Suggestions for tweaks to metadata / outliner usage

I’ve spent the last few months working on a story structure using the Multi-column outliner method described here. It is a really powerful feature, that I’m so glad to have discovered, making top-down outlining a breeze.

Here are some notes I’ve kept as I’ve gone along with suggestions for making life a little easier in this usage scenario (all related to editing custom metadata in Outliner view).

  1. Make the dropzones bigger, for Drag and Drop operations. At the moment it is far too easy to drop into the item above or below, particularly whne dropping between levels in an indented list of items.

  2. Make selected items semi-transparent while being moved, so it’s easier to see what’s beneath them (to find the right place to drop).

  3. Allow editing directly onto the outliner page, instead of into the drop-down box that appears when a field is highlighted. These slow up the editing process, they don’t show how much text fits on a line, and they obscure the content of the rows below.

  4. Option to word-wrap the title field.

  5. An easier way to select columns and column width - eg on a floating control panel - rather than having to go to drop-down list to select/deselect every one.

  6. When showing/revealing outliner columns, Scriv remembers the columns’ last position and width.

  7. Some new user-selectable options for the outliner:

  • ‘Double-clicking an empty space will’: Create new card / shows parent level / nothing (as in the corkboard options).
  • Label tint opacity in outliner: A slider to set how strong the label colour appears on outliner rows. This would be a great addition: the strong colours that work best in the corkboard are too brash for the outliner.
  • At present, the Title column always shows an item’s icon. In many layouts, I do not want to show the icon, and I would like to select where (and if) the icon appears. Options would be: Title / Synopsis / None / Alone (ie the icon would be shown in its own column).
  • An option to show single pixel gridlines between outliner rows and/or columns, to give better definition to the cells if you are using the outliner as a grid.
  • An adjustable setting for space between paragraphs - at the moment, there is no space between paragraphs, making them often indistinguishable from one another
    Maybe these could be brought together in a new tab in the Options dialogue, similar to the Corkboard tab. This might also include:
  • Use label colour in outliner rows (in addition to having this option on the View/Use Label Colours in/ menu)
  1. Columns should be any size, right down to a single character (at the moment the minimum is about 3 characters). The reason for this is that I use ‘divider’ columns filled with ‘|’ characters, that when repeated above each other down the screen divide up the full-screen outliner into easily visible sections. I need these columns to be only wide enough to hold the ‘|’ character.

  2. When the focus is moved from the outliner to the inspector, it is hard to see which row of the outliner is highlighted (there are only very faint lines at top and bottom of the row). Please make these heavier, or make it possible to select a colour for Outliner Selection as well as Outliner Background and Outliner Alternate Background in the Appearance section of Options.

  3. I don’t see the point of showing metadata text in a floating tool-tip over the outliner. It only repeats (part of) what you can see anyway, and it gets in the way of other fields.

  4. I would love to see some ‘drag and drop’ functionality to enhance the use of the outliner as a grid, so the user could pick up and move the contents of one cell direct to another cell on the outliner. Something like:

  • Select cell and drag with right mouse button: to over-write the contents of the target cell with the contents of the selected cell
  • Drag with centre mouse (and/or a keyboard equivalent: eg Alt+RightMouse): to append contents to the target cell
  • Drag with left mouse: to swap contents with the target cell
    This would make for a major work-flow improvement, allowing whole contents of metadata fields to be moved around with great ease.
  1. Custom Meta-data settings panel
  • ‘Word-wrap all fields’ (on the Metadata settings Options drop-down) does not appear to have any effect. Metadata fields are only word-wrapped when the ‘Wrap Text’ option for that field in ‘Edit Custom Meta-Data Settings’ is selected.
  • I would like to have the option to display metadata in the outliner with a selectable coloured background for each column, rather than with coloured text. Maybe we could have the option of both.
  1. Size of split-screen editor panels: At the moment, the lower panel has a minimum size of approx 20% of the overall height - it should go smaller.

  2. “View/Editor/Swap Editors/” When one of the editors is in Outliner view, then the layout of visible columns should swap as well. At the moment the column layout is lost if the editors are swapped.

  3. Metadata panel (on the Inspector)

  • Allow the user to choose which fields appear in this panel (including user-created metadata fields).
  • And tweak the layout so that not so much space is wasted when the inspector is set fairly wide.
  1. Add functionality to include single metadata fields in a compile. At the moment it’s all or nothing.

  2. Add the capacity to export selected data and metadata as CSV files.

  3. Extend search and replace to include metadata. ie functionality to add/update metadata fields across the project, in selected files.

If there is anything here that Scrivener already does, I’d be glad to hear about it. And I’m guessing/hoping that some of this has already made it’s way into the next major upgrade.

All the best, and thanks again for creating a great writing tool.

3 and 17 are already in the Mac version, so should be coming to Windows, I think.

12: I think the ‘wrap all fields’ may apply to the inspector, not to the outline. For that you need to have each one checked in the full Edit Metadata panel.

16: In the Mac version you can export the outliner contents as a CSV, which amounts to the same thing, possibly?

There may be others…

BTW, thanks for posting your outliner methodology. Very interesting!