Home > Scrivener  > Compiling: Placeholders, headers and footers

Header image | Compiling: Placeholders, headers and footersIn this mini-series of posts. I focus on three aspects of compiling:

I’ve already published a series of posts on compiling with Scrivener 3, that I recommend you read:

I explain in Compiling with Scrivener 3: An Introduction that there are three decisions to make:

  1. What will be compiled? (which was covered in the first post of that series)
  2. What output route will you take?’ (and that’s what I focused on in the first of this mini-series)
  3. How will the material look after compiling? (which was the focus of the previous post)

Today’s blog post goes onto greater detail for that third question: what will the material look like on the page?


Accessing the List of All Placeholders through the Help menuPlaceholders take the place of something that is not available right now but can be supplied later.

In Scrivener, these placeholders are tags – strings of text which start with <$ and end with >. You can see them all, by selecting List of All Placeholders from the Help menu.

In previous blog posts, I’ve explained how placeholders are essential for any auto-numbering and cross-referencing of figures and tables. I’ve also shown how placeholders might be used when writing plays.

In this post, the focus is on headers and footers. Typically, you might want to see these items of data on every page of your outputted manuscript.

  • Project data such as your name (as the author) and the title of your novel
  • Today’s date
  • The page number

It’s up to you whether these appear in a header or in a footer.

For each item of information, there is a placeholder (a tag) which will result in the required data appearing in the compiled manuscript.

User and project information

Scrivener offers a number of placeholders that relate to the user or to the project itself. Once set up (within Compile) , these can be used anywhere in your project but are especially useful for headers and footers.

User and Project Information | Compiling: Placeholders, headers and footers

In the example of headers/footers in my own project, below, I show how to set these up.

Date and time

Scrivener offers a range of date/time formats.

Current Date & Time | Compiling: Placeholders, headers and footers

Several of these refer to ‘the user’s System Preferences’. I’m on a Mac and my route to this pane was via the Apple menu: System Preferences / Date & Time / Language and Region preferences / General / Advanced / Dates. Phew!

Apple Systems Preferences for Date & Time

This can be tailored to suit your own preferences. I’m more than happy with the settings and am leaving mine alone.

Page numbering

Scrivener offers a number of ways of numbering your pages.

  • 1, 2, 3, …
  • i, ii, iii, iv, …
  • I, II, III, IV, …

You can also have the page count included: page 1 of 17.

Whatever you want is achieved by using the corresponding tag as specified in the List of All Placeholders.

Page Number options | Compiling: Placeholders, headers and footers

Headers and footers

What appears in the header and footer of a page is determined within Compile.

  • Select File / Compile and then select the Format you want to use for this output.Compile Formats
  • Click on the cog wheel (bottom right of the left hand pane) and select Edit format.Edit Format
  • Select Page Settings in the left hand pane, and Header and Footer Text within the body of the pane.Page settings

For both the header and footer, there are three areas that can be populated with material: left aligned, centred and right aligned. Type into those fields whatever you’d like for your output.

The placeholder tags will be replaced at compile time with the relevant values.

In my header

This is how my header looks: Dead Wood / Review copy [date] / [page number]

My header | Compiling: Placeholders, headers and footers


Notice that Scrivener reproduces any text you type, and replaces the placeholder tags with current information.


The header has my title left aligned. I could have used the <$projecttitle> placeholder …

Project settings for user and project information

… in which case, I would have needed to set up this data – Scrivener can’t second guess my title!

This can be done within Compile; the second icon (luggage tag) gives you space to enter this information.

Actually, if you don’t provide this information, Scrivener uses your filename …


I’ve included the text ‘Review copy’ to remind myself where this output is going. It also serves as a heading for those who receive it.

The date is the date I compiled it. Not today!

Page number

I’ve opted for 1, 2, 3 … and used the tag <$p> to achieve that effect. It’s on the right hand side of every page.

It is possible to mirror left (verso) and right (recto) hand pages. This is achieved in the Options tab.

Page settings options | Compiling: Placeholders, headers and footers

Notice also that you can have different numbering for the FrontMatter eg if you have a preface or introduction. And you can treat BackMatter differently too.

In my footer

I always include a copyright line. Not that I expect anyone to want to use my writing without permission – it’s just good practice … professional!

My footer | Compiling: Placeholders, headers and footers

Copyright symbolNotice that I typed (c) and Scrivener reproduced those three characters.

If, instead, you prefer to see the copyright symbol – a c within a circle – select Edit / Emoji & Symbols and © is within the LETTERLIKE SYMBOLS section.

Notice also that the next page has page number 2. Scrivener automatically calculates the page numbers for you.

Scrivener can also automatically number your chapters; see this blog post.

What else can go in a header / footer line?

There are restrictions of what can be included. The Placeholders pane explains all …

Header and footer rules

Questions? Need a helping hand? Want a demo?

To watch me demonstrating how to set up headers and footers or to ask any questions, book a Simply Scrivener Special.

To help me to prepare, you could also complete this short questionnaire.

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