Working with a large number of image files in Scrivener

Hello all,

I have been using Scrivener for about a year now, primarily to help me organize and write my honors history thesis. My primary reason for using Scrivener to write my thesis is to keep my sources together with my writing, making it easy to extract quotes and easily cite; however, I have run into some problems. All of my primary sources are from archives and were captured via my iPhone camera and later imported into Scrivener as JPEG files. I currently have over 1000 images in my Scrivener project and it now takes a very long time to open and close the file. Upon further investigation, I realized that this slow process was being caused by the automatic backups on opening and closing, which I later turned off.

I don’t feel that turning off backups is the best fix for this fundamental problem of Scrivener having a hard time handle large numbers of imported images. I was wondering if there is any other way to handle this problem, perhaps some way to just point Scrivener to an alias rather than copying the images directly into the project.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Even if no fix exists, I will continue to use Scrivener for the writing target feature and overall ability to write in small chunks.

Thank you in advance for any advice!


P.S. I am running OS X El Capitan.

There are a couple of ways around this, depending on whether you just need the images for references or will ultimately want to include them in the thesis. See Section 15.5 of the Scrivener manual for more information.

No, turning off backups is probably not a great idea! If you resolve the problem by moving the images out of the project, be sure that you have a backup solution in place for that location as well.


I faced exactly the same problem.

I have four large Scriv files (from 1.7 to 3.8 GB each) of a combination of jpg and pdf copies of historical documents, either jpegs taken with a digital camera or PDFs produced by a microfilm scanner.

Originally I had my manuscript and my reference materials all in the same file but, like you, began to finding it very unwieldy and it made the automatic backup system impossible.

I moved my manuscript to a separate Scriv file (now about 30 MB), which is backed up automatically on close. The reference files are not backed up automatically, but they don’t change as often, and in any case are backed up with the rest of my drive by Mac Time Machine and once a week using SuperDuper.

I considered importing research docs into Scriv using aliases (which you can do using File/Import/Import Research Files as Aliases…), but I didn’t figure that out until I was committed to my previous method. Also, as far as I can see, you can only import selected files by alias, I can’t find a way to import a whole folder (which you can do when importing the actual files by dragging into the binder).

There are also people who recommend using a totally different program for reference files (e.g, DevonThink). I might consider that for a new project but for this one I find working with multiple Scriv files open quite functional.


Thank you! I don’t think I was all that clear in my post, but I am using the images a research files. I explored the manual as you suggested and found a fix in 11.1.3, which is to import the JPEG’s using the “Import Research Files as Aliases” function. I can now use Scrivener perfectly for my research. :smiley:


When using multiple projects in this fashion, another section of the manual to take a look at is §9.5.6, External Links. This capability makes it possible to share References between projects. The idea is that each document in your WIP can have a list of resources that would be useful to keep handy while working in the document—like regular References work, only in this case they go back to the original project window they come from. So naturally it won’t get rid of the two project window limitation of working this way, but it can make the two windows work more closely together.

OS X 10.11’s new Split View feature might be interesting here. Consider your WIP project on one half of the screen and the research project on the other, with References making it possible to control one split from the other—much like how using one single project with a vertical split would be.

The menu command is just a convenience for basic usage. It automates the process of manually creating an alias pointing to a file and then importing that alias object and discarding the temporary. That manual process is identical in end effect to using the menu command.

So, with that established, any way of making aliases and then importing them will suffice. Even just good old Finder can help with this, but there are power tools that do even better. For instance with LaunchBar I can navigate to a folder of JPEG files (or even view all of the JPEG files on my computer), select them all and fire off a command that aliases each file to a target folder. Then it is a simple matter of dropping all of those into Scrivener and trashing the aliases (we don’t need the originals as Scrivener creates new ones for import, just like regular files).

I have just tried using the Finder command to make an alias of the entire folder and then import that alias folder into Scrivener and it works beautifully. Now I genuinely have no issue using Scrivener to work with the large amount of sources for my thesis.

Thank you all so much and I hope that this information will help future historians manage their primary sources in Scrivener.

All best,

To make sure of one thing, you say you aliased the folder and imported that, but if you do this you’ll be fully importing the contents of the folder (an alias to a folder just tells the system to track down the original folder and import its contents normally). It is the contents of the folder itself that needs to have aliases, one for each file. You can select multiple files and make many aliases at once, with a result that has all of the new aliases selected, making it easy to drag them elsewhere, leaving the original files untouched.

But that aside, you can tell whether or not it worked correctly from the result. In the Binder, the imported file icons should have a little “alias” arrow in the lower right corner. If you don’t see that badge, the file is fully embedded in the project.

Thanks for catching that! I think I have gotten the hang of it now. Many thanks!