Using and sorting index cards by label

Greetings! I’m still new to Scrivener and sitting on the fence about importing my whole novel draft (been working on it for several years now, it’s all in dozens and dozens of different Word docs under various folders … ugh, what a mess! Wish I’d started the whole thing in Scriv). But I’d like to get to know the program better before entrusting it with my scattershot baby.

I decided I’d test the waters by hand-importing my “bits and pieces” (which range in length from a single phrase or sentence to entire pages of dialogue) from the Word table where I’d been keeping them (again, what a mess) to index cards in a unique folder (I’m using the Novel template). I called the folder Bits and Pieces, situated above “Draft” and all its sub-folders. As it turns out, I had 95 bits and pieces! So yes, 95 index cards sitting there.

I’ve got several questions about where to go from here, but I’ll start with:

  1. Is there a way to sort the index cards by label, so that all the cards with a certain label (I customized mine by character and subject) automatically group together? The “sort” subjects under Help all have to do with index cards that have documents attached to them. These don’t, they’re just standalone index cards on the cork board.

  2. Is it OK to have standalone index cards on the cork board, without docs attached to them? Am I the only one who’s ever used them for that? :laughing: I mean, could they be in some sort of danger?!!

Thanks in advance … the solitary creative process will do interesting things to your mind after awhile … :wink:

Welcome to Scrivener!

Yes, you can sort items, but you need to use the Outliner view mode instead of the Corkboard. Use the View/Outline menu command to switch to that view mode, add the label column if necessary (there is a sub-menu in the View menu for that), and then click on the label column header to sort by it (just like sorting in Finder and most other programs with this kind of column-based list view). Click again to sort the other way, and finally another time to disable sort.

This need some clarification I feel. Index cards on the Corkboard are a visual representation of Binder items, you can kind of think of it them like fancy icons that you can type info into, but they always represent items (or documents, if you will). It may be that you have no text typed into the main editor for these 95 cards, that is fine and a perfectly legitimate way to use the software, but there isn’t a hard distinction between cards that have text and cards that do not. Just think of them as empty text documents, if that makes more sense (they aren’t really, but I’m trying to explain this without getting too technical).

For short little snippets like you describe, I think putting all of the content into the synopsis, the main text area on the index card, is a great way to use Scrivener as that information is right in front of you in Corkboard and Outline mode. The program is designed to be used that way, and you are never obligated to “open” the card in the text editor and start typing into it.

If you’re thinking of the icons in the Binder in terms of how Finder works, where icons mean something more along the lines of “this is what program it will load in / this is the type of file it is”—then I can see where you are coming from. Some things in the Binder may have an index card icon and other things have a sheet of paper icon. That’s more of a status indicator than a type. This is an outliner, not a file manager, and that icon is just letting you know how much data a particular thing has. You can at a glance see if something has text content by its icon, without that indicator, you might not know it without manually going through each card one by one. An empty page indicates the item has nothing typed into the synopsis or text editor, an index card means a synopsis has been provided and finally a page with scribbles on it means it has text. That’s all you’re seeing here.

If all of this is wildly confusing, I definitely recommend the Quick Tour in the user manual as it goes over all of this in a step-by-step fashion, so you can see things change as you use the software, and shouldn’t take longer than 15 to 30 minutes to complete. The main interactive tutorial in the help menu is essential, too, but you’ll need to set aside a little time for that.

Now, if you want to get technical, it is true that if the text editor for a card is empty, there is no attached document. That’s a good thing to know if you’re worried about creating hundreds of literal document files on the disk that you don’t need—you aren’t actually doing that. The software only creates a document on the disk if it needs to, saving resources by doing so. But, that’s entirely a technical distinction. For your purposes, within the user interface, it doesn’t really matter if a card has text in the document area or not. You can think of it as being the “same thing”.

AmberV, thanks so much for this prompt and detailed reply!

Tried Outliner view mode, works and sorts great. I love seeing all my bits of material so easily.

(By the way, I did go through the entire interactive Scrivener tutorial before starting to work in it at all, but sometimes theory and practice disconnect when it’s your own material and you’re so invested in it. But I’ll also go through Quick Tour in the manual for extra insight.)

Just some points of clarification:

  1. When you say “text editor” with regards to an index card, do you mean the synopsis or main body of the card?

  2. When you say “main editor,” do you mean the “main window” as illustrated in 6.2 of the Quick Tour?

Thanks again. I like that Scrivener is so supportive.

Agreed, and the tutorial doesn’t really go too deeply into the outlining aspects as a specific topic. That is one reason why, when I wrote the Quick Tour, I focussed on that aspect. The main goal of it is to get someone writing as quickly as possible without having to learn every little detail—but if you’re new to outliners in general, it may have some tips that worth the time.

The former, the “text editor” in Scrivener refers to the word processing component, where you have nothing but an empty document to type in for that card. This is what you might have referred to as “having a document attached to it”. That’s a good way of thinking of it, but the analogy isn’t meant to be taken so far as to say that cards that you haven’t typed into the text editor on are somehow different types of items.

Not precisely, that screenshot is meant to be of the whole window, the Binder, the text editor (the big white area) and the toolbars along the top and bottom are all a part of the “main window”.

We refer to that big area as the “editor”, even when it is showing a corkboard or outliner, just for simplicity—it’s best to think of that area as showing your current selection in the Binder. If that selection is one text document, you’ll see the text editor. If it is a selection of a PDF file, you’ll get a PDF viewer. If it is a selection of ten cards, you’ll see those ten cards in a group view (Corkboard/Outliner/etc.).