Boost Your Writing Efficiency with the Scrivener Inspector

How to Use the Scrivener Inspector to Boost Your Writing Efficiency via

Have you ever used Scrivener's Inspector to organize, navigate, or edit your work-in-progress?

If you've never heard of the Inspector, have no fear. Today, I'm breaking it down step-by-step so that you can boost your writing efficiency with ease.


The Inspector is Scrivener's multi-purpose tool for organizing and optimizing each of your individual documents, as well as your project as a whole. It opens up as the right-hand column in your Scrivener project.

If you don't have it up already, you can open the Inspector by clicking on the blue 'i' icon in your Project Toolbar at the top of your screen.

Have it open? The Inspector is capable of all sorts of incredible functions, so let's break them down.

Inspector Basics

First things first, when you have a document open, your Inspector will display a screen that shows a Synopsis and General information.

The Synopsis allows you to write a quick blurb about your current document for organization purposes. If you already gave your document a synopsis when we were working with the notecards in the Scrivener Corkboard, then that synopsis should appear automatically.


You can also display an image in the Synopsis section by clicking on the small arrow in the Synopsis header and selecting the little tropical picture icon.

You can than click and drag any picture from your desktop into that space. Placing an image in the Synopsis is especially helpful when working on a character or scene description.

Next up, the General area allows you to tackle several different information identifiers for your Project. Use the drop-down label menu to give your document a label (such as Scene, Chapter, Idea, etc).

You can then give your project a status (such as First Draft, Revised Draft, Completed, etc.) by selecting the drop-down status menu.

Make sure to take advantage of these identifiers. Using them will help you know exactly what each document contains and how much work still needs to be done on it.

The General section also shows you when your document was last modified. You can see when the document was first created by clicking on the arrows icon to the right of 'Modified'. Finally, you can utilize the check boxes in the General section to prepare your document for Compile.

Confused about what the check boxes do? Let's talk about that:

1. Include in Compile. Check Include in Compile if you want the document to be included in the final draft of your work. Leave this box unchecked if the document you are working on is something you don't want to include in your final draft, such as notes or research.

2. Page Break. Checking the Page Break box let's Scrivener know that, when you compile your work, you want this document to begin on a new page rather than just a new line. This is especially helpful if your document begins a new chapter.

3. Compile as Is. When you compile your work, Scrivener gives you the option to format all of your included documents in one way, regardless of their formatting when you open them up in the Editor. When you check the Compile as Is button, you tell Scrivener that you do not want the Editor formatting to change on this document when you go to Compile.

You may notice that at the bottom of your Inspector window there are six icons. These icons will change what appears in your Inspector window. Not sure what they do? Let's tackle each one.

Inspector Icons

1. Document Notes. The first icon in your Inspector footer opens up your Document Notes. Here you can take down any thoughts or ideas you have while working on your current Document. If you would like to take notes for the entire Project, simply click on the arrows icon and select Project Notes.


2. Document References. The second icon in the footer menu will open up yourDocument References. Here you can add in the URL and description of any source you use while writing this individual Document. If you want to add in a source for your entire Project, you can select the arrows icon and click on Project References.

Use the plus (+) icon to add a new reference and the minus (-) icon to delete a reference.

3. Document Keywords. The third icon in the footer will open your Document Keywords. We haven't talked about keywords yet in this series, but they come in handy when you want to search for something specific in your massive novel project. More on this in a later post.

Once again, you can add and delete Document Keywords using the plus +) and minus (-) icons. You can also switch over to Project Keywords using the arrows icon.

4. Custom Meta-Data. The fourth icon in the Inspector footer is for Custom Meta-Data. We haven't talked about this yet either, but in essence Custom Meta-Data allows you to add unique labels, statuses, and Outliner columns to your Scrivener Project. To do so, click on Define Meta-Data Fields. A new window will pop up. Here you can select the type of custom meta-data you would like to add from the top menu.


To create or delete your fields, simply use the plus (+) and minus (-) icons in the bottom left-hand corner of the window.

5. Snapshots. The fifth icon in the footer menu allows you to take and organize Snapshots of your current document. In essence, a Snapshot allows you to take a 'picture' of your document so that you can edit your work without the worry that you'll lose what you wrote in the first draft.

By taking a Snapshot, you can compare your edits to the first draft using the Compare button. If you don't like what you've done, simply click Roll Back and your Document will revert to its previous state.


6. Comments and Footnotes. The sixth and final icon in the Inspector footer opens up your Comments and Footnotes. Comments are awesome because they allow you to make an observation on your work that you can later use in editing. To make a comment, place your cursor before the line you'd like to comment on in the Editor. Then, press the plus (+) button in the Inspector header.

A new comment blurb will appear in the Inspector. Type in what you have to say and Scrivener will save your comment for later. You'll also notice that the first word of the line you commented on is highlighted in the Editor. To view a comment, simply click on the highlighted word in your project and it will appear in the Inspector. And no worries, Scrivener does not include any comments in a Compile.

To make a footnote for your work, simply place your cursor next the appropriate word in your Editor. Click on the small 'fn' icon in the Inspector header and, just like you wrote a comment, you can now write a footnote. Scrivener does include Footnotes in the Compile, so make sure that you write exactly what you want readers to see.


Let's Chat!

Phew! We made it through the complete workings of the Scrivener Inspector. Great job!

Do you have any questions about how the Inspector works? Is there anything that I skipped or that you'd like me to cover in more detail? Make sure to tell me how you use the Inspector to boost your own writing efficiency. I'd love to know all your Scrivener secrets!

P.S. Would you like to try your hand at the Scrivener software? Click here to purchase Scrivener for Mac, and click here to purchase Scrivener for Windows. By using the links provided, I make a small commission at no extra cost to you. It's a win-win; you get an awesome new program and I keep She's Novel up and running. Hurray!

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Kristen Kieffer is a writer of fantasy fiction and the creative writing coach behind She's Novel. She's made it her mission to help aspiring authors write sensational novels because obliterating expectations is her jam. Her other passions? Coffee and Tolkien, of course!

Kristen is the author of the upcoming The Books of Maveryn series and The Astral Series, as well as several non-fiction books for writers.