WishList for Scrivener


I am an academical writer on Social and Educational Sciences. I love Scrivener to help me with my research papers and reports. As most of my work is qualitative research Scrivener is a very helpful tool that allows me to do content analysis, text categorisation and so on. Within one app I can store my data, write the notes of data analysis, go deep into the data, and write my paper/report draft. It is all great. I like so much Scrivener that I became very sad when I have to leave it and go to Mellel or Pages to format my text in order to submit it to a journal or export it to a PDF file that will be sent to my colleagues and/or financial decision makers.

I leave here a wish list that would allow an academical writer to produce a paper/report/thesis directly from Scrivener (order is from most important to less important):

1 - Bibliography manager (I use SENTE): It is crazy to put all references within text and not be able to scan the document within Scrivener. If I use Pages I only have one file for all the document, when I scan keep with one file. One of the reasons I use Scrivener is because I can cut the tex in small portions and rearrange it as is my will. If I have to compile a draft to scan it I loose all this freedom. Better integration with SENTE - and eventually other reference mangers apps.

2 - Tables: If you want to make a table with Scrivener you are sure that it will look awful. So better table managements and look is a must if you want to do 100% of your work with Scrivener.

3 - Cross-references: although the Placeholders Tags are a potent way of doing Cross-references a more intuitive way would be of great value for the ones that are not computer geeks and have to cross-reference Figures, Tables and Equations within a (sometimes very long) document.

4 - Interactive Table of Contents: The way it is no possible to make a table of contents in Scrivener is good, but imagine that you put an option in the compile section to insert a table of contents letting the user decide how many levels it should have and the text formatting. And if besides that the user could have a dynamic table of contents in one section of the manuscript? Wouldn’t that be awesome?

5 - The possibility that, by choosing a certain compile format, you could have a What you see is what you get when the user toggles the Page Layout Mode.

This are my suggestions to Scrivener become the only program that I will need to make good scientific writing.

Best regards and thanks for your work.

Orlando Figueiredo

Hi Orlando,

Thanks for your thoughtful post and requests. Answers inline below.

I’m afraid that anything else is out of scope, though - I’m not trying to build an entire word processor on top of Scrivener, and wouldn’t want to. Good, deep word processors are massive coding undertakings on their own, especially if they are to deal with all of the different types of documents that any user may wish to reproduce. Trying to build this functionality on top of Scrivener would turn Scrivener into a two-programs-in-one behemoth.

Scrivener is for first drafts, and as a lone programmer it would be a bad use of my time spending a year or two building a full word processor into it, when there are already great word processors out that that Scrivener can export to, and which will always be more fully-featured as word processors than Scrivener could hope to be, given Scrivener’s other features.

Now you’re asking for three programs in one - Scrivener, a fully-featured word processor, and a bibliography manager. :slight_smile: I’m not bibliography manager expert, and as there are already great tools out there that can handle this, it would be silly for me to try to reinvent the wheel in Scrivener, only to end up, in all likelihood, with something inferior. I’m not sure why anyone would want to scan the references within Scrivener, seeing as you can already export to RTF and scan them like that, and you wouldn’t want to scan them until the compile process anyway. The only reason I can think of that anyone would want that is to print or export to PDF directly from Scrivener with references scanned, which is I believe what you are after, but that would involve Scrivener then also having a full layout engine that handled true end-of-page footnotes and suchlike - which again is out-of-scope, as it would involve me spending months building tools that already exist in a wealth of good word processors, and trying to do so with Apple’s limited text engine.

As I say, it is not the intention that you should do 100% of your work with Scrivener. :slight_smile: However, I do agree that tables are wanting - this is because they currently use Apple’s code for the standard OS X text system. Better tables are on the long-list for the future, but this is not a trivial task and is unlikely to arrive before version 3.0.

There are currently no plans for this although I do not rule this out in the future if we are able to expand and take on more programmers, who knows.

This is better left to an external word processor.

This is not possible - there is no way in the text system to override fonts temporarily, it is a destructive process. It would also involve compiling the text and then trying to manage a back-and-forth between the compiled representation and the underlying texts.

I’m sorry most of this isn’t good news - better table support is definitely something I would like for the future, but I wouldn’t want to mislead anyone into thinking that my aim is ever for Scrivener to become a word processor that competes with Word, Nisus, Pages et al. I don’t believe it’s desirable to try to get every tool into one application. Scrivener is designed for focussing on the content, with the intention that you then take your work to a word processor, which is designed for focussing on layout and presentation, for the final draft.

Thanks again and all the best,

Thanks anyway. Scrivener stills a great help. I guess I will have to stick to Mellel which is also a great app.
Best regards.

Thanks again - and as I say, some of it is on the long-list, such as tables, and in the long run I would actually love compile to be able to format end-of-page footnotes - but I would need at least one more programmer to be able to achieve these things, and I can’t afford one at the moment. :slight_smile:

All the best,

I must be wrong, since I’m the only one using the method I’ll describe, instead of scanning for placeholders, but let’s see if there is something that might help you.

I work this way with BibDesk: when starting a new essay I also create a folder for that project in BibDesk. All references for it go to that folder. References are also automatically copied in the general catalogue.

When I must insert a bibliographic entry, I don’t insert a placeholder, but the final, formatted references (usually, in the form of “Eco, 1967”).

When I must insert the final bibliography, I select the content of the folder for that project in BiDesk, copy it using the appropriate format, and paste it at the end of the document - be it Scrivener or Nisus.

In my view, I’m removing one passage more (scanning), and I’ve not yet found a negative in this practice.


Let me bring a more modest proposal to the OP’s point 1 about bibliography. I agree and understand that full biblio scanning and formatting would be out of scope for Scrivener at least in the foreseeable future. But perhaps Scriv can facilitate partial, “proofread” scans that help clearing out ambiguous citations.

Speaking from my experience, “citing” is part of drafting. Say, I’m on a roll and I cite whoever, hmm, Paul Veyne. I don’t remember the exact title, so what I do is {Veyne}, maybe {Veyne, Histoire}. Bookends really needs the ID tag to really identify the citation, which would be something like {Veyne #12345}, but to get that I’d have to switch to Bookends, search, Command-Y, and hope that the cursor was right at the footnote, otherwise I have to cut/paste it into the footnote (typically involving removing once again the footnote, and redoing the footnote again with paste without format!). In a word: if I’m on a roll, I don’t want to search and cite from Bookends, I want to cite from memory using the curly brackets with whatever bit I remember of the title.

Now, the problem is that {Veyne} or {Veyne, Histoire} are unlikely to be good pointers to a single reference. Bookends will want to match it with a Unique ID. That’s when you use “Proofread scan”. I scan the document with the proofread option, Bookends (hopefully) gives me all Veyne’s options, but instead of formatting the biblio, Bookends just corrects the bibliographic reference to provide a unique identifier. In short, Bookends replaces my {Veyne} with {Veyne, Comment on écrit l’histoire #12345}.

In the current workflow one has to do a “manual” proofread of citations. Not a huge deal, but there are always quite a few that fail. I compile, get the rtf, scan and I get a few ambiguous citations. Then I have to track them back in Scrivener to sort them out (unless I’m totally out of need of Scrivener at this point, which is not usually the case).

In conclusion I propose that within Scrivener there’s an easy way to do “Proofread scans,” document by document. Not to do the formatting, but simply to sort out ambiguous citations while one works with Scrivener. I think Scrivener stores the documents in RTF, and Bookends supports RTF, so it’s primarily a way to safely have Bookends (or Sente?) do the scanning of a single RTF document and return it safely to Scrivener.

I hope this makes any sense at all!

(ps-- I’m glad to hear that, long-run, we can expect improvements in tables.)

I wonder if Bookends might have some Mac OS Service Menu items that could usefully fill in here – though, admittedly, not in the pan-documental way the OP was looking for. (I note that Endnote and BibDesk seem to have several Service items toward this end, e.g., ‘Complete Citation’.)

For what it is worth, I recognise chantun’s scenario as part of my typical drafting process (I’m an academic too). It would be great to be able to run proofreading scans in Scrivener with Bookends.

I’m even thinking, now that the possibility has been mentioned, about digging in the .scriv package and scanning rtf files there. The problem, for this workaround, and, I guess, for implementing scanning in Scrivener is that most of the time I’d want to do the proofreading scan on a Scrivenings session. It would be far too laborious to have to do it document by document because the typical paper or lecture I write in scrivener is assembled out of (checking my binder…) between about 10 and 100 pieces (and usually towards the top end of that scale).

Re Chantun’s comment about using Bookends and not necessarily knowing all the details of the citation (title, etc). I use the “copy hypertext link” in Bookends, when I put in a citation (often as an inline note or whatever), and when I click on that, the link shows up and I can read the citation details in a separate screen. It is quite helpful. You can also link the pdf so that it pops up and you can read the pdf article in a separate screen if you want to check on details. The citation link can also be in the document notes window. It is actually very helpful.

When compile time comes, you may have to do a bit of editing, but that is not a big problem, generally.


Is the Bibdesk service and autocompletion still working? Are you using them? I used it a long time ago and the autocompletion feature was terrific. Now I can’t get it to work; not even the services. If you have any suggestion it’d be greatly appreciated! If this can work, I can import my bookends database into bibdesk and use these citation tools.

I can neither confirm nor deny whether the BibDesk service is still functional. Though I have BibDesk on my computer, I do not use it at all. I just noticed that it had a relevant service as well as does Endnote. I have been an Endnote user from version 1.*

Maybe a BibDesk user will come by and enlighten us both.


*The pertinent service of Endnote does not work for me right now, but I assume that is because I am hanging in with a pre-Leopard version of that software.


I use BibDesk, but I don’t use autocompletion. The services are there, but they don’t seem to actually work. Maybe I’m doing something wrong. The documentation speaks about pressing F5, but this recalls a system-wide autompletion, and not the same function of BibDesk. At the same time, invoking the services with direct selection or their shown shortcuts result in no effect.

I use a different approach with BibDesk: I copy the needed citation with the Copy as > Template function, and paste the formatted citation in my text. It seems quick and easy. But I have not actually tried the other ways of working with it.


Thanks for the replies.

After some fiddling with Bibdesk I found that Services do work. The only one needed to generate temporary citations is Complete Citation (command-sh-J). I now have the workflow straightened out but I’m checking if it’s working flawlessly. It works in this way:
1- type either a character sequence from the title or type a search in the structured format (e.g. “author=x & title=y”)
2- highlight the search string and press command-shift-j or choose Services/Complete citation.
3- you either get all the references that match the criteria in the temporary citation format: {Author, The title #12345}

I still think that doing proofreading scans within Scrivener would be ideal because it makes sense to fine tune references after writing but before finalizing the draft outside Scrivener. But an optimized service to insert citations without leaving Scrivener would also be helpful. I hope a future version of Bookends will incorporate a Service like this.

Yet, I think that BibDesk could be used in a more straightforward way, than relying on temporary citations and services. What about just keeping Scrivener and BibDesk open one next to the other, and dragging (for the inline citation) or Opt-dragging (for full citation) the bibliography entry from BibDesk to Scrivener? There would be no intermediate steps, and everything would be as easy as it should be.