Scratch Pad Wishes

Two requests for Scratch Pad features:

  1. I’d like to be able to append a scratch pad note to a project’s “project notes,” with options to attach it to individual tabs within those project notes. (As it is, I can only send scratch pad notes to individual documents, or add them in as a new document).

  2. I’d like a keyboard command to open scratch pad.

You can set the keyboard shortcut to open the scratch pad in the “General” pane of the preferences - by default it is shift-cmd-return.

Appending to project notes isn’t a bad idea, and I’ll certainly consider it.

Thanks and all the best,

And that keyboard shortcut is universal, by the way, so choose something that will not conflict with the rest of the computer. That way you can call it up while you are working in another program, so long as Scrivener is open of course.

Great! Tip of the day, mate! It’s always good to scan through these forums! For three days now, Scrivener is in my autostart pane and resides in the background to be filled with notes, links and ideas on ANYTHING (I’m about to evaluate if it could work as a replacement of DevonThink, and since I haven’t purchased that one yet, it does a pretty good job).

Now you’re telling me, I can hit these keys whenever I like, and up the scratch pad pops. 8)

Why should ANYone still need a note taking app running in the background???

Okay, writing and collecting ideas is not my main job, so a professional might find Scrivener unsuitable for these tasks. But for what I need it, I’m completely sold now on NOT buying Devon… :open_mouth:

Best regards,


Scrivener is awesome, but in my experience it doesn’t scale to the kinds of massive information libraries that DevonThink handles. I use both.


Hi Katherine,

question is: When will I get such a massive library (as a non-pro)? I split my stuff into several Scrivener projects. There’s one general “Notes” project on everything (links on which Ikea shelf to buy next, ideas on stories or screenplays, ideas for my biology lessons etc.), but as soon as I can use them somewhere, I drag them over to their own respective “empty” projects to really start working on them. Only the unfinished stuff resides in the general project and serves as kind of a chaotic to do list.

DevonThink might be faster and handle everything easier. But at the moment, the workflow doesn’t feel very fast for me: I need to create folders to split between ideas (except for the Pro Office version which can create more than one database), but won’t I lose overview? And then, when I really start working on one of these projects, I’d need to export the info as RTF and re-import it into Scrivener. Or do you leave both apps open and use Scrivener ONLY for the actual writing and keep research strictly to DevonThink?

Best regards,


I write (professionally) in several different extremely technical fields. So I have DevonThink databases with hundreds of items and millions of words, on topics that are persistent across many different individual projects. If I were to even try to keep research materials in my Scrivener projects, I’d drive myself crazy dragging research from last year’s project into whatever I’m working on now.

But that may not be you. I’m not saying that you MUST use DevonThink, just explaining why I find it essential.

Like you, I keep random snippets, ideas, etc. in Scrivener. I usually leave research in DevonThink and just keep both products open, though I’ll sometimes drag stuff over to Scrivener for convenience and portability.

(By the way, DevonThink Pro also supports multiple databases. No need to get DTP Office for that.)


I think Scrivener is a very apt idea collector, especially if you use it for writing, because using it for idea formation (with the potential for eventually expanding that into long form) means you can use the same tools you’ll be using to build the text, to build the idea. A quick text-less outline or sequence of corkboards with a few ideas put down on cards can be dragged over to a new project and used as the formative skeleton for the emerging book. So there are definitely some advantages to using Scrivener at that phase. While you can imitate the basis of that with any other OPML capable outliner or organiser (since Scrivener can import OPML outlines), you do lose the benefit of meta-data and such by starting elsewhere.

And, especially with the scratch pad, it is true, it’s just about as handy as any other note based application for idea capture. The only one I’d rank higher for sheer optimisation of the note creation process is Notational Velocity. It’s no organiser though, by design—but if you do like a highly optimised input process like NV, it is not difficult to hook it up as a front-end to your note project via Simplenote. Just add " [NoteProject]" on the end of each note title intended for syncing into Scrivener, where NoteProject is the keyword you select.

Bulk research management, not so much. I agree with Katherine there. Mainly because Scrivener’s search tool is optimised for the writing process, not database management; and scaling is a factor at high levels of storage. That’s mostly a problem with lots of PDF/multimedia research. It’s really hard (as in life’s work, hard) to type in enough data to cripple Scrivener due to how efficient raw text is. Tolkien might have bumped into limits. :slight_smile:

My Scratch Pad wish is that it would run independently of Scrivener being open. It could be a great little mini-app you could spin-off and sell in the app store.

I’d love to have it in my start-up folder and to have that HUD available whenever I call the hotkey regardless of whether I’ve opened Scrivener or not.

I can’t help feeling that the note-taking field is a little bit too crowded to make it worth Keith’s while to try and produce another variant. Out of curiosity I typed the word “note” into the search box on Macupdate and I got 379 hits. Admittedly not all of these are note-taking applications, but there are still a lot of them out there. But it’s up to Keith, of course!


You can put RTFD files into the scratch pad folder while Scrivener is closed, by the way. That is all the program needs, these are not indexed elsewhere or anything, so any edits or new files you add here will show up in scratch pad the next time you run Scrivener. So in conjunction with a note taking program that can export RTFD files, you’d have a pretty good workflow.

Yeah, I have a few myself, but they never get used because they don’t do what SP does: run in the background and use a HUD interface. If you know of one that works in a similar way, however, I’d be interested to know its name.


I’m not sure what is available with a HUD, but JustNotes seems quite a nice implementation that uses a more normal interface. It has configurable hot keys and synchronises with SimpleNote. A lot of people swear by Notational Velocity, but I can’t like it for some reason. xPad was a favourite of mine: very plain and simple, and you could send any selected text straight to it by Command-Shift-X – even if it was not running at the time. The great thing for me with xPad is that you don’t have to name the note yourself: a name is automatically generated, which you can change later, if you want. I find this is less of an interruption to the workflow. Then again, you can make a new sticky note using Stickies with Command-Shift-Y, which is already available on the system. As with all these global shortcuts, one has to be aware of the possibility of clashes with other programs. Anyway, I would have thought that it might be worth looking through Macupdate to see if anything new has arrived. Utilities like these seem to appear quite often.

Cheers, Martin.

Thank you, Martin. I will look into those suggestions.



How about using the free TextEdit or Bean as your scratch pad/idea collector?

  1. Assign a keyboard shortcut for instant clipping from web, email or other documents to Bean or TextEdit, or just write your brainstorms into a new TextEdit or Bean file.
  2. Save the file to whatever Finder project folder’s appropriate, or a general notes repository folder.
  3. Import the file into the appropriate Scrivener project.

If you want iOS access to your automatic Dropbox backup, make the default file format text, then you can read and edit from iOS using PlainText or SimpleNote. Or you can use Pages or Notability or another iOS app that reads rtf.

If you don’t want to go through the Finder, of course, you can clip directly into a Scrivener project using Services.
Would this serve your purposes as well as using the Scratch Pad?

I really want to like Notational Velocity, but I can’t get past the idea of not organizing by folder instead of by keyword. Amber’s tried to show me why it’s better but I need more convincing that NV would be more efficient than the above system.
And wouldn’t I also have to batch convert all my rtf and rtfd documents from the last couple decades to text so they’d be searchable via NV? Not a big deal, I guess, because there are free apps to do that.

BTW did any Scriveners catch the Woody Allen documentary on PBS? The guy has always used a half century old manual typewriter to bang out scrips, and uses handwritten notes on legal pads or hotel stationery or whatever for his scratch pad/raw material instead of text notes of the kind we’re talking about here. I wonder how much more efficient Scrivener would make him? Then again, he already cranks out a movie a year, and has done so for 40 years, so it’s hard to imagine him getting much more efficient.