What am I doing wrong?

I want to use Scrivener so badly that I’ve returned to my mac, which my husband replaced with a laptop last year. I’m on the thirty day trial right now. I imported several files, the corkboard works nicely. However, when I create something new within Scrivener, the text won’t appear on the index card. When I type it within the index card, it won’t appear in the text editor. I’ve got the screen split so I can view the cards and write. Everything else (the files I imported) will open in the editor, but again, not anything new I’ve typed. I’ve typed into the editor, into the index card and into the inspector, but clicking on the card or the file in the sidebar, just shows up blank. I’ve looked through the help files–clearly, I’'m missing a small detail.

I’d recommend going through the interactive tutorial (available in the Help menu). What you are seeing is a key feature of Scrivener, wherein each item in your project can have a short descriptive synopsis which can be whatever you like. It can be the first paragraph if you have nothing to say, it could be notes to yourself, your intended goals for the scene or beat, etc. It is not a direct copy of the text within the item itself, it is a hand-crafted summary.

The two exceptions to this are auto-generation, one of which you are seeing. When you import items from the disk, the synopsis will be automatically generated from the imported text. This is just a convenience for you, it isn’t meant to imply that the index card synopsis is the document content itself (though it is important to note that the index card is, in a way, a representation of the document. Think of it as a complex icon. If you move the index card, the document will move). The other case where this can happen is when you click the little icon in the upper-right corner of the index card in the Inspector (Cmd-Opt-I). This will perform the same function that happens on import, but for any text you write.

Note that in both cases, the whole text will not be included, just the first 500 characters or so.

Again, if you haven’t done so, the tutorial is great and only takes about an hour to run through. It’s a Scrivener project, so you can play along as you read about how to use it, and it will introduce a number of concepts like this one, that are unique to Scrivener and will in the long run help you out immeasurably in getting the most out of the application.


Have you been through the interactive tutorial (available from the Help menu) or looked at the sections on “Overview and Concepts”, or “Index Cards, Synopses and Outlining” in the Help file? The way index cards are associated with documents is a core concept of Scrivener and is explained in both the tutorial and Help file as well as in the introductory video and other videos on this page:


In short, though, you are doing nothing wrong. The text isn’t supposed to show up in the index card, and what you type in the index card isn’t supposed to appear in the text area. The index card is labelled “Synopsis”, and that is what it is intended for - the idea is that you use it to write a short synopsis of the associated document (either after the document is written or before as a signal of intent). It may be that you have been confused by the fact that imported items automatically have the first few lines of the text assigned as the synopsis.

I see Ioa has beaten me to the punch with an answer as usual, though. :slight_smile:

All the best,

Thank you for your replies. Yes I did review the entire tutorial before even starting as well as read through those sections you mentioned. I’m going to play around with it a bit more and hope I can get things to work. I’m trying to learn this so I can start on a new project. The learning curve is always time-consuming. :slight_smile:

Okay, good. :slight_smile: A thing that might help is to look at a Scrivener document in full. Click on any one of them in the Binder and open the Inspector. You have an index card at the top which contains the title of the document on the first line, and may or may not have any text in the index card itself. This is the Synopsis. Below that you’ll have a “Notes” area, which is a free-form typing area that ordinarily won’t be published.

The big white area in the middle is the text editor. That’s where you put the contents of your book. Try typing three different phrases into each of these spots and note how none of them modify each other. They are all completely independent. The synopsis is a separate text entry, as are the notes, and the main text editing area. When you compile, with default settings anyway, only the text in the main editing area will be included (and sometimes often the title of the document as well). This can all be changed with more advanced settings, but in the simplest case it is useful to see how the Synopsis (contents of the index card) and Notes are supporting elements for the main document text. They are tools for the writing process, not tools for the production of book material.

When you view a Corkboard, you are only seeing the title and synopsis for each document in that board. Just as when you edit the card in the Inspector, making changes to the card won’t impact the underlying text of the document itself in any way. The corkboard can be viewed as a concise, limited view of your documents, displaying on a few key attributes of the document.

Incidentally, you can get at this same information in the Outliner view (press Cmd-1 while viewing a Corkboard) as well (and much more). The Outliner view can be set up to show the title and synopsis of each document in the list. In this case it shows them in rows, like a spreadsheet or outliner, but philosophy is the same. The stuff that shows up in the Synopsis column is what appears inside the index card. Exact same data, just a different way of looking at it.

Just to step away from the technicalities of the interface, it’s helpful to think of the index cards as the actual physical objects they represent. If you were planning out your novel on index cards, you wouldn’t necessarily write out the first paragraph on it. Instead, you’d probably put a summary of what that part of your story was about. “Fred buys a poppyseed muffin, and runs into an old friend,” would be the synopsis, which is what you should see on the index card.

The document attached to that card would be several hundred to a few thousand words describing the pastry shop, the patrons, the kid behind the counter, and the surprise meeting with his friend. This is the part that will end up on the pages of your book, unless you cut the scene during a later draft.

And then you might also have a few post-it notes where you remind yourself of important things that might get edited out later if you’re not mindful. “Just be sure not to exchange the poppyseed muffin for a plain bagel or a croissant: the main thing is the poppy seeds!” Also, maybe some note about how the old acquaintance will figure into the story later; “Richard did not just ‘bump into’ Fred by accident, and he should drop hints that Fred will completely misinterpret to hilarious effect.”

That, I hope, illustrates how you might distinguish the uses for the Synopsis (index card text), the story itself (main editor window) and the notes pane (post-it notes).