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Tech Tuesday: Full Screen (Composition Mode) in Scrivener 2.x

full screen composition mode with image

Sometimes you just need to block out all distractions and write. That’s where Scrivener’s Full Screen feature (called Composition Mode on the Mac) comes in.

Entering Full Screen/Composition Mode

When you’re ready to block out everything and write, don a pair of noise-canceling headphones, hide your phone, and enter Full Screen/Composition mode (hereafter called FS/C for short).

  • Mac: Go to View—>Enter Composition Mode.
  • Windows: Go to View—>Enter Full Screen.

Or, click the appropriate button on the toolbar.

Composition mode button


full screen button


By default, FS/C looks like this. Plain, but effective.

FS/C mode with black background

Making Changes with the Control Strip

Text too small? Paper too wide? When you first enter FS/C, or any time you point your mouse to the bottom of the screen, the control strip pops up.


It contains options for changing the text zoom, paper position, paper width, and background fade. It also displays the word and character count for the document(s) being viewed.

NOTE: Changes made here only affect the current project.

Changing the Background Color or Image for All Projects

Project-specific settings can be changed from the control strip, but global settings are available in the Scrivener Preferences/ Options menu.

1. Mac users go to Scrivener—>Preferences. Windows users go to Tools—>Options.

2. Choose Compose (Mac) or Appearance (Windows).

3. Mac users go to Customizable Colors at the bottom, and select Background. Windows users go to the Colors section, click the triangle next to Full Screen, then select Background.

Preferences, Compose Mac


Options, Appearance Windows


4. To change the color, click the colored square and choose a new color.

Selecting a Background Image for a Single Project

Rather than color, I often opt to use a background image. Sometimes it’s just a picture that puts me in the mood to write, like a calming ocean scene, and sometimes it’s an image that keeps me in the setting of my story.

Background images are set at the project level, and will override the global color choice you made in the last section. Here’s how to add an image.

1. Make sure the image you want is accessible from a drive on your computer (e.g. hard drive, flash drive, Dropbox), or is imported into your current Scrivener project (i.e. in the Binder).

2. Go to View—>Composition Backdrop (Mac) or View—>Full Screen Backdrop (Windows).

3. If the image you want is saved within your project, choose it from the submenu. If not, click Choose and select the desired file from your computer.

4. Click Open.

Next time you enter FS/C mode, your background image is displayed.

FS/C with background image

Removing a Background Image

To remove the background image for a project, go to View—>Composition Backdrop—>No Backdrop (Mac) or View—>Full Screen Backdrop—>No Backdrop (Windows).

Viewing the Inspector from Full Screen/Composition Mode

If you really need to take a peek at your Inspector—maybe to review the synopsis, or to change a Label or Status value—there’s no need to leave FS/C mode.

Simply click the Inspector button in the control strip.

inspector button

Mac users will see a modified version of the Inspector. Use the upper drop-down menu to choose which section of the Inspector you want to view.

Inspector in FS/C


inspector in FS/C mode


Switching Documents in Full Screen/Composition Mode

One of my favorite features—especially when I’m deep in revisions—is the ability to jump to another document without ever leaving FS/C mode and breaking your flow.

Just click the Go To button in the control strip to choose another document.

go to button in control panel

Exiting Full Screen/Composition Mode

When you're ready to exit Scrivener's den of zen, choose one of the following options.

  • Press the ESC key on your keyboard.
  • Pull up the control strip and click the Exit button at the far right.

Here's to distraction-free writing!

Want more? 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.

[Updated 12 October 2016]

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  1. JP


    Thanks for the tip. I couldn’t find the option for changing the paper color, thinking it was with the other Full Screen settings.

  2. Annie


    Hi Gwen, just got your book Scrivener for Dummies. Very helpful! However, I’m on a PC, and some of the instructions don’t line up. Help? Here’s where I’m at — I’m trying to customize and add a picture to the “backdrop” in Full Screen mode, but the directions call for menus and lists not visible on the Windows version. I’ve tried exiting Full Screen mode and hitting “tools: options: full screen,” but again, the menu doesn’t list anything about pictures. Is there a way to change the backdrop in Full Screen mode for Windows? Thanks!

    • Reply

      Annie: The image backdrop capability is not yet available in Windows. For now you can only change the color.

      In the book, I don’t mention which functions the Windows version doesn’t have, because it should be catching up over the next 6 months or so. Sorry for any confusion! Check page 10 of your book for more on how I addressed the differences. Good luck, and thanks for stopping by! 🙂

      • Annie


        Thanks for the response, Gwen! Isn’t evolving software fun? Either way, your book has been immeasurably helpful!

        • Reply

          LOL, yes, Annie! That was probably the hardest part of the book. I love that Keith and his team are constantly improving Scrivener, but that makes it difficult to write about. 😉

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    • Reply

      dougmorse: Not that I know of. The closest thing would be to hide your Binder and Inspector, and maybe enter your OS full screen mode if you have it.

  4. Asher Allen


    Gwen, I believe that I followed your instruction on changes the background color and paper color. I wanted to type on blue paper, but when I make the color changes, even though, customizable colors changed to the blue I chose, my page remain white. What did I miss. (ps, I am trying to decide between the paper version and the electronic version of your book. I like the idea of having the electronic version available while I am working in Scrivener, but with Kindle Paperwhite, the lack of page numbers can be a pain).

  5. Asher Allen


    Never mind my last post, when I switched to composition mode, my colors were there.

    • Reply

      Asher: Glad you figured it out. As far as the electronic vs. paper version of my book, the one complaint I’ve heard about the e-version is that the screen shots can be hard to see. But then it’s more convenient to take with you, and easy to search. So, I’m probably no help. 😉 Either way, I hope you find it helpful!

  6. Jennifer


    Hi Gwen! I’ll be getting your book soon 🙂 but I wanted to see if you could help. I am running Scrivener on Windows 7. It is updated to latest update. I set my full screen compose mode to a black page with green text. When I enter compose mode, it shows the black page, green cursor, but when I type the text is still black. I noticed on my Mac Scrivener, it has the option to override text color with color : GREEN. On the Windows version, I see no such option. I’m thinking the green I selected for compose mode, is being overridden by the black text from the normal mode. Any ideas? I would appreciate any help! It worked for me in the trial mode, but when I bought it it stopped working 🙁 Thanks for any help!! 🙂

  7. Jennifer


    I fixed it! I had to uninstall it and then install it again! I guess I wont update it unless I have to! 🙂 Have a great weekend!!

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  10. Mimi Marten


    Aloha Gwen! I was able to change to my image backdrop easily /thank you/, but I have a split image, like a double image /the same picture one on the top of the other/. Did I mess up some other settings and split up the screen? 🙂

    Thanks for your help!

    • Reply

      Hi, Mimi! Actually, that’s probably due to the size of your image and how you added it. If you go through the Textures button in Preferences, the image will “tile” or repeat itself to fill the screen. If you use View–>Composition/Full Screen Backdrop to set an image just for that project, it will scale up or down to fill the screen. HTH!

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