Scrivener Tips – Outliner

As promised yesterday, today I want to give a short introduction on using Scrivener’s outline mode. The screenshot below shows how I’ve added a new folder to this project, entitled “Outliner.” Below that, one level in, is this document introducing this section. It’s important for Scrivener users to understand that the Binder is, essentially, an outline. It’s a visual representation of a project’s structure. In fact, it’s entirely possible to manipulate project structure simply by dragging and dropping the various items in the Binder to new locations. The more complex a project is, however, the more difficult it is to use the Binder this way. This is where outline mode becomes useful.

Scrivener Screenshot showing a new folder in the binder

The view mode icons in the Scrivener ToolbarTo access outline mode, click on the toolbar icon which displays an outline, it’s displayed in the image to the right. If you don’t see the documents you were expecting, don’t panic. Scrivener is often used for large projects, and makes efforts to display information in slices as large or small as writers desire. When first selected, the outline view will display only those documents at the current level or below the current level (visually indented to the right) of the item selected in the binder. The two screenshots in the gallery below show this in effect. The first displays the document for this paragraph selected, and displays only the documents below the Outliner folder. The second shows the outline activated with “Draft” selected (the entire project), this displays every item in the binder. To change the documents displayed in the outliner, simply click on an item in the binder equal to or above the items you’d like to see.

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When in outline mode you may drag and drop any elements into new locations as desired, but doing so can be imprecise and an exercise in frustration. I much better way to manipulate documents in this mode is through keyboard shortcuts. Documents can have both their order (up and down) and level (depth of indent) changed by holding down the control and command keys and then the appropriate arrow key.

One thing to keep in mind when using this shortcut, Scrivener will never allow a document to be moved up and down outside it’s current level. Don’t worry, it’s not as confusing as it might sound. If you have a document set up in a folder, making it a section of a chapter, then you must move the document to the left to move it outside the chapter. Once at that level you can move it up and down to change its placement in the project order. If you want to move the document into another chapter, position it below the chapter and then use “control+command+right arrow” to indent it into that section. Scrivener will then recognize that document is tied to the new folder. The gallery below demonstrates this in action.

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Using the outliner is a wonderful way to keep Scrivener projects organized. As with any new tool, the key to using it well is practice.

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