Scrolling within Index Cards

I have capitulated. I finally see the beauty of the cork board.

I’ve been pretty good at avoiding it, and being able to figure out the proper structure of scenes and beats inside a chapter (folder, in my case) without resorting to it.

But today, I’m overwhelmed. Structure is the hardest thing for me. Inspiration comes to me in whatever order it comes, and often that is not the order things should sit on the reader timeline, especially if that order violates causality and common order or timeline continuity. So my first drafts need reordering quite often, to achieve a proper reader timeline. I have chapters well out of order sometimes and scenes inside them also out of order, and a main editing task is to reorder them properly. Many of you may understand this well.

Today, I have a 2,600-W chapter with 10 short scenes in it, not written in the best order. I’ve been going crazy trying to place them in an order that makes temporal sense and reader timeline sense. Then it finally struck me. The cork board!

But now I have a suggestion: I like that I can scroll the entire page of index cards. But what if we could scroll the text inside the index cards? Scroll each of them individually? (not including the top line, of course) And if so, I would imagine it best to automatically reset to the top of the document upon entering the cork board, but it would also be good if we could select a word inside the text on an index card, and then the text would reset to that line in the text whenever we invoked the cork board for that folder.

Is this possible? Does it make sense that this is a good idea?

You can.

Click twice on the index card you want to read
Look at the Inspector -> Notes -> Synopsys

Maybe in Windows. On a Mac, all that happens is the text disappears and you can type on the card. I don’t want to type. Typing is done. Over. I want to shuttle through the text already written.

That would imply there is a synopsis. I don’t use them, because I can keep what a scene or beat (or a chapter) is about in my head without writing a synopsis. I’m not interested in seeing something I already know, I’m interested in being able to shuttle the text for specificity, without having to leave the cork board to do it.


The text on the front of the corkboard cards is the synopsis. Behind the scenes they are the same plain .txt file (which incidentally is why you can’t use bold/italic/colours etc on the index card text/synopsis).

If you want to see the actual content of each document while you’re in the corkboard, then there’s a special view which makes this easy.

First of all, click on a folder – say a Chapter which has several subdocuments, one per scene – and enter corkboard mode (cmd/ctl-2 toggle). You’ll see the corkboard in the normal way.

Now choose Windows > Layouts > Three-Pane (Corkboard). A new editor will open to the side of the corkboard. If you click in any of the index cards, then its full text will be shown in the right hand editor – and if you page through the corkboard (using our old friend cmd-opt-up/down :wink:) you’ll see that the text in the right-hand pane changes according. You an also see there’s a little blue icon like a box with an arrow in the footer bar: that’s the sign that this special ‘follow the selection’ mode is on. (You can actually recreate the special layout from scratch using this, but the layout method is easier.) There’s a similar layout for the Outline rather than corkboard, if you’d prefer that.

You can still make changes to the order in the corkboard by dragging/dropping of course. I f you want more space for either element, you can of course resize them / remove the binder/inspector etc in the normal way.


You can, even on Mac. The text you see IS a synopsis, as brookter said, just not a synopsis you have written. It’s automatically populated from the main text in that file(that’s why it looks greyish). You didn’t mention this in your original post, but if you have done so, I would have told you that it’s not the whole text but the first N number of words in your main text. This is why they disappear when you click twice.

If you want to have the same text on the index cards as you have inside the file, you’ll have to copy the text into the synopsis. There is no automated way to do this.

It will be helpful if you specify at least your OS and Scrivener version you are using when asking questions. The more information you provide, the easier it will be to render you help. Most of the people in the forum are users like you, and our time is valuable.


I agree with everything Krastev said, with one minor caveat…

It’s a good disagreement, though :wink:. There is an automated way to populate the synopsis from the main text:

Documents > Auto-fill > Set Synopsis from Main Text.

This will copy the entire text to the synopsis – if you select some text first, it will only copy the selection (the menu item changes accordingly). The full text auto-fill will also work across multiple documents, so you could do the whole book in one go if you want… (I don’t think that would be helpful for your current situation, as I explained in my previous post – it’s not a good idea to overload the synopsis, which isn’t meant for holding vast reams of text.)


I learn something new every day. :smiley: :mrgreen: Thank you, brookter.


You and me both – I had a vague feeling there was a feature, but until I’d checked the details this afternoon, I hadn’t realised it worked on multiple docs…

Actually, the auto-fill from main text command doesn’t load the entire main text into the synopses, but only the first N characters ( I think about 500.) Like JackDaniel, I prefer to not apply real synopses to any documents save those which are true outline documents, in which case the synopsis is my outline.

@JackDaniel, I recommend the Windows > Layouts > Three-Pane (Corkboard) method suggested by Brookter. I’ve customised the layout for my own use, but the basic built-in layout did well until I learned enough to understand how I wanted to tweak it.

Hope this helps!

Well, this is highly interesting.

Are you sure you are using Scrivener and not some knock off? (maybe I’m using the knock off).

It sure doesn’t seem like this is what I am seeing. First, as I stated, I neither write nor use synopses, hardly at all. Sometimes, but I rarely want or need them.

This means that the words of text I am seeing on the cards are not the synopses, because there are no synopses the way I write.

Second, the text I see on the card matches exactly the first couple paragraphs of the actual text. I find that helpful, but it I could scroll the entire text inside the card, that would be even better. Word would begin to look even weaker than it already does ( I only used it under protest, at work),

My best guess would be this: The card defaults to early paragraphs of the text until there is a synopsis written, which then replaces the text. That would at least make sense, working the same way the titles of documents work, where until you type in a title, it uses the first words of the text. Since I have no synopses, it also makes sense why there is no intuitive leap made when I don’t see them on the cards. IOW, I am seeing one thing, while you are seeing another, because in my writing, there are no synopses, and in yours, there is.

This would also explain why the text disappears from the card (Grrrr!) when I click on it. Scrivener then thinks ‘Oh, Jack wants to write a synopsis now! I’ll just move this text out of the way for him!’ (Jack does not want to write a synopsis now)

That’s all really brilliant, as is nearly everything about Scrivener, but the ability to show the actual text on the cards could be set as a preference, which would work much better for those of us who feel no need to write synopses. Maybe Scrivener 4. Or 3.2

So I’ll have to try to sort through your ideas and see what the actual disconnect here is. But I do so appreciate the feedback, these forums are awesome, and so are the posters.

You’re right – thanks!

This is indeed how it’s supposed to work. You can see the same effect if you don’t explicitly give new documents a title – the first few words will be used instead (in italics, IIRC).

If you did that, then you’d lose all the formatting from the ‘main text in the synopses’ (italics, bold, colour) – synopses are plain text. Synopses aren’t meant to hold the whole text – just as you don’t (can’t!) usually put the whole text of a chapter on the front of a paper card – they’re supposed to hold a brief summary of what it’s the main text. Scrivener tries to be helpful by showing the first x words, but it’s an indicator as to content, not the content itself. If you want to see the main text as you shuffle the documents around, then you use the other methods we’ve been suggesting in this thread.

But one other thing for you to consider – if I’ve understood what you want to do is just to see the text as you move documents up and down, and you aren’t bothered about synopses, why don’t you just use the binder and the editor? You can drag and drop documents to their new position (or use cmd-ctl-up/down), while still having full access to the main text.

You are most welcome.

Yes, this is exactly how it works. This behavior is new in Scrivener 3 for Mac and iOS Scrivener, so users with other versions of the program will see different things.


First, they would not BE synopses if used this way. Second, I couldn’t care less of the formatting was not there on the card, only if it is in the text in the editor.

Your concept of ‘what they are supposed to do’ is limited to your opinion that they should only hold synopses, which I have already stated is not my goal at all. There is no reason they can’t be more than just synopses.

The reason this would be helpful is because in the editor you can see only two docs at once, and you have to scroll those anyway. You can open a couple other little windows and see four, but that gets very cumbersome to deal with logistically, very quickly.

The point I’m trying to make is that long-form fiction must be viewed at multiple levels at different times in the revision or editing process, if it is going to be done correctly. From the word, sentence, paragraph, beat, scene, section, arc and full story views. That’s 8 different levels we must view things from in order to get things correct. 9, if you’re writing a series. From the micro to the macro to the big picture, and editing and revising must concentrate at each of those levels individually at different times. And this does not even include the grammatical and syntactical checks needed.

Having the ability to see the text on the cards would provide the ability to see things on that mid-level view, where you are trying to hold all of a chapter in your head at the same time. There can be 3 to 7 scenes in a 2,000 word chapter. There can be 15 to 30 beats.

Trying to view them on a wide view all at the same time to see how they fit together would be much easier than trying to do that in the editor where you can only look at 400 contiguous words at once, which is the functional equivalent of looking at your story through a paper towel tube, or through the wrong end of a telescope. And trying to jump back and forth between them to affirm that they work together in the larger structure and are not out of temporal order or have continuity errors using the editor is about as easy as eating soup with a fork.

Having the feature I’m talking about would make that wider view easier to accomplish.

Dragging and dropping documents in the interest of getting things structurally sound implies knowing what the current structure is, which implies being able to see the text, and see how they fit and whether they need reordering or even revising. It’s very hard to hold all of that in one’s head at the same time if we can’t see it all at the same time.

Having the docs all laid out before you in the same view (scrollable text on the index cards) would make that much easier to do. The editor serves the purpose of viewing structure at the word, sentence, and paragraph level just fine. Where it does not really help is in the larger view, the 10,000-ft level where you need to hold a scene in your head, the 30,000-ft level where you need to hold an entire chapter in your head, and the view from space where you hold the entire story in your head.

This concept would solve that problem at the 10,000-ft level, which would make the wider views easier to see.

If a writer does not pay conscious attention to whether a sentence flows with the best order of words, or whether the order of sentences in a paragraph are correct, or whether the order of the paragraphs in the scene make the best sense or whether the scenes flow logically from one to another, then they won’t be doing their due diligence and they won’t be doing a very good job. The only way to do that is to view it from all of those different levels at different times.

As wonderful as Scrivener is, and as advanced as it is over probably every other platform, no platform, including Scrivener, does this part well. Structure is the hardest part of writing for just about everyone, regardless of how creative one is or how beautiful their wordsmithing might be. And one of the big reasons it is the hardest part is because no tools really can help us do this effectively.

But ignore these issues at your own peril.

Good writing is not just creativity, and it’s not just technique. It’s a leveraging of both. You can write things down in the order they come to you creatively in a first draft, but it will take multiple editing passes to get those items in the best order or be written in the best prose, because no one is so terrific a writer that it flows out in perfect structure.

Hemingway himself said that ‘all first drafts are [what makes the grass grow green]’. It takes a ton of hard work to massage that creativity into something that will make the best sense for the reader’s objective view. Being able to look at the mid-level view closely and consciously is important, even if many writers don’t.

This, as a feature, would help a lot.


What you’re asking for would be handy, and I would certainly use it.

Have you tried the Three Pane Corkboard layout mentioned by Silverdragon upthread? Not quite the same, but probably the closest you’re going to get within the current Scrivener feature set.



This is an interesting discussion, and I do want to make clear that I’m not trying to force you into working one way. I was trying to be helpful by showing you what is already available (it’s still not clear to me that you are using all the existing features that are there which would help.)

I’d only make this comment:

The problem is that the text on the card is a plain text file (which can’t carry formatting) while the editor text is an .rtf file. If you want to edit the card text, then at best you’re looking at syncing between the two files to keep them up to date, and in that case, you’ll lose formatting in both. If you switch to using the main RTF file as the card text, then you’re asking for a major redesign of the program. It’s up to Keith (the designer) to decide whether that’s worth it.

Hi brookter,

If I properly understand JD’s request, he’s not asking for editing capability.

He is asking for display (read-only) of the entire doc in the corkboard, with the capability to scroll thru the entire doc. All from the cork board itself, and if there is no Synopsis. So kind of like it works now, but being able to read the entire doc, not just first 50 characters.

@JD, is that right?


This doesn’t supplant the wish list item, but might be found serviceable.

I find Quick Reference Panels (QR) useful tools* for viewing structure possibility. I set the relevant documents as Project Bookmarks prior to the viewing session so they’re available in QR Bookmark Sidebars. As needed, I toggle the menu item (or key the KB shortcut)––Window > Float Quick Reference Panels––to quickly move between QRs and the Editor setup. (After toggling it to off, click into the Editor to send the QRs to the background.)

In this case, the underlying window has a split of the Corkboard on the left, set to affect the right split—a document. Could have a scrivenings session, two documents and copyholders; whatever.The bottom left QR has its bookmarks sidebar open. Instead of opening the bookmark “Quick Reference Panels” in that QR, I right-clicked it and chose to open it as a new QR, now at the bottom right.

*QRs can be opened as tabs or as separate windows.
In addition to the Bookmarks Sidebar, the mini Inspector is available, of course.

Yes, Jim, that is precisely right.

I’d like to make sure that everyone understands that I am not against synopses. If they work, and they work for many, then more power to them.

My experience has been that I haven’t needed them. The reason: I know by title what is in a document, at least on the general level.

But this thread, and you kind folks, have helped me understand their worth a little better (I’m new at this—first novel), and I’ve found a good use for them.

Occasionally I run into a chapter in editing that has either:

  1. too much narration in a row


  1. the ideas in the narration are multiple, and I’m jumping among them.

Neither of those are good for the reader objective experience. I’ve decided that bite-sized works best. If I run into a drafted chapter that has 800 words of dialog followed by 1,200 words of narration in a row, it reads sort of tedious.

My first inclination is to cut things. But often, as ruthless as I can be with the ‘darlings’, I come away convinced that all 2,000 words are good.

The problem turns out to be the two things above. So first, I comb through the 1,200 words of narration and find what are usually multiple topics jumbled together. Then I segregate them by moving paragraphs or sentences around to make the topics coherently together, yet separate from each other. That gives the narration natural break points.

Then, if I can, I break the dialogue up as well, and finally, I may end up with a layer cake of 400 words of narration times 3, and 400 of dialogue or action times 2—narration-dialogue-narration-dialogue-narration.

What I found astounding is that if the written words themselves are good and need to be there, that this, without changing the actual words, makes it read like a bat out of hell. It is now 2,000 words that go down very easy with a reader.

It’s amazing what this change to mid-level structure can do. Very powerful, and probably my worst habit as a writer to draft things originally jumbled like that with too much narration in a row. This fixes that.

But how does one accomplish this?

Scrivener to the rescue.

I divide the dialogue and narration subjects into separate docs. For instance, if there are one or two paragraphs about subject A then a couple about subject B then maybe some of subject C, then back to A, I chop them up into sections (smaller docs) and write a synopsis for each one.

Then, using outliner mode, I can see this on a wide view. Then I rearrange the subjects so they are grouped, Then I do the same thing with dialogue (which is naturally not as jumbled) and find a natural break point for that.

Then comes the layer cake: 400-400-400-400-400. It’s the same text, just in a different order that works an order of magnitude better than it did before, from the reader point of view. A little editing makes it all fit.

Of course this is a worst-case scenario, typically my narration comes in spates of 200-600 words, but I try to organize those and find break points there, too. The end result is a significant improvement over what was written originally, even if the text itself is not changed. Who knew? Not me.

So now I see the beauty of synopses, and the beauty of how to use them to solve this mid-level structure issue. Difficult to do this without a platform like Scrivener. I guess I’m learning.

That’s a great use case, and an informative use of using Scrivener’s abilities to stitch multiple small documents seamlessly back together into bigger ones.