The Difference Between Files and Folders in Scrivener

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This article will show you:

  • What the difference is between files and folders in Scrivener
  • How files and folders can help you structure your project so you can always keep track of your documents
  • How you can use files and folders to your advantage for quick and easy exporting

As you may already know Scrivener’s binder can hold files as well as folders.

Files ≠ Folders in the Binder/Explorer

The concept of a folder as we know it usually is to hold files. For example in your finder, you might have a folder that holds several of your scripts or other documents.

Files = Folders in Scrivener (or do they?)

In Scrivener the concept of a folder it is somewhat different.

What does that mean?

In Scrivener files and folders are basically the same thing.

In order to look at what folders can do in Scrivener, let’s have a look at files first.

What can you do with your Scrivener files?

  • they can hold contents
  • they can hold sub documents
  • you can split them
  • and you can combine them

Since in Scrivener files and folders are the same thing, you can do all of that with folders as well. You can even change a file to a folder and back without losing any information.

Let’s test that.

Novel Project Example

I have a Scrivener project here that contains multiple folders with multiple documents and sub documents.

Files with content in Scrivener project - The Difference Between Files and Folders in Scrivener
Files with content in Scrivener project

This document is based on the novel project template. I just added some folders and documents with our beloved lorem ipsum.

Now, I’m going to change all those files into folders and see what happens.

Nothing at all.

Files changed to folders still hold content - The Difference Between Files and Folders in Scrivener
Files changed to folders still hold content

As you can see folders can hold content as well as files can. And if I want I can easily change the folders back into files.

So where’s the difference?

Small Differences Between Files and Folders

There is a small difference in the way Scrivener displays files and folders.

If you click on a file that holds sub documents but also content by itself, like this one, Scrivener well automatically show you the contents of this document and not the content of its sub documents. To see the content of the sub documents you’ll have to activate scrivening view mode.

Default view mode for files with content and sub documents - The Difference Between Files and Folders in Scrivener
Default view mode for files with content and sub documents

If you click on a folder that holds sub documents as well as content, Scrivener will show you its sub documents in scrivening mode by default, but not its own folder content. In order to see its content you have to disable scrivening mode.

Default view mode for folders with content and sub documents - The Difference Between Files and Folders in Scrivener
Default view mode for folders with content and sub documents

And there is another difference.

If you open the compile dialogue, you’ll see you that you can use different compile settings for folders, files with sub documents, and files without sub documents.

Use different compile settings for files and folders - The Difference Between Files and Folders in Scrivener
Use different compile settings for files and folders

This means you can structure your project in a way that enables you to make use of different compile settings for files and folders.

This novel project template is a good example. You can use your folders for the chapter titles of your book and then use different compile settings to format the chapter contents in your files.

Whatever the special demands of your project hierarchy might be, using files and folders in Scrivener interchangeably gives you a whole lot of freedom and flexibility for writing and compiling your work.

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