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Working Without Distractions in Scrivener

Full screen composition mode in Scrivener [1]

Need to keep your focus on your manuscript (and off your email, social media, and pop-up reminders to put on clothes)? Scrivener has a tool for that. It’s called Full Screen mode in Windows and Composition mode on the Mac.

I call it my Den of Zen, and it’s where I do most of my work. Nothing but my page of text and the background of my choice.

Entering Full Screen/Composition Mode

When you’re ready to block out everything and write, don a pair of noise-canceling headphones, hide your phone, and enter Full Screen/Composition mode (hereafter called FS/C for short).

Or, click the appropriate button on the toolbar.

By default, FS/C looks like this. Plain, but effective.

FS/C mode with black background [4]

Making Changes with the Control Strip

Text too small? Paper too wide? When you first enter FS/C, or any time you point your mouse to the bottom of the screen, the control strip pops up.

FSCControlStrip [5]

It contains options for changing the text zoom, paper position, paper width, and background fade. It also displays the word and character count for the document(s) being viewed.

NOTE: Changes made here only affect the current project.

Changing the Background Color or Image for All Projects

Project-specific settings can be changed from the control strip, but global settings are available in the Scrivener Preferences/ Options menu.

1. Mac users go to Scrivener—>Preferences. Windows users go to Tools—>Options.

2. Choose Compose (Mac) or Appearance (Windows).

3. Mac users go to Customizable Colors at the bottom, and select Background. Windows users go to the Colors section, click the triangle next to Full Screen, then select Background.

Preferences, Compose Mac [6]
Options, Appearance Windows [7]

4. To change the color, click the colored square and choose a new color.

Selecting a Background Image for a Single Project

Rather than color, I often opt to use a background image. Sometimes it’s just a picture that puts me in the mood to write, like a calming ocean scene, and sometimes it’s an image that keeps me in the setting of my story. For example, my book Blind Ambition was set largely on a fictional Caribbean island, so I used a photo from St. Lucia to keep me in a tropical frame of mind.

Background images are set at the project level, and will override the global color choice you made in the last section. Here’s how to add an image.

1. Make sure the image you want is accessible from a drive on your computer (e.g. hard drive, flash drive, Dropbox), or is imported into your current Scrivener project (i.e. in the Binder).

2. Go to View—>Composition Backdrop (Mac) or View—>Full Screen Backdrop (Windows).

3. If the image you want is saved within your project, choose it from the submenu. If not, click Choose and select the desired file from your computer.

4. Click Open.

Next time you enter FS/C mode, your background image is displayed.

FS/C with background image [8]

Removing a Background Image

To remove the background image for a project, go to View—>Composition Backdrop—>No Backdrop (Mac) or View—>Full Screen Backdrop—>No Backdrop (Windows).

Viewing the Inspector from Full Screen/Composition Mode

If you really need to take a peek at your Inspector—maybe to review the synopsis, or to change a Label or Status value—there’s no need to leave FS/C mode.

Simply click the Inspector button in the control strip.

inspector button [9]

Mac users will see a modified version of the Inspector. Use the upper drop-down menu to choose which section of the Inspector you want to view.

Inspector in FS/C [10]
inspector in FS/C mode [11]

Switching Documents in Full Screen/Composition Mode

One of my favorite features—especially when I’m deep in revisions—is the ability to jump to another document without ever leaving FS/C mode and breaking your flow.

Just click the Go To button in the control strip to choose another document.

go to button in control panel [12]

My process: When I’ve finished edits on a document, I use the Inspector to change its Status so I know it’s done, then I use the Go To button to move to the next document that needs work.

Exiting Full Screen/Composition Mode

Sadly, at some point you’ll have to exit FS/C mode. Here are two ways.

Happy distraction-free writing!

What questions do you have for me about this or any other Scrivener feature? Fire away.

About Gwen Hernandez [13]

Gwen Hernandez is the author of Scrivener For Dummies [14], Productivity Tools for Writers, and the “Men of Steele” series (military romantic suspense). She teaches Scrivener to writers all over the world through online classes [15], in-person workshops, and private sessions. Learn more about Gwen at gwenhernandez.com [16].