5 Tips to Use Scrivener’s Layout Manager to Guide Your Writing

Today’s Story Empire topic:
Discover layouts in Scrivener, how they are used, the Layout Manager, and tips for navigating your writing project development.

Hello to all the Story Empire readers! As promised in my last post regarding Scrivener and book series development, today we’ll take a look at using layouts. This is a handy feature within Scrivener that can keep you on track as you journey from those early ideas to typing “The End.”

What’s a Layout?
First let’s look at what a layout is in Scrivener. When you first open the program, what you see is a layout. It is the visual settings and features that are turned on in the software that you can use to work on your manuscript. But you don’t always need everything turned on (though you might prefer it, but that’s up to you). Instead, you can turn the Binder and the Inspector on or off. Likewise, you can toggle between the editor, the corkboard and the outliner with various visual tools turned off or on in each of those modes. What you are viewing in each is a layout.

How are Layouts Managed?
Here’s the interesting part about layouts – you can save them and use them as part of your writing work-flow. What do you need turned on and available when you’re developing the structure of your novel? What about outlining? How about writing and then editing? As you progress, you won’t need the same features available because your task will change. With the Layout Manager you can create the standard layouts you use for each phase of your writing process and switch to those easily as you progress.

Let’s look at accessing the Layout Manger. To open the management window, click on Window and slide your cursor to Layouts and click on Layout Manager from the fly-out menu.

With the manager window open, you can use the add (+) and delete (-) buttons to create or delete layouts. When you add layouts, they will appear in the fly-out menu with Layout Manager so you can choose what layout you need. The Gear icon is used to further manage your layouts by either updating the existing layout (if you’ve made changes to it) or importing and exporting layouts. There are two checkboxes that allow you to retain settings you may have in various layouts. These are “Save outliner and corkboard settings” and “Preserve all meta-data appearance options”.

However, there are a number of settings which are not preserved between projects because projects are discreet from each other in Scrivener in that they have unique information which aren’t useful for transferring between them (such as collections). It’s a question of what’s relevant between projects. Here’s a screenshot of what will not transfer between projects as listed in the Scrivener Manual:

The two checkboxes on the Layout Manager are a bit self-explanatory but let’s cover what those do to make sure you know what they are saving as noted in the Scrivener Manual (available from the Help menu, Layouts discussed in Chapter 8.6):

Save outliner and corkboard settings All corkboard display settings, such as card size, ratio, card wrapping, and so on will be produced when using the layout. In the outliner, which columns are visible or hidden, and column sorting.

Preserve all meta-data appearance options This will determine whether or not label tinting used in the various areas of the interface; and pin, stamp, and keyword chip visibility in the corkboard, will be produced when using the layout.

Essentially, these layout settings will be available between projects but only if you choose these two checkboxes.

Tips for Usage
So what’s the big deal with layouts? When you begin a project you may only want to work in the corkboard with the Binder turned on and the Inspector turned off to allow you to work on just the structure of your writing project. Conversely, when you shift to the outliner you may not want to see the Binder while you have the need for the Inspector to be turned on. Once you start work on your manuscript, you may only want to have the editor viewable. Each of these is a different layout addressing your usage needs in each phase of writing. You can save each one for use in every project you create on your computer (import and export covers transferring these to a different installation on another computer).

These are just three layouts you might use. However, you may have more specific phases of writing than other writers have so creating very specific layouts may be what you need to do. In that case, you’ll have a number of layouts in the menu. When you create a series of layouts, you’ve created your personal writing work-flow which is a template for what you’ll follow in many of your projects. But, if you’re like me and have several different types of projects, then you can create layouts for those too. These variations of layouts will likely include a different work-flow.

Here are a few tips for setting up your writing project process using layouts that will help you keep it all straight:

  1. Consider your personal writing phases are for a particular kind of project. How detailed is your approach?
  2. How many phases do you have?
  3. What do you want to see and what is not useful at each stage in your process?
  4. Are there different kinds of writing projects and do you approach them differently? If so, go through your process several times.
  5. Go through each phase on a dry-run and make changes to settings. Then save the layout with the manager before progressing further.

Once you have your process saved with different layouts, you’ll find that you have a ready-made plan for addressing your writing projects consistently. Additionally, you don’t have to re-create the same process again and you can update the layouts as you realize you forgot to use a particular setting or have one you don’t want to keep in a phase. Simply use the update choice from the manager on the gear-menu.

Do you get lost working in your projects? Is your work-flow confused and consumed with changing settings rather than working? Do you use layouts already? Share your thoughts, approaches and questions in the comments section and I’ll reply as soon as I can. Thanks for stopping by Story Empire today!

P.H. Solomon

25 thoughts on “5 Tips to Use Scrivener’s Layout Manager to Guide Your Writing

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