Scrivener to drop multi-media support... (?)

Could you live with Scrivener going text-only?

  • Definitely - I think that would be the right move for Scrivener.
  • I don’t really mind either way.
  • No - this would kill Scrivener for me.

0 voters


I am (as ever) working on Scrivener 1.0 at the moment, and having just overhauled the feature-set and interface, I came to one rather difficult conclusion:

I think Scrivener would be much more flexible and effective if it dropped support for the direct import of multi-media files such as PDF, images, quicktime files, web archives etc. You would still be able to drop such files into a text view, of course, and so have them handy; but there would be no dedicated viewer for such items as there is in Scrivener Gold. This may seem a backward step to many, which is why I would welcome opinions on this - I fully expect many not to welcome this move. Here are what I see as the main reasons for this move:

  1. Media files are supported by the Cocoa text system anyway.
  2. Scrivener is a program dedicated to manipulating text; supporting other viewers can dilute the focus.
  3. Multi-media viewers in Scrivener will never be able to compete with dedicated programs, which may frustrate users and lead to requests that do not fit into Scrivener’s scope.
  4. Outlining can be much more flexible if Scrivener only allows text files. There would be no need for the default “draft” and “research” folders, for instance.
  5. The research process would be kept separate from the drafting process (Scrivener is really a drafting tool). You would do your research on the internet or by viewing PDF files in Preview, and then when you read something that you want to place into Scrivener to have handy when you’re writing, you would just go to Services > Scrivener > Append to Binder Document > [pick document or create new] (ie. Scrivener 1.0 will have support for a clippings service). You would then just refer to all of your clippings while composing in Scrivener using the split screen, as usual - the only difference being that all of your clippings are stored in text files.

Of course, this means that Scrivener could no longer be used effectively as a transcription tool, but then it was never exactly intended for that purpose anyway (in fact, I will release a freeware transcription tool for those who need that :slight_smile: - though I’m sure there must be many available anyway).

Anyway, let me know what you think. I’ve included a poll, but written opinions will be just as (if not more than) welcomed.


Yes, I agree that it’s better to focus on text only. Less is more. “By tying / limiting yourself, you can prove yourself a master” says a proverb in my mother tongue which I don’t know how to translate into idiomatic English.

Applications which store and handle all kinds of media abound nowadays. A focus on text alone will give Scrivener a clear identity, and will perhaps give its spiritual father more satisfaction, and stimulate him to give the best of himself. Let Scrivener be different, and let it be the best of all within its self-chosen boundaries!

And perhaps a similar clear identity could help to transform “Literature and Latte” into a meeting place for all those who are interested in textual genesis; not just in improving and facilitating their own way of writing, but in studying in depth the manyfold aspects of the writing process through the ages.

I’d really hate to see this change, for a few reasons. They’re probably more important to me because I’m looking with optimism to Scrivener as a journalist, so accumulating notes/documents/research in one place is probably more important to me than to most novel writers.

To my knowledge, PDFs embedded in text documents aren’t searchable in the same way that plain PDFs are. For instance, if I open up a PDF in Preview and search for a word in the PDF, Preview finds it with no problem. But if I embed that PDF inside a TextEdit (.rtfd) file and search for that same word in TextEdit, it doesn’t find it. Being able to search all my accumulated research documents is a key thing for me.

Also, transcription is, while not the centerpiece of Scrivener, a feature I’d love to have. Again, that’s speaking as a journalist.

In fact, I was thinking about the research end of Scrivener today when I saw the new version of VoodooPad, which includes a nifty PDF service for import – I was hoping Scrivener could steal it!


P.S. One other thing, Keith: Is your email down? I’ve tried sending messages to both support@ and and both bounced back as “User unknown.”

I am keen on the idea. It would reduce the amount of time you have to spend developing all of these different viewing interfaces for things that, like you said, are handled perfectly fine by RTFD. More time spent on core writing features is a Good Thing.

jbenton, have you considered using a service called PDF Lightning (I think it is called)? It strips all of the PDF elements out and turns it into a style RTFD file. You lose some of the fancy formatting, but for raw data research, that is typically not necessary. I do this to all incoming PDFs that do not need to really remain PDFs. Rarely do I need it to retain full formatting and visual style.

I can think of one thing that would be missed, although I never got a chance to use it personally, I know some people were keen on the ability to put an audio file in the split view, and using hot keys to start and stop it, transcribe in an open text document. I have been taking fewer and fewer audio notes as I’ve picked up an archival form of shorthand. Taking written notes is just as fast as fiddling with a recorder, considering the trouble it takes to convert it to text in the end.

The point is, perhaps: should Scrivener be just a very powerful and very versatile tool for composing and manipulating written text, or much more than that? Personally, for storing all kinds of stuff and for doing research on that stuff, I use Devon Think Pro, which was especially designed for this. It would never come to my mind to use an application like Scrivener for that purpose, as it would never come to my mind to write my things in Devonthink Pro, which is a very poor writing tool.

And by the way: PDF’s imported into Devon Think Pro are perfectly searchable.

Like many others, I store reserach info in DevoThink, and, or, Mori, depening on what I’m working on. Scrivener has been a writing environment for me, and I would give up multi-media support, to have a more versatile text-based (but, please, not “plain text based”) writing environment.

Well, this is certainly a toughie. Whilst the few votes there have been so far indicate that some users would welcome a text-only change (and don’t worry, Scrivener will always be rich-text, not plain-text), a user on my blog made the very good point that currently Scrivener is the only application around that lets you view a PDF in a split view whilst you edit a document beneath/to the side of it. For journalists, this capability is very useful. Having experimented, I also find it somewhat clunky just using built-in text view images rather than my own dedicated image view, as you cannot scroll around the image once it is zoomed. So I may keep multimedia support, though it will be somewhat simplified - the viewers will remain basic and a secondary consideration to text manipulation. But of course, opinions are still welcomed.

I have just started using Scrivener instead of FD AV for writing documentaries. Doco’s are a sort of mix of journalism, long academic research paper, scriptwriting, radio, and pictures, both still and moving. So, you see, Scrivener (beta gold) has a really wonderful appeal.

I currently use MacJournal for collecting stuff, but it is really helpful to be able to use Scrivener’s split screen and move, cut, paste, copy, reorder so much stuff like PDFs, taped conversations, snatches of movies and so on. If there is a trajectory of preferences for me, it is to align myself with jbenton, more with the keep it rather than ditch it users.

I do see the other side of hte argument. My humble suggestion would be to offer the multimedia capabilities as plug-ins for the leaner text based version, if possible. That way people could choose what they needed and reconfigure Scrivener for different jobs. So I could have a lean text version for my novel, but still have my jpegs and maps and research; and a more doco friendly version for my research based documentary, and a version that would help me with structure and plot configuration for my screenplays.

I just want my dream software and Scrivener is closer to it than any other.

I have been thinking about this overnight (it’s too hot to sleep at the moment :slight_smile: ), and I have had an idea that I am going to throw out there to see what people think.

I am thinking of stripping everything down to text-only still for the main part, but having a “Media Box” menu option. The “Media Box” would be a floating panel containing an outline view and some options. You would drag media files into the media box, and when you wanted to use them, you would drag them onto a header view of one of the document views or click a “View” button to view it in the currently focused document view.

The advantages of this approach would be:

  • Documents in the Binder would remain text-only, which keeps things straightforward and flexible.
  • It would keep focus on the text; you would still be able to view media files in split screen, but this would clearly be a secondary feature.
  • There would be no strange logic in the Binder meaning that some files can be dragged to some places and not others.

The only disadvantage would be that it would mean that your research would be split between the “Media Box” and any supporting documents you have in the Binder. I’m not sure I like that so much, but on the other hand, you will probably be taking notes from the media in the very early stages of writing anyway, and won’t refer to the media files themselves much after that.

Another approach that would be even simpler would be to disallow the import of media files into Scrivener, but to allow the user to drag a media file from the Finder onto document header view in Scrivener (the navigation bar) which would then open that file for in the document view for reference. This would be a very simple and easy approach, although it would mean that you still have to store your media files outside of Scrivener, which might go against the grain…

Again, thoughts much appreciated.

All the best,

Wait, scratch that, I’ve had a better idea… Go back to my original idea. So say that everything is text-based and that the only way to store PDF files, movies etc is by dropping them into a text view. The problem is only, I believe, that a text view does not make a comfortable viewer for media files, and you can’t select, copy and paste text from PDF attachments. So what if you could right-click on an attachment within a text view or drag it into a header view to then open the attachment in a dedicated viewer? This way, everything stays text-only as far as the binder is concerned, you store media files within the text, but if you need to view those media files in a dedicated viewer, you can. Best of both worlds…

Sounds realistic as a solution. Sort of feels a bit like Voodoopad’s internal Wiki links.

This would work well for doco’s, novels and movies (multifile research, text, and the ability to layout a plot configuration). I like it! It raises the thought that perhaps you might canvas more appropriate terms for the set up you envisage - for example ‘binder’ has the feel of a ‘collection’ of stuff all put together in some sort of ordered form that could be indexed.

The actual process could be a good guide. The reason for all the stuff that is not plain text actually typed directly into Scrivener is to either copy and paste it to text or by commenting, summarising, or adapting it as text. So I guess it is not necessary for Scrivener to compete on features with dedicated applications, rather just render files in those formats amenable to the process of copying etc.

While we are on the topic, it would be nice to have an automated way to embed a web page into the research area (be that a part of the Binder or the Media Center concept). A lot of my research comes from articles and papers on the Web, and while I dislike nearly everything about the DEVONthink product line, I do quite like its ability to snatch a web page with formatting and all intact. I would imagine that WebCore would make this a somewhat simple addition as far as storage and display goes, but how about a simple: “Grab URL” menu command or something?

Yes, yes, I know, feature freeze – but but… :slight_smile:

AmberV, hasn’t Scrivener Gold got exactly this feature in “Add Web Page”? It archives a web page and plonks it in your binder… That said, I’m not sure how this would fit into the new version of Scrivener, as you can’t dump a web page into a text view as an attachment (though text view’s are good at copying most of the formatting of a web view, including images).

I don’t know, that seems kind of clunky to me - all the extra steps involved to get my media somewhere useful. I have no problem with the media viewers being very basic - as long as I can scroll around, do some basic zooming, and search for text in those that have text I’m happy - but I have to say that being able to just drag a PDF, a web page, a photo, and a movie clipping into Scrivener was a feature I liked very much. For the non-fiction I’ve worked on in Scrivener especially, having the ability to collect and sort all the background information right in the binder was very handy.

If I’d needed to jump through the hoops you describe, I’d have very quickly gone back to my old system - all my reference files for an article in a directory (or directory heirarchy, depending on how big of a project it was). At that point, I’d just do the writing in a dedicated text editor, since I’d already have 6 different programs open and I wouldn’t want something too big running on top of all that. Besides, at that point all I’d need is a text editor, since I’d not be using any of Scrivener’s features…

I’m not even sure I see your point about wanting to get rid of the distinction between the draft and other root folders, where you can’t put a media file in the draft. The draft folder is kind of inherently special, since it’s what gets exported, gets its words counted, and so on, since it’s the actual document.

I’m not so sure about separating the research from drafting, either. Honestly, the ability to put media files for research right into the scrivener document and see them in split-screen with what I’m writing is one of the main reasons I tried it out in the first place. The index cards are an idea that I like, despite the fact that I haven’t even really figured out how to work them into my writing process, but the media files are what I like the most. I can type more efficiently in other programs. I can edit more efficiently in other programs. I can’t flip between a half-dozen different media types with a single click while writing my article or story in other programs.

So… that’s my 2 cents.

Funny, all of the time that I’ve been using SG, and I never even noticed that!

People have been making some really good points here. Personally, I never used the media feature all that much beyond the purposes of beta testing. But I can see where it is definitely one of those unique things, especially with the split view, that set Scrivener apart from the rest of the crowd. Perhaps, demote my vote to “Either way,” as I cannot honestly say that it would kill the application for me, but I am no longer convinced that they should be dumped.

Well, perhaps it might be useful considering on a more general level what kind of writer Scrivener wants to serve in the first place. A journalist is one thing, a scholar another thing, a novelist yet another thing. There interests and needs will be partly very similar, and partly clearly different.

Just to give a small example: they will all like and use the annotation feature in Scrivener Gold. But a scholar might want a footnote feature too, especially in combination with the vertical split window function. For him, it would be gorgeous to have text and footnotes beside each other, which would enable him to jump quickly between both windows. Others won’t care much about a similar feature, because they usually don’t make footnotes. They will have other wishes.

I got to thinking about iSnip as a possible way of looking at the problem.

Certainly worth a look. Think: System Preferences>Accounts>Log in Items

Hi. I thought I posted this already, but I think I dumped it accidentally. In any case, I just wanted to add my voice to those who think this feature is pretty essential. I’m quite new to Scrivener, having learned of its existence only today, and one of the things that grabbed my attention immediately was the screenshot of the split screen with a movie on top and a text file underneath. My thought was ‘finally!’ I am most definitely a writer, of both fiction and non-fiction, and I often use movie and audio files as reference material. For example, I’m basing the third chapter of my dissertation on a PBS documentary, and I need to watch the video, pause it, make comments as I go, continually. It’s very clunky to try to do this in DT Pro or any other program, since in a rich text format, I only get an icon of the media file and I then have to open it in a separate program to view it. I can create an alias to it in DT Pro as its own file, and then open another file in a separate note view, resize it so I can view the video while I type, etc., but every time I go back and forth I have to activate different windows, and if I leave the program and come back, I have to get both of my windows back, etc. All this resizing and manipulation really takes a way from my work time and is very clunky. There are other workarounds too, which I use.

But being able to do what you can do here, open up both the media file and a text file underneath for commenting and note-taking, well, it’s a dream come true for me!

I also use PDFs and audio files extensively in my research. I love being able to mix file types and have it all there in front of me, ready to be used, read, commented on.

So, this is a feature that would make this program unique for me and my work flow! I understand this is not a need for many other writers or probably the developer either. And, since I’m just joining this discussion after years of development, I’m not sure how much weight my opinions will hold!

But I thought I’d give my two cents, since I, like many other writers I see on these forums, would love to find a program that would adapt to the way I work and what I need! I have to say, at first glance, this is a fascinating program with that in mind. I’ve tried sooooo many of them, and they each have something I need. But here, I find most if not all of what I need for both fiction and non-fiction projects of almost any length. (would need footnoting or endnoting to really be complete, but I have Mellel for those projects needing them).

I understand the concern for bloatware, etc. But man, the things I can do with Scrivener the way it is! With a stronger user interface! Oh, I’d love to see this developed and supported in the future.

Thanks for listening!


Agree with those im favour of multimedia support. I’ve been using Scrivener for several months, and this feature is one of my favourites.

Having an image in front of my eyes is an old inspiration of mine; I always search for images on internet for my ideas to have a spark.

I’d appreciate having this feature!

As a matter of fact, the only thing I miss in Scrivener is the Typewriter scrolling. As soon as you introduce it, it’ll likely be my only writing programme.

Well, I eventually decided to KEEP multimedia support, and in fact it’s already there in the new interface ready for the code to fire it up.

Oh, and Alexandria, the next version does have support for footnotes/endnotes, although it doesn’t work like a traditional word-processor. Instead, you mark a selection as a footnote and it remains in the body of the text until you export. When you export, the footnotes appear as you would expect in Word or Mellel or whatever.

All the best,