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16 Scrivener Tools and Tricks

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There’s a treasure trove of helpful features hiding in Scrivener’s menus and settings. Below is a roundup of some of these easily overlooked, but highly useful—or just plain fun—tools and tricks that’ll make you feel like an expert.

Change Icons

Think you’re stuck with little pieces of paper and folders to represent your documents and folders? Not so. Quickly change the icon of any file to denote its contents, status, or whatever you want.

Select the file you want to choose a new icon for and go to Documents>Change Icon.

Binder iconsbinder icons

Group Documents Into a Folder

When you want to put several documents into a folder that doesn’t yet exist, Scrivener can do that with a single command.

Simply select the desired documents in the Binder and go to Documents>New Folder from Selection (Mac) or Documents>Group (Windows).

Convert a Document to a Folder or Vice Versa

To change a folder into a document, select the folder and go to Documents>Convert>to File (Mac) or Documents>Convert>Convert to File (Windows).

To switch a document to a folder, select the document and choose Documents>Convert>to Folder (Mac) or Documents>Convert>Convert to Folder (Windows).

View the Text of a Folder

The difference between a folder and a text document is rather loose in Scrivener. A folder can have text of its own (i.e., not in a subdocument), much like you can write on a manila folder in real life. This can be useful for epigraphs, datelines, and images that come at the start of a chapter or part.

To view the text area of a folder, select the folder, click the View menu, and deselect whichever of the three group view modes has a checkmark (Scrivenings, Corkboard, or Outliner). This puts the folder in single document view.

NOTE: For each project, Scrivener remembers the last-used group view, so until you select a different option, Scrivener will display all folders in single document view.

Show Hidden/Nonprinting Characters

To see paragraph returns, spaces, tabs and other non-printing characters, go to View>Text Editing>Show Invisibles (Mac) or Format>Options>Show Invisibles (Windows). To turn them off, repeat the steps but choose Hide Invisibles.

invisible characters annotated

Strip Leading Tabs

Did you accidentally use tabs instead of indents to indent your paragraphs?* No worries!

Mac users can click in the text of a document and go to Edit>Text Tidying>Strip Leading Tabs. Be sure to check out the other handy options under this menu as well.

Until version 3 releases, Windows users will need to use Project Replace (Edit>Find>Project Replace) to remove tabs. To do so, press Ctrl+Tab to enter a tab character in the Replace text box. Leave the With box blank.

Project Replace window

TIP: Project Replace also works to get rid of extra paragraph returns (replace two with one by using Ctrl+Enter to add the paragraph return character).

*Using tabs is undesirable because they’re an actual character (though invisible) that takes up space and is inflexible. Indents, on the other hand, can be adjusted for an entire document or manuscript (either in the Editor or during the compile process) allowing you to move easily between a block format (i.e., no indents) and various indent depths as desired. Indents are always recommended over tabs in word processing, regardless of which software you’re using.

Remove Extra Spaces Between Sentences

Another holdover many of us learned from typing class is the use of two spaces between sentences. Most publishers now prefer a single space between sentences, but if you can’t change your habit, Scrivener can clean up your manuscript for you.

Click anywhere in the text and go to Edit>Text Tidying>Replace Multiple Spaces with Single Spaces (Mac) or Format>Convert>Multiple Spaces to Space (Windows).

Move Files Without Dragging

If you struggle to drag files to the desired location in the Binder, check out the Move options.

To adjust a file’s position in the Binder, go to Edit>Move>Move Up/Move Down/Move Left/Move Right (Mac) or Documents>Move>Left/Right/Up/Down (Windows).

To make a file a subdocument of another file, go to Documents>Move To>[choose location] (Mac) or Documents>Move>To>[choose location] (Windows).

TIP: The Move arrows are handy buttons to add to your toolbar. Keep reading for the scoop on how.

Use Typewriter Scrolling

Tired of the words you’re typing always being at the bottom of the screen? I find this especially annoying on laptops.

Typewriter Scrolling fixes that by keeping the “scroll line” at the center of the screen. As soon as you start typing (and there’s enough text for it to matter), the line you’re working on jumps to the center.

To turn it on, choose View>Text Editing>Typewriter Scrolling (Mac) or Format>Options>Typewriter Scrolling (Windows).

Mac users can adjust the line position by going to Scrivener>Preferences>Editing. 

NOTE: Typewriter scrolling is turned on by default for Composition/Full Screen mode.

Split a Document

To divide a document into two, click where you want to make the cut and go to Documents>Split>at Selection. A second document is created from everything below your cursor. The first document will now only contain the text up to where your cursor was before the split.

Merge Multiple Documents

To merge two or more documents together, select the documents in the Binder and go to Documents>Merge. The documents become one, with a blank line at each merge point.

Count Your Subdocuments

Want to know how many documents are in a folder even when it’s collapsed? Turn on the subdocument count by choosing View>Outline>Show Subdocument Counts in Binder (Mac) or Tools>Options>Appearance>Show subdocument counts in binder (Windows).

binder showing subdocument counts

Move Files Between Projects

One of my favorites! To move files from one project to another, simply open them both and move the windows so you can see both Binders. Then drag the desired file(s) from one Binder to the other.

drag between binders

Clear Your Recents List

Is your recents list cluttered with projects you no longer use? Clear the list via File>Recent Projects>Clear Menu. It will repopulate as you open projects.

TIP: Scrivener 3 users can also designate a project as a favorite so it’ll never get pushed off the list (or confused with another version). While in the project, go to File>Add Project to Favorites. Access the project via File>Favorite Projects. Remove via File>Remove Project from Favorites.

Preserve the Formatting of a Section of Text

For special sections of text—such as a block quote, epigraph, title page, or copyright page—Scrivener allows you to keep them exactly as they’re formatted in the Editor, including indents, line spacing, font, font size, regardless of your compile settings.

In most cases, I recommend Scrivener 3 users choose Styles for maximum flexibility, but for those using older versions, or for one-off instances that are easily located—e.g., a title page—select the desired text and go to Format>Preserve Formatting (Mac) or Format>Formatting>Preserve Formatting (Windows).

The text is highlighted blue with a dashed line to denote its preserved status.

preserved text annotated

Add Your Favorite Functions to the Toolbar

Many of your favorite menu items can be added to the toolbar, and buttons you don’t use can be removed. To customize your toolbar, go to View>Customize Toolbar (Mac) or Tools>Customize Toolbars (Windows).

Mac users can drag the desired icons onto any blank spot on the toolbar above, and drag unwanted icons off the toolbar.

customize toolbar window

Windows users should select Main Toolbar at the top right. Choose a function at left and click the right arrow to add it to the toolbar. To remove an item, select it on the right and click the left arrow.

customize toolbar window

There are lots of great features lurking in the menus and the settings. Don’t be afraid to look around a little.

Do you have a favorite Scrivener trick? Hit me with your Scrivener questions and enjoy the rest of the year/decade!

About Gwen Hernandez

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


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About Mary Ellen Bellusci

Mary Ellen Bellusci is a longtime resident of Baltimore, Maryland... A foodie, traveler, writer, and pursuer of happiness.