Getting to Know Scrivener’s Outliner

Here’s an intro about Scrivener’s Outliner, which you will use to plan or rework your manuscript. This training is provided by Literature & Latte, creators of Scrivener.

Transcript: If you’ve watched the other videos about view modes, you’re probably already familiar with single document mode, scrivenings mode, and the corkboard. In this video, we’ll explore another view mode- The Outliner.

As the name suggests, this is a great tool for building up a project outline. It may help to think of the outliner as a more detailed version of the binder, selecting a group in the binder whether it’s a folder, a document stack, a set of documents you’ve selected together, or some combination of these, and opening it in the outliner will display a list of contents in columns like this.

By default, you’ll see the title and synopsis, the label and status, and a few other columns with information about those documents. If you’ve selected multiple folders or your selection has subfolders, you’ll see triangles appearing next to the folder icons and you can use these to expand or collapse the folder’s contents.

As with the other view modes, you can create a new document or folder in the outliner using the ‘add’ button in the toolbar, the buttons in the footer bar, or their associated keyboard shortcuts. Note that you’re automatically prompted to type a title, hitting return will allow you to type a synopsis and then you can hit return again to finish editing.

If you want to create a document with only a title, simply hit return without entering a synopsis. Note that the synopsis line no longer appears which saves space in the outliner. To do the opposite creating a new untitled document with a synopsis, you can hit return without typing a title and enter your synopsis here. Once you hit return, the empty title line will disappear from the outliner but double clicking on this to edit will reveal it again, so you can add a title if you want to.

Synopsis entered here in the outliner will also appear on the related index card on the cork board and in the inspector, so you can view the synopsis alongside document text in the editor. If a document has no title and no synopsis but you’ve entered some document text in the editor, the first few words will appear here in light grey.

As with many of the other features of Scrivener, the outliner can be customized to suit your preferred way of working. In this case, you have a lot of control over which information you see or don’t see. For example, if you don’t want to see any synopsis in the outliner, a quick button to show or hide synopsis is here in the bottom right corner of the footer bar. You can add or remove columns from the outliner by clicking on this arrow icon here, and selecting or deselecting any of the options. For example, if I don’t need to see document targets but I would like a word count for this document, we simply check and uncheck the relevant options here and the outliner immediately updates.

Clicking custom columns at the bottom of this list will open the project settings dialog at the custom metadata section allowing you to create columns which aren’t part of scrivener’s usual project metadata. We’ll take a look at metadata in a future video, or you can refer to the Scrivener manual for more information.

Items in the outliner can be dragged, rearranged, and grouped, the same way they can be in the binder. It’s also possible to rearrange outliner columns by clicking and dragging and to resize them by clicking and dragging the faint lines between each column header. If you’re working with a smaller group of columns, go in to view, outliner columns, center content will center the columns in the window.

Now if you hide all the columns except for the title and synopsis, what you’re looking at is a straightforward uncluttered outline of your project.

Thanks for watching and happy writing.