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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

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


All future annotations will be in the new color, but previously created annotations are not affected.

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


All current and future annotations will have the new color.

  1. Go to Tools—>Options—>Appearance.
  2. In the Colors section, click the expansion arrow next to Editor (or double-click Editor) and select Annotation Text in the list.
  3. Click the color box to the right and select the desired annotation color.Options window, Appearance tab with Annotation text selected
  4. Click OK to apply your changes and close the Options window.

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?

Need more Scrivener 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.

Write on!

[Post updated 7/6/17]

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  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!

  15. Reply

    Hi Gwen! I know this is an older post, but would you elaborate a little more one what you mean by “Make sure to set your spacing as if the annotation wasn’t there…”? I believe this is going to be a very useful feature for me, but I want to make sure I don’t create a nightmare at compile-time.


    • Reply

      No problem, Nat. The thing to keep in mind is that the annotation will be removed during compile (unless you choose not to), so I’ll give you an illustration using text in parentheses to stand in for an annotation.

      If you type: He holstered his Beretta(or other)and faced her.
      You’ll get this when you compile: He holstered his Berettaand faced her.

      To avoid that, add a space on either side of the annotation, but not both sides.
      For example: He holstered his Beretta (or other)and faced her.
      Or: He holstered his Beretta(or other) and faced her.

      You can also put space inside the annotations for easier reading.
      Example: He holstered his Beretta( or other ) and faced her.

      I hope that helps!

  16. mr christer from Sweden


    Hi there!

    I think it would be quite handy to be able to hide the inline annotations from time to time. Because I like to “comment in the text”, but I don’t always want to see those comments.
    Do you know if there is a way to toggle the visibility of inline annotations? Please note, I’m on the windows version.

    Your site helps me out a lot, I really appreciate your skill level and your way of explaining 🙂

    • Reply

      mr christer from Sweden: The ability to toggle annotation visibility would be handy, but unfortunately it’s not an option. I noticed on the forum that others have asked for it, but apparently when the folks at L&L asked Apple if there was a way to do it without breaking things, they said no.

      The closest thing I can think of would be to convert your annotations to comments. That’s under Format>Convert>Inline Annotations to Inspector Comments. Instead of the notes being embedded right in the text, they’d be in comment boxes off to the side with only a linked word in the text. To view the note, you would click on the linked word to open the Comments pane.

      If you changed your mind and wanted annotations back, you could go to Format>Convert>Inspector Comments to Inline Annotations. Wish I had a better option for you. Thanks!

      • mr christer from Sweden


        Hi, thanks for your answer!

        I think that’s quite a good idea, as it would actually be like toggling 🙂
        Of course it would “wipe out” the “original comments that should always be only comments” and make them part of this “toggle”, but…
        Anyway, this is just a little thing, and you just showed a possible workaround.

        In all, I must say that I’m very impressed by Scrivener. I have used it for a week, and one of the biggest challenges for me in a novel project is: where to put all ideas and associations that constantly come up in the creative process? And so that I can find them again…?
        Well, in Scrivener we got: Scratch Pad for truly global things (scope: several projects), Project notes (with tabs!) and Document notes, the Research folder, all the “cards” about Character, Settings and such…
        Plus inline annotations and comments – and then there are even more that I haven’t listed here.

        So maybe – this time – I will actually finish a novel project. I have written plays for theatres, poetry, short stories… but in the back of my head have always been ringing: “write a novel too!”

        Thanks again for your educational website 🙂
        I might be back with more questions as the project (hopefully) moves along…

  17. Lausanne Carpenter


    Hi Gwen,

    I’m tacking my question here as this post is the closest solution I have found to my problem. But I am wondering if you have any more recent ideas.

    I’m writing epic, historical fiction set long ago and with multiple POVs (yikes, I know…)

    I have discovered that in Google Docs you can highlight, then tag blocks of text with keywords, then search for a tag, lift all of those blocks and even automatically create a new document with them.

    In Scrivener, in order to track all sorts of running information in my manuscript, I’m having to do something like this manually by searching for all text of a particular idea (say, Sara’s backstory), lift it out and plunk it into another document – so I can review it in sequence and make sense of its development/reveal over time. It’s a big chore. And, of course, that new document won’t continue to track with revisions in Scrivener.

    I really want to use Scrivener. I see that I could do something like this using annotations by creating my own searchable “tag” with inline notes (or comments), like “@Backstory-Sara”. I could then at least do a search and find each occurance. Copy/paste those into the new/review doc, etc. This might be less cumbersome than my current process but not nearly as efficient as the Google Docs process.

    Do you have any idea how I might best do this in Scrivener? Any rumors of Scrivener adding a text tagging function??


    • Reply

      Lausanne: I can’t think of anything that exists in Scrivener right now that would work better than annotations. If each document was in a separate POV, you could use Collections (I have a post on that too) to view only those in a single POV at a time (by using label, status, or keyword to tag each doc), but if you mix POV within each document, that won’t work either.

      You can use File>Export to export only annotations from the manuscript, but that’d require you to turn each text section into an annotation rather than just mark its spot.

      Not sure if there are any plans to add text-level tagging. You could always add it to the Wish List Forum on L&L’s site. Wish I had a better option for you!

  18. Lausanne Carpenter


    Gwen, Thanks for the quick response. At least I know I’m not missing something. I do use a separate POV per text doc, so I am able to do POV read-throughs, etc. Oh well, I think I will start using the annotations process to at least help me find a topic quickly. That’s something at least 🙂 Let us know if you hear any good rumors!

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