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Tech Tuesday: Snapshots in Scrivener 2.x

Planning to edit a file, but don’t want to lose your current version? Try Snapshots. The Snapshots feature has been upgraded in Scrivener 2.x and is now infinitely more useful. Let’s take a look.

Create a Snapshot of Your Current File

Use these steps when your cursor is in the editor pane of the file you want (the file is highlighted in gray in the Binder instead of blue).

  1. From the Documents menu, choose Snapshots, Take Snapshot. (Or, my preference, use the shortcut cmd+5).
  2. Alternatively, you can click the Snapshots button (which looks like a camera) at the bottom of the Inspector pane, and click the + button to take a Snapshot.
  3. Note that the Snapshots button now has an asterisk in it. This tells you that the document has one or more snapshots associated with it. Another snapshots “tell” is the folded right corner of the document icon in the Binder.

Create a Snapshot of One or More Files by Selecting in the Binder

If you want to take a snapshot of a file you’re not yet editing, or of multiple files, use this method.

  1. Select the file(s) in the Binder. (Use shift+click for continuous selection, or cmd+click for non-contiguous.)
  2. From the Documents menu, choose Snapshots, Take Snapshots of Selected Documents (cmd+5 works here too).

Adding a Title to Your Snapshots

Snapshots are tracked by the date and time they were saved, but you can also give them a title. To save a Snapshot with a title from the very beginning, use one of the two methods above, but choose Take Titled Snapshots of Selected Documents (or shift+cmd+5). To add a title after the fact…

  1. In the Inspector pane, double-click in the Title box for the Snapshot you want to name.
  2. Enter a title.

Great, so you have a snapshot. Now what? Now you can go on your merry way, editing without fear of losing your original words. But let's say you think your earlier version might have a better opening paragraph and you want to go back and look. One of the great new features in 2.x is the ability to easily compare versions of a document.

Compare view in the Snapshots pane

Compare a Snapshot with the Current Version

  1. In the Binder, select the file you want to compare.
  2. In the Inspector, click on the Snapshots button.
  3. Choose the snapshot you’d like to compare to, and click the Compare button.
  4. Added text will be underlined in blue. Deleted text will be crossed out and red.
  5. To adjust the level of granularity, click the down arrow next to the Compare button. I suggest leaving all three checked unless all you've done is added and subtracted whole paragraphs. Play with it, but it can be confusing at paragraph level if you made a lot of small changes.
  6. Use the right and left arrow buttons to move among the flagged changes. Or just scroll in the pane.
  7. If you decide that you like the entire Snapshot better than the current version, you can easily reinstate the snapshot by clicking the Roll Back button. You will be prompted to take a snapshot of the current version before you roll back, just in case you have regrets.
  8. When you're done looking at snapshots, you can click the Original button to view the selected snapshot in the Snapshots pane without highlighted changes. (This is the default view when you first open the Snapshots pane.)

Did you notice something annoying about comparing the two versions? The Snapshots pane is kind of small, isn’t it? No problem. You can also compare versions using Split Screen.

Compare Using Split Screen Mode

  1. Click the Toggle Split button at the top right corner of the Editor pane.
  2. To see the snapshot without red/blue edits, drag the snapshot you want to view from the list in the Snapshots pane to the header of the split window you want to view it in.
  3. If you want the edits to show in the the text editor, hold down the Option key while dragging the desired snapshot to the editor pane. (Thanks to MM for sharing this capability!)

The snapshot is read-only and can’t be edited. However, you can copy and paste from the snapshot in the editor pane to your current file.

Comparing versions in Split Screen mode

Delete Snapshots

Got some old versions you know you don't want? Delete them. Here's how.

  1. In the Snapshots pane, select the version you want to delete.
  2. Click the – (minus) button in the top right corner of the pane.
  3. A warning dialog box will appear. If you're sure you want to delete it, click OK.

So, that's a quick snapshot of Snapshots. 😉 For another method for keeping old versions of your files, see Snapshots and Unused Scenes (written for 1.x). For more help, check out the insanely thorough Scrivener manual under the Help menu, or try Scrivener's online help.

Write on!

Need more help? Sign up for an online class, read more Scrivener articles, or schedule a private training session. If you don't already have it, you can download Scrivener here.

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  1. MM


    Hi Gwen,
    Great article! I definitely agree, the improved snapshot feature makes the whole comparing older versions much more convenient. I actually really use it now, whereas I used to sort of take snapshots as a default, “Oh, I guess I should save this” but then never really go back and look at them much. (Which might be nice if it said something about my writing like, “Each new draft is always better, of course I don’t need to go back!” But…right. Not so much.)

    I did want to add that you can compare changes in the split Editor. If you opt-drag the snapshot to the Editor header, rather than just dragging, all the comparisons will show up in the Editor in red and blue. (You won’t see any linked comments or formatting changes, though, when you’re using the compare feature.) For comparing large documents, that’s definitely a huge bonus.

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  3. Reply

    I’ve been using the snapshots in all the versions for revisions. I even copy and paste from old snapshots into new snapshots. I’m always amazed by how much I use of older stuff that I thought I’d never reuse.

    I would never erase/delete a snapshot file. Ever.

    Great post.

  4. Tony Carson


    I found this, and your other posts on S, very useful. Thank you for your efforts.

    Beyond how to use S is the question WHEN to use a feature in S. For instance, Keyword is big but I’ve never wrapped my head around why/when to use it. Ditto compile. And what is the most effective use of annotations vs comments? I realize all this is subjective but it would be great to see options for best practices.

    I mention this by way of asking if you have any plans to address this aspect of the program, the ‘options’ (?) for when to use various features?

    Or, indeed, maybe this info is available elsewhere.

    With the vast array of truly useful features in this remarkable program, I always have the feeling that there are some really great ways to use it that I am entirely ignorant of. Thanks.

    • Reply

      Tony: I’m glad you’re finding the Scrivener posts helpful. I usually try to have a small blurb on the purpose of a feature, though I avoid spending too much time on it because the options are nearly endless, and it often depends on whether you’re using the program for novels, screenplays, legal briefs, or blog posts.

      I *do* intend to spend more time on the when/why question in my class. 😉 But that aside, I always recommend you check out the Scrivener Help manual. Keith usually does a good job of prefacing each feature.

      I’ll try to keep your thoughts in mind for my future posts. Or maybe I’ll do a catch-all post for it. Thanks!

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