Here, There and Everywhere

Note: This blog post pertains to upcoming features in Scrivener 3, which will be released on macOS later this year and will follow on Windows some time in 2018.

With the rise in popularity of web searching, and similar tools like Spotlight on iOS and macOS, we’ve grown accustomed to the concept of not only finding things by searching, but interestingly so, using that mechanism as a principal means for navigating to things we already know about. You may have seen an article or two demonstrating how Google has for many become a shortcut in getting to other websites without having to key in a URL or find a bookmark for it. And on an iPhone or Mac, how often have you used Spotlight to load an app or document, rather than hunt down its icon so you can double-click or tap on it?

Wherever we find a sea of things flooding the ordinary routes in navigation there seems a clear tendency toward searching as a means of cutting through the data, straight to what we were looking for. Over the years my own use of Scrivener has been shaped by this tendency, even though there was never a dedicated way of doing so. Project search worked, but could be disruptive if the sidebar was already in use for another purpose.

Scrivener 3.0 takes the concept of searching as a form of motion, and puts it at the very top of the application, literally in fact.

Quick Search shows you where you are, and gives you a way of getting to where you will go next.
Quick Search shows you where you are, and gives you a way of getting to where you will go next.

If it looks a little bit like a URL bar in a browser, you wouldn’t be far off in that assumption. When not in use, it merely displays where you are, but when you click into it (or use the keyboard shortcut, Ctrl-Opt-G on the Mac and Ctrl-Shift-G on PC), you can type in a bit of the name of the thing you’re looking for and get a list of search results, narrowed down as you type, from anywhere in the project. Arrow down to the precise thing you’re looking for (or if it happens to be the first result you don’t even need to do that), punch the Return key and it will load into the active editor. You can also click straight on the result you want to load.

That right there will be enough for most things you’d need such a feature for, but true to form, we’ve packed a lot of extra capabilities into it. Let’s start with a few simple additions to the Return key or clicking with the mouse:

  • With the Shift key the search result loads as a Quick Reference panel. This is the least disruptive way to reference a document, as not a single thing changes in your project window using this route.
  • With the Opt/Alt key the result loads in the other editor split, creating one if necessary. That means you can look up reference material while in the middle of typing a word, and once you’ve loaded it in the other split you’ll be able to finish typing that word without missing a beat.

Not a fan of toolbars? We’ve got you covered. When the Quick Search tool isn’t available the keyboard shortcut will bring up a floating search tool that provides all of the above and dismisses itself cleanly when you hit Return, Esc or click on a result. Just like Spotlight.

Bring Out the Mouse

Searching isn’t solely about reading or editing things. Often we search with the intention of doing something with the things we find. To that end, every entry in the search result list can be dragged and dropped—and doing so will be just like dragging and dropping that item from the binder. Turns out you can do an awful lot with a mere search result!

Drag any search result in the list into the project window to do a variety of things with it.
Drag any search result in the list into the project window to do a variety of things with it.

Working counter-clockwise through the thicket of arrows above:

  1. Assign the selected document to a collection by dragging it onto a tab in the collection tab list, or right to the correct spot if the collection is open in the sidebar, corkboard or outliner.
  2. Drop into the binder, corkboard or outliner to move the document to the dragged location. This even works with the new label view, discussed by Jennifer in an earlier post. Yes, you can move a search result and label it in one move.
  3. Or with the Alt/Opt key held down: copy it somewhere else (an optional capability).
  4. Drag into the text editor to create a link to it. (Or if it is an image, to place the image, which I just did a few seconds ago, above.)
  5. Or with the Alt/Opt key, paste the contents of it into the editor. (Great for making little starter chunks of text, like tables you’ve already formatted. Rather than making one from scratch, look up your boilerplate and drop it in.)
  6. Bookmark it, either as a project bookmark or to the document you are editing. You can even drag it to the Bookmark toolbar icon to make it a project bookmark without any further ado.
  7. Drop onto any header bar to load it there. We’ll be talking about another thing you can do when dropping items on header bars with the Opt/Alt key later on. I’d mention it now, but no spoilers!
  8. Drop on the Quick Ref icon in the toolbar to load it as Quick Reference window. (This one doesn’t have an arrow.)

You may also note, if you squint at screenshots like I do, that we don’t stop at titles. Nearly the entire project is scoured for the text you typed in, so if you don’t quite remember the name of a thing, you might still find it via a snippet of text, or a note you jotted down on an index card. If all else fails you can click the “Full Project Search” button at the bottom, and witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle… wait, that’s the wrong speech.

Keeping Tabs Without the Clutter

As we looked at other similar tools, like Safari’s URL bar, we noticed more was being done with them than purely giving you a place to type or reference which site you’re on:

We liked the way Safari drew progress bars enough to use the idea for showing your overall progress on the draft target, along with your daily session target. So not only does Quick Search, well, search, it also functions as an embedded and steady monitor of your writing progress (should you set goals). The design fulfils a longstanding request we’ve had to embed this information somewhere readily available in the main window. Now instead of having to leave that Project Targets panel open all day, you can keep an eye on how the word counts are coming along with a low-key progress bar, right above where you type.[1]

You can also mouse over the tool to get a numerical read-out of the draft and session word count, and leave the mouse there to keep that information up instead of the name of the thing you’re editing.

Keep track of how far youve come with a glance.
Keep track of how far you’ve come with a glance.

Don’t worry, if you’d rather be kept in the dark while you write, you can turn this display off in settings. And you can change the colours too. This is Scrivener after all.

All told Quick Search (and Writing Progress) is a simple tool, but with enough flexibility to it that it has rapidly became an indispensable ingredient in how I locate, organise, compose and assemble text on the fly. And it is just one of the many ways we’ve thought about navigation and workflow in Scrivener. We’ll have more to discuss along those lines in a future article.

  1. The floating window is still there if you want it, and remains what you’ll use to set targets and thus activate this part of the feature.  ↩

Project Notes are Dead, Long Live Project Notes!

When we first started putting together The Big List of what Scrivener 3.0 was going to be about, high upon it was the nebulous goal of making the overall experience more cohesive and streamlined. We may spend a little time going over some of the many finer points of that project in a future article, but for now I wish to focus on one aspect of that, something that some might consider to be a smaller adjustment, but one that has changed how I organise work inside of my projects—and reintroduced me to a feature that I had let languish in my own daily use of Scrivener.

Continue reading Project Notes are Dead, Long Live Project Notes!

Compiling the Draft in Scrivener for iOS

One of the principal concepts behind Scrivener is that you work with a long document by breaking it up into as many smaller chunks of text as you desire, rather than keeping it all in one long file that you have to scroll through. While the software makes it easy to work with your text in this fashion, you will still need a simple and effective method to create a single document out of all of those little pieces. In this way you can share some or all your work with others, save backup copies to text files, print out your work to paper or even quickly create a PDF for proofreading in your favourite viewer.

We call this process compiling, for it not only combines the many pieces of your project into one document, but can also be set to reformat the text in whole or in part, insert headings such as numbered chapter breaks, convert italics to underscores and quite a bit more. While the flexibility of the compiler can be more fully explored using its simple stylesheet system (which we call Scomp files), you will be pleased to hear that, with a number of provided built-in presets, exporting your work to a single file is only a few taps away.

Compile preview shows the total word & character count and makes it easy to export to other apps.
The Compile preview shows the total word & character count and makes it easy to export to other apps.
We support RTF and Word formats for working with a variety of word processors on or off iOS, as well as FDX (Final Draft) for scriptwriters, PDF for easily storing and sharing printed copy, and finally, plain old text for use in the many plain-text editors the iOS platform has available for it.

Keyboard Shortcuts in Scrivener for iOS

Something you might not expect to see from a debuting iOS app is extensive support for keyboard control, diminishing (and for certain routine tasks, eliminating) the need to reach for the screen in order to get things done. In fact, we have added so many shortcuts that we couldn’t even list them all here (but don’t worry, if you want lists, we’ve got lists).

Write and edit from the keyboard.
Write and edit from the keyboard.
Those who are accustomed to the shortcuts in the macOS version of Scrivener will find familiar controls at their fingertips, such as Shift-Cmd-H to highlight the currently selected text, Opt-Cmd-G to group selected items into a new folder, and Opt-Cmd-DownArrow to view the next document in the binder.

In addition to shortcuts, you will find many other small improvements to keyboard navigation throughout the interface, such as using the Tab key to jump from the title to the synopsis on an index card, or using the Left arrow key to go “back” in the binder and the Right arrow key to navigate into a folder within the sidebar.

Word & Character Counts in Scrivener for iOS

Sometimes we need a little reassurance to see how far we’ve come since the start of a long project; other times we need to revel in the despair of how far we have left to go. Whichever your poison, we’ve got you covered.

Count words (and optionally characters) as you type.
Count words (and optionally characters) as you type.
As you write, cut, edit, or paste text into the editor, the current count for the section you are editing will be updated in the header bar. When you’re not editing, on the iPad the count is always available in the footer. (On the iPhone, whenever you wish to see the count for the section of text you are reading, you need only touch the text to edit it and view the word or character count.)

That is all well and good for individual sections of your text, but what if you wish to view the total count, across all documents set to be a part of your final text? Tap on the stats in the header bar to view the target wheel:

Track draft as well as session goals in one pie chart.
Track draft as well as session goals in one pie chart.
Even if you do not intend to work toward a particular target (words or characters), you can use the basic readout at the top of this panel to get a good estimate of the total count as it stands. Beyond keeping track of the work as a whole you can also set a session goal that will keep a running count of the net word or character count until you start a new session.

Scrivener 1.7 for Windows Now Available

Hello Scrivener Users,

Nine months ago we decided to lay the groundwork for the biggest free feature update for the Windows version of Scrivener to date. We had an ambitious goal to bring as many of the features you’ve been asking for over the years as we could, all the while going through piles of existing code, refining and optimising along the way. It has been a long haul, but we are finally ready to make this available to all current Scrivener users on Windows. We hope you find the new version to be as much of an improvement to your writing projects as we have.

Special thanks go out to all of those beta testers that helped make this release as solid as it could be. We really appreciate the help!

Here are just a few of the things you can expect to see after you update:

Formatting Presets
If your writing calls for a lot of formatting, then you know that in the past it has been difficult to keep a consistent look without using a lot of settings. You can now save formatting into presets, making it easy to apply that same format over and over to different parts of your text. Additionally, we’ve added a feature that will make it easier to compile special formatting while also taking advantage of the compiler’s unique and powerful features for cleaning up your draft. Check out Preserve Formatting and Formatting Presets.

Special note: if you’ve customised your Format Bar, you’ll need to add the new preset button yourself, using the Tools menu.

Custom Meta-Data
Have you ever found yourself wishing you could track even more details in your projects? We’ve got an answer for you. It is now possible to add as many meta-data fields to your project as you wish. These can be displayed as columns in the outliner, or easily accessed in the Inspector sidebar. Keep track of dates, characters, names of flowers, who dunnit in the drawing room with the candlestick, and other matters of dire importance.

Custom Icons
Spruce up your binder with a broad selection of useful icons (or add your own). Nothing says fix me now! like a big yellow caution icon on the chapter you’ve been putting off. Or give yourself a gold star when you finish a scene. Sometimes it’s the little things.

Document Templates
They are kind of like project templates, but for documents in your projects instead. Set up boilerplate texts or even whole folder and file structures for easy duplication. It’s like adding new types of items to your Add menus, such as character sheets, references, to-do lists, or whatever else you can imagine.

Binder Favourites
There are some things we just keep coming back to. Now you can add those things to all of the main navigation and selection menus (such as the Move, Scrivener Link and Go To menus), giving you top-shelf access to these, no matter how buried they may be in your outline.

Multiple Project Notes
Open your project notes in a separate window, and create new notepads as tabs in this window to better organise your thoughts. You’ll still have access to all of them in the Inspector sidebar as well. No more lumping everything in one place!

PDF Display
This one has been a long time coming. We’ve completely replaced the PDF engine in Scrivener with a much improved system for both reading and exporting PDFs. Copy selections of text, or even whole pages at once with a simple right-click. You can also quickly navigate within larger PDFs that have a built-in table of contents, or by clicking on internal links.

Better Web Import
By default, websites will now be converted to PDF using the new engine. The result will faithfully preserve most websites into a stable format that will stand the test of time. We’ve also introduced support for Microsoft’s MHT website archive format. Although Scrivener cannot view MHT files (yet, don’t worry, it’s coming), you can easily open them in compliant browsers with a click of a button. If all you want is a selected piece of a page, you’ll find that copy and paste now works even better with most modern browsers.

Compile Support for Scrivener Links
It might sound arcane, but the ability to link from one piece of your draft to another has important implications: It means you can now cross-reference in a format that will be more useful for your readers, and it also means you can create a table of contents directly in your RTF files. We’ve included a special tool for easily creating a ToC. If you have MS Office installed, links are also supported for the PDF, DOC and DOCX formats.

All Project Templates and Compile Presets Updated
We’ve gone through every project template and compile preset to update them with the new capabilities in this release. You’ll find many more options in the compiler’s Format As menu, and project templates will come outfitted with convenient document templates, among other improvements.

There’s a lot more! If you want to review the full list of changes, please review the official change log.

Special Update Notice

We have identified an issue with the automatic updater that may cause it to fail on some configurations. If this happens to you, don’t panic, all is well! Just head on over to our main website and download the regular installer.

Once that is downloaded, you can run it against your current installation to upgrade it seamlessly. It is safe to run this .exe file without uninstalling first. As with all software updates, your work will not be disturbed.

This update is recommended for all users. You may use the Help menu to check for updates, and let the automatic updater run. However if you are running behind a proxy, would like to set aside a copy of the installer for safekeeping or have problems using the updater, you can always download a copy of the full installer using the link above.

Best wishes,
Ioa Petra’ka
(Documentation; Support; Design)

NaNo Tips for Writing with Scrivener

The intention here is to share some tips that I have found useful when working with Scrivener during my excursions into the realm of National Novel Writing Month, or “NaNoWriMo” for short, or even shorter, just “NaNo”. If you have any ideas for this series, please feel free to drop me a line.

When writing your book this month, it is widely considered acceptable to write as much as you can, even if the quality of what you write may not be what you would consider “up to snuff” for the story you are writing. Since the daily word count is the main goal of the project for most people, this is okay. However, if you are also working toward the goal of producing something worthy of publishing—or at the very least, something you can be proud of—you might wish to somehow mark passages of text that you do not feel happy with, without completely deleting them or excluding them from the total counted work. There are a few ways of doing this in Scrivener.

Inline Annotations: The first and most direct method is through the use of inline annotations. Annotations can be used to mark blocks of text as a “comment”, and it works a bit like a toggle, much like a bold or italic range of text might—but this is merely the default way in which Scrivener treats them when you compile. In the “Footnotes/Comments” compile option pane, you can elect to leave annotations in the text, right where they are in your editor. You can even remove the enclosing brackets that Scrivener would normally insert around them, causing them to appear as normal text. For NaNo, all you need to do is submit raw words. You don’t need a formatted document, and so compiling as a .TXT file is perfect as it will strip out markings such as annotation colour. The advantage of this method is that it is as easy to “delete” a poorly phrased sentence as it is to italicise it, and it even looks a bit like you took a red pen to a printout, which is always satisfying.

A “Dust Bin” File: Another way of approaching this is to indeed fully remove the offending text from the section you are working on, but in such a way that it remains counted. An easy way of doing this is to select the text and then right-click on it, choosing to “Append Selection to Document”. What I like to do is create a single “Dust Bin” document at the bottom of my draft for the collection of all these bits of text. On the Mac, you can set that as a favourite document by right-clicking on the “Dust Bin” item in the Binder and selecting “Add to Favorites”. This will bump the item up to the top of the append sub-menu for easy access in the future. While this method takes a bit more work, the advantage is that it leaves inline annotations free to use for their intended purpose, as comments to yourself while writing, as well as keeping your text clean and easy to read. So long as the “Dust Bin” text item is located somewhere in the draft, they will be counted by the various statistics tools available to you, and included in the draft when you compile. Once November has expired, you can simply move this file elsewhere or delete it entirely.

Inspector Comments: Similar to the above, this technique moves the text to the Inspector sidebar instead of a secondary document. Inspector comments, like inline, can be included in the final output, with the advantage of being pinned to the precise location where they came from. That may come in handy if you change your mind later on. One downside to using these is that text moved to comments will not be counted in the program’s statistics while you work. (If you are a Windows user and cannot find this feature, try downloading the NaNoWriMo demo version. It has a sneak preview of the feature, which will be included in the next stable release.)

Overstrike: A natural way of marking text to be deleted is to draw a line through it. It’s easy to mark text with an overstrike in Scrivener, and on the Mac you can even set the compiler to automatically delete any text that has been overstruck. For NaNoWriMo, that won’t matter much, because as we’ve already noted, you want all of this to be in your word count anyway. For Windows users, while there isn’t a way to strip out overstruck text automatically, you can however search for overstruck text with the Edit/Find/Find by Formatting tool. An alternative to overstrike, if you find it causes too much visual clutter, are highlighters. A number of preset highlighter colours are available. Like overstrike they can be searched for with “Find by Formatting”, even by colour.

There are many other ways to sequester text to the loony bin without fully getting rid of it. Stashing them into the Document Notes sidebar is a good choice, as this pane is readily accessible even from Composition Mode (called Full Screen on Windows). You can turn on Notes export in the compile Formatting option pane to include them in the overall count (though do note that Scrivener’s internal statistics features will no longer pick up on them if you do this).

I have found the ability to set aside text I don’t much care for to be liberating in an endeavour like this. It is all too easy to just throw up your hands and tell yourself that quality shouldn’t matter. And to a degree, when you have 50,000 words to write in 30 days, that is not an unfair assessment. But being able to physically shove text aside that you know you’re not happy with, and forging on without it toward a better core of text that you are happy with can help keep your spirits up throughout the month.

As always, remember that we have a coupon available for 20% off to all participants of NaNoWriMo, and those that qualify as winners by November 30 will receive a 50% off coupon toward Scrivener on the platform of your choosing (Windows or Mac OS X). Good luck, and keep writing!