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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.

Add an Annotation

To activate the Annotation feature:

  1. Choose Format—>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 go to Format—>Inline Annotation to turn it off (or, even easier, use Shift+Cmd+A for Mac, Ctrl+Shift+A for Windows).

Change the Color (Mac only for now)

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).

Find Your Annotations

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. Go to Edit—>Find—>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.

Dealing with Annotations During Compile

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.

What’s your favorite way to use annotations?

For more Scrivener help, check out Scrivener For Dummies, sign up for an my online course, read additional Scrivener articles, or contact me about private training.

Write on!

[Post updated 10/12/16]


  1. Reply

    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???

    • Reply

      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. Reply

    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. Mirella


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

  4. Reply

    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!

    • Reply

      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.

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  6. Pandora


    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.

    • Reply

      Thanks for stopping by, Pandora. I’m not sure what you mean about changing color when you alter formatting. Can you explain in more detail what you’re doing?

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  10. Reply

    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?

    • Reply

      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.

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  14. Reply

    Thank God I found this! I need annotations as I have an ebook coming out, first edition, with stats that will need to be updated with each edition. This at least helps get it organized.

    What I would like to see are the annotations included in the right window, along with the footnotes and comments, so you can ago chapter by chapter and quickly access them.

    • Reply

      LindyK: Glad that feature is helpful to you. You can always convert your annotations into comments if you want them in the side bar instead. Annotations and comments are basically the same thing, but in different locations depending on how “in your face” you want them to be. If you’re looking for that navigation capability, comments might be a better option for you. Both can be included/excluded in your output, as desired. Good luck!

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