Scrivener and Other Writing Tutorials, Tips and Frequently Asked Questions

Scrivener Quick Start | Working With Files and Folders

How Scrivener files and folders work

Whether you like to draft an outline and grow it into a book or screenplay or write down everything that pops into your head and then rearrange it into a coherent story, you keep everything you want to export as your finished product in one main folder called the Manuscript/Draft/Screenplay Folder and everything that is not part of your finished product, like research and character sketches, on the outside of it. 

Then, when you go to export your manuscript, Scrivener combines all of your individual folders from within the Manuscript/Draft/Screenplay folder into one long document and converts it to the file format of your choice. PDF, .epub, .mobi, .doc etc. 

For eBooks the Scrivener Novel Template also automatically generates a clickable table of contents based on your chapter headings and you can include an internal book cover and metadata before you export.

First I am going to go over a few basic pointers about how to manage your files and folders in the Binder. If you have been using computers for a long time you will be familiar with this so feel free to skip over these sections but please bear with me as I frequently come across new users who don’t know some or all of it.

Adding and naming folders and files

There are several ways to add folders or files to the binder. Open the Add icon in the toolbar and select New Text or New Folder from the dropdown menu.

Or select the + icon or the Folder icon from the footer bar of the Binder.

Or you can right click on a document in the Binder and choose Add > New Text or New Folder from the drop down menu.

Selecting folders and files

To select one file or folder in the Binder, just click on it.

To select several sequential files or folders at the same time, select the top item, hold down Shift and select the bottom one.

To select non sequential files or folders, hold down the Command key and click on each item you want to include in the selection.

Toggling folders and files open and shut

Click on the disclosure triangle beside the icon to open or close a file, a file stack or a folder. 

If you hold down the Option/Alt. key when you open a disclosure triangle all the files within that stack will expand or contract.

Irrespective of what you have selected, if you hold down the Command key and hit the 9 key all folders and files in the whole Binder will expand at the same time. To contract all files and folders hold down Command and hit the 0 (zero) key.

Arranging folders and files

To move a file or folder to a new location click and hold on it, then drag it to where you want it. A target preview will appear as you hover over other documents showing where it will land when you release it.

When you see the target preview as a line, that means your file will land between 2 documents. To move a file or folder up a level within the hierarchy go to Main Menu > Edit > Move > Move Left.

To stop the file or folder you are moving from landing inside another document you can hold down the Alt key while you move it.

Deleting folders and files

To place a document into the trash prior to deleting it completely drag it into the Trash Folder or right click and choose Move to Trash from the drop down menu. 

You can also move it to the trash folder by selecting it and then clicking on the Trash icon in your toolbar.

You can still retrieve your document from the Trash folder by dragging it out again. To empty the trash, open the Main Menu > Project > Empty Trash. (In Scrivener 2 you used to be able to do this directly from the context menu by right clicking on the Trash Folder but this is no longer an option.)

Changing files to folders and vice versa

Documents in the Binder can contain text as well as other documents, so you can drag one on top of another to group them together. This is useful when you are deciding where to split scenes or if a scene grows into a whole chapter.

If you end up using a text document as a container for other files, you can always convert it to a folder or vice versa. Right click on the file and choose Convert to Folder from the drop down menu. If it is already a folder your option will be Convert to File.

Customizing your icons

You can also change the icon of a file or folder by right clicking on it and selecting Change Icon from the drop down menu. Click on any icon to assign it to your document.

Note: If you select a batch of documents in the Binder you can change their icons all at the same time.

At the very top or the very bottom of the icon menu, depending on what version of Scrivener you are using,  you will find some options:

In all versions of Scrivener you can reset your icons to their defaults.

Adding icons from your hard drive

If you have images on your hard drive of approximately 32 pixels square and you want to use them as icons, click on Manage Custom Icons... 

Add them to your current project in the top field or to all your Scrivener projects in the bottom field using the + buttons.

To delete an icon select it and click on the - button.

Adding icons from within your Mac system

If you are on Scrivener 3 for Mac you can click on Icon from Text where you will be given the option to create an icon from a letter on your keyboard and the Apple symbols popup menu will open.

 To select a symbol as your icon simply double click on it to place it in the input field and click on OK.

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