even dialogues that cut over two pages) and simply adds the numbering?
Given the fact there are quite some solutions for autoimport of screenplays (including the one scrivener uses), I can only guess this should be feasable.

Anyone care to programm that? I would very much suppose there would be a solid demand. Just call it " Bells&Whistles "

As an outsider to the script writing world, I’m observing and getting more and more confused here, because it seems obvious to me how to accomplish this at compile time, but Ioa keeps talking about how to get dynamic numbering in Scrivener’s interface… Am I missing something?

Compile-time numbering just requires that you insert something like <$n> (from the Edit->Insert->Auto Number menu) in the appropriate place. You can put this in the compile settings (Formatting section), or directly in the text. Currently (and I believe this is a temporary bug-like issue in the windows version), they won’t change to the number they represent if you put them in the document names, but otherwise, they can go just about everywhere.

Also, Ioa: I don’t think that stacked cork boards are implemented in the publicly available version for Windows. I can’t get it to work by ctrl-selecting multiple containers, anyway.

robert:
<$n> can work a bit, but doesn’t quite solve the question (All those who have tried to use office for screenwriting know what I mean)

The reason being that, often, screenwriters need the scene-numbers from one draft to stay in place if they add new scenes in a new draft. That’s why dedicated screenwriting software has an option to “lock” the existent numbers, and only renumber new ones.

This calls for a possibility to export and the re-import the numbers with the script, having them stay in their position in the scene-heading. (which is basically what Fenster called for, starting this thread)

The other thing is, that convention asks for scenenumber on BOTH sides of the scene-heading. This doesn’t work with autonumbering, because <$n> would give, say, a number 4 on the right side of the scene-heading, and a 5 on the left.

btw: Pagenumbers, off course, do work perfectly in compile.

I might be missing that this conversation has drifted from its original premise: that the numbering shown in the index cards be displayed also in Scrivenings sessions and the Binder (and presumably the Outliner by extension), and that this pseudo-numbering be ultimately conveyed to the output as static numbering. So I meant to address the complexities of that problem, which can be easily demonstrated by compiling, and watching how long it takes, and realising any structural change in the Binder would require a likewise period of recalibration to keep numbering consistent. If we are talking strictly about compilation now, then yes, there are ways to number your scene in most likely whatever style is necessary.

The counter tag design in Scrivener is resilient to this kind of usage, as it is designed to also accommodate non-fiction usage, where numbered items need to be recalled in the text (“see fig. 23-8”, for example, where both the chapter number and figure number occupy independent counter streams, and the specific instance of each can be returned as a static number once it has been declared). So a title prefix of “<$n:scene:<$title_no_spaces>> " + Title + suffix of " <$n:scene:<$title_no_spaces>>”, would generate an instanced token that will forever return “63” or whatever the sequence number might be for that scene.

Indeed,true, and the above advanced counter design is not implemented yet either, but since the wish request is for generalised features (rather than something specific to a platform, like support for MS equation writer) it makes sense to frame the discussion within the context of the ultimate design that Windows is working toward (and plus I think the OP is using a Mac, based on the reference to index card numbering, which also is not implemented on Windows yet).

Re-opening this thread 11 years later :sunny:

Scene numbering is still crucial to professional screenwriters. You always get notes on a per-scene level referring to the scene number, making it a hassle to work in Scrivener, where you basically have to guess which scene they are referring to, or go back and forth between Final Draft and Scrivener.

Most screenwriters would only need one level of depth in their folder structure, thus making it easy to count the number of scene headings chronologically.

But even with more complex folder structures, it would not be hard to implement. When you select the top-level folder, the documents are already ordered chronologically, so just counting the number of scene headings from the top level folder (not the selection) should not be difficult.

Then, of course, make the scene numbers appear further left in the margin
image

Please, pretty please, do consider this extremely important feature for your next version (and grab a nice chunk of Final Draft users in the process).

But even with more complex folder structures, it would not be hard to implement. When you select the top-level folder, the documents are already ordered chronologically, so just counting the number of scene headings from the top level folder (not the selection) should not be difficult.

And if that is what you are doing, the aforementioned options to enable numbering in the corkboard or outliner are all you need. You can see which scene is #8, and jump straight to it. This only becomes impractical if your usage of the binder extends beyond scene breakdown at the same hierarchical level that scenes are listed. From what I can see in your screenshot, the only problem is where you combine two scenes into one binder item. It shouldn’t be a problem to avoid doing that, given how Scrivenings makes it easy to work over cuts.

I apologize if I sound frustrated here, but scene numbers in the margin are a fundamental part of screenwriting. You are very close to making your app viable for professional screenwriting, so I don’t understand why you opt for sub-optimal workarounds when you could easily meet industry standards with a few tweaks.

Screenwriters are used to having their script pages tightly formatted in a very specific way when working professionally. Anything else than the industry standard won’t work for professional screenwriting, as we work on extremely expensive collaborative projects where a huge team makes creative and logistic decisions on the basis of the script.

Everyone in the production is used to the same formatting and every role have their own reasons to demand that the script lives up to the standards. When having this discussion, it is important to emphasize the script writing process as a collaborate process as much as anything.

Well, if the formatting of the number is the deal breaker I’m not sure what to tell you. It’s unlikely Scrivener will ever have something like that given the difficulties of numbering things accurately in the editor. It wouldn’t be “just a few tweaks” that we are mysteriously refusing to do. I come from an entirely different world I suppose, where data is data, regardless of what it looks like, whether it is here or there, or how many pixels over into the margin it is. :person_shrugging:

But given how you go on to describe things, I wonder if maybe there is an element of the Scrivener project being pushed past its expiration date anyway. It’s is optimally a tool where you write the first draft of something (across almost all disciplines). Even those with fairly modest formatting needs, like novelists needing standard 12pt TNR, will by and large drop out of Scrivener once they reach the editing phase, because other tools are better for collaborating with an editor. It was never designed nor meant to be a replacement for production tools.

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Thanks for giving some background to the answer and relating it to your vision with Scrivener as mainly a drafting tool.

I guess we come from different schools of thought. Novelists do have a high degree of freedom, making it understandably difficult to create an editing experience that suits everyone’s needs. Screenwriters, however, use exactly one rigid style of formatting that is used in every professional screenplay throughout the world. So why not match that one?

As to the corkboard and outliner numbering, I guess my most modest feature request would be an option to count the total number of cards, not just the selection. Because when I’m working in my 3rd act folder, the scene numbers start from 1, thus they are more confusing than helpful. And I have to go back and forth between different selections constantly to view my scene numbers, creating further confusion.

I think there is an overall misunderstanding of how far away Scrivener is from that goal (understandable, as it is not too hard to get something within 85% given modern programming toolkits doing so much legwork). Here is a way of thinking about it: Fountain is a tool for writing screenplays that has almost nothing to do with formatting a screenplay properly, yet it still functions as a screenplay writing tool and there are many writers who prefer it for its simplicity and ease of use, as well as its lack of dependence upon expensive and complicated software.

Scrivener isn’t quite as extreme as Fountain of course, it gives you a semblance of what a screenplay looks like in the text editor, but it’s a lot closer to Fountain than it is to Final Draft—by years of development effort. Again, that Scrivener looks closer is a bit of a deception thanks to piles and piles of work we never had to do, that we would have to stop using and then do ourselves: hence years.

Novelists do have a high degree of freedom, making it understandably difficult to create an editing experience that suits everyone’s needs.

It is less difficult when you bill yourself as a pure writing tool, because at that level all writers pretty much have the same basic needs, and those can be served with a pencil. It is the stuff around the text editor that makes Scrivener what it is, and that is why it is used by everyone from patent lawyers to airline maintenance manual writers to doctors to scientists to programmers to screenwriters.

While all of those different fields have in some cases radically different formatting, publication and production requirements, that doesn’t matter because we’re focussing on the things that are common to all of us. The ability to chop a text up into many small pieces and visualise them, organise them, and combine meta-writing with writing in a seamless environment. Those are things we all need, and that’s why we here, and what we have a passion for.

So to that end, better numbering options in the meta-writing environment definitely is something more within the scope of the software design. And it’s not just screenwriters that would benefit from that. I would love it if the user manual project could number sections the way they come out in the PDF. I know that isn’t at all easy or practical to program though. There are things we could do to make it better, and we have a list of those for consideration, so don’t give up hope on that. But don’t expect it either, what I said above remains true. In a program this flexible it is very hard to get live numbering right, not just technically, but conceptually. You can help it by structuring your work in a fashion that works with simpler numbering techniques, but that is very different from building a system that can accommodate going outside of that simple structure. I think it would be fair to say that any effort we put there would only move around that threshold of flexibility rather than abolish it.

As to the corkboard and outliner numbering, I guess my most modest feature request would be an option to count the total number of cards, not just the selection.

To that end, I would refer you back to an old screenshot. See how the numbering continues from one section to the next? The software looks a little different now, but it still works the same. If you select only the Act folders so that they stack in the corkboard, the numbering continues rather than restarting.

Here is a layout I would recommend playing with:

  1. Select your act folders individually with Ctrl-click so they are stacked in the corkboard.
  2. Make sure View â–¸ Corkboard Options â–¸ Number by Section is disabled.
  3. Split the editor vertically or horizontally to taste and switch the new split to scrivenings mode.
  4. With the locked corkboard active, use the Navigate â–¸ Corkboard Selection Affects â–¸ Other Editor setting. Now the cards you click on here will automatically load in the other split.
  5. Set Navigate ▸ Binder Selection Affects ▸ Right Editor (or whichever isn’t the corkboard).

Now the corkboard split will stay fixed, showing you an accurate scene count in the corkboard. You can use it for navigation, and when you click on things in the binder they will always load in the other editor, leaving that setup undisturbed. You can add and drag scenes around within it and see the numbering update to reflect the changes.

It is a more rigid way of using the software, and if you like that way of working but may not always want that way of working, definitely consider saving it as a layout so you can do other things for a bit and then return to it.

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Actually, I think scene numbers are a fundamental part of film production, but frowned upon in spec scripts and at the writing stage; at least per the books and guides I’ve read on script production.

Still, I understand why people like them when writing. I use them too, mostly because they make me feel more professional (even if actual professionals tell me they make me look like an amateur).

But… surely that’s a job for professional script writing software once you’re at that stage, and not at the moving-stuff-about-in-the-binder stage. Once you’ve imported into, say, Final Draft, one click and they’re added!

JOHN: ah, I want to make some revisions to scene 31.
DAVE: ok. What did you have in mind?
JOHN: I think the characters should kiss.
DAVE: that’s wildly inappropriate! They’re pre-schoolers?!
JOHN: they’re at the night club!
DAVE: that’s scene 34.
JOHN: it’s 31!
DAVE: oh, I added some scenes. Sorry. It’s 34 now.

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“I come from an entirely different world I suppose, where data is data, regardless of what it looks like, whether it is here or there, or how many pixels over into the margin it is”

Strange response to someone making a suggestion.

If that’s your belief, I hope you are writing in plain text files in vi? I really hope you aren’t using Scrivener or Word at all to format any of your writing…

You may not have read many of my posts around here? :laughing: I do in fact write using Vim, and Sublime Text, and Obsidian, and Logseq, and I write scripts to modify what I’ve written. In Scrivener (and just about everywhere else) I write using the Markdown method, since such formatting conveys between all of the different tools I use with zero loss. So the way I write in other words is closer to how a screenwriter who prefers Fountain would write (it being based loosely on Markdown).

I would never dream of using Word for anything other than figuring out how to uninstall the demo.

That said, I was speaking more of how the knowledge of a scene number can be ascertained through other methods, when the software is capable of doing so. Scripts use numbers in the margin because these things are passed around as sheets of paper, it makes sense in that context. In software though? We do not need to limit ourselves to what only paper can do. We can see scene 28 way off from where we currently are, because it is in a concise list rather than embedded into the dozens of pages between here and there, which requires wasting time scrolling around.

At any rate, weird to presume that me sharing where I am coming from in my understanding of a discussion has anything to do with whether a suggestion is being considered or not. It is called calibration, or figuring out how others think and sharing how you think, so that everyone isn’t talking about different things without realising it.

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Yeah, that’s not true either. That’s why Final
Draft comes with so many different templates.

A Hollywood movie spec script is a very different format to, say, a stageplay, or the format for a tv network sitcom, or… (you get the idea).

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Ha!

I wouldn’t be surprised if Ioa typed the emoji in the above quote out in longhand and then got irritated that the forum software automatically rendered it as an image!
:chuckles-at-own-joke:

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