What is functional difference between folder and document

Hi, I’m trying to figure out what is the functional difference between a folder and a document. Both seem to function as containers of text and / or containers of subcontainers (folders contain subfolders) or sub docs, (docs contain subdocs).

Why should I use folders at all if documents can function as containers of other documents?


only visual

Primarily visual, but it’s possible and sometimes convenient to set various options to behave differently for folders.


There are differences between folders and document groups, beyond the changing icon, but in practice it’s often possible to ignore the differences and use them interchangeably.

AFAIK the two main differences are:

  1. Document groups open by default to the text of the parent document only; folders open by default to a virtual view of all the children as well (a ‘Scrivening’). In both cases Ctl-1 to toggle the ‘other’ view.

  2. You can opt to treat Document Groups and Folders differently in compilation — not usually necessary, but it can help if you have parent documents at the same level of the hierarchy but want to format the contents differently (e.g. Chapters v Appendices.)

The second point is no longer important in the forthcoming new version 3, which has a more flexible and intuitive compilation process.

On the other hand, version 3’s Compile command does still allow you to define different document separators for folders and documents. So, for instance, you could start chapters (folders) on a new page, while putting just a line break between scenes.


Sure, but that’s mainly Folders vs Documents, not vs Document Groups isn’t it, which I think is what the OP is asking about from the context. My point was simply that you used to need Document Groups in V1 to get some fairly commonly needed compilation effects, but those occasions are fewer in V3 (because Section Types/Layouts do the heavy lifting).

Yes, definitely. While the Section Types setup area in Project Settings does still allow one to distinguish between file groups and folders—as a way of defining even more elaborate structural hierarchy if you need it— is much more optional these days than it once was, where “icon type” and outline depth were the only tools available for expressing document structure on export.

Personally, I don’t! There is a setting in Behaviors: Files and Folders that switches off all effective differences between folders and file groups, meaning I get all of the benefits of using folders but none of the hassle of having to choose which one I want while outlining, or going back and changing files to folders or vice versa, depending on some arbitrary concept of what should or shouldn’t have a blue icon instead of white.

Also I find the file icons more useful. As these icons are dynamic, changing depending on whether there is content, index cards or snapshots, it is much easier to see the status of your overall outline’s progression with the much larger file icons (vs the tiny little badge that gets put in the corner of a folder icon).

I do use folders now and then, but without any functional difference between them and file groups, their only role is to serve as a more prominent landmark in the outline. I reserve them for very high level sections like Parts in large drafts—as this can make scrolling through a 30+ chapter (where chapters are file groups) outline easier. I could just as well use custom icons—but it’s more convenient to use folders as they have a dedicated shortcut.

So there you have it: for me, the only functional advantage of using folders is a custom icon with a dedicated shortcut. :slight_smile:

Part of my preference comes from a background in writing using “pure” outliner software—where there is no such thing as “folder”, or “file”. The whole thing is just headlines and text, nested into a tree (and so even a “file group” concept isn’t really something worth dwelling on as meaningful).

I’ve never really understood why anyone would want to have a “group” concept that is somehow special in an outline. All nesting means is that this area of the text document has more structural detail than others. It is no different than a classic pen and paper outline, where you only add sub-items if it is necessary to elaborate on the point you are making, in greater detail. That the point needs more elaboration in (a) (b) (c) format beneath it does not make it somehow a special different thing from the 1. 2. 3. items around it, right? To me that just seems a more elegant and simple way of achieving the same result that thinking in “icon types” does, but without all of the extra words and concepts to understand. I don’t lose anything by eschewing folders.

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