To Do list inside Scrivener

How about a central “To Do” list right inside Scrivener, reminding us to update a certain section, contact somebody or whatever. Perhaps others are already doing this in some way but I thought an area like this with points that could be ticked when completed might be a useful way to keep track of progress and help to stay on top of certain objectives.

I always keep a simple list of ToDos in one section of Project Notes, where I strike out what’s done.


  • striking out can’t happen by accident
  • sometimes the ToDos are complicated and a simple text file is more suited


  • you can’t link ToDos to specific sections or documents
  • you have to count the open ToDos manually (but the number of open ToDos is of little meaning anyway, one ToDo can mean an awful lot of work and ten ToDos might be cleared in a minute)

Actually, I’m pretty sure you can do scrivener links in the Project & Document notes (just not in the synopsis, which is Plain Text only).

A lot of Scrivener is kind of like a todo list. Statuses, complete with index card stamps or colors which can tint/highlight documents in the binder, keywords, and any unique string or phrase in document notes or inspector comments can be part of a saved search (collections). Combine a lot of these things and more (custom metadata, for instance) into an outline view, and you really do have a great way to keep up with what is left for you to do in your project.

I’m thinking of a specific To Do location with notes that include a bookmark to the specified location within the document. Actually to make this really clever how about a contextual menu where you click on a work or phrase that then creates a bookmark inside the To Do list and allows you to make relevant comments etc. Then from the To Do list it could take you straight back to that location much like bookmarks work inside Apple Pages.

I agree there are lots of index cards and status cards etc in Scrivener but it still involves going to each section individually and making sure you don’t forget something. A centralised To Do list that is able to collate all these points would probably avoid that unless I’m missing something here.

Have you tried Scrivener Links, in the Edit menu? You could put them in a To Do list folder in the Research folder.

No I hadn’t but that looks like something that could be extended to internal bookmarks within the main document and would be a good way to implement this. I’ve only been using Scrivener for a short while but I’m already kicking myself for not having tried it before.

What I hand in mind for individual passages that need attention is simply to use inspector comments. Start them all with “TODO” or create your own easily spotted codes to start each one, then in any Scrivenings mode, you can see them in the inspector. They all stack up together, so even if the 3rd comment is 30,000 words past the 2nd comment, they’re right next to each other. Click on the 3rd TODO inspector comment, jump to that word/phrase/paragraph, make whatever changes you want, and if you’re satisfied, remove the comment. Go to the next one, or jump way down the list, if you like.

It’s not a centralized location for that kind of thing, and it probably doesn’t satisfy the “check it off, see your progress” kind of itch, but it is very effective for locating unresolved stuff that you noticed on a previous read-through.

Have you tried Saved Search Collections?

For example: Put the word “TODO” or maybe with some clue after as “TODO clue -TODO” (without the quotes in both cases) in your text. Then set up a search collection to search for the uppercase word TODO and save that as a collection (Search field drop-down menu Save Search …). All the documents with TODO in them will show in the collection and opening one will show all the TODO words highlighted. When all your TODOs are done the collection will be empty.

Note, to “run” the search again you have to switch away from the collection (e.g. to the binder) and then back to the collection. This may be an oversight on Scrivener’s part, not being able to just run the collection search again. Or maybe it’s there and I don’t know how.

Both ideas sound interesting and I’m a little out of my depth here making suggestions because there are so many aspects of Scrivener that I’ve never looked at. Perhaps a centralised To Do list is too restrictive in some ways, though it would at least help you to feel like goals were being achieved or needed attention.

Something I’ve never really used in OS X are the smart folders but I wonder if Scrivener could somehow leverage something along those lines to create an easily accessible group of random notes with the means to locate the relevant area within the document. I’m really not sure what would make the most sense but perhaps it could even just be a sort of cork board section purely for this purpose. That is something we could already do I guess.

Using in-line annotations for the TODOs would be great for this method. When you’ve finished something, change it to “DONE”. You can also have your compile settings exclude in-line annotations if you want to leave any of the DONE stuff in.

I think this is on purpose. You might not want documents disappearing from your view at the instant when you make a change that excludes them from the results. That could be really disconcerting.

I hope I’m not overwhelming you, or making you think that your suggestion doesn’t have merit. What I wanted to point out is that there are features that you can use RIGHT NOW, that give you the end result you are looking for (marking bits of text for revision and being able to find all of those markings without fear of losing track of them), so that you don’t have to wait for a new feature.

Obviously, it’s not quite what you were after, so I’ll stop beating this particular dead horse, and go find some other metaphorical equine corpse to apply a metaphorical stick to.

No worries, I’m not even sure I know myself what I’m looking for. Previously when I wrote using Word everything happened in a fairly linear fashion but that’s terribly limiting compared to Scrivener, which is much more flexible.

As I opened Scrivener today thinking about the half dozen items I had worked on yesterday and what needed further elaboration I suddenly thought how good it would be to have a place I could look at that would immediately tell me what needed doing and avoid the curse of aimless wondering that tends to happen if I just pick a page and start reading without a specific plan in mind.

No doubt there are ways and means of achieving all of this already but perhaps I am just looking for a preconfigured solution so I don’t need to think too hard. I’ve come to realise that everybody wants an easy solution these days and my latest book project will be marketed as an easy solution for readers rather than a perfect expert one, because I have an idea that “easy” will sell better…

I’ve just discovered how clever the Scrivener links are with the automatic suggestions. By creating a link called TODO you could have it automatically go to a page with a list of To Do items. Ideally you’d want it to work backwards as well so it goes back to the source of the link.

Unfortunately, Scrivener links only take you to the document, not to a passage within the document. That’s why I was so enthusiasticly flogging the Inspector Comments, since your todo list is automatically adjusted as you add or remove them. Now I’m really done on the subject.

No, really! :neutral_face:

OK, time to really look at these inspector comments :bulb:

As Robert says, the Scrivener links can’t link to a specific paragraph within a document, only to the document as a whole. You can set up Scrivener to automatically create back-link references, however, so that if you create a link in a document A to document B, a link back to document A will be added to document B’s references in the inspector. I think this may even be set up by default, but you can go to the Navigation pane of Scrivener > Preferences to take a look (it’s near the bottom section). This doesn’t give you the link back to your specific to-do item directly in the To Do List document, but it would at least keep a running list of documents in the To Do List’s reference pane, which might still be of interest.

It is possible to bookmark particular paragraphs so that you can easily jump to them when you are in that document (that is, you can’t link directly to them from a different document, but when the document is loaded in a text view–including as part of a Scrivenings session–you can see the list of bookmarks and jump to them). Edit > Insert > Bookmark Annotation will do this, and the list of bookmarks can be accessed either from View > Text Bookmarks or from the icon menu in the editor header. The bookmarks are just special annotations (they come at the beginning of a paragraph and start with an asterisk) so you can add text to them to give the bookmark a name (which might be something about your to-do, in this case); otherwise the bookmark will just use the first few words of the paragraph for identification.

Just using regular inline annotations or inspector comments to mark your to-dos, with a “TODO” sort of text code, will work well for this too, as others have already pointed out. You can create a dynamic collection based off the search, which will give you then an easy place to start at the beginning of your day by selecting your “To Do” collection in the binder. All the documents that are found as part of that search (that is, all the documents that have a TODO comment/annotation somewhere in them) will appear there for you to work through individually or by loading them all as a Scrivenings session. Inspector comments will all get listed together as Robert explained, making it easy to click through them and use them as bookmarks to take you to the particular part of each document that needs work, and of course you can use the comment to hold the note about what particularly needs to be done in that section. Inline annotations won’t be grouped together like inspector comments can be, but you can easily jump from one to another using Edit > Find > Find by Formatting and searching for inline annotations that contain your “TODO” marker. Both inline annotations and comments can be color coded as well, if that’s something you like to do. (Depending where in the revision process I am, I occasionally use different colors for different types of notes, e.g. “Needs Research”, “Double-check for consistency”, and “This is the lousiest writing I have ever produced; fix it” might get distinct colors as well as separate “to do” codes.) Coloring is just a visual indicator for inspector comments, but for inline annotations it can be used to further refine your Find by Formatting search.

Yep. You can just hit Return in the search bar to re-run the search and update the collection, rather than switching tabs, but you do need to re-run it manually so items aren’t vanishing on you as you work.

I do something similar to almansur’s suggestion, which is effectively a scriv-based interpretation of suggestions gleaned from Bodsham’s book on how the craft of writing.

I keep a folder in my research section of my binder called “Development Blog”. This is essentially a diary of thoughts and considerations as they occur to me, that may or may not make it to the final piece. It has four key sections:

  1. The diary itself - blog-style entries where I write up thoughts on why I have gone a certain way in the book, or how I achieve a certain structure in Scrivener. Although I write them as if they are a blog, they are essentially for my own amusement or memory. They are also a good way to be kind of writing when I’m not really in the mood to work on the book itself.

  2. “Misc notes” - documents that record info I’ve found or thoughts I’ve had. I generally use this for “world building” type info, and include stuff I’ve made up, useful downloads from wikipedia on how things work, and similar “research”. (note this doesn’t include character info or location info which each have their own dedicated folders in the binder)

  3. “To do” - short documents that indicate a decision I’ve decided to make, or something I want to come back and check later. An example from my current work has the title “travelling scene” and the main body notes that I have rather amateurishly included a scene which basically just has two characters travelling from one place to somewhere else. The note is for me to go back and put the important bits of that scene somewhere else and then delete it. Each of these documents has been given the status stamp “To do” which is used just for this section. I then have a collection set up to search for “to do” as the status, so I can see the outstanding items in a single list. Once I’ve done something, I just remove the status stamp and it disappears from my to do collection, but remains in the binder in case I want to revisit later why I have done something.

  4. “Unplaced scenes” - ideas for scenes which will happen later, but I don’t know where yet, or quite what they mean. They might also be simply “set pieces” that I weant to work in somehow, or a joke I really want to make at some point.

Between these four I have somewhere to contain all my thoughts on what needs to be done as well as give me a sandpit to play in when I want to progress the work generally, but for one reason or another can’t quite get my head into the writing part.