Scrivener’s Multi-Function Feature & How You Can Start Using It

Scrivener is a powerful writing tool. I write about it weekly with tips and usage ideas. To read more of my posts click the Scrivener tag or category at the end of the page.

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Multi-Function Tool - photo licensed via iStockPhoto

Multi-Function Tool – photo licensed via iStockPhoto


If you do any work around the house with tools you may have used a multi-function one before. These often have small versions of larger tools built into one handy gadget. These often include a few knife blades was well standard and Phillips screwdrivers among the many variations. It’s much like a Swiss Army knife but adapted more toward small fix-it tasks. Scrivener has one such feature that teams with the Binder to help you in any number of ways to organize all of the project content.

Scrivener’s Binder is a fantastic visual tool to organize your project. But suppose you wanted to play around with that organization without changing everything. Or maybe you have other ways you need to group the project content. Let’s say you wanted to change the order of several scenes. You could take snapshots and make the changes so you could revert back. But there’s a more efficient way to handle structural changes within Scrivener.

Collections are a way of re-organizing the binder without actually making changes to the current order in the binder. There are several ways to use collections so I’ll this topic in a series to cover the details well and let this post suffice as an introduction.

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Think of the Binder as the main collection by which your project is organized. But if you need to consider different options for your structure then creating collections can be very useful. Items within a collection are like shortcuts to that in the Binder. What changes you make to the item are made in the Binder too. So be aware of what you are changing and make snapshots if you believe you may need to revert back to an earlier version.

However, a collection is really used for addressing structural issues, searches, saved searches, compiling, scheduling, sorting scenes that need work or even organizing for use with another author. So mainly think in broad terms when working with collections.

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Scriv Collections ManagementSo let’s take a look at applying the flexibility of collections to a real-life fiction project. I’ll soon begin editing my second novel, An Arrow Against the Wind. The first task that I’ll have is a structural edit. I’ve already identified what scenes and chapters I’ll need to edit. These can be added to a collection so that I can write each one and then remove it from the collection when completed.

Next, I’ll do an edit for deep POV style. For this kind of edit I could use two collections – one for all the chapters that need this stylistic attention, plus one that assigns a schedule for the work (I could also use this for the previous edit as well as subsequent ones).

After these more general edits, I’ll get into a deeper editing where I may need to search the content. For this I can create a collection for searches that cover overused words, searches for names that are misspelled, etc (it’s a fantasy so unique names can be a problem). Likewise, when doing line editing, I can also collect the chapters and scenes involved and use another one for scheduling the work.

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Scriv Add CollectionThe Basic Interface

As already shown in the screen-shots, you can access the collections manager from the Project menu. You can add or remove tabs for sections of your project and click on the Binder tab to return to the Binder. You can then re-order the tabs for structural purposes or use them in the different ways already described. You’ll notice that you can name the collection and use searches.


080916_1940_AWildNightR1.jpgIf you find that you are using collections regularly with your projects, then you might consider adding your own set of them to your project template. Again, I’ll discuss the many variations over the next several weeks in depth, especially as I’m using them with the book I’m completing. Regardless, collections can be the all-purpose tool that improves your editing process.

Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section.

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IMG_4154-EditAbout the Author

P. H. Solomon lives in the greater Birmingham, AL area where he strongly dislikes yard work and sanding the deck rail. However, he performs these duties to maintain a nice home for his loved ones as well as the family’s German Shepherds. In his spare time, P. H. rides herd as a Computer Whisperer on large computers called servers (harmonica not required). Additionally, he enjoys reading, running, most sports and fantasy football. Having a degree in Anthropology, he also has a wide array of more “serious” interests in addition to working regularly to hone his writing. The Bow of Destiny is his first novel-length title with more soon to come.

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  1. Hi P. H., I just purchased Scrivener a while back but haven’t really started using it. I watched a video the other day and really liked a lot of the features; especially the work count status which right now I used an Excel Spreadsheet to keep up with and many times forget to enter my amounts manually. Anyway, I’ve seen many articles that you’ve posted on your blog about Scrivener and wondered which ones would be appropriate for a beginner? Or do you know of any good videos I can get to get me started? Thanks.

      1. I’ll have to do a search of my best basic ones. I’m actually thinking about cataloging my posts so I can edit them into and e-book based on them but that’s a long way off with all the work I have to do. I don’t think I’ve written starter series and probably should but the tutorial is so good about working in the software. Definitely start by creating a project and then organizing the Binder and learning where all the Editor settings for formatting are located.

      2. I think I’ll start a series about this next week and alternate with this one about collections. Hope I’ve helped you for the moment though…

    1. Great question! Literature & Latte has lots of resources, here’s one link to orient you:
      Also, they do have a video training page:
      I think that working with the Binder and Editor are very basic places to begin learning all the settings. From there learn about document templates and the Inspector (especially using snapshots).

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