Composition Mode

Let’s be honest, Scrivener has a lot going on between the Binder and the Inspector that sometimes it can be distracting when you simply just want to write. Although we know how to hide both the Binder and the Inspector, the designers at Literature and Latte also had in mind to add another great feature that blocks out distractions, and that’s Composition or Full Screen (In Windows) mode.

The beauty of Composition mode is that all the other features like the Binder and the Inspector are still accessible. That means you don’t need to switch back and forth between screens. And if you like playing around with the look of your distraction-free screen, you can customize it to look exactly the way you want it.

Let’s get cover the basics: Select a text file or create a new one from the Binder. Go to View->Enter Composition Mode, or just hit the button on the toolbar that has two arrows set diagonally and pointing in opposite directions. This is what Compositon mode it looks like:

Composition Mode

Composition Mode

The default background is black. The paper color is a very light gray color, and the text is black. At the bottom of the screen, you’ll find the control strip bar. This hides itself so you can have 100% zero distraction. Let’s take a closer look at it and see what it can do:

Control Strip Bar

Control Strip Bar

First off, on the extreme left, you’ll see Text Scale. This means that you can make the print as small or as big as you want it. I like it at 150 percent. Next is the Paper Position, which you can shift to the left, the right, or keep it at it’s default center position. If you don’t want to see any of the black background, you can widen the page or conversely narrow it by using the Paper Width feature. I keep it at the default, which is the standard paper width. Here’s a neat trick: if you want to change the height of the paper, hit the option key (ALT Key in Windows) and Paper Width switches over to Paper Height. Using the slider, you can adjust it to whatever height (or width) you like.

Now we get into the nitty gritty functions that are included in the Inspector like Keywords. Click on the icon, and a small (and adjustable) panel appears. You can add your keywords and move the panel wherever you like on the screen if you wish to keep it open.

Compostion Mode with Open Keywords Panel

Compostion Mode with Open Keywords Panel

There’s also the option to open the Inspector. When you click on that, another panel will open (again, adjustable and moveable) An aside: if you do adjust the size and move it to a different spot on the screen and later close it, Scrivener remembers the settings the next time you open it. You’ll see in this panel, the drop down menus that include all the options from the Inspector.

With Inspector Panel Open

With Inspector Panel Open

If you want to look at another document, you don’t have to switch back to the screen that shows the Binder. Just click on the Go To icon and you can select a different document.

Using Go To Function

Using Go To Function

With Words/Character Count, you won’t be left in the dark of how much (or little) you’ve written. You’ll always know whether you reached your daily goal or not. Lastly, there’s Background Fade. Here you can control the transparency of the background by moving the slider. To exit Composition mode, you can either hit the ESC key or the two arrow button on the extreme right.

Now for some fun stuff. If you want to change the color of the background, the paper and text type, go to Preferences->Compose (Windows go to Tools->Options->Appearance. Select in the pane that says Colors “Full Screen” hit the expansion button and you’ll the different options). In the area that’s labled Customizable Colors, you’ll see listed Background. Select that and click the color box underneath Background to activate it. A color wheel window will open. Select the color you’d like to set your background. Follow the same steps, for changing the color of your paper and type color—with text color make sure to select the box that says override color (the Windows version doesn’t have this box to click). This what my screen looks like after I made my changes:

With different background, paper and text colors.

With different background, paper and text colors.

If you rather have an image that inspires you instead of selecting a different color, select choose texture. Your directory will open and from there you can select a photo that will fire up the muse. I selected this background:

With Background Image

With Background Image.

A few things to note: If you want to hide the scroll bar, go to Preferences and in the area that says Scroller Type, click on the expansion arrows and select No Scroller (Windows users, you don’t have this option yet).


Scrivenings Mode

Let’s say that you want to see your entire manuscript in the Editor so you can determine which points in your novel need revising, and how well it flows. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Scrivener has an ingenious function called Scrivenings mode that’s let’s you see the whole kit and kaboodle in the Editor.

To access Scrivenings mode first select the container in the Binder, or you can select multiple text files in the Binder. You can access either from the toolbar in the grouped View Mode icons or View->Scrivenings. You’ll see that when you select numerous text files or a container that holds numerous files, “Document” switches to Scrivenings.

In the Editor, the files appear as one long, continuous document. The Header bar displays the Name followed by Composite. For this example, I want to see the entire manuscript. So the Header is title Julius followed  by Composite —Part 1. When I scroll down, I’ll see Part 2 and further down I’ll see Part 3. As you move your curser through the document, the Header will reflect the chapter or scene you’re in.

Each section is divided by divider bars (dashed lines in Windows). If you find the divider bars distracting they can be turned off in Preferences->Formatting (This is a Mac feature only). At the bottom of the Window check Separate Scrivenings with Single Line Breaks, which is a small bracket that marks the end of the document and the beginning of the next one. Below are images with the bars and with the single line breaks.

Scrivenings with Bars Separating Documents

Scrivenings with Bars Separating Documents

Scrivenings with Separate Line Breaks

Scrivenings with Separate Line Breaks

You’ll note that the footer shows my word count (The first numberindicates the actual words written and the second number denotes the original goal.) If you want to see how it actually looks on a page and how many pages you have, go to View->Show Page View. (Sorry, Windows users, you don’t have this feature yet).

Scrivenings in Page View

Scrivenings in Page View

If you’re revising and want to figure out where in the book you met a certain word count, select your text at the very beginning of the document and keep scrolling. You’ll notice as your selecting the text, the footer is counting the selected passages. Once you reach that specific word count, stop and leave the cursor in that section. You’ll see the header change and how far you’re in the book. For example, I was curious how far the reader is in the book when he reaches ten thousand words. It turns out it’s thirty-five pages or Chapter Seven.

I’ll be very upfront, but I never really understood the function of Scrivenings mode until I was asked a question about it. After playing around with it, I finally understood the reason for the feature, and now it’s one I’ll be using often.



The Corkboard

At some point I’ll get to the second part of formatting, but once again, but I think learning how to use the corkboard is more important.

If you love to storyboard then you’ll find Scrivener’s Corkboard the ideal tool to plot your story.  You can work with index cards right from the get go, and go directly to the Corkboard and start plotting!

To add index cards to the Corkboard, hit the plus sign at the footer of the page, and type in your notes or synopsis directly onto the card. If you need more space and just want to see the Corkboard, hide the Binder and Inspector.

I tend to work straight from the Editor, so for this lesson, I’ve created six text files and headers indicating what the scenes are about and I’ve included synopses for each text file.

My scenes are in the folder titled Part One. I selected that folder and to access the corkboard, I can either go to View->Corkboard or select it from the toolbar. This is what my corkboard currently looks like:

The Corkboard with Status Stamps

The Corkboard with Status Stamps

One of the key features of the Corkboard is that you’re able to reorder your index cards. If you need to switch scenes two and three, you can change their order and you’ll see that reflected in the Binder. NOTE: If you selected a multiple text files as opposed to a container (folder), the order of the cards can’t be moved. 

Let’s take a look at the Corkboard’s footer, you’ll see that on the left-hand side, it’s nearly identical to the Binder’s footer. It includes:

1. New Text

2. New Folder

3. Action/Options Menu


4. Double arrows that indicate that it opens the selected card in another editor.

On the extreme right-hand side, you’ll notice three icons (this is for the Mac). The first one is the Linear Corkboard that keeps the cards arranged in binder order in a grid (in Windows this is the standard feature). The second one is the Free-Form Corkboard (available only on the Mac), and the last icon is the options available. NOTE: In the Windows version, you’ll only have the Options icon. For the purpose of this tutorial, I will focus on the Linear Corkboard because both versions have this feature.

Corkboard Options allows you to size the cards, how far apart you want the cards to be, how many you want across, and whether you want keyboard chips, or use a smaller font.

Corkboard options

Corkboard options

If you want your cards to include color-coded keyword chips, say for example, point-of-view (or whatever you renamed Label in the General section of the Inspector), you can select that by going to the Inspector and selecting your POV  from the drop-down menu in the General area (this will show up as a  a colored push pin or a stamp).

If you don’t see a push pin or the colored corner chip, go to View->Corkboard Options->Show Label Pins. If you only see a colored label chip in the corner and want the push pin, go to Preferences->Corkboard-> Index Card Theme and select either the index card that’s either blue and black or red and blue. These themes allow for push pins. The rounded theme offers the corner colored label chip.

Another nifty feature is that you can change the color of the cards to reflect the label color. To have pretty tinted index cards go to View->Use Label Color in (or whatever you named it)->Index Cards. You’ll notice that it’s reflected in the Synopsis in the Inspector.

Tinted Index Cards

Tinted Index Cards

You can also have keyword colored chips. So let’s take a slight detour and learn how to create keywords.  First, select your index card or text file. When you select the card, you’ll see a blue border appear around the card. That designates card as active. Next, open the Inspector and at the footer, select the Key icon and the Corkboard with the selected card and the document pane will look like this:

Selected Card with Keywords Pane opened in Inspector.

Selected Card with Keywords Pane opened in Inspector.

In the Keyword pane, hit the plus sign and start adding keywords for that scene. If the keyword chips are not appearing, go to View->Corkboard Options->Show Keyword Colors.  Another option to add Keywords to your cards is if you already have added a series of Keywords, go to the toolbar, click on the Keywords icon. A window will open and from that list you drag the Keyword to the card.

You probably have noticed that I have a status stamps on the Index cards, to have these appear on yours go to View->Corkboard Options->Show Status Stamps.  You can change how opaque the stamp looks by going to Preferences->Corkboard (Window users, Tools->Options->Corkboard-Appearance->Status Stamp Opacity). You’ll see a sliding button that can be slid from low to high.

The Mac version of Scrivener has the option to print out your cards. To print, follow these steps:

1. File->Page Setup.

2. Go to Settings and click on the arrows, select Scrivener.

3. A new window will open with margin settings click on Options.

4. Another window will open with a menu of what can be printed. Select Index cards. This will have a number of options that you can fiddle with.

5. After you’ve made your selections.Click OK to close the the Print Options window.

6. Click OK to close the Page Setup window.

7. Select from the Binder the files or container (folder) for which you want to print index cards.

8. Choose File->Print Current Document

9. Make sure you have the right settings and printer. Click Print.

For Windows, the process is shorter:

1. In the Corkboard, go to File->Page Setup->Size->Scroll down to Index Card. My margins are set to .332 for both the left and top; .25 for the right and bottom. You don’t need to reset them (at least I didn’t. It printed out fine). Keep it as Portrait. Hit OK.

2. Just to make sure that you printing index cards, go to Print Preview. 

3. Print Current Document. 


Split Screen Mode

I was planning to write the second part of formatting, but I thought Split Screen Mode was a more important feature to discuss. It’s one I use on an almost daily basis. Prior to making the discovery, I was going about it the old-fashioned way of resizing a window in another program and resizing Scrivener so I could view two different documents at the same time.

With Split Screen mode you can divide the Editor screen into two different panes. Each pane works independently of each other. If you need to change settings on one pane, no need to worry that it will switch the settings in the other one. For example, let’s say that you’ve imported a document (NOTE: this only works with text documents, not PDFs or web pages—at least that’s what I noticed) and you discover the print is a tad too small to read, you can change the text scale in one pane and it doesn’t affect the second one. Split Screen mode also remembers the settings of each pane and you don’t have to fiddle with them the next time you use this option.

How do I use Split Screen? When I write the letter from the online editor for HAND/EYE Magazine, and summarize four articles featured that week in the online issue. I have the letter open in one pane, and in the second one the article that I’m trying to summarize. I also use Split Screen when I’m writing and reviewing my research notes, or reviewing two different chapters to see how the transitions work, or incorporating notes from one version of a document into another.

To activate Split Screen, select a document in the binder, which will appear in the Editor. Click on the split toggle screen icon that’s next to the two up/down arrows to the right of the pane header. The pane with the blue header bar is the one that’s active and the inactive pane is a light gray. To open another document, click on the inactive pane to make it active, go to the binder and select the text you want to view. Just an FYI, if you have the Inspector open, the synopsis, the data section and the document notes will also correspond with the active pane.

Screen Shot 2013-01-26 at 7.40.48 PM

Here’s a neat trick—say you want to work on one document, like that letter from the editor I write. I tend to forget which is my active pane and I end up closing that document when I switch to view the next document. If you know that you’re working on a document, but just viewing others, you can lock that pane by clicking on the document icon in the pane header that’s on the left.  A drop menu will appear and at the bottom you’ll see “Lock in Place.” Once it’s locked, the pane header will turn a pink/salmon color.

Screen Shot 2013-01-26 at 7.53.12 PM

If you don’t like the horizontal panes and prefer vertical, hit Option and click on the split toggle button. You can also resize the panes by dragging the sizing handle that’s between the two panes (it’s a very light gray).

The beauty of Split Screen is that it’s not exclusive to text documents. You can view your corkboard, the outliner, or an image (you can see in the example below that the top pane is locked by the pinkish pane header.

Screen Shot 2013-01-26 at 8.14.23 PM

That’s a brief rundown of how I use Split Screen. If you have any questions, leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to get back to you.

Formatting the Editor, Part I

Wow. Almost two and a half months of radio silence. Suffice it to say, I’ve been busy. During these last few days, when I reviewed all the formatting options, I saw there’s a great deal to cover so to make this easier to understand, I’ve broken this down into two parts. For today, Part I covers customization of the Editor’s screen, changing fonts from the format bar, and creating/adjusting/removing tab stops and indents.

First, if the stark white background of the Editor seems too bright  go to Preferences->Appearance->Customizable Colors (for Windows, go to Tools->Options). In the first pane on the left, select Editor. In the next pane to the right, select Text Background. In the next pane at the extreme right, click the Text Background to activate. The color wheel will open and from there, choose the color you like best. I like an ecru color, which is easier on my eyes.

Customize Editor Appearance

Customize Editor Appearance

If you want to change the font, size and spacing, the most obvious way is to go to the format bar and make your changes there via the drop down menus, but you can also go to Format->Fonts->Select Font. A window with the fonts will open and you can make your selection. 

Not happy with the tab stops and indent settings? You can readjust your indents and tab stops by clicking on the ruler of where you want to set them. If the ruler is hidden, go to Format->Show Ruler. A note about tab stops you’ll notice that Scrivener offers four different tab stops, each one is represented by a different icon :

Tabs and indent icons

Tabs and indent icons

Left: Standard tab most used. The text is left-aligned at that tab stop.

Center: The center tab center-aligns the text at that tab stop.

Right: Text is right-aligned, with the right edge of the text at the text tab.

Decimal: This is typically used to align rows of numbers. The decimal tab aligns the text with the decimal point at the tab stop. Text before the decimal point is right-aligned; after the decimal is left aligned.

To add a tab stop, you can do the following:

  • For the left tab, click on the desired spot in the ruler and drag it up into the gray space above that spot.
  • For the different types of tabs, Control-click (for Windows right-click) in the ruler and select the tab type from the contextual menu.

To remove a tab stop, drag it off the ruler until the icon disappears. Or you can go to Format->Text->Remove all Tab Stops. To move the tab stop, drag and drop it to its new location.

Scrivener offers three indent controls, which shouldn’t be confused with margin controls (something the ruler in Scrivener does not address).

Left: The left indent specifies how far away towards the right the text is from the left margin.

Right: The right indent indicates how far away to the left is the text from the right margin.

First line: The first line indent is where the first line of a paragraphs starts. If you rather work with blocked paragraphs, place the first line indent marker at the left margin.

Hanging indent: To create a hanging indent, where the first line is further left than the rest of the paragraph, you inverse which marker comes first.

And now before I forget…Starting April 7th, I’ll be teaching a six week online course for those new to Scrivener (that’s why I’ve been so busy). The course is hosted via the Colorado Romance Writers, a chapter of the Romance Writers of America. Scroll down to April and you’ll see the class. To sign up for the class, go to

Next time: Changing the default document format and presets.