Why no edit-time auto numbering support?

I’m using Scrivener for my 200-page thesis. I’ve created 50 sections. As there is no auto numbering feature, it’s not easy to locate a given section. Reading numbers is far more easier than reading titles in text. Hope development team could think about it. Thanks!

Auto-numbering of bindery item (folders, documents) names? I don’t believe that exists. There is some support for autonumbering lists within text.

I’m guessing they have thought about it and opted to not support it, at least that literally, due to the likelihood of items routinely getting moved around in the binder sequence and hierarchy and due to focusing on supporting such more at compile time rather than during editing.

Do a search of the forums for “numbering” to see some discussions of such.

There are various workarounds that take advantage of standard word processor tricks and Scrivener’s split capabilities…

  • Add a new item in the binder, naming it whatever you want the first item to be. Then, with that item still selected in the binder, hit Enter to initiate creation of another item, type in desired name, hit Enter to finalize that name, repeat.

  • Create ten items in the binder, named 0 to 9. Select them and do a right click Duplicate, as many times as needed to generate the number of items needed. Then go through and edit the names, adding leading tens digits.

  • Use a text editor or word processor to create a file containing desired numbering separated by split character such as #.
    3# etc
    Then in Scrivener, do File > Import > Import and Split to import and split that into bindery items. The items will be documents. If they need to be folders, select them and do a right click Convert to Folder.

  • Or create a document in Scrivener containing desired list of numbers/titles
    01 Xxxxxxx
    02 Yyyyyyy
    03 Zzzzzzz
    Then, to break them apart, one at a time, select what will be one item’s number/text and do Document > Split > with Selection as Title.

And I’ve probably missed some other approaches.

Hope that is of some assistance. You might also post your suggestion in the Wishlist subforum.

That is true for the Windows version still, but we do have a simple feature on the Mac that may work for the OP. From the description of your Binder structure, it sounds like corkboard numbering might be good enough for what you are looking for. Try enabling that with View/Corkboard Options/Show Card Numbers. The secondary option there is useful if you break things down further into sections with multiple files in them. Then you can command click on a couple of “chapter” folders (or whatever) and the individual cards in the Corkboard Stack will be numbered relative to each section, or from top to bottom.

Thanks SpringfieldMH!

I tried the workaround, but it’s so annoying. As I mentioned, I have to manage over 50 sections. Because I’m writing a 200 pages thesis, I frequently reorganize sections. If there were only 10 sections, it’s ok I do manually numbering. But for 50 sections, one change means I have to manually renumbering all those affected. It’s really not interesting.

I don’t think it’s too difficult from technology point view. Will the technical team seriously think about this?

To be clear, I’m not with L&L, I’m not Scrivener staff. Just an enthused user. And an enthusiast, not an expert.

As far as L&L considering this, I would suggest posting it in the Wishlist sub forum. I’m sure they will consider it, if they haven’t already. But yes/no and timeframe and what form it would take if implemented is not a given. They are under pressure from a lot of folks for lots of different things and time and resources and what’s-right-for-Scrivener determines what does/does not get implemented and how and when. I doubt that this would be a trivial change.

Keep in mind that Scrivener can do auto-numbering as part of the compile (output) process. So, even though you wouldn’t see the numbering during editing, you and others reviewing the work could see them in hard copy and various electronic formats if you wish. Don’t know if that gets close enough or not.

There may be alternate approaches that don’t use/rely on auto-numbering. Hierarchical organization. …

There’s also the option of doing some/all the work in some other software that provides the auto numbering you are looking for.

I assume there’s probably a lot of discussion and advice out there regarding software for doing thesis. Which to use, strengths and weaknesses, how to accomplish things in particular apps. There are probably such out there regarding using Scrivener for that.

Scrivener, like most outlining/writing software, offers a free time limited evaluation (30 days, not necessarily consecutive), that enable one to try out before committing/purchasing.

You might search the forums on “thesis”, to see what discussion there has been… And perhaps folks you could compare notes with.

I’d advise a quick review, decide whether to continue with Scrivener, make a decision and get on with it.

And with that, I’ll shut up. All the best, whatever you decide.

So, just to be clear, enabling index card numbering was not what you were looking for?

Actually no. Suppose this typical scenario: while I am editing my thesis, I realize that I have to move the current paragraph to Chapter 7. I hope I could just drag the current paragraph to Section 7.2 directly in the Binder, instead of switching to Corkboard and move it (and Corkboard won’t show sub-sections like 7.2) .

Maybe if you could explain how autonumbering helps where other identifying marks don’t, we could suggest some alternative method of… whatever it is you need the autonumbering for. Because I can’t see how constantly re-numbering documents helps you keep track of those documents; If document 39 is moved into section 7.2, should it then immediately become document 54 (having moved into the 54th place from the 39th place)? What purpose would that serve? How would those numbers help you?

Never having done any post-graduate writing, I can’t see the nuances of the writing and organizing process, so I’m sure I’m missing something vital to your process. If other academic types chime in, I’ll butt out and watch in befuddled wonder while I bang some rocks together. I might even learn a thing or two.

I use Scriv for academic writing. While I found Scriv too late to use for my PhD thesis, I would probably have used the same process for that as I do now.

I have divided my current book-length project into chapters (as you might expect :smiley: ), each of which will have subsections. My chapters are housed in folders, individual sections nesting within. So I will have a top level Folder called Chapter 2, with ‘child’ documents named 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, etc. This keeps the sections in their proper order within their chapters (I sometimes add text titles after the numbers.)

If I find a section needs to be moved to another chapter, say from Chapter 7 to Chapter 3, it’s a simple case of drag and drop, and then rename. I imagine that this approach is similar to just about any writing project done in Scriv and certainly seems to mirror the approach adopted by the OP as per last post. In that instance, I can’t see how numbering each individual section has any advantages.

One of Scriv’s great strength is that it allows you to insert paragraphs very easily. My (perhaps awkward) way of moving a small section to fit in the middle of a longer section is to take that longer section, split it where the new paragraph is due to go, and then drag the new paragraph to sit between the newly split sections. They can then be merged to form one contiguous section again, or left alone in case I change my mind and move things around again. You can always drop a smaller section of writing onto another document, thereby making it reside within a folder to make it more easily identifiable.

There’s no magic formula for academic writing in Scriv. At least none that I’ve found, but if anyone is in possession do share! These links might help:
academicpkm.org/2013/11/19/u … -projects/
isfpostgraduate.blogspot.com.au/ … kflow.html
macademise.wordpress.com/2012/11 … easurable/

OP, If you are still moving around many small sections of text, or multiple larger sections, then perhaps it might be a good idea to take a step back and have anther look at your chapter structure. It might need some changes on a macro level that, once identified, can very easily be accomplished in Scriv.

Apologies if I’m using some poor/incorrect terminology above. It’s all very simplistic advice! My main advice to the OP is to think less about the software and just write away. Good luck.

Thanks for asking!

Actually what I want is like what is offered by Word. The reason is

  1. With a section number, it’s easier to locate a specific section in the Binder. Searching by number is much easier than search by reading titles specially when there are more than 50 sections.
  2. The numbering gives you an idea where the section you’re working on is located in the whole structure. Currently, all sections looks similar in the editing area. Sometimes, especially, before a stable structure has formed, you have to use the “Reveal in Binder” function to see where you are. It’s not efficient as least to me.

I’m still not getting it. Maybe a specific (and silly) example can tease out the benefits/disadvantages of a given approach.

Thesis: The moon is made of cheese

Chapter 1: Properties that the moon and cheese share
Section 1.1: Relevant moon properties
Section 1.1.1: “Craters”/Holes
Section 1.1.2: Crumbly texture
Section 1.1.3: Mouldy-looking surface/rind
Section 1.2: Comparable Terrestrial Cheese Properties
Section 1.2.1: Cheeses with Holes/“Craters”
Section 1.2.2: Crumbly textured cheeses
Section 1.2.3: Molds associated with cheese making

Now let’s say that you need to find the section about Crumbly cheeses; you know it comes after the section about the moon’s cheese-like properties Section 1.1, so you search for section 1.2, scan down, and find section 1.2.2. Fairly easy; you rely on your knowledge of the relative placement of the sections, find a number, then scan down for titles that fit. Takes some thinking, but presumably you know your subject well enough to search it out based on surrounding documents.

Conversely, let’s say you just know that you’re looking for section 1.1.2; you use the number to find it; easy-peasy.

But what happens to your mental map of your document if you decide to move “Chapter 5: Moon Landing Hoax” to the beginning, to establish why all that evidence can be discounted. Now suddenly section 1.1.2 is section 2.1.2, and so the original 1.1.2 number has no association with the moon’s “crumbly texture”. How is it helpful at this point to be able to find sections by number, since the numbers have no intrinsic meaning? Wouldn’t it be infinitely more valuable to find sections containing the word “crumbly” under a section with “moon” in the title?

Maybe my brain is so vastly different from yours (and people who rely on numbers of chapters in general) that I can’t even fathom the helpfulness of those numbers in a constantly changing outline. I’ve seen this with people wanting numbers in the binder for novels too, but “Chapter 17” means nothing to me, whereas “1st Big Meteors Fall” tells me all I need to know to recall what happens in that chapter and it’s place in the rest of the story.

Ex-academic type here: I’m of the same mind Robert. I’ve written two factually dense history of science books with Scrivener and I can’t see how auto-numbering of sections (many more than 50) would have worked for me. Nor did I have any difficulty in identifying sections by sub-headings (not sub-numbers), and there was certainly a great deal of reorganisation of some paragraphs going on in the later stages.

Still, if someone has a need, they have a need …

I hope I’m not coming off as “your request is silly and pointless” to anyone; I’m just not able to comprehend how autonumbering helps a person identify points in an outline that is in flux. I absolutely understand how discussions about a section can be facilitated, even in early drafts (so long as everyone has the same draft); “let’s look at section 3.15.2” is easier for everyone involved than “let’s look at the ‘7-layer cheese dip moon theory’ section.” By probing for what the unstable numbering scheme actually does for the OP, I hope to either learn something about organizing ideas, or to provide a viable alternative to numbers that the OP will find useful.

If that didn’t come across before, I hope my failure in tone is mitigated by my explanation. :blush:

Certainly not as I saw it - so I hope I’m not either …

Well I think it is fair to say that Scrivener is designed for writers that don’t care much about section numbering while they are writing. As some have pointed out, this doesn’t appear to be any sort of demands made by the material, but rather just one’s own personal preference. There are screenwriters, novelists, general non-fiction, academics—all who have in the past asked for numbers, and another group who has no need of numbers, and is continually dismayed by requests for them, from all branches of writing as well. So it’s not just something academic authors need, there are many who do not.

I must admit to being in that same boat as those who don’t get it. :slight_smile: I don’t see how an unstable linear counting mechanism could be of any use in navigating ones own work, over a stable and contextually informative naming system that actually refers to the content of that section, as opposed to its transient sequential location in a master list of other items. That is, in my opinion, one of Scrivener’s main advantages: the outline can be entirely authorial and have nothing to do with what the reader needs to know (or not know, yet), or what the structure of the final document demands in terms of heading breaks and so on.

We might have better support for this concept in the future, but it is important to understand that the problem is way more complicated than anything Word or similar has to contend with. Numbering can come from a variety of places, including the text of the document itself, meta-data fields can be included via placeholder tags which in turn can contain numbering information, compile settings which introduce procedural application of placeholder tags, Replacements which can be used to generate numbering tags from text that otherwise doesn’t resemble one, and so on. For a good chunk of these, there is no way to even know where all of the numbering tags exist until you compile, and thus the only way to have an accurate numbering system that isn’t just a rote counting of objects in a container (cards in a corkboard) would require compiling every time you did anything. Thus, it is no good solution.

And that’s just the numbering tokens themselves, you also have the plethora of ways in which the compiler can filter out parts of your manuscript. The way you are talking, it sounds like everything in the Draft is a part of the output. That’s not always the case however! Some Drafts are peppered with note files that are deliberately removed from the compile output, via their “Include in Compile” checkbox. There might be old drafts, branches of text that are experimental, one might even have multiple editions of a book interwoven into a single Draft folder, teased apart with the compiler’s filtering mechanisms—and that’s not even getting into the more common cases where one sets their compile group to follow their Binder selection, or the other methods one can use to selectively export only a small portion of the larger work.

In short, it’s like I said at the top, the problem isn’t that numbering is something we hate, and so it isn’t in the software, it’s that the software was designed from a completely different approach to writing, and the very core concepts of the software itself are at odds with the concept of dynamically displayed numbering—not deliberately, of course, but as a side-effect of its fluid and author-centric design as opposed to a more word processor document-centric design. I’m not saying it is impossible, but providing accurate numbering over the broad spectrum of what Scrivener is capable of is a pretty complicated nut to crack. It is likely that any form of numbering introduced in the future, should we go beyond what is currently provided, will have very little to do with what is compiled—and that kind of defeats the purpose for most people.

Search? Keywords? Splitting the window and keeping the outline open in half of it? Using the disclosure triangles in the Binder to show more or less of the overall structure as needed?

I’m afraid I share the general bafflement. “Section 7.2” is completely meaningless to me, and nothing I would ever use to find my place in a manuscript.

On rare occasions, I’ve been writing within an outline supplied by a client that includes section numbers. But in those cases there’s no need for autonumbering because the outline is defined in advance and isn’t going to change.

Those cases might suggest an alternative, though. Create folders for whatever pre-defined structure you have, and give them names that include the appropriate number. Then do the actual writing in files at an outline level below the folders. So if a text section moves you can drag and drop as needed without disrupting the numbering scheme.


I write novels. I use chapters. I need chapter numbers in the editing view. I have an editor who says things like: “Move chapter 27 before chapter 18” or “Chapters 4, 11, & 31 need to reflect the changes made in chapter 3” or “Chapter 13 through chapter 27 are great.” I have an artist who numbers the chapter art by chapter number (and it would be totally silly to expect him to use anything else.) I do not want to add chapter numbers myself. I want the software to generate chapter numbers and TELL ME what they are. I would be happy to tell the software what I consider a chapter to be (just like I do in the compile.) This is not rocket science or something REALLY OBSCURE and REALLY DIFFICULT. Having the chapters and sections re-number automatically IS WHAT I WANT. Everyone I work with in the editing, reviewing, and publishing area (editors, proofreaders, chapter art designers, layout managers, etc.) ALL speak about CHAPTER NUMBERS.

I NEED some way to display chapter numbers in editing mode (and ideally in the binder, too) just like I do for the compiled output.

Just FYI: Those who say to use the card numbers: I have sub-folders (“Parts”) in my novel and chapters within the parts, so card numbers work great in the first Part ONLY (even though they are useless when I want to move paragraphs from one chapter number to another chapter number). They ARE completely useless in the later parts because the cards start re-numbering at 1, and my chapters do not.

This is a “show-stopper” for me. I really like Scrivener, but until this functionality is available, I will have to go back to MS Word to do my editing.

My head would twist around so fast with all those instructions, it would pop right off (and we’ve already filled our quota here for headless forum regulars). "Did I already move chapter 27 before 18 before reconciling the subplot in chapters 22 through 26 (which are now 23 through 27 (the new 27, not the one I moved before 18, which is now 19… or did I not move it already?)). Since my program renumbered the chapters when I rearranged them, I have to remember if the 27 my editor mentioned is the one that is currently in my manuscript as 27, or 17.

Maybe I should edit her document so that ‘22 through 26’ reads ‘23 through 27’.
(hours later)
Wait, that subplot doesn’t start until 23… why is she talking about 22 as if it’s in there?

editor calls, wants to discuss chapter 25… the old 25, which is now 26 in your working draft


For someone with your (and your editor’s needs), Scrivener is not going to be the best choice for the editing phase of your projects. Creating your first draft? Sure! But not major edits. You might work until the structure solidifies, and then re-import and split the newer version for less drastic edits if you are so inclined however; Splitting on lines that start with “CHAPTER” is pretty automatic if you choose the right options…

I agree with debo here. debo needs a word processing software. debo needs the WP software to have something like ‘fields’ that will automatically update such items as chapter number when debo rearranges the outline/MS.

Scrivener will not do this. Therefore Scrivener is not the software for debo.

The only way I can see Scrivener working for debo is more in the way Scrivener was originally designed: plan, research, and write the first draft in Scrivener, compile to MS Word or another word processor (one that has automatically updating chapter number fields), and deal with editors, publishers, and artists only after moving on to the rewriting and revising stages, using only MS Word or other word processor.

If debo’s novels involve a lot of planning and research and playing around in the writing stages that come before dealing with editors, publishers, and artists who cannot be trained to refer to chapters in terms of anything but their numbers, Scrivener might still be useful in these earliest stages. Also, if debo writes novels in series, it might be useful to import a finished MS back into Scrivener before working on the sequels in their early stages.

  • asotir

Alternatively, and this is what I do myself: I run into this a bit as well because our user manuals use technical numbering for the individual sections, and when I get typo or factual error reports from someone, it is more often than not specified by the section number. Big deal though, I just glance at the PDF ToC, note the name of the section corresponding to that number, and navigate to it in the Binder. With the PDF right in my split window, I can go through a bunch of number-referenced notes in no time—I’ve never even really thought twice about it to be perfectly honest—but hey, that’s just me. I have other peeves that other people probably don’t fathom. :slight_smile:

More importantly, to my mind, as Robert points out, a static reference—the copy your editor/artist/etc. is actually looking at—is going to be a vastly superior reference than a dynamic numbering token anyway, because once you start moving numbered components around, their notes cease to be accurate. A static PDF or imported .doc with baked in numbers doesn’t have that problem.

It sounds like you’re selecting each part one at a time. This feature is meant to be used differently, for when numbers must be used more referentially:

  1. Select all of your part folders (I just use View/Outline/Collapse All to Current Level and then shift click to select all folders in a range).
  2. And there you go—the corkboard now has all of the chapters displayed with sequential numbering, background colour-coded by part. Just make sure you have View/Corkboard Options/Number Per Sectiondisabled.
  3. My preference here would be to split the editor and lock the corkboard side so you can keep that setup while you work in the other split. You can even enable the auto-load feature in the locked corkboard split to display the selected chapter in the other split without any fuss.

But ultimately, be happy, not angry! You’ve reached a milestone. Many authors are going to close down their Scrivener project at some point and take the work into other tools more suited to the phase of the project they are in. That’s not a bad thing, that’s a good thing. If none of the above appeals to you, then it’s time to start using Word for your work. That doesn’t offend us. :slight_smile: Hopefully we’ll see you again once you’re ready to start with a new book from page zero.