Scrivener: The Research Binder

In this ongoing series on Scrivener, the powerful writing software tool, so far I’ve given you a basic overview introduction, including a collection of two Scrivener bootcamp videos to help you get started and see the possibilities in the writing program, and talked about the organizational benefits of Scrivener. Continuing with this Scrivener tutorial series, we are going to work on the blank Scrivener project you created in the previous tutorial, and in this tutorial, I want to share with you tips for using the Research section of the Binder and introduce you to the Inspector. In the next in this series, I’ll show you how to use your research with the Split Screen Feature of Scrivener.

As a reminder, Scrivener by Literature and Latte is available as a free trial version and is a deal at the current sale price of USD $40 for Windows and Mac. Compared to Microsoft Office, this is seriously inexpensive and a very powerful writing and editing tool.

Along the left side of Scrivener’s interface is the Binder, your index listing all of the documents, files, notes, writings, etc., within your Scrivener project. Remember, in Scrivener, don’t think of what is in it as a single document like you would with MS Word. Think of it as the binder or file cabinet for your entire writing project(s). Inside of it you will have the draft of the manuscript, your research notes, files, photographs, maps, whatever you need to help you write.

Scrivener - Draft and Research Sections of Binder - Lorelle VanFossen

In the most basic installation of Scrivener using a blank template project, you will have two key sections: Draft and Research. We’ve covered the very basics of creating folders and text files in the Draft section. Let’s explore the Research section.

Continuing with the example of my project to compile, edit, and publish the collection of stories from my ancestor’s childhood in Taylor Rapids, Wisconsin, I need to do research on logging in Northern Wisconsin, find maps of the area, and other historical reference material to put me into the mind set of my family between 1900 and 1940. This was an important time period in the United States as well as the world. It was a time of two world wars, the stock market crash, the Depression Era, disease run rampant, the end of the Indian Wars and reconciliation after the US Civil War, and a time of extensive migration as our world and economy changed from horse and wagon to motorized vehicle and embraced electricity. It was the heyday of the Industrial Revolution. My family was still living in the cultural, social, and economic world of the pre-industrial age, and the first person to buy a car in the family changed their life forever. As the logging industry abandoned them, the automobile gave them the freedom to escape that world.

In other words, I have a lot to learn. Scrivener will help me not only learn it, but use it in my writing.

It’s time to start researching.

The following is a 3 minute video that takes you through the process of adding files and web pages to Scrivener. Please note that the process of saving web pages to Scrivener may have changed.

Scrivener Research Feature

The Research feature is found in the binder and it is a holder of a variety of document and file types. Scrivener treats the Research section differently from the Draft and writing areas.

The first thing we are going to add to the blank test project we created in the previous tutorial is a web page.

I’m researching Taylor Rapids, Wisconsin, a place that went from hundreds and hundreds of people supporting numerous logging camps throughout northern Wisconsin, to not even a ghost town. Only a few bare squares spots where buildings sat remain as the trees, blackberries, river, and swamp has returned to the land, possibly resembling the place my ancestors arrived at in the turn of the century. Researching a town that doesn’t exist is more challenging that you may think.

The best resource I’ve found so far is 100 Years Of Pictorial & Descriptive History Of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin by Theodore Asa Taylor published in 1934 held by the McMilliam Memorial Library in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. While the book covers Wisconsin Rapids, over two hours drive from Taylor Rapids, it covers the logging industry in Wisconsin at the same time my family was there, giving me pictures as well as descriptive text covering the people, flora, and fauna of the area.

To add the online version of the book to my Research section in the Scrivener Binder, I begin by adding the online reference page with all of the links to the various digitized parts. This gives me the bibliography information I will need to cite the book in my own book.

In the current version of Scrivener, there are two ways to save or import a web page into the Research section of the Scrivener Binder. The first method saves a link to a downloaded version of the web page viewable in a web browser. I’ll cover that toward the end of the tutorial. The second saves the web pages as a PDF file and adds it to the Research section. Another method is saving a web page as a PDF file and import it as a file. Whichever way you choose, the links on the saved web page version are clickable and you are able to interact with it online or off, though clicking links to non-saved web pages requires a connection to the Internet.

Scrivener - Research - Import Web Page as PDF WebKit Importing indicator in Research Binder - Lorelle VanFossenTo add the web page to Scrivener using the Save Web Page as PDF file method:

  1. Click on Research in the Binder.
  2. Right click on Research
  3. Hold your mouse over Add, then scroll down to Web Page and click
  4. In the popup box, paste in the URL/Address of the web page you wish to save, taking care to remove the http:// placeholder
  5. Type in the title of the web page and words that will help you identify the page and its purpose to your writing
  6. Click the drop down box for Import As and select PDF Document via WebKit
  7. Click Okay

Scrivener - Research - Import Web Page Importing indicator in Research Binder - Lorelle VanFossenA green progress bar will appear as the web page is loaded and stored in the Research section.

The title in the Binder will be editable. If you are happy with it, hit enter.

The PDF view of the web page includes clickable links. Remember, this is a saved version of the web page, not the live web page. You may view it when you are offline and not connected to the Internet, but click a link to a web page or document on the web that isn’t saved to your computer and an Internet connection is required. You may save each of the web pages linked to the document as new imported PDF files if they are important to your research.

Scrivener - Research - PDF of Web Page 1 - Lorelle VanFossen

Click on Research and you will see the title listed in your Research.

Scrivener - Research and Inspector - 1 Web Pages Saved as PDF in Outline List View - Lorelle VanFossen

Click the title in the main content area or in the binder to see the web page saved as a PDF file.

A PDF file is a type of file produced to be used with Adobe Acrobat, the most common document type for sharing documents on the web. The links within the document are clickable. Most importantly, the web page maybe viewed when you are offline and not connected to the Internet.

If the document is too small and hard to read, zoom in using the View > Zoom menu or CTRL/CMD+Plus or Minus to zoom in and out.

Scrivener - Research - PDF of Web Page - Lorelle VanFossen

NOTE: Firefox has extensions and add-ons for saving web pages as PDF files. Chrome has PDF built in. Simultaneously press CTRL/CMD+P to activate the Print Page feature. Click the Printer selection Browse button to change it to Save as PDF. Make sure you save it where you can find it for importing into Scrivener Research as a file. For more instructions and specifics, see this article on saving web pages as PDF files.

Now it’s your turn. Find a web page for your writing project (start with a web page on Wikipedia) and add it to Scrivener. Remember, add it as a PDF Document via WebKit.

In my own research into Taylor Rapids, I now want to add part of the book to my Research files.

Repeating the same process as above, I add the Chronological Sketch section called Part 2 1883-1924 covering years specific to my family’s time there.

Clicking back on Research, I have two items in my Research list.

Ah, notice that they both have the same title?

Scrivener - Research and Inspector - 2 Web Pages Saved as PDF in Outline List View - Lorelle VanFossen

One of the key things to learn from the start with Scrivener is to label and identify everything. The sooner you start, the easier it is to keep track of everything.

In this case, notice that there are multiple columns in your Research pane: Synopsis, Label, and Status.

It’s time to introduce you to another powerful feature of Scrivener: The Inspector.

The Inspector in Scrivener

The Inspector is a feature in Scrivener that is your giant note pad, to do list, and project organizer. It helps you keep your work on task and organized.

To turn on The Inspector, click the big blue I in a circle at the top of Scrivener’s right side. It will cause a new sidebar to appear on the right.

Scrivener - Research and Inspector - 2 Web Pages Saved as PDF in Outline List View - Lorelle VanFossen

There are several views to the Inspector. We’ll cover the basics here and expand upon it more later.

At the top of what is called the Notes view of the Inspector is the Synopis. Notice that it resembles an index card. This is where the information for your index cards on the corkboard come from.

To help me identify which PDF web page research item is which, I will write in a description or summary for each one.

Scrivener - Research - PDF of Web Page - Inspector Synopsis - Lorelle VanFossen

If I click on Research and switch to the Corkboard view, I will see the titles and the synopsis of each one, helping me identify which one is which.

Scrivener - Research and Inspector - Corkboard Index Card View of 2 PDF web page documents - Lorelle VanFossen

Scrivener - Research and Inspector - Add Document Notes about the document - Lorelle VanFossenLet’s say that I’ve found a reference to the logging company that employed most of my relatives and controlled Taylor Rapids and its logging camps in the Chronological Sketch. I could add a note in the Document Notes section that references that section. Finding this triggered an idea in my head to find the address of the original company headquarters. It might be interesting to my story, or not, to know that the company was headquartered in Chicago or New York instead of in closer proximity to Taylor Rapids. This serves as a note in the document to help my research.

If you are following along, do the same in your saved web pages.

Note that you can turn on and off the Inspector at any time to give you more room to work. The information is automatically saved, so don’t worry about that. Click the blue I button on and off to make it appear and disappear.

Now when I click the outline view when viewing Research, I see the Synopsis describing the two documents, which helps me choose, whether in the outline view or the corkboard view.

We’ll cover more about the Inspector later.

Adding a Map and Other Files to Research

Where Taylor Rapids is located is important in my story collection. The logging camps were critical to their lives and they chose to live in proximity to be a little closer to family. Trips to the nearest town of Goodman were important as that is where they shopped for supplies. In later years, it is were the only girl in the family, Nonie, traveled by horseback to work as a housekeeper for a family there. The ten miles to Goodman one way was a day trip by horse, and a very long trip once they got a car as it was still a horse and wagon traveled road, bringing its own adventures.

Maps will help me locate these places in my story, and a Google Map with satellite views will help me “see” what I’m writing about.

We are going to add maps to Scrivener to help with your research using 2 methods. The first is saving a web page as a downloaded file, the link visible in Scrivener and the web page viewable in a web browser outside of Scrivener, the other is to import an image or document as a file directly into Scrivener Research in the Binder.

Saving a live web page in Scrivener is currently under development. To view a web page, you need a web browser, and Scrivener may have just about everything except the kitchen sink and a web browser. If you choose the option to import as Webpage Complete (MHT), it will save the web page as a link in Scrivener. Click the link in your Research pane and it will load the saved version of your web page from your hard drive into your default web browser, not Scrivener. They are working on improving this, so for now, use the above technique.

Remember, Scrivener for Windows cannot currently cannot display a live website as it lacks a web browser, and saving a Google map as a PDF doesn’t work well as it isn’t text or a document, so we’re going to use the same method as above to import the web page address (URL) as a Webpage Complete (MHT).

Scrivener - Research - Import Web Page - Lorelle VanFossen

Scrivener - Research - Import Web Page as Webpage Complete MHT to Research Binder - Lorelle VanFossen

  1. Click on Research in the Binder.
  2. Right click on Research
  3. Hold your mouse over Add, then scroll down to Web Page and click
  4. In the popup box, paste in the URL/Address of the web page you wish to save, taking care to remove the http:// placeholder
  5. Type in the title of the web page and words that will help you identify the page and its purpose to your writing
  6. Click the drop down box for Import As and select Webpage Complete (MHT)
  7. Click Okay

The result in Scrivener is a link in the middle of a blank page to the saved web page on your hard drive. Click the link, it will open in your default web browser.

Scrivener - Research - Add Web Page as Link to downloaded files - Lorelle VanFossen

In the Outline viewer for the Research section, note that the icon for the imported web page is different from the PDF and WebKit icon view.

Scrivener - Research - Outline view of Web Page saved as linked document in Outliner - Lorelle VanFossen

As mentioned previously, having to view the live web page in a web browser isn’t always a convenient way to work. You have to switch back and forth between Scrivener and the web browser to see the web page. By using the first method described in this tutorial to save the web page as a PDF works much better as it incorporates the web page and web graphics into Scrivener. In the next tutorial I will cover split screens in Scrivener and using that technique will be very helpful to your writing.

So let’s make this easier using screen captures not just web pages saved as PDF files.

A screen capture is a graphic picture made from the screen of your computer. You can capture anything this way. The result is called a screenshot (screen shot).

To do a screen capture in Windows:

  1. Put whatever you wish to capture on the monitor
  2. To capture the entire screen and save it to a file
    • Simultaneously press the Windows LOGO key and PrtScrn on your keyboard. The screen will dim for a moment and the file will be available in the Pictures > Screenshots folder. I recommend you rename it immediately to ensure you know what the file is.
  3. To capture the entire screen and edit it in a graphics program
    • Press PRTSCN. A copy is put on your computer’s clipboard. Go to the graphic’s program (Paint, PhotoShop, PaintShop Pro, etc.) and paste as a new image. Edit and save to the desired format.

See this Microsoft Windows Tutorial for more help and guidance.

To do a screen capture on Mac:

  1. Put whatever you wish to capture on the monitor
  2. To capture the entire screen, simultaneously press CMD+SHIFT+3
  3. To capture a part of the screen, simultaneously press CMD+SHIFT+4 and use the guides to resize the captured image to the right size
  4. The resulting screenshot will be saved as a PNG file to your desktop. I recomment you rename it immediately to ensure you know what it is.

See this Apple support document for more specifics.

If you intend on doing many screen captures and screenshots for your research, be it from the web or other documents, consider Jing, the free screen capture tool from TechSmith, or its more powerful version Snagit.

Scrivener - Research - Add files to Research Binder - Lorelle VanFossenIn my example project, I’m going to take a screenshot of Google Maps using the Google Earth satellite view. While I can’t interact and move around the image, it will give me a visual representaton of the area for my research and inspiration.

  1. Right click on Research
  2. Go to Add > File
  3. A file management window will open. Find the file and select it.
  4. Scrivener will add the image and highlight it with an image icon

If you switch to the Outline view of the Research, you will see four files if you have been following alone. Notice the icons next to the left of each item in the Research. They match the icons in the Binder. An image of a sunset is now next to the image I just uploaded.

Click on the file to see the map.

Scrivener - Research - Add images and screenshots of maps - Lorelle VanFossen

I can repeat the same process to add photographs of the relatives in my collection. These are uploaded the same way using the File option.

Using multiple select options, I can select many photographs and images to add to Scrivener at one time. Each one is titled by the file name, so ensure you have titled each image fully and properly instead of the scanned or digital useless file name of DCM3958028947902134.jpg.

Scrivener - Research - Add multiple files in one import - Lorelle VanFossen

Click on each photograph you’ve added to Scrivener to see it. You may zoom in and out using the CTRL/CMD+Plus or Minus keys.

Wish to add a note about the photographs and images? Use the Inspector to do so.

Consider the possibilities with this feature.

  • Want to use a street view of a location to help you write and describe a place? Using Google Earth Images or an image search, or even one of your own images of a location, you can upload them to Scrivener and have them at the ready.
  • Have you found a photograph, magazine article image, or web image to represent the main or minor characters in your novel? Add them.
  • Written extensive research notes on your novel? Upload those documents to Scrivener for easy access. They are still in the folder where you saved them, you can just visit them in Scrivener quickly and easily. You can even add to them and edit them.
  • Have newspaper or magazine clippings? Add digital scans of these to Research, putting everything in one place.
  • Found a video that you need for your research and supporting documentation? You can add it to Scrivener Research via the Add or click and drag it to Scrivener Research.

Scrivener - Research - Add photographs and images - Lorelle VanFossenOnce a file is saved, you can import it to Scrivener.

Research and Inspector

Experiment with adding different types of files to Scrivener. You can add word processing documents, text files, digital scans, newspaper clippings, scans of magazine articles, public domain digital books, and even more to the Research section.

Learn to make notes and fill in the Synopsis feature in Inspector. More on that coming later.

In the next section, I will cover using the Split Screen feature, which takes advantage of the research material to help you write.



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