Novel Projects

A novelWriter project requires a dedicated folder for storing its files on the local file system. See the Technical Information page for further details on how files are organised.

A new project can be created from the Project menu by selecting New Project. A list of recently opened projects is maintained, and displayed in the Open Project dialog. A project can be removed from this list by selecting it and pressing the Del key.

The project specific settings are available in Project Settings in the Project menu. See further details below in the Project Settings section.

Project Roots

Projects are structured into a set of top level folders called root folders. They are visible in the project tree at the left side of the main window.

The core novel files go into a root folder of type Novel. Other supporting files go into the other root folders. These other root folder types are intended for your notes on the various elements of your story. Using these is of course entirely optional.

A new project will not have all of the root folders present, but you can add the ones you want from Create Root Folder in the Project menu.

The root folders are intended for the following use, but aside from the Novel folder, no restrictions are enforced by the application. You can use them however you want.

This is the root folder of all text that goes into the final novel. This class of files have other rules and features than other files in the project. See the Novel Structure page for more details.
This is the root folder where main plots can be outlined. It is optional, but adding at least dummy files can be useful in order to tag plot elements for the Outline view. Tags in this folder can be references using the @plot keyword.
Character files go in this root folder. These are especially important if one wants to use the Outline view to see which character appears where, and which part of the story is told from a specific character’s point-of-view. Tags in this folder can be references using the @pov keyword for point-of-view characters, or the @char keyword for other characters.
The locations folder is for various scene locations that you want to track. Tags in this folder can be references using the @location keyword.
If the story has multiple plot timelines or jumps in time within the same plot, this class of files can be used to track this. Tags in this folder can be references using the @time keyword.
Important objects in the story, for instance important objects that change hands often, can be tracked here. Tags in this folder can be references using the @object keyword.
Does your plot have many powerful organisations or companies? Or other entities that are part of the plot? They can be organised here. Tags in this folder can be references using the @entity keyword.
The custom root folder can be used for tracking anything else not covered by the above options. Tags in this folder can be references using the @custom keyword.

The root folders correspond to the categories of tags that can be used to reference them. For more information about the tags listed, see Tag References.


You can rename root folders to whatever you want. The first character in the Flags column will still indicate what type they are, and so will the icon if you are using one of the Typicons icon sets.

Deleted Documents

Deleted document files will be moved into a special Trash root folder. Files in the trash folder can then be deleted permanently, either individually, or by emptying the trash from the menu.

Folders and root folders can only be deleted when they are empty. Recursive deletion is not supported.

A document file or a folder can be deleted from the project menu, or by pressing CtrlDel.

Orphaned Documents

If novelWriter crashes or otherwise exits without saving the project state, or if you’re using a file synchronisation tool that runs out of sync, there may be files in the project folder that isn’t tracked in the core project file. These files, when discovered, are handled by the Orphaned Documents routine.

Files that are discovered in the project folder, but not in the project, will be re-added to the project tree in a special Orphaned Items root folder next time the application is started. These orphaned files will not have most of the meta data preserved, although novelWriter will try to restore the file label it had in the project tree. Other information will have to be set again, and the files moved back to the correct location in the project tree.

Project Lockfile

To prevent orphaned files caused by file conflicts when novelWriter projects are synced with file synchronisation tools, a project lockfile is written to the project folder. If you try to open a project which has such a file present, you will be presented with a warning, and some information about where else novelWriter thinks the project is also open. You will be give the option to ignore this warning, and continue opening the project.


If, for some reason, novelWriter crashes, the lock file may remain even if there are no other instances keeping the project open. In such a case it is safe to ignore the lock file warning when re-opening the project.


If you choose to ignore the warning and continue opening the project, and multiple instances of the project are in fact open, you are likely to cause inconsistencies and create diverging project files, potentially resulting in loss of data and orphaned files.

Using Folders in the Project Tree

Folders, aside from root folders, have no structural significance to the project. When novelWriter is processing the files in the novel, like for instance during export, these folders are ignored. Only the order of the document files themselves matter.

The folders are there purely as a way for the user to organise the files in meaningful sections and to be able to collapse and hide them in the project tree when you’re not working on those files.


You can use folders to sort your scene files into chapters. You will then need to add a chapter file as the first file of your folder, and the scene files as the following files.

Project Files

New document files can be created from the Document menu, or by pressing CtrlN while in the Project Tree. This will create a new, empty file, and open the :Item Settings dialog where the filename and various other settings can be changed. This dialog can also be opened again later from either the Project menu, selecting Edit Item, or by pressing CtrlE or F2 with the item selected.

The layout of the file is also defined here. For Novel files, the full list of layout options are available. For non-Novel files, only “Note” is available. See Novel File Layout for more details.

You can also select whether the file is by default included when building the project. This setting can be overridden in the Build Novel Project tool if you wish to include them anyway. This is covered in the File Selection section.

Word Counts

A character, word and paragraph count is maintained for each file, as well as dor each section of a file defined by a header. The word count, and change of words in the current session, is displayed in the footer of any document open in the editor, and all stats are shown in the details panel below the project tree for any file selected.

The word counts are not updated in real time, but runs in the background every five seconds for as long as the document is being actively edited.

A total project word count is displayed in the status bar. The total count depends on the sum of the values in the project tree, which again depend on an up to date index. If the counts seem wrong, a full project word recount can be initiated by rebuilding the project’s index. Either form the Tools menu, or by pressing F9.

Project Settings

The Project Settings can be accessed from the Project menu, or by pressing CtrlShift,. This will open a dialog box, with a set of tabs.

Settings Tab

The Settings tab holds the project title and author settings.

The Working Title can be set to a different title than the Book Title. The difference between them is simply that the Working Title is used for the GUI (main window title) and for generating the backup files. The intention is that the Working Title should remain unchanged throughput the project, otherwise the name of exported files and backup files may change too.

The Book Title and Book Authors settings are currently not used for anything, so setting then is just for the benefit of the author. Future, planned features will be using them, and they are exported on some export formats in the Build Novel Project tool.

Details Tab

This tab presents an overview of meta data for the project. It states where on your file system the project is saved, how may times it has been saved, how many folders and files it contains, and how many words exist in the entire project.

Status and Importance Tabs

Each file of type “Novel” can be given a status level, signified by a coloured icon and each file of the remaining types can be given an importance level. These are colour coded icons and labels that can be applied to each file.

These are purely there for the user’s convenience, and you are not required to use them for any other feature to work. No other part of novelWriter accesses this information. The intention is to use these to indicate at what stage of completeion each novel file is, or how important the content of a note file is to the plot. You don’t have to use them this way, that’s just what they were intended for, but you can make them whatever you want.


The status or importance level currently in use by one or more files cannot be deleted, but they can be edited.

Auto-Replace Tab

A set of automatically replaced keywords can be added in this tab. The keywords in the left column will be replaced by the text in the right column when documents are opened in the viewer. They will also be applied to exports.


A keyword cannot contain any spaces. The angle brackets are added by default, and when used in the text are a part of the keyword to be replaced. This is to ensure that parts of the text isn’t unintentionally replaced by the content of the list.


An automatic backup system is built into novelWriter. In order to use it, a backup path to where the backup files are to be stored must to be provided in Preferences.

Backups can be run automatically when a project is closed, which also implies it is run when the application is closed. Backups are date stamped zip files of the entire project folder, and are stored in a subfolder of the backup path with the same name as the project Working Title set in Project Settings.

The backup feature, when configured, can also be run manually from the Tools menu. It is also possible to dissable automated backup for a given project in Project Settings.


For the backup to be able to run, the Working Title must be set in Project Settings. This value is used to generate the folder name for the zip files. Without it, the backup will not run at all, but produce a warning message.

Writing Statistics

When you work on your project, a log file records when you opened it, when you closed it, and how many words you added to your novel and note files during the session. You can view this file in the meta folder in the directory where you saved your project. The file is named sessionStats.log.

A small tool to view the content of this file is available in the Tools menu under Writing Statistics. You can also launch it by pressing F6.

The tool will show a list of all your sessions, and a set of filters to apply to it. You can also export the filtered data to a JSON file or to a CSV file that can be opened by a spreadsheet application like for instance Libre Office Calc.