The L&L Blog  /  Scrivener

Laying It All Out

How to change the default layout to suit your writing style.

Over the summer,  I showed my friend Joanna* how my Scrivener project looked, she sat down at my desk and stared at the screen. "My brain is about to explode," she said after a moment. 

"Pretty neat, right?"

"Um, I suppose," she hesitated, took a deep breath, and said, "It's just too damn busy. I like a clean space to write. You know how I keep my office. My desk isn't cluttered. If I need a book to refer to it's within reach to fetch and then put away. I want my desktop's workspace to be minimal. This is too cluttered for my taste."

"Well then, let me show you some tricks." I then proceeded to get her curiosity piqued about the myriad of layouts that are possible in Scrivener. 

Just like in Scrivener 2, Scrivener 3 allows users to customize how their writing environment appears. Personally, I have no problem with the open binder and inspector flanking the editor. But there are moments when I need to work with the outliner and the open inspector, or not have to share real estate with the binder and inspector when I want an expanded corkboard view. There are numerous layouts you can create on your own, but Scrivener 3 offers a number of built-in layouts that could easily suit your workflow. 

Below is a "tour" I showed Joanna. For a more detailed explanation, please refer to Section 12.3 Saved Layouts in the Scrivener Manual.

Built-In Layouts

There are two ways to access layouts: via the View button on the toolbar: 

Or simply go to Window->Layouts. 

To view your project for each layout simply click on the layout button and it will automatically change. Below are examples of how my project looks like in each one.

Default Layout: On the left, you see the binder and the story's structure. The center pane is the text of the work in process ( I have it in Scrivenings mode. To learn more about Scrivenings in Scrivener 3, please refer to section 4.2.4 Scrivenings in the User Manual). To the right of the editor is the inspector. What I'm able to see in this layout is the formatting toolbar, ruler, as well as the footers and headers for each split. 

Three Pane (Outline): When you select this layout, you'll get a dialogue box that alerts that groups will load in the left editor and other items will open to the right and how to clear it via Navigation->Clear All Navigation Options. 

This layout provides the binder, outline mode and the editor. It's ideal for writers who rely on viewing their outline while they write. Once again, the formatting toolbar, ruler, headers and footers are visible.

Three Pane (Corkboard): This is an ideal layout If you do much of your plotting using a corkboard and index cards. You have the capability to shuffle cards around while writing or editing your scene. But you also have the capability to change the type of corkboard that suits your style.

Editor Only: here's the perfect layout for minimalists like Joanna. It hides both the binder and the inspector. But what if you want to work on another document? To navigate to other documents, there are a a few options: 

1. Navigate->Reveal in Binder. Shortcut Option + Command + R (or you can also use Opt + Cmd + B which toggles the binder without  disturbing its previous arrangement). 

2. Use the arrows found on the right hand side of the window.

3. In the menu bar go to Navigate->Go To-> Previous or Next Document.

4. Use the short cuts: Option + Command + Up Arrow Key (for previous document). Option + Command + Down Arrow Key.

Corkboard Only:  This layout provides a minimal view that centers on structure rather than content. There's more room to move cards around. The same functions to resize cards, switch to freeform corkboard or use the new corkboard feature arrange by label are available in this layout. To access other containers go to Navigate->Reveal in Binder. Or a trick that can be used is Ctrl + Cmd + R, which is similar to reveal, only it does so in the main editor. In this example the "Sequence 1" folder here would end up being selected within the "Act 1" parent folder right in this corkboard. In the file menu go to Navigate->Go To->Enclosing Group..

Centered Outline: I'm a big fan of this new outline feature in Scrivener 3 (to learn more please go to What's New, section E.9 Enhanced Outlining in the Scrivener Manual). I can still select as many columns as I like, but I like how clean it looks. Here, I see the title (I also selected the synopsis) so I can get a general idea of the flow.

Dual Navigation: This layout is for the multitasker who jumps from browsing one section to editing another.  You'll have the binder and the left editor pane that are tied together—in my example below is my corkboard. On the right side, I have outline mode and below in the copy holder the selected scene from above. 

After I showed Joanna the layouts. She bit her bottom lip. With some hesitation she spoke, "I can see how these might be of value to many writers, but even the editor only option is too busy. I want to look at a white screen. No headers, footers, tool bars, rulers. Just white space. Can I do that?"

Well, now we're entering into a different function within the feature. 

Manage Layouts

For individuals like Joanna who simply don't like the distractions of docks, wallpaper, headers, footers, and the various toolbars and prefer to work in a sterile environment (sorry, Joanna). They can create their own layout to suit their specific needs. 

In Joanna's case, she's very specific. She wants to hide both the binder and the inspector, the toolbar, the ruler and the formatting toolbar as well as the header and the footer

1. To hide the toolbar go to View->Hide Toolbar. 

2. To hide the ruler and formatting toolbar go to View->Text Editing->Hide Ruler. Follow the same steps for formatting toolbar.

3. To hide the header go to View->Editor Layout->Hide Header View.

4. And finally to hide the footer go to View->Editor Layout->Hide Footer View.

One of the reasons Joanna wants this minimal look is because she often uses a corkboard for visual inspiration. With this layout she has more space and less distractions. Note that if you create this layout it only applies to the corkboard feature. 


To manage a layout go to Window->Layouts->Manage Layouts... A window will open. To save the newly created layout, simply click on the plus sign in the window's footer and type in new layout's name. In the next pane, you can see how the layout looks like.

To delete the layout click on the minus sign. To make changes in the layout click on the gear wheel, which will open a menu that provides with different options such as using the selected layout when entering full-screen, hide the built-in menus, import and export the selected layout. To use any of your custom layouts simply click on the Use button, or simply double-click on the icon, or just press Return.

Once Joanna got a handle on customizing her layouts, she had a revelation: hiding so many features forced her to search for tools, breaking her focus and momentum. 

One afternoon, we met for coffee and she told me that after fiddling around with more customized layouts she had a revelation. "You know after spending so much time to create the perfect workspace. It was there all along--the default view."

"But you said that made your brain explode."

She stirred her coffee and stared into the cup. "Well, I tend to get carried away when I try to improve things that don't need it. With the default view, it's all there within reach. I don't need to be searching around for anything."

"So in essence, it's the way you have your office laid out. Books, notepads, pens, pencils all within reach, right?" I asked.

"Um, yeah..." She glared. "Don't gloat. It's not an attractive quality."

"Who's gloating? You played around with the feature and realized that it was all right there and more. That's all."

We left at it that. Now Joanna is in the throes of preparing for next month's NANOWRIMO. She has created a project that specifically suits her needs. A few days ago she called excited to start her new book. "Hey, I have this new book project looking exactly the way I want it and I'm thinking to make all my projects look this way. Is there a way to turn it into a template?"

Funny, she should ask...

~To Be Continued~


*Name changed to protect the innocent.



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