Scrivener – Comments and Notes

Hello Scrivener fans. Sorry for the delay in posting the next set of tips, but I’ve been busy on a couple of writing projects.

In this post I talk about comments and footnotes. Scrivener has quite an ingenious method of allowing you to leave notes to yourself or others in your document, and magically suppress them when printing. Why this is useful we’ll discuss shortly – first let’s take a look at each of the options available to writers when it comes to jotting down notes, to-do items, and comments.

First thing to note [pun intended] is this. You don’t have to use all of these methods. Pick one that works for you. I personally favor the sidebar comments as they are always visible reminders and don’t scroll out of view when reading the text. I use these heavily for to-do items. That said I do use inline comments for glaring issues in the manuscript.

So how do we add notes, comments and footnotes to our projects?

Back to our helpful inspector again. If you’ve read my previous blogs you’ll be familiar with the inspector – but for those of you not sure how to bring it up or what it is – the inspector is the “toolbox” on the right of the scrivener workspace. You can toggle it by pressing the large “I” in the blue circle top right of the main menu.

The last icon on the inspector panel resembles a speech bubble with a “n.” in it. This is the comments and footnotes panel.


Now – let’s create our first note. In the screen shot below you will see a paragraph from my novel “To Raise a King”. I’ve mentioned here that Aldivon has a scar across his neck. I want to remind myself here that I need to let the reader know how he got that scar.


  • First I highlight the text to which I want to attach the note, in this case “scar tissue”
  • Next – from the inspector “comments & Footnotes” panel I hit the plus “+” button

This generates a comment for me – automatically adding the date and time the note was entered. I can then type as much text here as I want. Notice how the text in the manuscript becomes highlighted but the note remains in the sidebar. Now I can hover my mouse over the text in the manuscript and see the comment, or I can read it in the sidebar.

Note: You will notice on the sidebar comment an arrow next to the heading “comment:”. You can use this to hide the comment text or expand it. Useful when you have a ton of comments or long comments. Collapsing them allows you to see most of them on your screen and you can expand the ones you are interested in.


What’s really cool here is as I scroll the manuscript, the notes stay visible in the sidebar – prompting me that I have a to-do item in this section of the book. Clicking the note in the sidebar jumps me to the section of the manuscript to which this comment belongs.

If you right click on the comment in the sidebar you can even change its color, allowing you to create different note types for yourself and easily distinguish what they are for. I use red for awkward phrases, yellow for to-do items, orange if I feel something needs embellishment.

This commenting capability is particularly useful if your editor also uses Scrivener. Your editor can leave you sidebar comments attached to text that needs further attention – much like you can in Microsoft Word. In fact if your editor used Microsoft Word and leaves comments they will import into Scrivener just fine, and appear as sidebar comments too. Cool huh?

Note: I’m frequently extolling Scrivener in this blog but I will make a minor criticism here. The notes appear based on the document section you are in at the time. There’s no option to “View all Comments” which would be nice. I do have a work around for that though. If you notice I prefixed my comment with the phrase: TO_DO:

It’s unlikely that phrase is going to appear in the manuscript text, so I can then use the Scrivener search tool to search for “TO_DO:” and bingo! I have all my todo items collected together and can work through the manuscript to address them.

As you work through your comments you can delete them. When you compile your manuscript into pdf, ebook, word doc or whatever the compiler allows you to include or exclude comments. This is very useful, and brings me to a novel [another pun] use for these sidebar comments.

Let’s assume you are working on a paper to submit, or a report. Scrivener is an ideal writing platform for more than just books and screenplays! You can put research notes, or comments that some in your audience require, but others do not. When compiling the completed document you can now simply produce documents that have the main text minus the comments, or special versions that also include your reference notes and extended markup for a select audience.

If you want the comments to appear as true footnotes in your finished document, then use the “+fn” button next to the “+” button.  It’s important to understand here that footnotes entered this way are expected to be included in the manuscript at compile time. You’ll have to tell the compiler to suppress them if you don’t want them.

So that’s comments. Next we’ll take a brief look at inline comments.

Inline comments can be entered into your document at any point. From the drop-down menu bar select “Format” and then “Inline Annotation”. You can then start typing in your document and your text will appear in red, in a frame, clearly standing out from the rest of the text. Using my novel as an example I’ve added a comment about a location. I’ve given the location it’s Celtic name, but used an inline comment to remind me of the modern name.


I find this type of commenting intrusive. It breaks the flow of the actual document, which is why I favor the sidebar comments but the point here is it’s an available option, and may be preferable to you. Again, like the sidebar notes you can elect to include these in your finished document, or suppress them.

When I compile the manuscript into its finished product the inline comments will be suppressed (by default), but scrivener gives me two very cool options here:

  • I can include them and have them appear in the text at the point I inserted them with the option of having them encased in “[ ]”.
  • I can have them included as footnotes at the bottom of the relevant page

I’ve mentioned “compiling” your document several times in this article and plan a future post on the compiler. However I have copied a screenshot below that deals specifically with the options available when it comes to handing comments and notes.



The checkbox “Remove footnotes” will suppress any sidebar comments you added using the “+fn”

If you don’t elect to remove your footnotes, then the drop down option below is available to you and allows your footnote type comments to be included as: comments (in the text), footnotes at the bottom of the page, or end notes at the end of your document.

It’s worth noticing here you can also change the font and formatting for footnotes.

The “Comments and Annotations” section by default will remove all inspector or sidebar comments – the ones entered with the “+” option in the inspector, along with all inline comments or annotations.

If you uncheck either of this options Scrivener will include your annotations or sidebar comments in the finished manuscript. Enabling either option will allow you access to the drop down where you can elect to have your comments inserted as: Margin Comments, Inline comments, footnotes, or end notes.

As you can see Scrivener as always is nothing if not generous with its options and flexibility, allowing you to work the way you want. Such flexibility is the hallmark of great software and thoughtful design.

I hope you found this post helpful! As usual feel free to leave comments, ask questions and make suggestions for future posts.

Thanks to all those that have followed me – and happy Scrivening!



Scrivener – Keywords and Saved Searches

Hello again and welcome to the next helpful tip for you Scrivener users.

In my previous post I mentioned using Keywords to track scenes and characters throughout your novel. This is a very simple feature but when coupled with Saved Searches it becomes an incredibly powerful tool!

You access Keywords via the third icon of the Inspector panel. (Note: An asterisk shown against any of the Inspector Icons tells you there is information on that panel).  For this post I’ll actually use the Scrivener file associated with my latest novel “To Raise a King” (Currently Available on Amazon) [Shameful Plug!!]


Here is a view of the inspector panel from Scene 1 of Chapter 2 of my novel. A very brief synopsis reminds me of what is to take place in this scene, and below the general meta data are our keywords.

You can start adding keywords immediately to a scene by simply hitting the “+” icon to the right of the Keywords heading. This allows free text entry of anything you want to associate to that scene. Just as simply the “-” button removes a keyword.

Easy – but a little dangerous maybe. Being Freeform, you can enter anything there. So – lets assume you have this amazingly powerful wizard and you name him “Myrlinus”. The idea of the keywords would be to add the keyword “Myrlinus” to every scene he appears in, but with a name like this guy has it would be easy to miss-spell the name. Some scenes may have “Myrlinus” while others have”Merlinus”. One of the reasons for using the keywords in the first place is to perform instant searches against our huge manuscript, but if we type the name wrong we’ll not find them in our search.

Worse yet – what happens if we change this characters name to “Merlin”? We’re going to have to replace that keyword in every scene. Nightmare!

Enter “Project Keywords”.

On the image above you will notice a gear wheel icon to the right of the Keywords line. This brings up a drop down menu allowing you to add or remove a keyword (basically replicating the “+” “-” buttons), and a third option to view Project Keywords.

You can also access Project Keywords from the Main Menu: Project / Project Keywords.

Here is view of the Project Keywords from my novel:


You can see I have a keyword for “Flashbacks” – anywhere in the novel my protagonist experiences a flashback I add that keyword.

Then I have a selection of characters (color coded of course – red for the bad guys, green for the good, gold for supporting). I also have a tree of locations.

Project keywords can be as simple or complex as you like, ranging from a single list, to a more involved hierarchy. The Outline buttons at the bottom of the window allow you to add “sibling” or “child” entries to the keyword list and you can also set the color using the built in color wheel.



So why use Project Keywords?


Firstly – you don’t have to keep typing the keyword on each scene. Simply use the gear wheel icon to bring up the Project Keywords and they will float in a separate window while you work. Now you can simply drag a keyword from the pop-up window directly into any scenes keywords frame. Bam! We’ve eliminated the risk of typing mistakes.

Secondly – what happens if we want to change a characters name? Simple. Bring up the Project Keywords window – double click a character and change their name. You will get a warning dialog as belowkeyword-used

how cool is that? Thanks Scrivener! With a simple click of “Update Existing Documents” all the scenes that had “Myrlinus” as a keyword, now have “Merlin”. You have to love this application for its power and simplicity right?

Ok – so we’ve got a bunch of keywords associated with out scenes by why is that useful? The answer to that is searching! Scrivener excels at searches and it can find anything, with searches confined to a scene, a chapter or your entire manuscript. That’s fine when looking for one off things here and there, but what if you want to identify all the scenes with a flashback? Or all the scenes with Matt? Or all the scenes that took place in the library cos you want to change the red carpet to a wooden floor?


Using Scriveners Search located at the top right hand of the main menu bar note the drop down arrow next to the magnifying glass. Clicking that arrow will bring up a ton of useful search filters for you to apply, and notice right there in the center of the top group is “Keywords”! Now entering a keyword of “flashbacks” will instruct Scrivener to search for all scenes that have a keyword of flashbacks.

Your search results are shown as a set of scenes beneath the binder in the left navigation pane.

Now here’s where it gets super slick. If you check in the search list the bottom option – Save Search As Collection – your search isn’t just shown in the binder under search results, but as implied by the option – a whole new collection is added to your navigation panel.

For this example I searched for Keyword “Flashbacks” and opted to Save my search as a selection named: “Scenes with Flashbacks”.



You can see here we have four scenes that have important flashback moments in them. And because they are now a “collection” they are always available to us on the navigation panel so we don’t have to search for them again.

Important Note: A collection is not another copy of your scenes. It’s a virtual folder that links together scenes from your binder / manuscript under a meaningful header. If you double click one of these scenes and edit it, then navigate to the same scene in the binder you will see the change has applied there also.

I’ve saved the last piece of Scrivener Awesomeness for last. Collections are dynamic, not static. What does this mean? It means that if I add the Flashbacks keyword to other scenes in the novel, those scenes will automatically appear in the “Scenes with Flashbacks” collection! I don’t have to search for the keyword again and rebuild the collection.

If you get into the habit of using keywords as you build your story, you’ll find you are building a wealth of powerful indexes and search capabilities that when it comes to continuity checking, and detailed editing later you’ll be glad you had.

If you decide to use keywords, how you use them is entirely up to you. For the novel “To Raise a King” I tagged each scene with a location, and the characters in it. I also tagged any scenes that had flashbacks, and as this is a novel that covers time travel, I also tagged each scene with it’s period – “PresentDay” or “597AD”. Flashbacks, PresentDay and 597AD were saved as three separate collections, allowing me to follow each flashback as the reader would experience it, and also enabled me to read all the sections of the novel that occurred in the present day time frame.

A longer post this time – so hope I didn’t lose anyone along the way and that you found the content valuable.

As always – please leave comments, likes or suggestions for future posts.

Until next time – keep writing!


Scrivener – Document References

I’ve received a lot of questions recently on the features in the “Inspector” panel, so this post will focus on the second button of the Inspector – “References”.

inspectorThe “Document References” section allows you to add links to external reference information but more importantly scenes, characters, and locations in your own manuscript!

If you’re looking for a simple way to index which characters or locations are used in specific scenes then the “keywords” inspector (future blog about this) may be a better choice for you, as it’s integrated into the Scrivener search feature. However if your approach to producing a novel is to outline heavily, and flesh out as you go, then the document references is an invaluable tool.

I tend to use both the keywords and the references.

When you create a scene, you would typically add a brief synopsis in the Inspector pane that acts as a ‘reminder’ to you of what is to take place and why. If you’ve already compiled a list of characters, and locations you can then link to those in the Document References section.


To do this simply click the “+” sign highlighted in the image to the right, select “Internal Reference” and then navigate through the tree view of your manuscript to the desired location or character sketch.

Once you reach the stage that you’re ready to actually write the scene, you now have an instant reminder of the purpose from your synopsis, and access to the details of who you planed to include and the location the action takes place.

Why is this useful?

It’s useful in two ways:

  1. Rapid access to your character sketches can make sure you don’t make a mistake with your character – nothing’s worse than the blue eyed hero of chapter 1 gazing at the love of his life from deep brown eyes in chapter 9!
  2. As you write, so you will enrich or develop a character or location. This quick link allows you rapid access to the character or location sketch and makes it easy for you to add to the definition, making more information available to you in future scenes. This helps enormously in continuity issues. Was the gun on the dresser loaded the last time you were in that room, or empty?

If you read my first post on Character Building this use of Document References makes it easy to grow the Character Journey I described as you write your story.

In addition to the ‘Internal References’, Scrivener allows you to reference external data also, and I find this invaluable. I use external references rarely in actual scenes, but use them a lot in location sketches.

If I have a scene taking place in a “real-world” location, then to save copying into Scrivener the wealth of information from the internet I’ll tend to copy pertinent data, things I know I really need, but will use Document References to store links to the actual sites that hold valuable information. This way all my research material, and links to even more of it, stay within my project, right where I need them each time I sit down to write.

Document References are a very powerful feature and eliminate the need for maintaining separate documents of links, or a growing list of “Favorites” in your browser of choice. The developers of Scrivener worked hard to make sure an author has ready access to everything they could need, so we can focus on what we do best – write.

Happy Scrivening everyone – and hope you enjoyed this second installment of Scrivener Tips.

Please leave comments, and feel free to suggest articles you would like covered in future posts.

If you’re interested in my novel: “To Raise a King” written, and formatted in Scrivener then check it out in the Amazon store… To Raise a King