Scrivener: Split Screen Feature

In this ongoing series on Scrivener, the powerful writing software tool, I’ve been helping you learn about the basic features of Scrivener including the organizational benefits of Scrivener, starting a blank Scrivener project, and tips on how to use the Scrivener Research section in the Binder. This tutorial is about one of the powerful features of Scrivener, the split screen.

Many of us use white boards, sticky posts, notebooks, scratch paper, even napkins for our notes and ideas. We create storyboards with pictures of our characters tapped to them along with maps, drawings, photographs of places and things, and all the bits and pieces of visual information we use to write our stories. In Scrivener, there are many ways to duplicate that same process.

Using the Split Screen in Scrivener

Scrivener - Split Screen buttons on interface - Lorelle VanFossenIn the test Scrivener project you’ve been experimenting with, let’s pretend that you are writing your draft novel in it and you wish to refer back to a detail in a scene you wrote in Chapter 1 from Chapter 2.

Click on one of the Chapter 2 scene sections you created in the tutorial on creating folders and files or chapters and sections in Scrivener.

Where the title is above the content area and below the toolbar, look to the far right. You will see a down arrow, up arrow, and two split boxes.

Click the box with a split down the middle.

This is the vertical split screen view. You should see two versions of the same text file.

Scrivener - Split Screen with the same document in two screens - Lorelle VanFossen

Click on the right side to highlight it. You will see the title bar change color.

Now click on a section from Chapter 1.

The text on the right changes. You can now compare the two documents in the same screen.

Scrivener - Split Screen Example with two documents - Lorelle VanFossen

In my hypothetical example, I could read through what I wrote earlier to see if it jives with what I’m writing now in the next chapter.

Now click the split box with the split across the middle.

Scrivener - Split Screen view horizontal - Lorelle VanFossen

The screen changes to show the two documents on top of each other horizontally across the screen.

Everyone has their own way of working and maybe horizontal will work better for you than vertical, or the reverse. Depending upon the size of your monitor, you may find one easier to work with than the other. I tend to do my writing in a monitor rotated vertically, like a long piece of paper, rather than horizontally, so having the split screen horizontal rather than vertical works with that screen, and the vertical works better with screens set horizontally, splitting the space in half. Whichever, you have options.

Let’s take this further and use your research images and documents.

In the previous tutorial, you learned how to add web pages, documents, and images to Scrivener’s Research.

Go to one of the images or documents and click it while still in split screen view.

Scrivener - Split Screen with Photo of Wayne Knapp in Research - Lorelle VanFossen

In the example above, I’m using a picture of my Uncle Wayne. He is described by family members in their writing as “Brownie,” his nickname because he was dark haired and olive skinned while his closest brother in age and trouble-making was called “Whitie” as he was fair haired, blue eyed, and freckled. This information is critical to the stories so I like having the picture of young Wayne and Robert when I’m writing about them to help me with their physical details.

Scrivener - Navigation Arrows go back and forth along doc view pathUsing the split screen feature, you will often wish to view another file or research item and choose it from the Binder only to find it has loaded in the wrong screen. Using the arrows next to the title on the left will take you backward and forward between the Scrivener files you just visited in sequence. This applies even without the documents viewed in split screen view. The arrows follow the sequence of the documents you’ve visited, not the order in the Binder, allowing you to flip back and forth between files and text.

Want one of the split screen documents to stay in place and not switch? Use the Lock in Place feature.

Between the next and previous black errors and the document title is a small page. Click the down arrow and choose Lock in Place to keep that document from switching. The title bar will turn red to show it is locked. Reverse the process to unlock it.

Scrivener - Split Screen - Lock in Place - Lorelle

Scrivener - Navigation Arrows cycle through Scrivener content views - Lorelle VanFossenThe arrows on the right next to the split screen feature change the Scrivener view of the document, switching between the composite to corkboard to outline views. This helps you to see the content you are working on in different ways whether or not you are using the split view feature.

To turn off the split screen view, click the split screen button with no split in the middle.

Consider all the sticky notes, scraps of paper, maps, brochures, photographs, newspaper clippings, whatever you’ve collected to help you write your story. By having them in a single project, viewable on the screen as you write, or quickly accessible, you write faster, stronger, and with greater focus.

Scrivener - Split Screen with Map in Research - Lorelle VanFossen

Again, think of the possibilities.

  • Have a Research or other file document with the outline of your novel? Use it in the split screen view to keep you on track.
  • When working on a character, keep the Character Sketch in the split screen view to remind you of the character’s background and details.
  • Writing about a place? Have the map or pictures of the place in the other screen.
  • Need a Wikipedia article about a person or place? Display it in the split screen as a resource to work from.
  • Have a timeline for the character’s lives or the book plot to keep it in chronological order? Put it in the other split screen.
  • Need to compare one file to another? Did you duplicate a section or chapter? You can compare any of your text files to each other easily with split screens.
  • Found a video you need for your writing? Save it in the Research and play it in split screen as you write in the other file.
  • Need to transcribe an audio or video recording? Save it in Research and transcribe in the other side of the split screen. It’s a bit clunky but works.

For many, this is where Scrivener beats all other writing tools hands down. The ability to have your research and notes right there, readily available, and viewable at the same time you are writing makes the process not just fun but faster.

We’ve covered the basic elements you need to know to use Scrivener for your writing. In the next two tutorials I will cover how to create a new project and import writing you already have into Scrivener, then how to organize and keep track of your writing project in Scrivener.


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