Shadow copy


A friend of mine was showing Scrivener to me. I liked it a lot. But I think it is missing a features which I find highly valuable.

Imagine I want to make a slightly different version of an existing multi-chapter text in which only one chapter changes. Currently I have to make a copy of the whole story, ending up with all the chapters duplicated.

Ideally I’d be able to make a shadow copy which would show me all my chapters as shadows of the original ones. The binder icon should reflect the fact that they’re not actual chapters but just references to chapters elsewhere in the binder tree. These shadow copy chapters would be read-only and could only be edited in their original place.

I’d then should be able to select the chapter which I wanted to be different and convert it into a real copy. From now on this chapter would be an actual text which could be edited.

This way, every time I wanted to edit a chapter which doesn’t change between the various versions I’d just have to edit it once.

I hope you like this idea.


You could look at the way the Scrivener Manual project is organised; one set of documents that compiles for both Mac and Windows versions. With the Windows version not at feature parity yet there are significant differences in the text this seems exactly like the situation you are thinking of. AmberV can tell you more about exactly it is done but compiling by selecting meta data settings is how I remember it.

If you only need to have one version of your book at a time (not be switching between versions constantly), then you should investigate snapshots. You can swap one snapshot with whatever is currently in the file associated with that snapshot fairly easily, and the icons of files & folders with snapshots change (they get a dog-eared ‘corner’ to the icon).

Have you looked into using collections based on keywords or labels?

Let me give you a simple example. I edit translations from Chinese. The translations usually arrive as a bi-lingual .DOC, and I am expected to return a bi-lingual document (fortunately my collaborator understands RTF!). On the other hand, I want to be able to look at the English text I’m editing without chunks of Chinese intervening, and I want to be able to have the Chinese open for reference in the other split. So I import the .DOC and spend a while splitting it up into English scrivenings and Chinese scrivenings — I’ll call them "scrivenings’, by which I mean all the separate documents you see in the binder, whatever the level; a scrivening may be anything between a single word title and a couple of paragraphs — each of which I label as English or Chinese respectively. giving the labels a colour and having the label colour show in the binder.

I then use Project Search by label to find all the scrivenings labelled “English” and set up a collection, then I do the same for the scrivenings labelled “Chinese”. I load the entire Chinese collection with into the right editor so I can scroll up and down easily to keep pace with the English, which loads into the left editor. I tend to load the English scrivenings separately, though if needed I will load the whole English collection so as to read it as a single entity to check for continuity. I also do that when I think I’ve finished to print it out as a single text to look for typos and other peccadilloes.

When it comes to compiling the final edited draft, I merely select the whole “Draft” for compilation and it is all put together with Chinese and new English version in the same order as the original.

You could do the same by setting up a system of keywords or labels which you use to mark your segments. Have a base label or keyword for all the master sections, then if you’re looking at a certain scene and want an alternative, just duplicate it and label it or mark it with the appropriate keyword. You can then use Project Search to find all the segments so marked and make a collection or simply tick or untick “Include in Compile”.

Any good as an alternative to snapshots?


Mr X

The suggestion by xiamenese is a good one, and certainly provides a lot of flexibility.

If you wanted to start with something simple, you could simply add a new version of the varied chapter to your draft and simply exclude the existing chapter from the compile (uncheck the Include in compile box in the inspector, or manually select the documents & folders you want when you compile).

What nom said. The whole point of breaking the manuscript into chunks is that you can then include whichever chunks you want in your output document.


Thanks for all the suggestions and explanations. I will try to replicate them once I get my hands on my friend’s computer again. They seem logical but only trying will I be able to fully understand if they’ll be a replacement for what I was suggesting.