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Using Split Screen to Save Time in Scrivener 3


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title graphic with computer monitor displaying split screen in Scrivener with a blue wall behind it, and a white lamp next to it

Do you ever find yourself switching between windows/programs to refer to research or images, or scrolling up and down within a document to view something you wrote in another section? If so, check out Scrivener’s Split Screen feature. It allows you to divide the Editor pane (where you write) into two panes, either horizontally or vertically (my personal preference).

Scrivener editor spilt into two panes horizontally

I often use it to quickly look at what I wrote in a previous scene so I can be consistent or avoid being repetitive. Basically, any time I want to see something else in the project without “losing track” of the document I was working in, I split the screen.

Here are a few other ways to use it:

  • View another part of the current document while working on it.
  • Look at the end of the previous scene while working on the opening of the next one.
  • Copy text from the same, or another document, without losing your place.
  • Refer to research files, notes, character sheets, or photos while you write.
  • See your outline in the Corkboard or Outline view in one pane, while you write in the other.
  • View/search the entire manuscript in one pane (Scrivenings view), while keeping the scene/chapter you’re working on open in the other.

In my experience, the main source of confusion with Split Screen is that, initially, both panes display the same document, as shown below.

Scrivener editor split vertically

That can be handy for referring back to an earlier point in the same scene or chapter, but if you don’t want to view two locations in the same document, you can easily choose to view something else in one of the panes.

Splitting the Editor

To split the Editor, select a document in the Binder, and then do one of the following:

  • Click the Toggle Split button in the upper right corner of the Editor (see image below). Hold the Option key (Mac) or Alt key (PC) on your keyboard to switch the split button between horizontal and vertical. Scrivener will remember your most recent orientation choice until you change it again. 
  • Go to View>Editor Layout>Split Horizontally/Split Vertically.

Scrivener editor with arrow pointing to the Split button

The Editor splits into two panes with the selected document displayed in both.

NOTE: Each pane can have separate zoom and Page View settings. You can also use the Edit>Find feature within just one pane.

Working with Split Screen

Each pane has its own header (see image below). The active pane’s header turns color (whatever color is dictated by your system settings). This is the pane that will be affected when you select a document, choose a menu option, or use the format bar.

Scrivener editor split with arrows designating the active and inactive panes

Choosing the Active Pane

To designate the active pane, click anywhere in that pane’s editor. If it wasn’t already the active pane, the header will turn color.

Assigning a Document to the Active Pane

Once you’ve designated the active pane, click any document in the Binder to view it in the active pane.

Viewing a Group in the Active Pane

To view a group of files in the active pane, select the desired folder (or multiple-selection of files). Depending on the last choice you made when you selected a folder, you’ll either see the Corkboard, Outliner, or Scrivenings view.

Scrivener window split with cork board in left pane and document in right pane

Adjusting the Split

To adjust the relative split of the panes, drag the bar that divides them.

Scrivener screen split with smaller portion on the left displaying the cork board and a document on the right, with an arrow pointing to the line to drag

Locking the Contents of a Pane

To prevent yourself from accidentally changing what’s viewed in a pane (say, by clicking something in the Binder while that pane is active), you can lock it.

To do so, right-click the header of the pane you want to lock, or go to Navigate>Editor>Lock in Place. Repeat to unlock.

In Windows, the locked pane turns pale red. On the Mac, a small lock appears in the header.

NOTE: You can lock both panes, if desired.

Exiting Split Screen

When you’re ready to go back to a single Editor pane, simply click the No Split button in the header of whichever pane you want to keep working in. Or, click in the pane you want to stay in and go to View>Editor Layout>No Split.

Split screen with cork board on the left and document on the right, with arrows pointing to the No Split buttons on each pane

Do you think Split Screen might be useful in your own process? Got any questions about Split Screen or anything else in Scrivener? Just ask.

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