Within document navigation - SublimeText style

First: Scrivener is great, I´ve tried so many text wrangling systems and this one comes closer to fulfilling my needs than any other.
However, navigation can always be improved, especially in the maintaining overview and providing detail at the same time.

My wish is therefore that Scrivener would gain the little overview window in a similar style to SublimeText, image attached with some markings.
The point is mainly to ease navigation within documents, specifically by making it easier to get a “feel” for where you are in an intuitive manner. I also find that seeing “the shape” of the text makes it easier to understand my document.
The document is shown in a condensed form, a preview of sorts, with a small square showing which area is currently on-screen. At a UX level this can be solved in a few ways, such as reducing contrast of parts of the preview that are not on-screen, but that has to be done with care, as the point of the whole thing is to easily see where other bits of text are.
In long documents it becomes impossible to preview everything, but just being able to see the next 10 pages or so (or the previous 5 and the next 5) and interact with them directly is of a great value while working.

Interaction: it would be preferable to be able to interact directly with the preview to move around.

I would argue that Scrivener is already one of the best at supporting the overview/detail problem, but it doesn’t mean that all problems are solved :slight_smile:

[attachment=0]Screenshot 2021-01-22 at 14.49.13.png[/attachment]

Have you tried using the Scrivenings mode navigation button, yet? It’s located up in the upper right corner of the editor, by the split view buttons. You’ll find an illustration in fig. 8.1, pg. 143 of the user manual, marked (c). That provides a quick “table of contents” for jumping around in larger sections of the text.

It’s not visual, but I do wonder if a visual approach is best for an editor that is typically used for editing block prose. As you say, the “mini-map” approach is very good for texts that have a recognisable shape about them—source code for example, can have areas with in it that are readily identifiable from a bird’s eye view, and lacking better structural navigation tools, one can understand their text via a visual map—go here to this mountain, then turn left and scroll for 2km. In Scrivener though, I bet the average Scrivenings session looks like a wall of undifferentiated block text!

Topical breaks in the text however, the ones you’ve designed into the outline itself, are just as informative as you need them to be—and if they aren’t informative enough, it’s easy to break your text up further into a more detailed outline—perhaps even one that doesn’t correlate entirely with the output, and is more about what you need than the reader.

I totally get where you are coming from—I use LaTeX and Sublime Text as well, and in a 15k line .tex file it can be very handy to jump around visually—but that’s in large part because syntax highlighting on LaTeX can create a very visual document. The stuff that is in Scrivener originally wouldn’t be so much, but in Scrivener I have an extremely detailed outline to use. I don’t have to scroll around, like I do in Sublime.

Oh, one last thing, Scrivener does have something very similar to Sublime’s other mode of rapid navigation, the ⌘R approach. Use the ⌃⌥G shortcut, and if the thing you name is in the Scrivenings session, it will scroll to it rather than loading it individually.

I think it could work well when you add visual markers like label colours and chapter names. I already use the label colouring for all my chapters in the binder to highlight changes in character perspective or sometimes to show me if something is done or unfinished. Combine that with low contrast text but high contrast chapter names and certain text sections should be distinguishable from each other.
Admittedly, I would use it less for navigation but more to get a feel for the flow of a text or the size of chapters. I already sometimes do that by changing the text scale to 10% (depending on the resolution of the monitor). It is generally hard (for me at least) to visualize a certain amount of words into pages, which is why I use Page View. Combine that with a zoomed out view and I get rough idea how large my project has become and how certain parts compare to each other in size, structure and progress. A practical example would be Page Thumbnails in Pages for MacOS.

Maybe a function like this would be most beneficial in composition mode where you get really deep into the text but sometimes need just a quick glance at the project as a whole. It fits the slogan “See the forest and the trees” but at the same time.

It`s not a must-have feature but I certainly see a use for it. I have used this feature before in software like Word, before I discovered Scrivener. My texts looked like a block of text, yes, but with all my markers, chapter names, formats, etc, I could distinguish what was relevant to me.

You might find it helpful to turn on View → Text Editing → Show Titles in Scrivenings, which does what it says. That might help break up the Great Wall of Text that a long Scrivenings session can be.


I meant to add, and forgot to, that while the Scrivenings navigation button is convenient, it is (like navigator panels in word processors) really more for mouse users than anything. Scrivener has for a very long time had an integrated navigation approach owing to how its group view modes work together. In Scrivenings, you simply hit ⌘3 to open up the outliner, and that shows you basically what you get with the navigation button. As with Mac list views, you can type in the first few letters of where you want to go, and once the selection bar is there, press ⌘1 to get back to writing.

That’s definitely a good point, with the Scrivenings title option enabled and label tinting applied to titles, that can indeed provide a good amount of “topology” to a mini-map of your text, and there are other things as well that will do so, such as images, tables and so forth. I guess what I was getting at is that it is of course possible to conceive of Scrivener settings and author content that would benefit from this, but that for most setups, this approach wouldn’t be terribly useful—just like having 400 page thumbnails in Pages of pretty much exactly the same greek text would be mostly useless.

I can empathise with the desire for visualising the large scale like that. Scrivener’s current window into that information is much more friendly to those that can easily visualise off of numerical readings, via the Total Words column in the outliner. Some of the progress bars you can add to the Outliner can help, but those depend upon setting goals, and thus it’s a bit of a kludge to use that tool for simple judging by eyeball the relative scaling of large sections of the draft.

I’m not sure what the right answer for Scrivener is, though. In a word processor or desktop publishing program, there is perhaps a more natural movement toward surveying constructs such as sheets of paper. True, we have a “Page View”, and maybe such an idea really only makes sense in that context, some kind of hyper zoom-out like Scapple has, where one can briefly see the bulk of their words and maybe point to navigate somewhere within it, like Exposé for text (or whatever Apple calls it these days).

To me that makes a bit more sense than the mega-strip scrollbar idea—mainly because such a thing makes more sense in Scrivenings, since Scrivener isn’t at all about hosting mammoth chunks of text in individual “files”, and in Scrivenings there are already a bounty of good navigation tools.