Tag Archives: Scrivener

A Scrivener/Evernote Collaboration

PDF to ScrivenerI’m in the research stage for an update to my Researcher’s Digital Toolbox book and have been putting Evernote to work to help me capture interesting tidbits I find here and there. I especially appreciate Evernote’s simplified article capture which just gives me the article content minus all the surrounding site design, ads, etc. But, while it makes good sense to capture and organize those notes in Evernote, I’ll want to have many of them in my Scrivener workspace for easy reference as I work on the manuscript.

I discovered that if I have a project open in Scrivener, I can use Evernote’s print note command and choose the PDF option (in my Mac’s print options panel) which then opens a panel of service options  - including PDF to Scrivener. I select that option and that note is dumped right into the Research section of my open Scrivener project.

Love it!

Little Stories

Frohe Ostern

Frohe Ostern – Happy Easter – 1989

Yesterday, while sorting through some of The Family Archive, I stumbled onto this little jewel from our time in Germany. I worked for Boston University’s Overseas Programs which was headquartered at Hammonds Barracks – about halfway between Mannheim and Heidelberg. It’s a decorated egg shell created by the husband one of my co-workers. He made one for each of us in that office. Twenty-five years later, it’s still intact and a treasured memory of those days.

Our family histories full of little stories. How are you capturing yours?

Blogging is the perfect platform for these little stories. They are easy to create. In my case, many are generated by a bit of ephemera like this egg, a photo or a newspaper clipping. The research needed to fill out the story often doesn’t take long either. Pull together words, photos, maps and anything else you want to use to tell the story and pretty soon you’re done.

The blog – and its readers – don’t mind that you aren’t building your history in perfect chronological order. And, before you know it, those little stories start piling up.

That’s where Scrivener comes in. It dawned on me a while back that while the blog was a great platform to share these little stories, it was a bit tedious to pull a collection of them together for other projects. Scrivener, however, is the perfect tool for this! I have created several Scrivener projects and each of my little stories – along with its associated research – gets added to the appropriate project. And, as that associated research grows, I find I’m often starting a little story in Scrivener then copying it to the blog.

Once in Scrivener, stories can be arranged and rearranged in any number of ways. Use Scrivener’s Compiler to quickly create a story collection to export as a PDF or an ebook you can share with family members. Yes, a photo-heavy manuscript will require additional formatting and layout efforts in other apps, but Scrivener still has much to offer family historians building their history one little story at a time.

Serialize your family history

One of the reasons there are so many geneabloggers is that we have discovered it as the perfect platform for creating and presenting our family history one story at a time. Instead of waiting until I have all my research completed, when I have gathered enough on a person or event, I’ll write that story and publish it on my blog. Should I later find additional information, the article gets updated. I’m always surprised at how quickly those stories start adding up. And, those articles are easily accessible for repurposing into any number of other projects.

My two favorite authoring tools are the Scrivener app and the PressBooks platform. I have family history projects set up on both. When I finish a family history post on Moultrie Journal (my personal blog) that fits with one of these projects, I’ll copy it to both platforms. Although Scrivener is a fabulous authoring workspace, it’s also quite private. PressBooks is online and designed for collaboration. When I publish a section of the project at PressBooks, I can invite family – and anyone else I want – to come, read and comment on it. I get lots of good feedback and I’ll often import those remarks into my research notes on the Scrivener project.

While both platforms will export the finished book to any number of formats, Scrivener gives me more control over the formatting details of the export than PressBooks does.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that my family isn’t as fanatical about family history as I am. Oh, I don’t mean they aren’t interested, but they are busy and many aren’t that tech-savy. So, I need a delivery system that puts these stories in front of them with as little effort on their part as possible.

Fortunately for me, just about everyone in the family has some kind of tablet – most of them iPads. I’ve been working to install the free Documents app from Readdle on their iThings. It is an amazing app that lets them view just about any kind of file – from Office documents to PDFs to photos and even videos. It can annotate and/or edit many kinds of files and connects to just about every cloud storage system to provide a very handy file management system. Thanks to this app I can send documents and PDF files to my family as I create them and they can easily open and enjoy them on their iPads. This serialized storytelling suits us all.

A family history is a living, breathing creature that is constantly changing and always amazing. I enjoy capturing whatever story my research presents me and then incorporating it into the growing patchwork that is my ancestry. Thanks to today’s digital authoring and publishing tools, I can also share those stories in many creative ways.


Taking Scrivener to the Porch

Porch at Cross Creek

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings “office” at Cross Creek.

Last week we paid a visit to Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ home at Cross Creek. She wrote her Pulitzer prize-winning novel, The Yearling, and most of her other stories from this table on her porch. Although I’ll never have anything close to her writing talent, I do have a delightful porch and it’s been an enjoyable place to work the last couple of weeks. And, thanks to Scrivener’s Sync with External Folder feature, I can work on my current manuscript on the porch using my iPad. Here’s how.

Although Scrivener provides synching with Simplenote and Index Card for iOS, I’ve found the Byword app [Mac - $9.99 & iOS - $2.99] an easy-to-use editor that “plays” well with Scrivener. Byword offers Dropbox support so I use the Sync with External Folder function to work between the two apps. While Byword is my editor choice, that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to use this feature. Any editor that works with plain or rich text formats should work using this feature.

The initial external folder setup is done via Scrivener. With the project open, I choose the Sync with External Folder command from the File menu. The Sync pane appears.

Scrivener Sync

Here I identify the Dropbox folder I want to use for this book project along with document formatting options. Notice that I’ve chosen to have Scrivener take a snapshot of my project before each sync operation and to sync automatically when a Scrivener project is opened and closed.

The first sync will put all my Draft items in the Dropbox folder I specified. Blank text items in Scrivener become blank documents in the folder. Unfortunately, the pseudo folder/file structure created in Scrivener does not sync with the files. The files are displayed in whatever sorting structure I have set up in my file manager. However, if I had chosen to use the Prefix file names with numbers option, the added number would give me a better sense of the project structure.

By setting the auto option, Scrivener will check the external folder for updated files each time I open the project and synch with the external folder when I close it. I can also do a manual sync at any time using the File > Sync with External Folder Now command.

When setting up Byword to connect to Dropbox, the default location is Dropbox/Apps/Byword. If you want to sync your Scrivener files to a different Dropbox folder, you’ll need to update the Byword settings so you can access them.

I’ve found that if I add a new document in Byword it will sync to my Scrivener project – at the bottom of the current Draft structure. If I delete a document file from the external folder, it will be replaced with the last Scrivener version of that document the next time I sync. To permanently remove an item, I have to remove it from the Scrivener project.

I’m still looking forward to the iPad app for Scrivener so I take all my project files – research, notes and draft – to the porch. Until that time arrives, I’ll take advantage of Scrivener’s sync options and my Byword app to work wherever I am.


Adding Checklists to a Scrivener Project

Building on the idea to include writing and editing support within my Scrivener project, I’ve found a very nice proofreading guide thanks to Indiana University. By saving it as a web archive file, I was able to easily incorporate it into the Style Guide section of my project. For more information on web archive files – and how to use them in Scrivener – see Setting Up a Scrivener Project.


Other sources for proofreading and editing checklists include:

Setting Up a Scrivener Project

I find the beginning of a writing project a difficult and intimidating time. I have an idea and possibly a few notes – maybe even a rough outline – but there’s still so much to consider before I write the first paragraph. Starting your first project in Scrivener can be rather intimidating too, but hopefully this post will show you how the app can quickly become your friend and make those early stages of a writing project easier and more focused.


Here’s a look at a writing project that’s just getting started. Looking at the contents of the Binder in the left sidebar you see there are a number of  folders set up with different icons chosen to help define their purpose. You’ll also notice there are only a few text items included at this point and these are mostly generic content. Let’s go through what you see here and why they are included.

You’re looking at the “How to Use This Guide” text element located as the first element in the Draft folder. The Draft folder is where the actual contents of the book resides. Right now it contains just a few things – most of them boilerplate text. As you can see, the Front Matter folder holds the copyright, fine print and other legal requirements for this book. Other than a few things like book title and copyright date, this stuff won’t change much from one project to the next. You’ll also notice that I’ve got my text set to a rather large font. I’ve already set up the formatting within the manuscript so it’s easy for me to read while I work. This won’t affect the look of the published book, but it will sure make writing and editing easier on my eyes.

Below the contents of the Draft folder is another folder called Research. This is where I’m going to stash all the notes, screenshots, web archives and other information I’ll need to reference while I’m working on this project. Right now the only thing in there is a blank text item called Useful Links. I’ll soon have this loaded down with URLs to online sources related to this project.

Trash is where I drag and drop folders and text items I no longer need. Those things are not actually deleted until you manually empty the trash.

The Graphics folder has sub-folders to hold the image files for both my book’s cover as well as any graphics to be included in the guide.

Style Guide is used to build a quick reference for grammar and style issues. Right now you can see that I’ve imported the word list file from Yahoo’s online style guide. Why this word list? Because most of my books discuss tech and online topics and this word list supports those terms and phrases. I can easily add to this word list or include notes and grammar references at any time.

How did this word list get added to my project? I downloaded the list from Yahoo, then clicked on the Style Guide icon in the Binder and chose File > Import > Files and selected the file I wanted to import.

Notes is empty right now but will soon be full of reminders, notes, imported files and web archives. There could well be several sub-folders added within Notes to keep things organized as my research items grow. The goal is to have all the reference material I’ll need while I’m writing within easy reach inside Scrivener so I don’t waste time trying to find it.

I’m a big fan of outlines and I keep outline apps on both my iPad and phone to jot down something before I forget it. I can easily export those files and include them in my Scrivener research. I keep an Outline folder in my project so I have a place for them when I want them.

Because I plan to write several guides, I’ve saved this basic setup as a template. That way I don’t have to recreate these same generic elements with each project. Once I’ve got the basic setup the way I like it, I save it as a template (File > Save as Template …). Next I’m asked which category to save it under – I chose Non-Fiction – and to give it a title. Now, when I’m ready to start a new guide all I do is choose File > New Project and select my template from the appropriate category.
Web archive capture

One Scrivener feature I’ve found quite useful is the ability to include Web Archive files in my research folders. The Safari browser [Mac & Win - free] lets you save all or part of a displayed web page as an archive. The result is very similar to a screenshot except that the links included on the page will work. It is important to note that a web archive doesn’t always capture all the contents. It does have problems with content displayed within an iFrame – like the census pages displayed on Ancestry. If you want to include one of these views in your Scrivener project, it’s best to download the page as a graphic then bring that into your research folders.

Web archive viewed in Scrivener

Here’s what my Wikipedia article looks like in Scrivener. I can use the links within the Contents box to move to specific content within the article and the external links will open in my default web browser. The difference is this information is now easily accessible from within my current writing project.

Building the project

With the essentials already waiting for me in my Scrivener template, I’m ready to concentrate on building my writing project. In this example, you see my Binder is beginning to fill out with more research items and a number of topics to be discussed within the manuscript. I’m still in the research and organization phase of my writing project but I’m getting focused and can concentrate on the what I want in this guide and how to organize it. Of course things will change  frequently as the project progresses. The published guide will bear little resemblance to what you see here, but Scrivener will continue to help me manipulate my manuscript until I have it just the way I want it.


Scrivener Presets

Since I spend a lot of time in Scrivener working on writing projects, I want to make it as comfortable as possible. For me that means large fonts that are easy on these old eyes. Fortunately, the only formatting options that can’t be overridden in the compile process are bold, italics and underlines. That means I can set font styles and sizes in the workspace that make it easy for me to see what I’m doing but have the final product set in more platform-appropriate type. I’m loving that!

If you’re like me, you probably won’t even think about doing something like this until you’re well into a Scrivener project. In my case, I recently imported my first book, The Future of Memories, as a Scrivener project so I can bring it up to date. It came in with all the fonts, styles and colors used in the PDF edition of the book so now I want something that’s easier to work on. I’m doing a review to define which areas of the book need more information/updated information/new content so updating the format has been included in the review process. Here’s how it works.

Scrivener Preset Menu

Once I’ve got a text element set up with the font, size, line spacing and other formatting preferences I want, I select it and choose the Format > Formatting > Redefine Preset From Selection command, then choose the element I want to redefine. In this example, I had body text selected so I would chose Redefine Body. I would do the same for block quotes, headings and sub-headings within the draft. Notice there’s also an option for setting up new presets – like maybe a caption or something similar.

Once everything’s the way I want it, I can then make them your default presets so every new project will be set up just like this one. To do that, I go to the Scrivener Preferences panel (Scrivener > Preferences), choose the Formatting button then click the Use Formatting in Current Editor button.

Presets Button

Now, whenever I need one of these formatting presets, I’ll select the text to be formatted, click on the Presets button in the toolbar and choose the preset I want. It works for me.


Introduction to Scrivener

Scrivener v. 2.4 for Mac just released

Users who purchased Scrivener directly from Literature & Latte should see an update notice when they open the app. If you purchased your version through the Mac App Store, you’ll have to wait a couple of days for it to be approved and posted. Here’s the information being sent to Scrivener’s Mac users:

Scrivener 2.4 adds numerous refinements, is fully Retina Display compatible, and includes many bug-fixes. It is a free update for all registered users of Scrivener 2, and we recommend that you update from whatever version of Scrivener you are using. Updates and fixes include:

  • Scrivener is now fully Retina Display compatible (every icon and graphic has been recreated at twice the size to take full advantage of the Retina display).
  • Added support for Regular Expressions in all find and replace features (Lion and above only).
  • Many improvements and additions to Compile.
  • Added full support for the Fountain screenplay syntax (http://fountain.io) to Import, Import and Split, Export, Compile and External Folder Sync.
  • Added drag-and-drop support for Scapple notes (Scapple is our upcoming freeform mind-mapping-type app – please see http://www.literatureandlatte.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=42 ).
  • The Scratch Pad can now be set up to use plain text, making it easy to sync scratch pad notes with iOS apps.
  • Inspector comments and footnotes can now be zoomed with the text.
  • Updated MultiMarkdown package to 3.7.
  • Improved e-book export, in particular to accommodate Amazon’s stricter Kindle formatting rules and to avoid iTunes Producer rejecting certain EPUB files.
  • Fixed critical bug whereby Scrivener could stop saving documents that were part of a scrivenings session that had been open for more than two days.
  • Over 100 other refinements and bug fixes.

You can find a full list of changes here:


Scrivener, Split-Panes and Safari’s Web Archive

One of the many useful tools Scrivener offers is the split pane view. It allows you to open a second pane below or beside the text item you are currently writing or editing. There are many uses for this feature – from referring to another part of your manuscript to maintain consistency to opening a scanned family document for transcription. And, for those who use the Safari browser [Mac & Win - free], it can be used to create a web archive file like the one you see in the example below.

Scrivener split pane view

Split panes showing a WebArchive file in the lower pane. (Click image for larger view.)

Creating split panes is quite simple. Choose View > Layout > Split Horizontally to create the example you see above. The View > Layout > Split Vertically displays the panes side-by-side. When I am ready to return to a single editing pane choose View > Layout > No Split. I can display just about anything in either pane. In this example there’s a text element from the manuscript in the top pane and a web archive file in the bottom pane. The web archive is from a blog site I’m discussing in the text and it’s there so I can see it while I’m writing about it. The web archive file is located in the Research section of this project’s Binder and I just dragged the file to the pane’s title bar (highlighted in blue) to display it in that pane.

So, what exactly is a web archive and why bother with it?

A web archive file is created using the Safari browser. When I save a displayed web page as a web archive file, it saves the entire page including all images and hyperlinks. The hyperlinks will remain functional as long as the destinations for those links still exist. Why not just use a screenshot? Screenshots generally only capture what is currently visible on the screen whereas a web archive captures the entire web page. And, it’s just as easy to capture a web archive file as it is to capture a screenshot – I just save the page as a web archive. Want to capture an entire article in Wikipedia? I can do it with a web archive file.

To add web archive files to a Scrivener project, I just drag and drop the file into the appropriate folder within my Research section of the project. Remember . . . only text can go into the Draft/Manuscript sections.

On Mac systems, the default application for displaying a web archive file is the Safari browser, but in addition to Scrivener, I can also view web archives in my Footnote, MacJournal, Notebooks and Paperless apps. Since web archives are an Apple feature, I doubt that there are many Windows apps supporting the format. While Safari’s web archive feature isn’t the ideal solution for capturing the contents of a web page, it’s still one of the best options we have. And, for people like me who spend most of their online time in the Safari browser, it’s one of the easiest ways to capture the page. Even if you’re not working in Scrivener, there are still a lot of ways to put a web archive file to good use.