some basic questions

I’m new to Scrivener. Having read the tutorial, I’m now struggling to use it for a long nonfiction work that involves much research and documentation. My impression is that Scrivener works wonderfully for screenplays and other fiction, but I’m still not certain it’s going to work for a highly detailed research effort such as mine.

Here are a few of my questions:

  1. A single document that I find, say, as a PDF file or as a Web page may have one sentence that is of use to me. Is there a way that I can highlight that sentence (or passage, if it’s longer) and attach to it its own keyword?

Or maybe the document has three or four significant passages. Can I highlight (or underline, or whatever) the relevant passages, and assign different keywords to each of them?

  1. How do I import a page from a website? Can I also highlight it and assign different keywords to it?

  2. In a long document, I may want to write notes to myself about different passages. Is there a way to attach a note to a specific passage, or am I confined to leaving notes in the Inspector pane for the entire document?

My work flow has changed with Scrivener. The key word in all your questions is “long.” I suggest you modify your thinking. I do long, involved scientific papers with dozens of citations, formulae etc. I have learned that with edit scrivenings I can work in smaller chunks. Thus, the notes stay with the passage because each file is just a passage. This is radically different than how I used to work.

Some examples:

  1. I keep all long pdfs in a separate file not in my .scriv file. Scrivener can handle literally several hundred MB files no problem but saving, backing up etc. gets ridiculous for me. So I only import the important section with a link to the actual long file on my hard drive in the notes sections of the inspector. (Along with notes of course.)

  2. In my science papers, I literally have each paragraph in a separate file in a folder. For example, methods and materials folder will contain perhaps 10-20 files. Edit scrivenings pastes it all together for me so it appears as one file but my notes are “safe.” This also allows me to have as many keywords as my feeble brain can keep track of.

  3. I do massive data crunching and only import the final versions of charts etc. as jpgs. People here will tell you how to use html etc. to keep these things live. However, for me, I find switching programs faster and less of a hassle. Screen shots are my best friend.

  4. As for web pages, I suggest you read the section in the docs on webarchives. Most of my webarchives are small and I just drop them in the research section. However, I will sometimes still just pullout the “important” section and make that into a single file with notes and a link to the larger archive. (Page 21 of the Scrivener help pdf.) You can get those docs here:

Summary advice: edit scrivenings is your best friend and learn to use the split command which is open apple or Command K (page 58 help pdf). Long works best in Word not in Scrivener.


I just use the annotation function for this purpose. The note to yourself stays in the text, is by default red in color, and you can print/compile your project with or without these notes showing.

I second Apollo16’s advice about the virtues of splitting your text into smaller document pieces – at the very least down to its structural elements, i.e. in the Binder, you should be able to see reflected not only the chapters of your book, but the structures of those chapters.