Tracking and editing multiple threads of text across files.

I’m writing a novel and need to track many text threads—several descriptions of the same lamp, for example, or several descriptions of the same ocean. I’d like to easily find and edit all of these threads, not only to avoid duplication, but also, when the descriptions build in sequence, to easily edit the progression from the first to last occurrence of the thread.

The comments feature works great for a single thread. I copy the description into the comment. I see the isolated threads in order of their appearance. I edit the comments so they easily make sense without any distraction from the intervening passages. And I can click back to the location and insert the edits.

But this works for only one thread—and I have many many threads. I realize I could color code the comments. And if I could sort, or group, or “show only red comments,” or make collections of comments somehow, it would be perfect.

But, as far as I know, I can’t do this in Scrivener.

I’m wondering if someone can suggest a solution for me. Perhaps some way to creatively use the links, project notes, or other file-level sorting and collecting techniques that I haven’t thought of? Or some way to use external bibliography software that would let me use text entries instead of formatted bibliographic entries (and jump around the project with links in the text)? Perhaps someway to use the style tag combined with search by style?

At the moment, I am inserting unusual characters (like {}) to mark (and search for) all occurrences of a given thread, but this is messy and error-prone.


This is what keywords are for: break your documents into sufficiently small pieces, then assign keywords for whatever you’re trying to track.


Thank you Katherine.

I use keywords (and metadata and collections), which definitely helps me cull files. But I’m looking for a way to track threads of text across those files. I’d like to edit the threads side-by-side, in sequence.

An example may help. One such thread involves a voice in the head of a schizophrenic character. As the character heals, the voice realizes its existence is threatened and fights for its life, It starts with subtle manipulations that gradually become more desperate.

I know I could find every file that had this voice-in-the-head and then, find the passage in each file, and edit it. But I wanted to find a way to edit the voice-in-the-head entries back-to-back for finer discriminations.

As an example of a cumbersome but effective solution, I made each intrusion of the voice a separate file, making the chapter a series of alternating files that, through scrivenings, appeared seamlessly as a single text flow. Then, using labels and keywords and metadata and collections, I culled the tiny files of the voice-in-the-head into their own scrivenings. Isolating those text threads made it easier to edit the subtle progression and flow of the voice-in-the-head entries from beginning to end.

Obviously this technique has limitations, but perhaps it illustrates more clearly what I’m looking for. I have many such threads in this novel. If there were a method to filter comments, it would be the ideal text-level tool that works across file-level tools for my needs. So I’m wondering if someone might have an idea of how to combine what is available so I can achieve something similar. Maybe some way to use text-level tools— like hyperlinks or styles—combined with file-level tools, even if it involves awkward steps?


You can tell the Compile command to exclude specific styles from the output document. So that would be one way to do it: assign a style to all the relevant text, compile just that style to the format of your choice.