Scrivener and Other Writing Tutorials, Tips and Frequently Asked Questions

Scrivener Quick Start | Writing in Composition Mode

To avoid getting distracted by any of the toolbars or how you have things arranged in your Binder, Scrivener has a completely distraction free writing environment called Composition Mode. (Called Full Screen Mode on Windows)


Make sure the project you are working on is in a window of it’s own, and not in one of several tabs, by holding on its tab title and dragging it out to the side.

You can access Composition Mode by going to Main Menu > View > Enter Composition Mode or you can click on the Compose icon in your Tool Bar.

The text you will see is what you have selected in the Binder. A document, all the documents inside a folder or in this case the whole manuscript.

Click inside any scene and begin to write. You will notice that wherever you place your cursor, your text will jump to the middle of your screen. This is because, by default, Compose Mode is set to use Typewriter Scrolling. If you are opening Compose Mode for the first time you will get a pop up asking if you want to disengage it, but I like it on.


Which ever version of Scrivener you are using, you might not like the default appearance of the Composition screen. Swipe your cursor up to the top of your screen to access your Main Menu. 

In Scrivener 3 for Mac you can customize the appearance of your Composition screen completely:

Choose Scrivener > Preferences to bring up the preferences dialogue box.


  1. Open the Appearance tab. 
  2. Select Composition Mode from the sub menu
  3. Make sure you are in the Colors tab.
  4. Select Editor from the list of options and choose an Editor color by clicking inside the color well. Then select Text and choose a color for your text.
  5. Lastly choose Screen Background and click inside Choose Texture to navigate to a background image for your screen. Please bare in mind that texture files need to be below one megabyte in size so that they can be drawn quickly without taking up too much memory

In Previous versions of Scrivener you can place an image behind your text instead of the black background:

On Mac go to Main Menu > View > Composition Backdrop > Choose 

On Windows go to Main Menu > View > Full Screen Backdrop > Choose

and select an image from your computer. Your new image will only appear behind your pages the next time you enter Composition Mode.

Whichever version of Scrivener you are using, swipe your cursor to the bottom of your screen to activate a control bar with a menu of options.

  1. You can scale your text.
  2. Reposition your paper left, right or center. (Or 5 different positions in Scrivener 3)
  3. Adjust your paper width. Studies show that if you stretch your document too wide, it is hard to track down to the next line of text so keep it fairly narrow for optimum readability. 
  4. You can access your keyword list. 
  5. Or access your Inspector options. For instance, you could take a quick look at your synopsis, or add a note to the document you are working on.
  6. Use the Go To button to select a different document to work on.
  7. You can keep track of your word count in the centre here.
  8. If you are using the default black background color you can adjust the opacity to see a view through to your desktop. Once you have an image as a background, your Background Fade slider turns into a Paper Fade slider which adjusts the opacity of the page you are writing on instead of the image behind it. 
  9. To exit Composition Mode hit Escape or click on the Compose Mode icon in the bottom right hand corner of your screen.

To avoid jumping in and out of composition mode where you don’t have a format toolbar, it is worth learning a few keyboard shortcuts. Select your text and use cmd/ctrl B if you want to make it bold and cmd/ctrl I for Italics.

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