Structural | Organization Questions on Chapters

I am not at the beginning of my book but I am near he beginning of moving everything into Scrivener and I want to make sure I do not make a bone headed move that I will pay for later.

I have 3 super chapters in the book and then a number of main subject chapters under those super chapters. I have created a folder for each of the super chapters and a folder within each of those folders for the main subject chapters. Inside the main subject chapter folders are the docs for each sub chapter.

I structured the Scrivener document this way because I thought the names of the folders (super and main subject chapters) plus the named sub chapters would appear within the Scrivener. They do not, at present. To see the any of the chapter titles I have to place them in a doc file.

Have I missed something? Am I going about this in the wrong way?

Thank you for any help or advice.

BTW I will say it again now, god I love this application.

Hi Garrett,

The structure you describe definitely seems the most sensible to me. What do you mean by not seeing the names of the chapters “within the Scrivener”, though? The names are shown in the binder, not in the text area itself. Or do you mean in the compiled document? If so, for the structure you describe, you are probably going to have to get your hands dirty with the Compile “Formatting” pane, to set up the way the titles appear for each level in the structure. For that, I recommend checking out the Compile-based videos on our video page:

They are a bit long, but they will really help you get to grips with setting up your own Compile settings for your own project structures.

Thanks for the kind words, by the way!

All the best,

Thanks Keith. Sorry I did not make that clear. Yes in the text area, I do see them in the binder. I was hoping to see the chapter names in the text area and my fear was that placing in the text itself, would create problems downstream when I go to compile.

I will most likely need to face the compile issue, maybe sooner than later.

Does that help clarify?

Hi Garrett,

The text area doesn’t show titles of documents, because they are separate pieces of information. You can show document titles in Scrivenings mode, though, by selecting View > Editor > Show Titles in Scrivenings.

On the other hand, it’s absolutely fine to place the titles in the text if you want - that’s a perfectly valid way of working, just as you’d do in a regular word processor. In that case, you would ensure that binder titles aren’t included in Compile seeing as you already have them in the text.

All the best,

follow up question on that:
How does Scrivener work out the hierarchy of the chapters? If I have text-documents assigned w/ (say) a “Title” and the child-document has a title called “chapter”, and the child-child document has a title called “sub-chapter”, the compilation doesn’t pay credit to the hierarchy it seems.
I’ve tried working with titles (in compile --> formatting), but that doesn’t seem to work either. I want the chapters (and titles) numbered hierarchically…

Looking forward to the answer for this part of the question…

Keith, much thanks. I spoke to a friend of mine who is a professional author, this is my first book, with your information and his knowledge of what the publishers expect, I can get started on the data move and structure.

It looks at the position of each document, relative to the left-most “Draft” or “Manuscript” folder, where your main text is composed. Anything just to the right of that is considered Level 1*. A standard Novel structure has Level 1 folders that represent the start of each chapter, and Level 2 text documents inside those are thought of as scenes. A Novel-With-Parts has Level 1 folders for each Part, and inside/to the right of that, chapter folders, and inside/to the right of those are the Scene documents at level 3.

In the compile settings, each of these levels can have distinct compile settings, so that you could number each “scene” as a distinct section, like 4.2.14, where 4=Part 4, 2=Chapter 2, and 14=Section 14. There are technical document templates which demonstrate this, I believe, which might help you figure that stuff out. If you only have compile settings for level 1 folders, then any folder at level 2 will be compiled the same way as a level 1 folder. Same goes for the non-folder documents at various levels.

But keep in mind, that Scrivener is just thinking “folder at level 3,” or “document at level 1”, and is not really “aware” of “chapters,” “parts,” “scenes,” or “sections”.

I believe there are tutorial videos on the Compile settings which may illuminate this concept of levels more helpfully than all of the gibberish I’ve just spewed at you. Take a look at them on the main site:

  • This isn’t the case if you select a sub-document as the compile target, but that’s only really useful for people who keep multiple books of a series in the Draft folder of one Project… kind of advanced stuff, so forget I mentioned it. Really, stop thinking about it. :smiling_imp:

thanks for the long answer - really appreciated.

I’m using Scrivener to write my thesis, in the natural sciences we are required to have the 1, 1.1, 1.1.1 etc. structure, and a ToC.

I’ve played around with labels and such but that didn’t seem to have an effect. So, before reading your post, I figured out the hard way, that Scrivener only seems to look at the hierarchy in the Binder.

I say “seems” because it still messes up chapter numbers, when it shouldn’t (based on the hierarchy of the folders and docs in the binder).

It sets, for example, one document on level 2 as chapter “2.2.1” the next document in the same folder (also level 2) is set as chapter “3”; this is really strange; changing the formatting settings doesn’t really seem to help.
I could always hard-write the chapter number into the doc-title, of course…

But anyway, I still think that it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out the hierarchy and the sequence of the documents in a binder and assign numbers accordingly…

Thanks however for your time,

Typically, the chapter numbering is done using the “placeholder tags”, which you can get a list of from the Help menu, and they are placed in the compile settings for each level of folder or document. If you inserted that tag into the text of your documents, then every time it encounters that tag, it will increment it. And if you also have that tag in your compile settings for a folder or document, then the tags will increment after they’ve been made a part of the compiled output. There’s a way to reference a given hierarchical number without incrementing it, but I never needed to do that, so I can’t say how. Sorry.

I can’t remember which templates do the hierarchical numbering like you want, but there is one. If you can find it, create a new project and see how it’s done, and maybe you’ll glean how to accomplish it yourself.

Robert, thank you for your very detailed reply. I am not familiar “placeholder tags” -need to look into those, back to the videos.

Flo, you could try what I think I am going to do, make a fake | prototype document to test the compile outcome.

Placeholder tags can get quite complex: I had to number extracts in my thesis, and ended up with a heading for each one that was like this

Extract <$t:extract>, Chapter <$t:chap:<$parentposition>>

(Compiled to Extract One, Chapter One, etc.)

Every chapter had to begin with the tag <$rst_extract> to reset the extract numbering within the chapter, so it began from One.

My chapter prefix in compile was like this

Chapter <$t:chap:<$n:subn>>

(Compiled to Chapter One, etc.)

I wouldn’t have worked this out if it hadn’t been for Ioa (thanks again to him).

Have a look under the Help menu and you will find the Placeholder Tags List. Be prepared for some reading, because there is a lot of information there, and a lot of tags.


Thank you for the placeholder tag advice, sounds a little intimidating. I will also check out the two tutorial videos that Keith mentioned.


I’m not quite sure what you are doing here, but as Robert says, placeholder tags are what you want (the full list is in Help > Placeholder Tags List…). In particular, you want to enter <$hn> (for hierarchical numbering) wherever you want the chapter numbers to appear, most likely in the “Section Layout…” settings title prefix in the “Formatting” pane of Compile.

I believe Robert has also already covered how to have Scrivener take note of hierarchy (by adding extra levels to the “Formatting” pane in Compile.

All the best,

P.S. It sounds as though Martin’s requirements were particularly complex - for most projects you’ll only ever need to deal with very simple placeholder tags.