Standard and Search Collections

It took me a long time to see the value of Collections, and to be honest, it wasn’t until I wrote this tutorial and started playing around with it that I finally saw how useful the feature is during the revision process. Now that I understand how it works, I am hooked on Collections.

What is a Collection? In Scrivener it is a group of documents or files that you gather together— either manually or via a project search— so you can view and arrange them in any order you want outside the Binder. These are flat files, in other words you can switch the order, but not the hierarchy.

For example, let’s say you’ve written the scenes in your WIP out of sequence, but now you want concentrate on the ones that you’ve labeled as Fill-in the TKs. You can collect all these files and just focus on them and add that missing information. Or you can also use a collection to mix up the scene order without fiddling with the Binder order.

There are two types of collections:

• Standard Collections: This allows you to manually add and remove items in a collection. You have complete control over its contents. They are static collections.

• Saved Search Collections: If you choose the Save Search as Collection option (Save Search in Windows) from the Project Search menu, your search results are saved as a dynamic collection that includes documents only as long as they continue to meet the criteria of the collection. Search Results in of itself is a special collection and always contains the results of the most recent search.

To create a standard collection:

1. Open the Collections pane either click the Collections icon in the toolbar or go to View->Collections->Show Collections

2. Choose one of the following for selecting files to include in the collection, either manually select files in the Binder or you can run a Project Search to whittle down the files, from there select the specific files you require from the Search Results.

As you can see, collections reside in the sidebar as the Binder. I’ve created a number of collection including a search compilation of all the text files that mention Alvah Bessie; a collection of recently updated text files; a collection of text files that need work, and a collection of text files where the scenes occur in Spain.

Numerous Collections

Numerous Collections

3. To add a Collection click the plus button in the header of the Collections pane. Conversely to delete a collection, select it and then hit the minus button.

4. Name the Collection and hit enter.

If you have numerous collections, you may have to scroll to view them all. You can increase or decrease the number of visible tabs by clicking and dragging the Resize Collections Pane button on the Mac. You can also change the order of the collection by selecting and dragging it to another position. In Windows, hover on the top edge of the Collections header bar to switch the cursor to a splitter that allows you to drag the pane up or down.

Each collection is automatically assigned a color. If you want to change the color, double-click on the Color Selector (the box next to the collection’s title) that’s to the right of the collection’s name.

Changing the Color of a Collection.

Changing the Color of a Collection.

The Color Window (in this case, I chose the box of crayons) will open and then select the color you want to use for that specific collection. Windows users, double-click to open a list of options that include the More option, from which you can open the Select Color dialog box.

Once you’

ve created a collection, it performs like a subset of the Binder. You can select documents to write or revise in the Editor or view the collection in the Corkboard or Outliner.

To close a certain collection, click the X at the bottom of the pane, or you can click on another collection tab or the Binder tab.

If you forget to include a text file after you created a collection, you can add it afterwards. You can also create new items directly within the collection (on a Mac) and remove items from a collection. To add an item to a collection:

1. Select the item in the Binder.

2. Go to Documents->Add to Collection from the menu. You can also right-click the item to open the contextual menu and choose Add to Collection.

3. Select a collection from the submenu.

Adding an Item from the Binder to a Collection.

Adding an Item from the Binder to a Collection.

Changes in the order of any of the text files in the collection doesn’t affect the order of your text files in the Binder. If you like the order of files after you’ve moved them around, you can move the text files back into the Binder to preserve that order. To do this follow these steps:

1. Select the files for which you want to preserve the order.

2. Choose one of the following options:

  • Go to Documents->Move To from the menu and select a location from the submenu.
  • Mac users, drag the files to the Binder tab to open the Binder, and then drop the files into the desired folder.
  • Right-click to open the contextual menu; choose Move To and select a location from the submenu.

Saved Search Collections

Creating a Search Collection is simple and easy, and incredibly useful if you find yourself conducting the same Project search over and over again.

Search collections are created by saving the results of a Project Search so you can repeat the search as necessary. An important feature of Search Collections is that they are dynamic because they automatically update the contents of the collection every time you open it. However with a Search Collection, you can’t manually adjust the items. In other words, no adding, removing, or reordering of files.

Search collections are good for grouping items that possibly change as you revise your WIP.  To create a search collection, follow these steps:

1. Conduct a project search (I searched my WIP for anything related to Alvah)

2. Click the magnifying glass in the Search field of the toolbar and select Save Search as Collection (Save Search in Windows).

Save Search as Collection

Save Search as Collection.

You can tell the difference between a standard collections and search collections in the Collections pane by looking for the magnifying glass that appears on the left side of a search collection tab.

Saved Search Collection as Denoted by Magnifying Glass

Saved Search Collection as Denoted by Magnifying Glass

When you open a search collection in the Collections pane, the Search field in the toolbar reflects the search term of the project search that created the Collection. If you click on the magnifying glass in the Search field, you’ll see which options were selected to perform the search.

Criteria for Project Search

Criteria for Project Search.


You can lock the results of a search collection so that in no longer dynamically updates and convert it to a standard collection. To change it, simply click the tab of the collection you want to convert and go to  View->Collections->Convert to Standard Collection.

Be aware that once you’ve made the change from Search Collection to Standard Collection you can’t undo it.


  1 comment for “Standard and Search Collections

  1. sarah corbett morgan
    August 10, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    I like Collections and use them in my “Essays in Progress” and “Creative Writing” projects. I can keep track of essays or poems I’ve submitted, those that have been published, and those that are still in progress.
    I find the submitted essays collection area particularly useful because I then use Notes (in the Meta-data) section to mark the date I sent the piece in as well as the name of the literary magazine. (We all know how LONG it takes them to get back to us.) This way I have an easy reference sheet to look at.

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