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!



2 thoughts on “Scrivener – Comments and Notes

  1. Hi – I still can’t get footnotes to appear at the bottom of each page. I am on MAC using Scrivener 2.8.12 . What the heck is the issue. I’ve tried compiling for PDF, for print and opening in PDF, for RTF and opening in Word, I have poured over the screens here and spent time searching but I MUST have footnotes at the bottom of each page. Frankly this is a deal breaker for me.


    1. Hi, I’m not familiar with the MAC version – but believe you need to use the Comments and Footnotes tab in the compile options. There are two checkboxes that you must uncheck to force footnotes to attach to the page where they are referenced. “Export footnotes as endnotes” and “Export inline footnotes as endnotes” should be unchecked. Also make sure when you added your comment you made it a footnote – not just a comment. Good luck – and hopefully a MAC user will be able to give a better answer here.


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