Edit Mac Scrivener 3 With iOS Ulysses, Part 4: Dealing With Scrivener Metadata #amwriting

Scrivener and Ulysses CAN get along

Articles in this series:

Part 4: Dealing with Scrivener Metadata


In Part 1 of this series, I talked about changing your Scrivener habits in order to edit with Ulysses, eventually. In Part 2, I talked about changing your existing project so that it compiles with the Scrivener “Convert MultiMarkdown to Rich Text” (MMD→Rich Text) compile option ON, and so that it syncs as smoothly as possible with Ulysses. In Part 3, I discussed setting up sync between Ulysses and Scrivener on either Dropbox or iCloud Drive, and best practices going forward.

If you’re new to my articles on how to edit Scrivener projects with Ulysses, please review “Is this workflow for you?” in Part 1. I strongly recommend you make the changes to your existing Scrivener project that I suggested in Part 2 and set up sync as in Part 3 before proceeding.

If you need a review of Markdown, and of MultiMarkdown tables, you can find them here:

What is Scrivener Metadata?

For this series, I’m assuming that you’re using Mac Scrivener to organise your work: You use the Corkboard, the Outliner, collections, keywords, labels, and and so forth to give you information about your project.

Metadata is defined as “data about data”; in this case, I’m referring to data both about each document, and about your project. Each document in Scrivener potentially has these metadata items:

  • A title
  • Created and modified dates
  • A label
  • A status
  • One or more keywords
  • A synopsis (plain text)
  • A corkboard image
  • An Inspector document note (rich text)
  • A section type
  • An “Include in Compile” flag
  • Document Bookmarks
  • Custom metadata

In addition, the entire project has:

  • Project Bookmarks (which refer to in-project notes as well as external references.)

As of this writing, even iOS Scrivener can access and edit only a subset of these:

  • Title
  • Label
  • Status
  • Synopsis (plain text)
  • Corkboard image
  • Inspector document note (rich text)
  • “Include in Compile” flag

So far, we’ve managed, in Part 3, to transfer the project notes to Ulysses (any text in the project that isn’t part of your draft.) Let’s see about the others.

Referring to Your Outline

You can do better than iOS Scrivener does here, as long as you don’t need to edit your outline on iOS. (But we’re assuming that you want to organise in Mac Scrivener, so this should work fine.)

For our purposes, the “outline” means most of the metadata you can view in your Mac outliner view (title, synopsis, label, status, keywords, custom metadata) plus your Inspector document notes. Sorry, but corkboard images, section type, document bookmarks, and the “Include in Compile” flag won’t make it over. To begin:

  1. Use File→Compile… The compile dialog will open. Illustration of outline compile setup
  2. Set up a compile of your entire draft. If you don’t want some of your Draft outlined (for example, I outline only to the Chapter level, not to individual scenes), set up a collection that contains only your outline documents and filter your draft to include them only.
  3. Pick a format from the Compile for: list. I’d suggest either Multimarkdown (poorer formatting but you can view the outline directly in Ulysses) or PDF (better formatting for document notes, but you must view it split-screen (iPad) or separately (iPhone) in your favourite iOS PDF app.)
  4. Select your compile format (Markdown Outline for Multimarkdown, Full Indented Outline for PDF.)
  5. Assign your Section Layouts. Choose the same “outline item” layout for all your section types. (e.g., all Decimal Outline Item or all Bulleted Outline Item, or some other item type depending on what’s offered in the compile format you picked.)

If we only wanted titles and synopses, we’d be done and could compile now. But to include the rest of our metadata, we must edit the section layout we picked.

  1. Click on the pencil icon in the preview of the section layout.
  2. Click “Duplicate and Edit Format” in the alert box that appears. This will take you to the Compile Format Designer. How to add metadat to an outline compile in the Compile Format Designer
  3. In the Compile Format Designer dialog, check all the checkboxes except “Text” for your selected layout (its name will be in bold.) This will get all your metadata (title, synopsis, created and modified dates, label, status, keywords, and any custom metadata) as well as your Inspector document notes compiled into your outline document.
  4. Click “Save” to save changes and return to the main compile dialog.
  5. Click “Compile” to compile your outline.
  6. When your compile is finished, you’ll see a standard Mac save file dialog. Name your outline file, and save it to your chosen cloud service, outside your project sync folder.
  7. If you produced a Markdown outline, open iOS Ulysses and add it to your external files. Don’t add it to one of your project external folders!
  8. If you produced a PDF, open your iOS PDF app and open the outline with it.

N.B.: You may find that the full outline document is pretty hefty (my current work-in-progress has an outline of 8,000 words, including all synopses, document notes, and metadata.) Further, if you compiled to a Markdown outline and imported it to Ulysses, Ulysses will (helpfully, it thinks) put the whole thing into a code block (because Markdown code blocks can be made by indenting with a tab at the start of every line, rather like an outline.) Ulysses then becomes pretty darn slow. To speed it up, put your cursor below the code block, and tap your delete (or backspace) key once. The entire code block should be selected. Tap the delete/backspace key again, and Ulysses will (slowly) remove the code block tag so that your outline becomes a normal Markdown indented list. Be patient: it took about five minutes for that 8,000 word outline. After this, Ulysses will be much speedier.

Editing Your Outline

It’s easy to say that you should wait on metadata changes until you’re back at your Mac and use Scrivener. But if you’re like me, you won’t remember your changes that long. If this is the case, I suggest you put Yet Another Inline Annotation™ at the top of your text in Ulysses (just surround it with double parentheses ((like this)) .) Date it, and note the changes you want to make to your metadata. When you sync with Scrivener and check your updated documents, you should see your annotation so that you can make the needed changes to your Scrivener metadata. After that you can delete the annotation if you like.

Dealing with Bookmarks

Bookmarks… just don’t transfer well to iOS. Not even iOS Scrivener will give you access to them. But if you must have some of them available, here’s some strategies. All of them require some effort on your part, and some may require maintaining two lists, one for Mac Scrivener and one for iOS Ulysses. You’ve been warned.

  1. If a bookmark refers to a document on your Mac only, there’s nothing to be done. There’s no way to access that while in Ulysses or on iOS in general. All you can do is move it to the Web or a cloud service so you can access it as in Step 2, below.
  2. If a bookmark refers to a document on the Web or on a cloud service that you have access to (your website, iCloud, Dropbox, Evernote, etc.), you can put a link to it in a text document within your Notes. If you choose to do this, I’d suggest taking these out of your project or document bookmarks—having to maintain the list in two places risks forgetting to update one or the other.
  3. If a bookmark refers to a text document inside your project and it’s synced to Ulysses, you can add it to Ulysses’ Favourites list. This will require maintaining both the Mac Scrivener bookmarks and the Ulysses Favourites list, with the risk of updating one but not the other. Or you may choose to move the document to the Web or a cloud service and follow Step 2 above.
  4. If a bookmark refers to a non-text document inside your project (web archive, image, PDF, etc.) again there’s nothing to be done other than export it to the web or a cloud service and add it to your list in Step 2.

My own strategy has been to keep all my non-text research in a cloud note service (Evernote, but OneNote might serve as well.) Rather than building bookmark lists, I use the Evernote app on Mac and on iOS to refer to it. This way I avoid the whole issue. (Some Scrivener users whose research use is heavier than mine use DEVONthink and its iOS companion app. I haven’t tried it so I can’t say how well it works, but many academics swear by it.)

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