What Works For Me: Scrivener Color Coding Pt. 2

In Part One of this mini-series I shared how I use Label colors to show progress of my documents. This worked really well for me during UNCHURCHED, which is a single POV. My trouble began when I started work on GISELLE, which has two POVs. Sure, I could use my original color coding method to track who was speaking, but then how would I track my progress?

Custom icons.

Screenshot 2015-08-11 16.35.45


The green and blue dots show me whose POV we’re in for that chapter.

You can change an icon at any time, and Scrivener actually provides a lot of them up front, but they’re a little tiny for my taste. I wanted something bolder, so I made my own. You can download the whole rainbow set of dots later in the tutorial.

How To Do It

1. Learn How to Select Icons

Right-click on a document in the Binder.

Screenshot 2015-08-11 16.39.33


You’ll see all the many icons Scrivener haas provided for you (minus the dots, those are mine). Select one and it will change the document’s icon. You can also change the icons for folders, and pretty much any level within the Binder.

2. Choose Custom Icons

Way down at the bottom of the Change Icon menu is Manage Icons. Click on that. A new box opens.

Screenshot 2015-08-11 16.45.19

We’re only going to work with Icons in Project Package for the moment. That means these icons are specific to that one Scrivener project, and they won’t be available the next time you open a new project. (I assume that the Application Support side would carry across projects, but that note about overrides makes me not want to play with it yet.)

Use the plus and minus buttons to add and remove icons.

When you hit plus, a file manager window will open and you can select your icon. You can use any image as an icon and it will be scaled down for you.

Double-click on the File Name to change it. There is no reordering option.

Hit OK.



Sharing is caring, that’s why I packaged up my dots for you. They come in a whole rainbow of options and they have a slight gradient, which gives them that nice bubble effect. Use them well, padawans.

Here they are:

Just right-click and Save As. I wanted to give them to you in a ZIP but WordPress has some issues with that. Anyway, enjoy!

What Works For Me: Scrivener Color Coding Pt. 1

A few months back, I shared this tweet:

It was retweeted by @Scrivener and is my most successful post, proving that funny sells almost as well as sex.

For the uninitiated, Scrivener is software designed specifically for managing large writing projects, like novels. You break the project into individual files–say, each scene or chapter is its own file. Then you can drag and drop those to reorder them, apply keywords for easy searching, and, yes, color code.

At a glance, I can look at my list of chapters, aka the Binder, and see what needs work and how much.

Screenshot 2015-08-11 16.12.56

Instantly I know where my work for the day needs to start: the trouble spots. And over time, it has become this serene blue:

Screenshot 2015-08-11 16.13.28

How cool is that?

How To Do It

1. Edit Label Colors

In the Inspector column on the far-right of your screen, open the dropdown for Label. Mine is called Work, because I was thinking ‘how much work to I need to do?’

Screenshot 2015-08-11 16.17.52

Select Edit.

That opens this familiar window:


You can give the Labels a custom title, like I did.

Double-click on the Label Names to edit them.

Double-click on the color squares to change the colors.

Drag and drop labels to reorder them.

Use the plus and minus buttons to add or delete labels.

Hit OK.

2. Apply Labels to Documents

There are a few ways to do this.

Method A: Select the document you want in the Binder. Right-click on it. In the menu, find Label (or whatever you chose to name it) and select the colored Label you want to apply.

Method B: Select the document in the Binder. In the Inspector, open the Label dropdown and select the colored Label you want to apply.

Do this to a few documents so you can see the full effect. …only you won’t see the effect just yet! That’s step three.

3. Show Label Colors in Binder

In the main menu, under View, find “Use Label Color In” (if you changed the Label title, that’s what will appear here). Select Binder. Voila! You now have a rainbow Binder!

You can also select Icons, Index Cards and Outliner Rows if you’d like to see the colors there instead/as well. Play around with the views to find the one that works best for you.

In Part Two I’ll show you how I use custom icons in my color-coding, specifically for distinguishing POV.

Solution: Scrivener files won’t open

I had a wee heart attack earlier this week when my Scrivener project wouldn’t open on my laptop. I bounce between a Mac at work and a PC at home, using Dropbox to keep them synched, and up to now I hadn’t had much of a problem doing so.

I was having trouble Googling for a solution, so now that I’ve found one I’m posting it.

I saved the project at work (Mac), let it sync, and left. I moved on, opened my laptop (Win 8), waited for it to sync, and tried opening the project.

No dice. The mouse would spin a bit, maybe. Sometimes it opened Scrivener itself, but not the project. But on the whole, it told me absolutely nothing. Did nothing.

Commence panicking, right?

But, I found a solution!

My project file actually contained three .scrivx files. I don’t know how this happened, but it’s probably something to do with the synching and resaving.

I have become rather anal about my file names, a byproduct of moving between machines. Any time Scrivener warns me that it’s still open on the other machine, I save a new version. I was working on file TITLE 5-3.scrivx. For some reason, I also had two copies of version 5-1, one marked as being the conflicted copy from my laptop. This has happened before, but it never caused a problem. File 5-2 also had duplicates of the old 5-1 but it opened without any trouble.

The solution? Delete the extra .scrivx files.   

That’s all it took. Honest. I deleted them and BAM, 5-3 opened. No problems whatsoever. Didn’t lose anything.

For the sake of those also trying to find an answer, here’s some of the other stuff I tried and ran into.

Sometimes when I tried opening the file it would warn me that there was no read access for the 5-1 files. I tried manually resetting the read access but it didn’t work.

I tried importing into a clean Scriv project. It told me that it didn’t recognize the project as a Scrivener file.

I tried restoring from a backup only to learn that all my backups were being filed away on the local machine, not within Dropbox. So, my laptop had no access to the work Mac’s backup files. Curses! I have since fixed this. Make sure you know where Scrivener is backing up to!!

Here’s hoping this helps someone and prevents their minor cardiac arrest from becoming a major episode. One thing I’ve learned is that Scrivener files are actually fairly malleable. For instance, I’ve restored individual files to earlier versions (thank you, Dropbox) without a problem.