How to Use Comments in Scrivener

Photo credit: kukkurovaca on Flickr
Once upon a time, I used to think Scrivener didn't have much of a commenting system, and then I discovered the truth and it basically changed how I approach revisions forever. Because it turns out Scrivener's commenting system is pretty fabulous.

As it's not one of Scrivener's frequently spoken about features, I'm thinking I'm not the only writer who didn't know much about it, and so I thought I'd share exactly where to find them, and how to use them.

Here we go:

By default, Scrivener’s right-hand sidebar is set to Project notes, where you can leaves notes for referencing while you work on your book. There are, however, other greatly underutilized sections in that sidebar, and comments are one of them.

  1. Click the comments icon (a speech bubble with an “n” and an asterisk). It looks like this:

    Congratulations! You have now opened the Comments & Footnotes sidebar. It’s pretty magical, let me tell you. 

  2. Highlight whatever text you want to leave a comment on. This part is just like Word—the first step to commenting is highlighting whatever line or word you’re going to comment on. Easy! 

  3. Click the add comment button. It’s the one that looks like a yellow speech bubble. See below:
Voila! You can now leave yourself comments. But there’s more!

  • You can change the colors of the comments. This is probably my second favorite part. I like to color code by CP (although, when I have a crazy high number of comments, that doesn’t always happen). This time I’m thinking about possibly organizing types of comments by color because colors are fun. Anyway.

    The steps for changing colors are pretty easy. You right click whatever comment you want to switch the color of and then choose from the following menu.

    You can even set a custom color, if you want! It’s pretty schnazzy. 

  • When you click on a comment in the sidebar, it jumps to the spot in the manuscript. I said colors were my second favorite part, because this right here is what makes Scrivener comments better than Word comments, in my opinion. If you have your whole manuscript selected, you can view all the comments in your manuscript in the sidebar and when you click one, it’ll jump to that spot. Or if you have just one chapter open, it’ll show you all that comments in that one chapter. Or whatever other selection you make.

    This makes organization really easy, and also allows you to jump around and make changes however your heart desires, as well as giving you a general overview of the comments in your manuscript. 

Now, there are two pretty big downsides of Scrivener comments. Or one a half.

Firstly, as far as CP purposes go, track changes in Word is way superior. In Scrivener, there is a sort of track changes thing, but it basically just changes the colors of changes you make (which I like! But isn’t all that useful for seeing what changes your critique partners recommend). Also, as far as I can tell, you can’t import tracked changes, so you’ll have to make the changes manually anyway.

Second, up until yesterday I thought it was impossible to import comments from Word into Scrivener. But! I have figured out a way and I will share that with you guys on Friday (UPDATE: the post is live). This is still a half downside though, because the process is far from perfect and has some caveats. Still.

All of that said, I still love using the comments feature in Scrivener, and so the caveats are worth it to me. You may agree, or you may not, but I think it’s worth experimenting with. :)

Do you use Scrivener comments? Do you have any tips?

Twitter-sized bites: 
Did you know Scrivener has a commenting system? Writer @Ava_Jae breaks down where to find it & how to use it. (Click to tweet)  
Love Scrivener? Writer @Ava_Jae discusses why she prefers Scrivener comments over MS Word & how to use them. (Click to tweet)


Kathryn Clark said...

Oooh, thank you! I haven't bought Scrivener yet (I'm holding out for the coupon code that you usually get if you complete the summer version of Nanowrimo), but everything I've read about it has me convinced that it should definitely be on my shopping list. :)

Fallon said...

I love using comments in scrivener. I never knew about being able to change the color of comments though. That could come in handy.

Ian said...

Thanks. I'm using it for study and I'm just about to review my work so your post was very timely and helpful.

Ava Jae said...

You're very welcome, Ian! :)

Deborah Allen said...

Great post! I was trying to select my manuscript to see all the comments, but that doesn't seem to be working. When I select a heading, the comment button disappears.

Ava Jae said...

My guess is you're selecting the wrong heading. If everything is under "manuscript" try clicking that. Otherwise it's a little hard for me to guess because I don't know how you've organized

Deborah Allen said...

I've tried selecting 'draft', selecting a folder of chapters, and even selecting two documents together. In each case, the comment feature is grayed out. I wonder if it's because I have the Mac version. It's not super-important, but I'd love to see if I can make it work. : ) Thanks for your help!

Eric said...

Scrivener is far more valuable than it's cost even at full price... why not support the developer with a few extra dollars by getting it right away? Plus YOU will have it now, it is the BEST thing for writers I've ever seen

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