The Scrivener Basics Blog

Scrivener Basics | How the Corkboard Works

If you like to plot before you begin to write I can highly recommend the Scrivener Corkboard feature

The idea is that you add index cards to the cork board with all your ideas on them and re-arrange them by dragging and dropping them into new positions until you have the workings of a plot.

To open a new index card for a file document

  1. Click anywhere inside your corkboard and hit Return
  2. Then click inside the header of the index card and name your document.
  3. Opening a new index card automatically opens an accompanying document for it in the Binder and any changes you make to the status of your document via its index cards on the Corkboard, like changing the title or position, will automatically update in the Binder.
  1. You could also use the Add Buttons in the footer bar to add files or folders. 
  2. Or you can open new documents via the Add dropdown menu in your toolbar.
  3. Notice that a file already comes with a file icon in the header, and a folder has a folder icon.

To rename an index card double click on its title and give it a new name

Each index card is attached to the outside of its corresponding document in the Binder

It is just a reminder of what is inside the document, so if you select a document in the Binder it will automatically switch to the Single Document viewing mode and you will see what is written in the document, not what is written on its index card on the Corkboard.

Each index cards shows the title and an image - if you have set one up - or a synopsis of each document. (Scroll down in this post to see how to add images)

  1. If a document does not have a synopsis associated with it, you will see the first few lines of text from the actual document in dark grey instead of black. 
  2. To write a Synopsis on a card, double click inside it and begin to write.
  3. Since hitting a hard return is the keyboard shortcut for bringing up a new index card, you have to hold down the Option key and then hit return to place your cursor on a new line.

To delete an index card

Right click and choose Move to Trash from the drop down menu. 

Selecting and viewing your index cards

The cards you see on your cork board reflect what you have selected in the Binder. 

  1. If you select a top level document, in this case my Fantasy folder, you will see it’s sub-documents on the corkboard with their sub-documents stacked below them.
  2. Double click on the header icon of a stack of cards to open it’s sub-documents.
  3. Or select them in the Binder.

Once you reach the lowest level of documents Scrivener will automatically revert to Single Document viewing mode.

Decide whether you want to start with chapter index cards or scene index cards

If you plan to write a fantasy and have many unconnected ideas start with scenes. Group them into similar concepts and then group those into chapters as your plot develops.

If you are writing a non-fiction book which has definite categories, start with chapters and add sub-documents as you go along.

Change card dimensions on the corkboard

There is a menu in the footer bar of the corkboard where you can change the size of your cards, the ratio between their width and depth and the amount of space between your cards.

On Mac you can choose between regular grid mode and Freeform mode

  1. You can keep the regular grid mode.
  2. Or have your cards float freely in Freeform mode where you can shuffle them any way you want. Dragging them around in Freeform does not affect their position in the Binder until you lock them into position by clicking on the Commit button to commit them to their new order.
  3. In Scrivener 3 there is a new feature where you can Arrange By Label which helps you track your story threads on the Corkboard. (Go here for best explanation)

Customizing the appearance of your index cards

You can customize the appearance of your cards; their fonts and what is displayed on them as well as their background's display.

On Scrivener 3 for Mac

Go to Main Menu > Scrivener > Preferences 

  1. Open the Appearance menu.
  2. Select Corkboard from the sidebar
  3. Open the tab for the region you want to adjust.
  4. For example, in the Colors tab you can choose a different background image for your Corkboard background.

On Scrivener 2 for Mac

Go to Main Menu > Scrivener > Preferences 

On Scrivener 1 for Windows

Go to Main Menu > Tools > Options and open the Corkboard tab.

Add even more functionality to your index cards

  1. Open the Inspector window to add even more functionality to your index cards. 
  2. Select an index card from the Corkboard, then place your cursor in the Synopsis area of the Inspector and begin to type. 
  3. Your text will simultaneously update on the corresponding index card.

Adding images to your index cards

  1. You can toggle between showing a synopsis or showing an image on your index card by clicking on the icon in the top right of the Synopsis window.
  2. Drag an image directly in to the Synopsis window from your Research folder or from anywhere on your computer.
  3. When toggling between the synopsis and the image, whichever one is open will represent the document on the cork board. 

This is extremely useful because if you have a folder selected in the Binder and all your synopses set to Image you can see all your images together.

To delete an image from your index card right click on the image inside the synopsis window and choose Clear Image.

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