Gwen Hernandez

Author of romantic suspense. Scrivener expert.

Tech Tuesday: Annotations in Scrivener

Do you ever wish you could scribble on your manuscript? Maybe you want to make notes about a particular paragraph you’re struggling with, or mark a place that requires further research.

You guessed it. Scrivener has a function for that. It’s called Annotations.

To activate the Annotation feature:

  1. From the Format menu, choose Inline Annotation.
  2. Type in your note or reminder. Make sure to set your spacing as if the annotation wasn’t there, otherwise it’ll be off when you print/export your manuscript.
  3. Click outside of annotation, or select the Format menu and choose Inline Annotation to turn it off (or, even easier, use Shift+Cmd+A).

If the glaring red color is too distracting, you can change it.

  1. Select the annotation text.
  2. From the Format bar, choose the desired text color (or go to Format, Font, Show Colors).

Here’s the most important part of all. After you’ve gone through your manuscript and you want to find the notes you made to yourself, there’s an easy search.

  1. From the Edit menu, choose Find, then Find by Formatting.
  2. When the box opens, choose Inline Annotations.
  3. To search for the next one, click Next.

If you code your Annotations (for revisions, research, etc.), you can search for only those annotations relating to what you’re ready to work on. How cool is that?

  1. In the Containing Text: box, enter the search string you want to look for.
  2. Click Next. Scrivener will return the next annotation that meets your search criteria.

When you’re ready to export/print your manuscript, you have a couple of options. In Compile Manuscript, under the Text Options tab, you can choose to Remove Annotations or Export Annotations as RTF.

The first option strips them out of your MS. This is where the spacing becomes important. The second option embeds the annotations in your MS (much as they look on your screen), in red and flanked by square brackets.

For all you contest judges, I could see importing the electronic entry into Scrivener, making your comments through annotations, and then exporting it with the Export Annotations as RTF feature selected. This gives you the commenting ease of Word’s Track Changes function, but provides a contest-friendly RTF output.

I’d love to hear some of your thoughts about the value and uses of annotations. And, please tell me what other Scrivener topics you’d like to see covered in future editions of Tech Tuesday.

For more Scrivener help, check out my online courses or Scrivener For Dummies.

Write on!

[Post updated 11/1/11]


  1. This stuff is too technical for me. But I will say I did use annotations for the first time on my youtube video and it’s a cool feature. I can see how it could help out writers. It’s like writing notes on the computer screen. What’s next? A sandwich with 2 pieces of chicken and no bread???

    • I just discovered the true value of the annotations feature recently, which is why I picked it for today’s TT post.

      Gee, a sandwich w/ two pieces of chicken and no bread? If that’s like “when pigs fly”, then we’re all in trouble, right? ;-) Thanks a lot KFC, now we’re all doomed.

  2. Okay–seriously needed to know this when I imported my doc over from Word back into a new S doc. AACK. But this is helpful for all future issues. Oh, and I have a question about the FIND feature. How come when I do a find in the doc–for something I KNOW is in the doc (like my @@), the @@ is NOT found? But then I can do a search in the general search button and the @@ will show up, but as soon as I fix one @@ issue, the other highlighted @@s are no longer highlighted.

    Okeedokee–see how challenged I am?

    I am seriously trying tho’ ;-)

  3. This is so interesting Gwen! Am gonna send it to my husband. He is a writter too:)

  4. Really loved this post. I’ve been using Scrivener for years, but never noticed the ghost notes mode feature. I love Annotations, but never thought of coding them either. Thanks for the new tips!

    • Glad you found it helpful, Brenda. I keep finding new features the more I use the program. Tech Tuesday is my chance to share them with my Scrivener-loving friends. Let me know if there’s anything you’d like me to cover in the future.

  5. Hi,
    I like the annotations feature and the coding idea is great, too. But I still have trouble with the annotations changing colour when I alter the formatting and can’t find a simple solution to this.

  6. This is a most wonderful and helpful website. Thank YOU!!!!

  7. Hi Gwen, thanks for this info. Is it possible to do the same or anything similar with webpages that I’ve imported into my Scrivener research folder?

    • lozzer17: If you’ve imported them as web pages, then you can’t annotate or comment on them. If you were to copy/paste the contents of the page, then you could do it. An option for imported web pages is to use Document Notes, but that doesn’t give you location-specific note-taking capabilities, merely a spot for general notes about that page.

  8. Gwen, you always have the answer for me. This feature is awesome!

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