When I started teaching others how to use Scrivener, I often skipped the basics. I figured everyone knew how to use a computer, therefore they already understood this stuff. I was wrong. I’ve realized there are a few key concepts that many users—new and old—don’t understand.
So, here we go. Back to basics.
Start Scrivener the way you’d start any program on your computer. There are numerous places where the icon might be: Desktop, task bar (PC), dock (Mac), Start menu (PC), Applications folder (Mac), Program Files (PC).
Another option is to open an existing Scrivener project from your file management system (Finder on a Mac, Windows Explorer on a PC). This will launch Scrivener too. (This is true of most files on your computer. If you open the file for which the default program is not already running, the computer launches the relevant software as well.)
When you start Scrivener, you will see one of three things:
1. The New Project window
This window appears the first time you use Scrivener, and anytime you closed all projects before exiting the program last time (see #2). From here, you can either create a new project or open an existing one.
You can also access the New Project window when Scrivener is open by going to File—>New Project.
[click any image to view a larger version]
2. The last project you worked on
If you close Scrivener without closing your projects first—totally okay to do—it will open those same projects when you start it next time. Pretty cool, huh?
3. Nothing but the menu bar
If you start Scrivener and don’t see the New Project window or an open project, that’s okay. It just means your settings/preferences are set that way. You can still open a project by going to File—>Open.
You can change your settings to ensure you always see the New Project window when there’s no project open in Scrivener.
Mac: Go to Scrivener—>Preferences—>General, and check the box to Show Template Chooser When There Are No Projects Open.
Windows: Go to Tools—>Options—>General, and check the box to Show Start Panel When There Are No Projects Open.
A Scrivener project file has a .scriv extension. On Windows, it displays as a folder with lots of other files inside (see image in next section). On the Mac it appears as just a file (with subfiles hidden).
WARNING (PC users): All those little files need to stay together inside the .scriv folder for your project to work properly. This is a byproduct of how files work in Windows.
Opening an Existing Scrivener Project
There are several ways to open an existing Scrivener project.
1. To open a project directly from Finder or Windows Explorer (or your Desktop, etc), double-click the .scriv file. Windows users have to go one step further and double-click the .scrivx file inside, which should have the same name as the .scriv folder (but might be called project.scrivx if created on a version prior to 1.9 and not yet updated to the new file format), as shown in the image below.
If Scrivener is not yet open, your computer will launch the program.
2. When Scrivener is already open, you can go to File—>Open to access your drives and find the project you want, or File—>Recent Projects to access the last several projects you’ve worked with.
3. From the New Project Window (refer to the Starting Scrivener section above), you can click the Open An Existing File (Mac) or Open Existing Project (PC) button. Or, you can click the Open Recent button for a list of recently used projects.
Working with Multiple Projects at One Time
You can have more than one Scrivener project open at the same time. This is handy for dragging items from one Binder to another (to copy), or when you want to refer to another project or a “series bible” while working on your current manuscript.
Or, if you’re like me, maybe you just like to have all current projects open all the time. 😉
Just use one of the methods described above to open an additional project, and use the Window menu to switch between them.
Closing Scrivener Projects
When you’re ready to close a project, you have two options.
1. Close the project, but not Scrivener
To do this, click the Close button on the window (red dot on the Mac, red X in Windows) or go to File—>Close Project. Repeat for each open project, as desired. Next time you open Scrivener the project will not automatically appear.
2. Close Scrivener and the project
Go to Scrivener—>Quit Scrivener (Mac) or File—>Exit (PC).
If you close Scrivener without closing your open projects first, Scrivener closes the projects (backing up them up first unless you’ve turned off automatic backups, tsk, tsk) and then closes the program. Next time you open Scrivener, all of the projects that were open will reappear.
Moving, Copying, Renaming, and Deleting Projects
If you want to move, copy, rename, or delete a Scrivener project, you can do so from Finder (Mac) or Windows Explorer (PC), just as you would with a photo, Word document, or any other file.
Windows users, remember to always work with the .scriv folder, not the .scrivx file inside it.
If you need more help working with files on your computer, check out one of these handy links:
[Updated 17 Nov 2015]
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