The Holy Grail combination of Editor, QRs and Notes

Over about seven years using Scrivener, I’ve worked on three enormous Projects. The smallest had 27 Folders and about 200 Files. The largest (and still growing) has 180 Folders and about 1000 Files. It’s got more words than War and Peace. Managing that volume of material has led me through several strategies for efficient editing. But I haven’t yet found the Holy Grail. I’m looking for guidance from the Sages of Scrivener (or maybe Tim the Enchanter).

I found this forum topic from 2015:

And my own forum topic from a year ago:

There might be other solutions I didn’t find.

Fortunately, I don’t have to work off a single screen. At home I have my MBA and two attached monitors. On the road, it’s the MBA and an iPad.

My method is to create an Outline, then load up the Notes in each document with source materials. Lots of source materials! On the website Project, for example, each web page is a Folder. All the H2s and H3s are nested Files. A page I worked on yesterday has 15 Files under the page Folder. All that source material in Notes needs to be shuffled between documents and receive a basic hack-and-slash edit before pasting into the Editor for refinement. The Notes are really a 2nd editing environment for the same topic.

Sorting source material into precise locations in the Outline is superior to dumping vast swathes into one enormous Note or a dedicated document for notes. I tried. A recent dedicated notes doc had about 20,000 words. Search and scroll, rinse and repeat. So slow. It was the Brontosaurus of notes.

So what is state-of-the-art technique using Scrivener? It’s already an incredible, advanced, customizable tool… but is it the Holy Grail? Well, yes… except for a few tweaks that would make it perfect.


In the second forum post above, Keith suggested hiving the Editor off in Composition mode, leaving the main Scrivener workspace free for Notes. It works very well indeed.

If we leave notes where they belong under the Inspector Notes for each sub-document, there’s no nav problem. We can then pull the Inspector pane way over to the left, although the Editor pane insists on a zombie existence.

Holy Grail tweak:

  • Permit the Editor pane to be completely hidden.


It’s easy to open a QR, but working with Notes is a bit cumbersome. We have to select Notes from the drop down, then grab the Notes pane and slide it up for maximum real estate. The zombie Editor pane insists on reserving some space at the top.

Managing multiple documents is enabled by opening them all as QRs, then forcing them on to tabs in a single QR using Merge All Windows. Original nav is preserved. Nice! Except that we then have to select and expand the Notes pane over and over. (Great that Scrivener remembers the layout for next use.)

Holy Grail tweaks:

  • Permit the QR Editor to be completely hidden. Give that screen space to Notes.

  • Create the ability for users to set the QR display default. That way, we would not have to select Notes and pull up the Notes pane on each first use.

  • Give QR notes some more editor features, such as Current Line Highlight.

With these features available in Scrivener, it’s possible to Do It All in a 3 screen setup. Composition mode Editor on one screen. QR for all the Folder and subsidiary doc Notes on a second screen. Main Scrivener interface with Binder and Outline on the Mac. Wow!

Are there other cool solutions out there?

Why Notes?

If I were managing something like that, I’d put the source materials in subdocuments nested under their parent documents. (That is, nested under the thing that they are Notes for in your scheme.)


Because then I could assign all the metadata that Scrivener supports, including in particular a Status field to help me keep track of where I am in the editing process.

Because then I could use Binder actions (Move, Merge, Delete, etc.) to “promote” something from draft to final status, which IMO poses less inherent risk than copying and pasting.

Because then all the subsidiary drafts would be visible in the Binder … and the Outliner, and the Corkboard.

And also because using the Editor instead of the Notes field provides all the layout tweaks you’re looking for in one fell swoop.


Hi kewms,

I’ve been experimenting with this technique and it seems flexible and data rich. I’ve even changed the icon of the “notes” Files to differentiate them from their parent Files of the same name.

The process then is to open the “notes” document in a QR Editor (not the Notes pane, as before) leaving the parent document for editing in the main Scrivener Editor. Or open the parent document in Composition mode and the “notes” document in the main Scrivener Editor. Either way is clean and fast.

However… I’ll often open a Folder in the Editor, showing all the subsidiary document text, separated by dividers. Where the Files are numerous and short (Ioa’s composition style of extreme granularity), this is a fast way to edit. But now clicking the Folder displays the “notes” documents inline with their parent documents. It’s too long and messy.

Is there any way to flag the child “notes” documents so they don’t show up? As a fall-back, I know I can manually select parent Files to display sequentially in the Editor, minus any text from the Folder itself.

Having the “notes” Files in the Binder also adds to Total Words in the Outline. Total Words is rendered so inaccurate I can’t use it. Too bad… I need to know the word count of those Folders (web pages).

I suppose I could solve both these issues by creating parallel Folders for the “notes” Files instead of placing child “notes” Files under each parent topic, But that would sacrifice the helpful visual cue of the parent-child documents in the Binder and Outline.

Thanks for wading through this one!

One way would be to use the Status or Label field to identify the “live” documents that you want to include, and then use a search to pull those items into a Collection.


Hi Katherine,

Thanks! This works very well.

I created three types of document in the Status field: Edit, Notes and the default “—” (None). A saved search collection of >Status >“Edit” + “Search Binder Selection Only” created a list of documents to open in the Editor. Perfect.

The only outstanding issue: in the collection Outline, the Total Words column still includes word counts from the child “Notes” documents attached to “Edit” parents. I tallied using a calculator. In my sample collection Folder, “Edit” documents totalled 7733 words, while the Total Words showed 10,384 (adding “Notes” doc word counts to the 7733).

Once again, the marvels of Scrivener revealed by expert and fast support!

Depending on how things are structured, you may want to use “Words” rather than “Total Words.” For a folder, that will give only the total for the top level folder document, with none of its sub-documents.

If that doesn’t help, you may be stuck. You can get the total words for an arbitrary selection of documents in the main Editor view, but not in the Outline view.


Thanks, Katherine.

I was already using Words and Total Words in the Outline. I’ll dispense with Total Words and take your suggestion: select the Folder in the Binder, open the “Edit” collection and find the total at the bottom of the Editor.

A possibility if you haven’t tried it, Eric1954: A way to keep those words from showing up in your folder counts that works for me is

  • Select Project->Show Project Targets
  • In the project targets window, click the Options…button in the lower right corner.
  • Under Draft Target, be sure “Only count documents set to be included in compile”
  • Finally, in your Outline, select your notes documents and option-click the “Include In Compile” column so that your notes are set to remain uncompiled. ( You may already have done this. I can’t imagine that you want them in your final product.)

Now those words should not be included in their parent folders’ count.

Hope this helps.

Hello Silverdragon,

I don’t know why this isn’t working for me. The Project setting is clear enough (done). The “Notes” documents are all unchecked for “Include in Compile”. I even ran a compile of the test Folder.

Tallying the 26 documents under the Folder (16 “Edit” and 10 “Notes”), Edits = 7733 words. Notes = 2651 words.

Total Words for the Folder = 10,384. If your technique works, shouldn’t the Total Words for the Folder = 7733?

The Project Targets count is completely separate from the Total Words column in the Outliner. What Eric is seeing is the expected behavior.


Yes, so I don’t understand what’s happening with your project. Let me share my test, with screen shots, and if there’s something different about our setups, I hope it stands out.

  • I created a simple text document, (titled, cleverly, Notes) unchecked its Include in Compile, and filled it with 5,000 words of Lorem Ipsum.
  • I made four duplicates of that document, for a total of 5 documents with 5000 words each, 25,000 words total.
  • I moved each document to be subordinate to a different scene of Act 3 in my current WIP.

Note that this does NOT affect word counts shown at the bottom of the Editor, in Scrivenings mode or otherwise. Nor does it affect word count as displayed in the Quick Search (which, as a very old timer, I never bother with.) This is display in the Outliner only, which is always where I check my word counts.

Hi, Katherine—sorry for cross-posting. Since I only check my word counts in the Outliner because it tells me what I want to know, and ignore the others because they lie to me (except for Project->Statistics… and the Project Targets window as set up above), it doesn’t occur to me to wonder about things like word counts in footers or Quick Search. My bad. :blush:

Huh. Very strange. I’m not able to duplicate that behavior. On my system – using a new copy of the Tutorial – the Total Words column is completely unaffected by the Include in Compile column.

Did you restart the project between tests? That is, can you make the numbers change by simply clicking the Compile flag on and off, or is there more to it?


Ok, there may be more to it but I don’t remember what, as I’ve been doing this for a very long time. Perhaps I just assumed that the flag in the Project Targets affected the outliner totals, but it’s in fact something else.

I’ll do my own test using a fresh Tutorial project and post my results.

Found it!!!

Check or tick, as you prefer, the box next to “Total columns only count documents included in Compile”

As I said, I set this years ago (when I got Scrivener 3, the first day it was released, but I probably copied my Scriv 2 prefs mindlessly, so years before that). It lets me see how much is in each section, and shows nothing of stuff I’m not including. How I got it mentally conflated with the Project Targets check box, I’ll never know. :blush: Again, my bad.


That check box now produces correct Total Words counts.

Thanks to both of you for sticking with this.

You’re welcome! Sorry for the detour.

Ah ha!

Even I learn something new every day. Thanks!


One further point on this which may be helpful, I have created a document template in my project for quickly creating note files like this that already have the correct exclude from compile setting, custom document icon, prefix “NOTES:” text in the title, status, and so on. Not only is it faster, it ensures I stay consistent (and thus that I don’t accidentally break collections and filters I’ve set up around the notes).

Hey, Jennifer. That’s a great idea too. I’ve just created templates to improve speed and accuracy.

Now I feel sorry for myself… working with Scrivener for seven years without these productivity techniques. I’m wondering what else I’ve been missing.

This has been an exceptionally useful thread, thanks to three helpful women and three great ways to use Scrivener better.