Getting Familiar with Scrivener’s Interface and Workspace

Once you’ve created a project, the next step is to get familiar with Scrivener’s interface. In this tutorial, we’ll review the menu and tool bars, the Binder, Editor, and Inspector.

The menu bar runs across the top of the window. Each menu has its set of commands and sub-menus.

Scrivener Menu Bar

Scrivener Menu Bar

Below the Menu bar is the Toolbar. On top, dead center is the project name and directly below is a row of pretty and colorful icons. These default icons are the ones most commonly used. Hover your mouse pointer over an icon and a small yellow text box appears describing the icon’s function.

Tool Bar

Scrivener Tool Bar

One of the many neat functions of Scrivener is that you can customize them. To change the Toolbar go to View->Customize Toolbar. A new window will open and you’ll be able to switchout the buttons by dragging them into the default toolbar, or directly to the tool bar. You can also turn on and off the text below the icons and make them smaller.

Icons to Customize Toolbar

Icons to Customize Toolbar

The Binder’s function is similar to the Finder or Windows Explorer. This is where all your folders and text documents are located in an easy-to-find manner. This area is solely for text documents. Beneath the Draft icon, you’ll create and file all your documents. I like to think of the Binder as an actual three-ring binder where I’ll have my dividers (folders) for each scene or chapter and the loose-leaf paper (text documents) neatly kept. And just like a three-ring binder, I can move and arrange my documents in any type of order.

Within the Binder is the Research folder where I can store more than text files. Here I can import website pages, PDFs, photos, and even .wav and MP4 files. I can create sub-folders for brainstorming, mind-mapping, characters, locations, and any specific topic that is relevant to my current project. Like the Draft section, I can move folders around and arrange them in any way I like. Finally, right below is the iconic rubbish bin where I can trash whatever I don’t find necessary.

Scrivener's Binder

Scrivener’s Binder

Right clunk in the center is the area that is called the Editor. This is where you’ll be doing the majority of your writing. Like a word processor, the Editor has it’s own formatting toolbar. If you want a ruler as a guide, go to the menu bar and select Format-> Show Ruler. To hide it, follow the same steps, but this time the command will say Hide Ruler.

The Editor and its Formatting Tool bar

The Editor and its Formatting Tool bar

Within this area, you’ll discover that you can have different views: the Corkboard and index cards, Scrivnings (when multiple files are selected) and the Outliner.

To the right of the Editor is the Inspector. This section displays the nitty-gritty information of your work, also known as metadata. The Inspector displays the Synopsis, a section where you can type a brief summary of your scene, you can insert an image, or anything that describes the chapter or scene. The middle area called General allows to add or edit custom names for both the label and status. For example, for Label, if you’re writing a novel with multiple points of view, you might want to assign each chapter with a different POV and color code it, which will be reflected in the Binder, Corkboard, and Outliner. The last third portion of the Inspector, Doucument Notes, is another section where you can write notes, brainstorm, or paste notes from elsewhere.

The three Faces of the Inspector: Synopsis; Meta-Data, and Notes

The three Faces of the Inspector: Synopsis; General, and Notes

Each of these sections can be customized. The next tutorial will focus in getting your workspace to accomodate the way you write.

Starting a New Project in Scrivener

You’ve downloaded Scrivener to give it a trial spin or you simply cut to the chase and purchased it. Now you’re chomping at the bit, ready to get set and write! But not so fast, let’s just go over the very basics opening the program and creating a project.

Your first obvious action will be to click on the Scrivener icon that was downloaded. Once the program opens, you’ll see the Project Templates window. The first tab on top  is the Getting Started section that includes an interactive tutorial, which was created by the folks at Literature and Latte, the User Manual, and instructional video that can be viewed on YouTube.

Project Templates: Getting Started

Project Templates: Getting Started

Below the “Getting Started,” you’ll see the different categories and templates. Point your curser on each category, click your mouse, and you’ll see the different types of templates that Scrivener provides. Below is the Fiction category and its associated templates.

Project Template: Fiction, Novel

Project Template: Fiction, Novel

Once you’ve selected the category and the template, you’ll see right below in a window pane the description of the template. In this case, “Novel” has been highlighted, and we see that it uses a standard submission format and includes location and character sketch sheets.

For the purpose of this tutorial, I am selecting the blank category and template because I want to create my own settings.

Project Templates: Blank, Blank

Project Templates: Blank, Blank

Select “Choose.” A window will appear. In the Save As field, you will name your project. I named mine “Under the Hazelnut Tree.” If you are on a Mac and recently downloaded Mavericks, you have the option of including tags. I typed in “Scrivener Tutorial” and “Short Story” In the Where field from the dropdown menu, select where you want this file to be saved. I chose my desktop.

Saving Project on to Desktop

Saving Project onto Desktop

If a certain location where you want to save your project isn’t listed, don’t worry. Just click on the expansion arrow to the right of Save As, select the new location from the list of folders on the left. For Window users: click Browse in the New Project window to choose a location. Hit Create, and your project will open to your new writing workspace.

Saving to another location using the expansion button.

Saving to another location using the expansion button.


To see how this all works, you can watch this video:

Next time I’ll go over the Scrivener interface, which includes the menu bar, the tool bar, the Binder, the Editor, and the Inspector.


A New Generation of Scrivener Users

Scrivener: The Infinite Desk. Image courtesy of Literature and Latte.

After tomorrow’s big feast, many NANOWRIMO participants will loosen the buttons on their jeans and drag themselves back to their desks to write that day’s allotment of 1,667 words. If all goes well, by November 30, 2013 at 11:59 PM, many writers will have completed their 50,000 word draft. Just as Literature and Latte* has done in previous years, the company is offering all NANOWRIMO winners the opportunity to purchase Scrivener for only 50% off its regular price for both the Mac and Windows version. This is a terrific offer. Get it. Believe me, it will change your writing life.

For writers who downloaded the program and only used the very basics (essentially pantsing in the Editor) and now want to learn more than just typing in a wide white space, you’ve come to the right place. If you haven’t downloaded the 30 day trial (and it’s actually not 30 straight calendar days, but 30 days of actual use) and want to get a better handle of how to use the program from someone who uses it on a daily basis, you’ve also come to the right spot.

My goal with this blog is to be your point of reference when you get stuck, frustrated, or simply can’t figure out how to use one of its many features. I’ll start with the very basics from opening the program, selecting the right template, and reviewing the main features of Scrivener to more sophisticated features that include collections, snapshots, metadata, syncing with other programs like Dropbox and teaching how to format and compile your future best-selling novel.

My tutorials are detailed and I provide many images so you can see everything step-by-step. For those who rather watch than read long tutorials, I’ll have videos for you to view. So my work is cut out—a lot of writing and filming, but working in Scrivener and teaching others how to get the most out of it is a lot of fun.

Stay tuned because on December 1, we start the first of many tutorials.

*Note: I’d like to thank David at Literature and Latte for use of the Scrivener Tile logo and images in the header of this blog. I think it looks kinda pretty.