After a year of prevaricating about using Scrivener as my main writing tool, I am rapidly heading towards doing so. The reason is that I discovered that I can have a view on my work in which I can see everything I need to see all at the same time. I call this “My Scrivener Dashboard”, and in this post I point out what each part of it is, and why I am starting to fall in love with Scrivener.
Interestingly enough, I first became interested in Scrivener because it lets you view your document as a set of index cards. I have always loved programs that enable you to “write” on index cards, but all too often there is little else you can do with them. Scrivener, on the other hand, enables you to use the index cards as a visual outliner. So moving the cards around is a way of changing the order of your document.
But I’ve hardly used that feature at all!
But my “dashboard” is saving me absolutely loads of time and frustration. To understand why, you need to know how I tend to use Word when I am writing a long document, such as a book or a White Paper. I keep a section of the document for references, and go back and forth between the references and my main document. Despite using the SHIFT-F5 command, going back to the last edit is often a hit and miss affair. I have tried using a separate document for the references but that just gets messy.
Moreover, every time I open the document again, I have to find where I’d got to at the end of the last session. (I’ve tried numerous macros to automate this, and none of them work for me.) When I resorted to typing “Start here!” in red letters at the end of each session, I knew it was time to look at Scrivener again. Imagine how delighted I was to discover that Scrivener automatically opens the document at the last edit! (I don’t ask for much out of life.)
OK, so the screenshot below shows my “dashboard”. Although you can’t see the text very well, that doesn’t really matter because it’s the layout I’m focusing on here.
What you can see is as follows:
- Large upper window: the section of the document I’m working on.
- Large lower window: the references section of the document. Thus, to insert or look up a reference, I just have to click in the lower window. When I was working on a book last year which had about a dozen pages of references, this feature alone would have saved me hours.
- Left-hand window: the outline view of the whole document.By moving the names around I automatically move the headings around.
- Upper right-hand window: the meta-data section. Note that I have given the bit I’m working on a blue label called “In progress”, and the status of “First draft”.(You'll have to zoom in to see all this!)
- Lower right-hand window: Document notes. This is where I can write notes to myself about the particular bit I’m working on (Document notes) or the project as a whole (Project notes). This is a great feature because it means that if something occurs to me I can make a note to myself right there in the document and carry on writing. I know that you can write comments in Word, but if you’re anything like me you forget where you inserted them! In Scrivener, they are in the document’s working area but not in the document itself. It’s like having a notepad on your desk, but one which is always open at the right page and also which doesn’t get lost or covered with detritus!
Best of all, once you have found a layout you like, you can save it for use with other documents.
In a future post I’ll demonstrate how I created this dashboard, but for now I’ll just summarise what’s so good about it as far as I’m concerned. It enables me to work in the way I like to work, with everything I need to refer to at my fingertips. Word is great for a lot of things, but seeing your whole document at a glance while also having a focus on a particular section while also having notes about the document there at the same time is not something I would regard as its strong point.