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Scrivener Quick Tips: A Roundup of Handy Features

title imageWhether your home office has been invaded and you have little time to write, or you suddenly find yourself with nothing but writing time, I’ve pulled together a motley collection of handy features that every Scrivener user should know about.

NOTE: When the process differs between versions, I’m using S1, S2, and S3, to denote Scrivener versions 1, 2 and 3, respectively.

Quickly Moving Documents Between Projects

Want to add a file to a project that already exists in another project? Simple. Open both projects, adjust the windows to see both Binders, and drag the desired files from one project’s Binder to the other. illustration of dragging file between binders The files are copied into the new project, unlinked, so changes in one will not affect the other.

I love this for sharing general writing resources, research, and even scenes between projects. It also makes it a cinch to add the book files from a novel project to my series bible.

Duplicating Files within a Project

To duplicate an existing document or folder, select the desired files and go to Documents>Duplicate. If you’ve chosen a folder or document that contains subfiles, you can choose to include them or not.

I use this when I want to recreate an existing file structure easily, or to duplicate a blog post that I plan to update with new information. 

Grouping Files into a Folder

Did you know you can quickly group a selection of files into a new folder? Just select the desired files and go to Documents>New Folder From Selection (S3) or Document>Group (S1/S2), then give the folder a name. You’ll need to click the arrow next to the folder to expand it and see its contents.

folder ready to rename

I like to write in scene documents and then group the scenes into chapter folders after I’ve completed the first draft of the manuscript. This is much faster than manually creating each folder and dragging files into it.

Matching the Destination File’s Formatting when Pasting

To match a document’s style when pasting text into Scrivener, use Edit>Paste and Match Style, instead of Edit>Paste.

TIP: This will obliterate italic, bold, and underline formatting in the pasted text. If that’s a concern, try the next option instead.

Applying Default Formatting to a File

Whether you’ve imported a file or pasted a section of text from elsewhere, you can reformat it to match Scrivener’s default, without losing italic, bold, or underline formatting. Here’s how:

Click in the text of the document and go to Documents>Convert>Text to Default Formatting (S3) or Documents>Convert>Formatting To Default Text Style (S1/2).

TIP: If you don’t like the default formatting, you can change it under Scrivener>Preferences>Editing>Formatting (S3), Scrivener>Preferences>Formatting (S1/2 Mac), or Tools>Options>Editor (S1 Windows). Make adjustments to font, spacing, etc in the mini Editor. The new settings are applied to any new documents you create, but must be manually applied (as described above) to existing documents.

format window annotated

Displaying Non-printing (Invisible) Characters

If your format doesn’t come out right when you compile, or our not sure why it looks weird on the screen, it may be helpful to check the invisible characters to see what’s going on. For example, maybe you accidentally started a paragraph with a Tab, or started writing your text in a table, as shown in the image below.

text with invisibles off

You can show non-printing characters by going to View>Text Editing>Show Invisibles (S3) or Format>Show Invisibles (S1/2). The invisible characters show up in blue. Below is the same document with invisibles displayed.

text with invisibles on

To turn them off, repeat the step above but choose Hide Invisibles.

Splitting a Document

If you want to break up a document into two, simply click where you want to “cut” and go to Documents>Split>at Selection.

This will end the original document at the cut point, and create a new document (below it in the Binder) with the rest of the text.

I’ve found this helpful for splitting off parts of scenes I no longer want (but want to keep somewhere) or to divide up old work that I imported.

TIP: If you have recurring section or chapter dividers (e.g., the word Chapter or a #) in a file you plan to import, use File>Import>Import and Split to automatically split the file into multiple documents at the corresponding characters.

import and split window

Merging Documents

If you want to join two or more documents into a single file, you can do that too. Select the documents to combine and go to Documents>Merge.

They will merge under the name of topmost document in the Binder, and will include all documents’ synopses, notes, references, snapshots, and comments.

Find the Word Count of a Text Selection

On Windows, highlight the desired text and right-click it. The word count will be at the bottom of the contextual menu that pops up.

word count circled

On a Mac, when you highlight a section of text, the word count at the bottom of the editor changes to show the selection word count (and color of the word count changes to blue).

word count circled

Viewing Two Documents at the Same Time

Split screen lets you view two items side by side. Click the little square button at the upper right corner of the Editor pane to split the screen. (Windows users can choose horizontal or vertical. Mac users can hold the Option key to toggle between horizontal or vertical.)

Initially, you’ll see the same file in both panes. This might be useful to refer to a different section of the same document.

Click in either pane to make it “active” (the header turns blue). Then, choose a file in the Binder to view it in the active pane.

split screen annotated

This is great for referring to research documents, images, scenes you’ve previously written, or even the Corkboard or Outliner (if you select a folder or group of files), as shown below.

split screen with corkboard

To exit split screen mode, click the split screen button on the pane you want to keep working in.

Quickly Exporting a Document (or a Few)

When you’re ready to export your entire manuscript, you’ll want to use the Compile feature to, well, compile all of your documents into a single output file. But, if you just need to export one document or a chapter, there’s another option.

Select the document or folder to export and go to File>Export>Files, and choose the file type you want (e.g., DOCX, RTF). Files will be formatted as they are in the Editor.

If you choose more than one document, each one will be exported as a separate file. If you choose a folder (as shown in the first image), Scrivener will export each subdocument individually, but retain the folder structure (as shown in the second image).

files in Scrivener Binder

files in computer file system

I hope you find these tips helpful. Stay safe and healthy!

Got any Scrivener questions for me? Hit me up. I’m here all day. ;-)

[Coffee]

About Gwen Hernandez [1]

Gwen Hernandez is the author of Scrivener For Dummies [2], 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 [3], in-person workshops, and private sessions. Learn more about Gwen at gwenhernandez.com [4].

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