Text and Folder Icons

This is embarrassing, but, I can’t get a handle on something that must be very simple. I’m a newbie attempting my first novel with no prior experience in word processing. How in the world do I redo and/or rearrange the little text and folder icons? (PLEASE SEE MY PHOTO ATTACHED) I would like to get to a point where I’m using the folder icons only as chapter placeholders, and one text icon for each individual scene. I have three questions:

  1. How in the world do I remove the little text icon from inside a folder and make it a simple text icon once again? (see “Bug river” folder)

  2. I’ve read that when the text icon shows some gray scribbles on it (rather than being blank) it means that there’s text there. But that’s not what I’m experiencing. (See photo): the text icon labeled “Untitled Document” shows text that does not exist in that location!

  3. (Please see “Kiev at daybreak”) – Why are there two overlapping texts shown on this icon but not on any of the others? As I said, it’s embarrassing to ask, but . . .

I would like to end up with the simplest possible organization of chapters and scenes for my novel. Is there a specific video I should watch, or specific tutorial section to read?

Thanks so much!

I’m assuming you mean a simple folder icon. The answer is that your folder here has text content. To see it, click on the folder and then disable the group view mode (just click on whatever group view is currently selected, probably the corkboard icon). You might have some chapter text in there you were not aware of. This is a status icon, in other words: it indicates the presence of something. Thus to remove it, you have to eliminate that condition—i.e. move the text into a scene file.

Barring some kind of malfunction, it’s worth mentioning that “text” means any content at all. If you hit the spacebar in an editor and then leave it be, it will turn into a scribbles icon, even though visibly there is nothing there. You probably just have a stray carriage return or spaces in this document.

This kind of goes back to the first point, where folders are capable of holding text as though they were text files. Text files can also act like folders in Scrivener, in that they can contain other items nested below them—and when they do they get this “stack of papers” icon. Pay careful attention to the left alignment of items in the Binder—that’s important. When things are indented beneath other items, it’s very similar to putting files in folders, on your system. They are “in” the headline they are indented beneath, and clicking the little disclosure arrow will hide or reveal these child items.

Something worth noting, though you did not ask, is that none of these scenes are actually indented within the chapter folders themselves. They are on the same indent level—you can tell because the icons all line up. Try selecting the Antonina and Untitled documents and dragging them on top of the Bug River folder so that it has an oval highlight, then let go of the mouse button. You’ll see the effect immediately, and should be able to replicate that technique with the other items.

As for the last one, I’m not sure what you are going for here, but you have a folder indented beneath a file, and I’m guessing you really want that folder at the same level as the other folders, not as subordinate to the Kiev scene.

Just think in terms of pen and paper outlines here. When you make an outline on a sheet of paper, you indent items to signify they are a part of a parent item in the outline. That’s all you’ve got going on here in Scrivener, it’s that simple.

There probably isn’t a good tutorial section to point you to, as it doesn’t really cover outlining in depth, but you could try the Quick Tour in the user manual PDF itself, that goes over a few simple outlining tasks. I would also at least skim the first few sections of chapter 8, where the philosophy of the binder is explained, as well as all of these icon variations.

Thanks Amber. Sorry about the delayed response - I was out of town and away from my desktop.

In response to my first question you said I should “move the text into a scene file.” Can you tell me how I do that? Or refer me to an explanation?

I did what you said in your answer to my second question: “Antonina at piano recital” is indented under “Bug River.” However, Bug River is only my name for a scene, so now I have a scene indented under another scene. I feel that I’m going in circles trying to understand all this, and afraid that I’ll lose my writing if I make the wrong move!

It’s my understanding that we should not be identifying chapter numbers at the writing stage. In other words, this should be decided only when we’re ready to compile the draft. Based on that reasoning my intent was to have the blue folder icons serve only as “potential” chapters at the moment, and have all scenes for each chapter indented underneath. In other words, I would like to have the very simplest “outline” of chapters and scenes. You said to “think in terms of pen and paper outlines.” That’s precisely what I want. I don’t need scenes within scenes within further scenes.

I suppose I’m somehow making this more complicated than it really is and I apologize for seeming dense. Maybe Scrivener is much too flexible – and therefore complex – for my purposes?

Okay, there are a few topics to respond to here, so I’ll start with the big stuff first.

Well, you can number them if you want. It’s just that Scrivener can number them for you, when you compile, so in most cases spending time numbering (and renumbering whenever you insert a chapter) is a waste of time. This is the kind of stuff that computers can do well, so you might as well take advantage of it if you can. But again, you can treat Scrivener like a “typewriter” if you want. This doesn’t need to be complicated, nor should it require you to change the way you prefer to work. The idea here is to find a comfortable way to work. If you want to number things, go right ahead.

That’s perfectly fine. An outline in Scrivener is nearly always going to evolve as the piece matures—only people who rigidly plan out every little detail before they write a word can likely say otherwise. For people that organically grow a book however, do whatever works for you in the outliner. There aren’t many rules here.

Yes, and that is all I was trying to help you with. I didn’t realise that “Bug River” was supposed to be a scene and not a chapter, so it was inadvertantly a bad example, but I’m sure you get the idea now. A chapter break can be expressed as a folder, and scene breaks as one file to the next.

Okay, again, when I suggested you move the text out of the folder, I was thinking that folder was meant to be a chapter break. However, in this case the problem is not that the folder has text, it is that this item is a folder. :slight_smile: Right-click on the “Bug River” item in the Binder and select Convert to File. You’ll probably want to move the scenes back out that you indented, too. Note the Documents/Move/Left command can be useful for this (you can add Left/Right/Up/Down as buttons on your toolbar, too).

Have you gone through the Interactive Tutorial (help menu) yet? I consider it to be an invaluable introduction to the basics of the program.

That is not very easy to do, especially accidentally. Even if you accidentally trash part of your outline, it will merely be moved to the Trash folder in your Binder. You would have to do that, and then invoke the Project/Empty Trash… menu command, and then click through a warning message to really delete parts of your outline.

It’s also, I should say, not even theoretically possible to make a sequence of moves in the outliner that cannot be undone. Everything is reversible, even files can be converted to folders and vice versa, as you’ve witnessed.

But if you are hesitant to rip into the software and play, maybe do your experimentation and learning in the tutorial project. You can always rebuild that to its factory default by deleting it in the Finder and creating a new copy from the Help menu.

Thanks so much, Amber, you have been very helpful. I had never set up my mouse to right click! That reminder alone should help me with a lot of things. Ditto for the Documents/Move/Left/Right command. I guess it’s become very clear that I hate dealing with technology – almost as much as I dread reading manuals of any kind! Like most of us, I just want to concentrate on the writing.

I do promise to be a good boy and do some reading. But may I impose on you for two more tiny little questions?

  1. With all my experiments and attempts to get things right I’ve ended up with a lot of those “invisible” scene divider lines – one or two more than necessary to indicate a new scene. Is there a simple way to delete those? Also: should I have one of those lines at the very beginning, before the opening of Chapter One? I have one now, although I couldn’t say how it got there!

    • The trash icon in my toolbar is always grayed out when I click on the trashcan icon in the Binder, or, on individual items in the trash. This means the trash is piling up and I can’t figure how to empty certain items while leaving the others. What gives?

Thanks again for all your help.

I can’t speak to the scene dividers, but as for the trash…

One design element of Scrivener that I really appreciate is that completely removing any file from the binder and destroying it has to be pretty deliberate. Permanently removing a set of files from the trash with a single click of a toolbar button would be too easy to do by accident. You have to ctrl-click on the trash folder and select Empty Trash to get rid of its contents, but that’s an all-or-nothing proposition.

My solution was to create a “Junk Drawer” folder just above the trash folder. I assigned it a special icon to make it stand out, and then when I’m looking for a procrastination activity, I go through the trash and move whatever I might want to preserve to the Junk Drawer before I permanently empty the trash.

Do you mean the little decorative line between sections, when viewing more than one item’s text in Scrivenings mode? If so, you can go for a slimmer look, using the Separate Scrivenings with single line breaks option, toward the bottom of the Formatting preference pane.

You’ll still get separators though, you can’t get rid of those because these are just markers that designate when one section ends and another begins. This information is too important to disregard, so there is no option to completely remove them.

Again, assuming we’re talking about Scrivenings mode here, that’s a good question. The reason for that is because these are section breaks, not scene breaks. There is no such thing as a scene, as an “thing”, in Scrivener, just sections. We can treat them as scenes, or not, it’s up to us. Like I say, this line just marks where one item’s text content ends and the next begin. Remember how folders can have text, too? Well that’s why there is a line at the top. Above that line is an empty text document for the folder—type into it, and you’ll see a text page badge spring up on the folder in the Binder. Delete the text and the badge goes away.

All stuff you’ve learned, but now you can see how it works directly in the editor, too.

As for the Trash question, Robert has the best answer for how to manage that scenario. Trash should be for stuff you are positive you’ll never want. For old revisions or just stuff you’ve decided to remove from the draft because it wasn’t helping the story—I’d use another folder for that.

Thanks again, Amber, for all the good info. And thank you, Robert, for the sensible idea of having what you call a Junk Drawer. Makes sense to me.