Tagging directly to text

I really enjoy the tagging system in Scrivener, at least in principle, but the fact that you can only tag whole text files (or scrivenings, or whatever they are called) seems to be an immensely limiting feature. Wouldn’t it make more sense if you could directly tag the text itself. Then maybe, it could be tied to formatting styles which you could show or hide at will, and maybe even a seperate view like the corkboard or outliner that shows some sort of graph of where on the timeline individual tags occur. (That last part is not quite as necessary.) The way the tags work now you have to break your text into ridiculously small segments, like individual paragraphs or sentences, if you have complex tags. (ie: one for tracking each plotline, objects and character)

Scrivener has some good tools for marking small portions of text with significant phrases. Both inline annotations and linked comments work well for this, especially when you consider the Find by Formatting can search for key phrases and isolate by colour (for inline annotations). What you describe is really what this feature is designed for. You have a line of prose identified as conflicting with the canon, so you create an inline annotation right there, stating that. I like to use a semi-standard code system. So for that I might type in “CONF//” and then add any commentary after that if necessary, even including Scrivener links to the items in question that are conflicting, right in the inline annotation. Since this whole thing will be stripped out when you compile (by default anyway), it’s a useful tool for you to mark and analyse your text in a safe way.

Now, the main disadvantage to this method is that it doesn’t have a “grouping” search like Keywords or Labels do. It does however have a step-search, via the Edit/Find/Find by Formatting... menu command. In that tool you can constrain the search by typing in some text. So there you would type in your code, “CONF//” or whatever, and only those inline annotations that match that code would be selected when you go through with the Next/Prev buttons. This tool, like standard search, also has a “headless” mode that is completely keyboard accessible. Once you load the search term into the panel, you can close it and use Ctrl-Opt-Cmd-G to jump to the next match, or Shift-Opt-Cmd-G for previous.

Some people prefer Inspector Comments instead, which are in general principle identical to inline annotations. The main difference is you cannot see the reason for the note in the editor, without clicking on it to view it in the right Inspector sidebar. On the other hand, they do allow you to highlight the problematic text in question. So those are mostly a matter of taste. I prefer to use a mix of them depending on what I’m doing. Comments for long rambling thoughts and inlines for short high priority problems since I can’t just avoid them and I can see them as quickly as I can skim-read the prose.

Anyway, I hope that gives you some ideas.

Thank you for this very detailed response. I am currently using both inline annotations and linked comments, however neither seem like the perfect solution. Let’s say you were writing Lord of the Rings, (because I assume we all know the story.) You might want to track, for instance the plotline involving the ring. This would include every little detail you slip into the story, facts about the ring, it’s movement, time’s it is used, ect. But then you also have time’s when other plotlines intersect with the ring’s. For instance, Bilbo’s plotline, when he puts on the ring at his birthday party in the beginning. The only way to track all these things at the moment is to break the text into a new file every time you want to want to tag a specific section, and then break it again afterwards so you don’t just have a massive chunk of text that the tag applies to. This is hardly elegant, and quickly ruins the usefulness of having the binder. Wouldn’t it make so much more sense to just tag the text directly, (so you could keep a whole chapter together) and then have a view that shows all tags on a timeline with little callout bubbles for every time a tag is used?

Hopefully that makes sense.

Well, I think some would respectfully disagree that cutting something down to smaller than chapter-length renders the binder useless. In fact according to our polling, most people do chunk their outline down to the scene level, where such things as topical or plot keywords would be significant to the whole of the section (and there are indeed people who do go all the way down to the paragraph level). Of course, I don’t mean to suggest you must work that way as well—we also have a percentage of people who stick to chapter-length sections, I just wanted to point out that in many ways the ideal of this program is that you can be very concise in the outline without sacrificing usefulness, and if anything the software only become proportionally more useful when used this way, in part because searching, meta-data and internal cross-referencing become more meaningful when applied only to components they relate to. Given that you can still edit entire chapters (or any arbitrary span of text) easily with the Scrivenings feature, it can matter not at all if a chapter is comprised of one, five or fifty individual outline components.

That is typically the first thing I recommend to people who are having problems with specificity of any type: maybe the sections you’re working with are too long, if they cover multiple details that require tracking. Where we may differ is in what is relevant. To me, a plot element like the location of the ring is significant to a larger span of text than just the sentence or paragraph that mentions it. By that I mean I wouldn’t mind seeing 250 or 500 words if I arrived at that section checking for the location of the ring. That sort of range of relevance is going to be a personal opinion, I feel. But I didn’t recommend this approach to you since you stated already having tried smaller sections and being dissatisfied with the feel of the software at that level.

I can say one thing that is missing in the current Inspector Comments implementation is the ability to see an overview of an entire multi-part section in the sidebar. That is something we are aware of and will be fixing in the future. Right now the inspector panel only shows comments for the current section. In the future you’d be able to load that hypothetical fifty-section chapter into a Scrivenings session and see all of the plot tags and other notes you’ve left for yourself, and click on any of them to jump to that portion of the text.

What that still doesn’t give you is a spatial overview. Two notes side by side can be one word or 3,000 words apart. This is just how the feature is designed—to present all of your comments in a concise list. We do have more ideas for this whole collection of features though, so at the very least, know we aren’t resting on our laurels just because the current system works pretty good.

I’ve been thinking about what you wrote, Amber, thank you for the reply. (I also just purchased my copy of Scrivener, having used the trial up until now) and I have to agree that the ability to see an overview of comments in a multi-part section would be a godsend and fix my personal issues with the software. Any idea when that might be available? Also, maybe this already exists, but is there any way to save new colors for the comments (not inline) or even change the name (from just “Red”)?

I can’t say for sure when that will happen, unfortunately. The problem is rather large. To implement the Scrivenings view we are basically just stacking text editors on top of each other, and that works pretty well, but it produces some odd artefacts like being unable to select across sections, having too much visual separation (because of the margins) and lacking a global sense of the view like how many comments are in the entire session. So all of those rough edges will be cleaned up together, once the underlying editor is recoded to work more seamlessly.

No, there isn’t a way to do that. We haven’t had a lot of feedback for more control here.

Sorry to keep bothering you, but one more small thing since I know I have your attention here. In every word processor I’ve used to date, if there is no line below the one you are on the down button functions as an END button, (so that if you hit down, which is far easier on my keyboard than end, it takes the insert point to the very end of the line.) This is really handy if you are writing a line and go back to make a change. You just tap down and you’re ready to write again. It even works in this text box for entering comments. Every time I try it in scrivener and it doesn’t work it’s really frustration, and one that happens continuously. That can’t be that hard to add. Thanks again.