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Using Bookmarks in Scrivener 3 for Quick Access to Supporting Materials

title text on stack of books

The ability to import [1] research, images, and web pages into Scrivener is one of its best features, but sometimes creating a bookmark—a link to the file or location—might be a better option. (NOTE: Bookmarks were called references prior to Scrivener 3.)

When might you want to use a bookmark instead of importing a file or web page?

– When you always want the most up-to-date version.

When you import a file, Scrivener creates a copy of it, thus freezing it in its current incarnation. Sometimes that’s desirable, other times not.

– If the file is large or you have a lot of them.

Importing files increases the size of your project, which can slow down backups and syncing with online drives. A large project may take up too much space on a flash drive or be too big to email. Some people also prefer not to have their Research folder cluttered with anything but the most important reference materials.

– When a web page doesn’t import well.

If you’re having trouble importing a web page, a bookmark allows you to create quick access to it.

– When you don’t need to refer to the item frequently, but want to be able to find it easily.

You can create internal bookmarks that point to items within the project (often as document bookmarks, see below), but I’m going to focus on external bookmarks in this post. External bookmarks point to items outside of the project, located either on a drive accessible by your computer, or a web page.

Accessing the Bookmarks Pane

To view the Bookmarks Pane, first make sure the Inspector (right-hand sidebar) is open. If not, go to View>Show Inspector. Then, click the Bookmarks button at the top of the Inspector (see image below).

Bookmarks button circled

You can create a document or project bookmark. A document bookmark is only visible when you’re viewing the file where you added the bookmark. A project bookmark is visible from the Inspector pane of any file in the project.

Click the Document Bookmarks header in the Inspector to toggle between Document Bookmarks, Project Bookmarks, and Matching Text.

bookmarks menu

I’ll cover each in more detail below.

Creating a Bookmark To a File Inside the Project

If you want to link to a file that exists within the project, follow these steps.

1. To add it as a document bookmark (accessible only from the current document), choose Document Bookmarks in the header. For a project bookmark, choose Project Bookmarks.

2. Click the gear button and point to Add Internal Bookmark. Follow the project hierarchy until you locate the desired file and select it. The bookmark appears in the list.

add internal file menu

Creating a Bookmark To a File Outside the Project

Use this procedure to add a project bookmark to a file on a drive that’s accessible from your computer.

1. Unless you want this to be a document bookmark, toggle the header to Project Bookmarks.

2. Click the gear button and choose Add External File Bookmark.

3. When the window opens, select a file and click Open. The bookmarked document shows up on the Project Bookmarks list with an icon that denotes its file type.

list of bookmarks annotated

Creating a Bookmark To a Web Page

This option lets you manually enter the information for a web page. To make it easier, copy the URL of the web page ahead of time.

1. Click the gear button and choose Add External Bookmark.

2. In the Title text box, enter the description of the bookmark (e.g. Jose’s vacation spot). Press the tab key to move to the URL text box.

3. Type or paste the web address for the page (e.g. https://www.santacruz.org).Add URL window

4. Press Return. The new bookmark is added with a globe icon to denote that it’s for a web page.

Dragging & Dropping Bookmarks

To add any kind of bookmark, you can also drag it from Finder (Mac) or File Explorer (PC), your project’s Binder, or your browser’s address bar (grab the URL icon) directly to the Bookmarks pane. Just make sure you’ve selected either Document or Project Bookmarks first.

dragging and dropping a bookmark

Viewing a Bookmark

To preview a bookmark, select it in the bookmarks list. A preview appears in the pane below. If it’s a web page, you may have to click Load Web Page to view it.

preview of a bookmark

To open a bookmarked file, double-click on the bookmarked item.

Internal documents will open in a Quick Reference pane. External documents will open in their native program unless you right-click to choose another option (Mac users: Control+click, or use a two-finger press on a track pad, to right-click). Web pages will open in your default web browser.

For quick access to all project bookmarks—especially handy if you don’t have the Inspector open—click the Bookmarks shortcut in the toolbar and select the bookmark you want to view.

project bookmarks shortcut

External bookmarks and web pages will require a double-click to open.

Editing a Bookmark

If you give a bookmark the wrong name, or need to edit its location, you can modify it anytime by right-clicking the bookmark in the Inspector pane.

Deleting a Bookmark

To remove a bookmark from the list, do the following:

1. Select the desired bookmark.

2. Click the [-] button in the Bookmarks header. The bookmark is removed.

Finding Similar Text

In Scrivener version 3, the Bookmarks pane has a new feature called Matching Text that allows you to find other documents in your project with sentences or paragraphs that match the document you’re currently viewing.

So, if you think what you just wrote is eerily similar to a previous scene but you can’t find it, or you’re looking for an old blog post that covers the same topic, Matching Text might help. It might also be useful to compare two versions of a document.

I’m not entirely sure why it was stuck in with Bookmarks, but it’s worth a look. Here’s how it works.

1. In the Binder, select the document you want to find matches for.

2. Access the Bookmarks pane in the Inspector.

3. Click the Bookmarks header and choose Matching Text. Give it a few seconds. A list returns that shows documents in your project with similar text. Select one of the matches to see highlighted sections of matching phrases.

matching text example

What questions do you have for me about this—or any other—Scrivener topic?

About Gwen Hernandez [2]

Gwen Hernandez (she/her) is the author of Scrivener For Dummies [3], Productivity Tools for Writers, and romantic suspense. She teaches Scrivener to writers all over the world through online classes [4], in-person workshops, and private sessions. Learn more about Gwen at gwenhernandez.com [5].