Tracking questions & to do items (Simulating OneNote Tags)

I would like to track open questions and to do items for myself inline in the document text in Scrivener.

In OneNote this is trivial: simply add a Tag to the text. Tags can be viewed across documents, so I don’t have to keep a separate list of open questions and to do items.

I am trying to simulate this function in Windows Scrivener.

I tried using Comments, but discovered that in the current Windows version, comments/footnotes cannot be displayed across documents.

I have resorted to prefixing the text with ?question? and !to do! and have created search collections to find these. But it’s a kludge. :frowning:

Anybody have a better way of solving this problem in Windows Scriviener?


If the project (or section of your project) is made up solely of questions & answers, then I’d suggest you split your documents so that there’s only one question (and its answer, if closed) per document. You can always merge them back together once you have no open questions left, and the separate documents can be tagged with the Status metadata field (make an ‘open’ status and a ‘closed’ or ‘answered’ status to match). Then use a saved search on the ‘open’ status.

If the questions need to be embedded in the rest of your text, then I’m not sure. Maybe more explanation of the structure of your project might yield some better advice.

As long as you only need to keep track of questions and to dos within a single project (composed of multiple documents), perhaps labels would do the trick. In one of my Scrivener projects, I have created labels such as “Concept,” “Research/reading to do,” etc. I attach one of these labels to a document to mark its nature. Since labels are associated with colors, a glance at the Binder shows me all instances of a particular label; and they’re also visible in Outliner and Corkboard views. Using Status might also work; it’s not color-coded, and so doesn’t show in the Binder, but is visible in the Outliner and Corkboard.

You can edit and create labels and statuses by going to the Project menu and selecting Meta-Data Settings. In that dialog, you can also create custom meta-data, and that might allow you to come up with something even more precisely suited to your needs.

All of these things can be seen across documents within a single project, but I don’t believe there’s a way to view them across projects.

David and Robert,

Thanks for the response, sorry for my delayed reply.

Here’s some additional information on what I am trying to accomplish.

I am planning a novel. I do a lot of pre-work. I’ve got character sketches, world-building, plotting notes, research, scene notes, etc., spread across a dozens of documents in Scrivener, in about half a dozen folders.

Say I am brainstorming background for a character. I’m working in the character’s document, and I realize it would be important to illustrate a particular trait in a scene, so I jot down a to do in the document: “Emphasize Edward’s pointy head in the scene with Cleo.” I move on to some plotting, and a question arises: “How does Joe get into the locked closet without a key?” Then while doing research, I come across an interesting insect, which would work great with my heroine. “Work this bug into a scene with Muffet.”

So I continue on with my brainstorming process, generating additional questions, to do’s, and what not. At some point later in a future writing session I want to track all of these down and start resolving them. How do I find them?

Microsoft OneNote actually has an elegant solution for this called Tags. (Yes, I just used “elegant” and “Microsoft” in the same sentence.) Tags in OneNote are metadata at the text level. In my example above, during my brainstorming sessions I would Tag the questions with a Question tag, and the action items with a To Do tag. I could even create a custom tag called Scene, and use that to for my scene edits. The real power of Tags arises later when I want to hunt them down: OneNote’s Find Tags function will show me all of the tags in my OneNote notebook, grouped by tag name, or by date, or by the Section of the Notebook, or by the text associated with the tag. From the Find Tags pane, I can click on the associated note “Emphasize Edward’s pointy head”, and OneNote will take me from whatever document I happen to be in over to the text with the tag. When I have taken care of that particular action item, I can remove the tag and move on to the next one. It is a ridiculously handy feature.

Scrivener metadata won’t work for this, because metadata applies to the document level. I would still have to hunt through the text within the document looking for my questions/to do’s.

Scrivener Comments come close. Comments don’t have any grouping capability, but would be sufficient for my purposes. If I were on a Mac, I could add my questions and To Do’s as comments as I worked through my text, and then later I could click on a high level folder in Scrivenings mode and see all of my comments across all of the documents contained in the folder. That would work for me.

Unfortunately though, I am not on a Mac. Windows Scrivener lacks the “click on a high level folder and see all of my comments across all of the documents contained in the folder” capability. So the only way for me to see my comments is to walk through every document. Not worth the trouble.

As mentioned in my original post, I am experimenting with prefixing the text with ?question? and !to do! - basically creating my own tags - and have created search collections to find these. But I would like to see if there is a better way.

Any ideas on how I can accomplish this in Windows Scrivener?

Bump. Any ideas?

I once went to a lot of effort to create a Typinator (mac only) expansion that would trigger the creation of a Scrivener Link using a (Mac only?) refinement that turns [[bracketed text]] into links automatically, and then hits the right key strokes to make Scrivener go ahead and create an empty document at the other end of the link.

But I can think of a not-too-tedious ways to create a todo list that you could link to with Scrivener links.

Create one document per category of note; Character, Plot, Setting, etc…
Split the editor and lock one of them to your current chapter, or even to the entire book.
When you come to something you want to make a note on, create a brief note ‘title’, like “plot:Joe in closet” and make it an inline annotation (for easily stripping it out during compile). Select that ‘title’ again and create a scrivener link to the “Plot” note file. Jump to the end of the document, and on a new line, write “plot:Joe in closet – How did he get locked in there without any keys?” Repeating the title there will give you something to search for in the manuscript.

Alternately, having one document per todo, you could link to them as above, but stack those documents with the chapter you are commenting on. If you name the linked text as above “plot: blah” and title the documents the same way, then a search for “plot:” in both title and text would yield a collection that included the commented-upon text and the notes of that particular category which pertain to it.

Sorry if that’s too complicated/tedious. :confused:

Apologies for not responding, JimRac. But the truth is, I don’t have any further suggestions. I hope you’ll find something useful for your writing process.

No worries David.

Robert, thank you for the detailed reply and for your suggestions.

I’ve concluded that any approach that separates the notes/questions from the text they apply to adds too much overhead for what I am trying to do - too much interruption/distraction during the brainstorming process to create links and new documents and whatnot. Even if Windows Scrivener Comments worked as well as the Mac Comments, I am thinking now that I probably wouldn’t use them for this purpose.

I will stick with embedding my home grown low budget ?question? / !to do! tags in the text and using project search to find them later.

Thank you,