If you’re a long-time user of Scrivener you’ll know it’s had a version of Dropbox sync for years. But you couldn’t use it to keep two separate instances of Scrivener in sync —say, on your desktop and your laptop.
The way Scrivener used to sync to Dropbox was with the menu File > Sync > with External Folder… This made a series of folders within Dropbox. In the case of my latest manuscript it looked like this:
Inside the Draft folder is a series of rich text format (rtf) files, one for each scene in my manuscript. I could write a scene in Scrivener on my computer and manually sync the project to Dropbox. Then I could open the rtf file from Dropbox on my laptop and edit it in a rich text editor.
Just not in Scrivener.
But with the ineluctable arrival of Scrivener for iOS, Literature & Latte completely revamped the internal structure of the Scrivener project file. The way Scrivener syncs with Dropbox now is different, and it’s way simpler.
Under the new sync method, your Scrivener project sits directly in your Dropbox folder. You just open it from there. If you name the folders within Dropbox correctly, the iOS version will know where to look for Scrivener project files and sync them automatically.
It also means you can open the Scrivener project files from within Scrivener on more than one computer and trust Dropbox to keep things synchronised. (There are caveats with this, which I’ll get to later.)
“Changes you make on one device will be reflected in Scrivener on your other devices — whether those devices are computers, iPads, or even your trusty iPhone.”
If you’re used to the old way of syncing it can be a bit of a gear-change to switch to the new method. Scrivener will helpfully try to open the most recent version of your project, which if you aren’t careful will mean opening an old project file and not the new Dropbox sync one.
Here’s what I did to switch to the new mode of Dropbox syncing with a minimum of fuss. For the full Dropbox sync goodness you should have the latest version of Scrivener, so before you get started be sure to check for updates. Once you’ve done that, you should be able to follow along with your own project. Next thing you know you’ll be fully synced.
Simple steps to the new Dropbox sync
- Make a backup of your Scrivener project – just in case.
- Clear the Recent Projects menu: File > Recent Projects > Clear Menu. This is because you’ll be opening the project file from a new location, and you don’t want to accidentally open the old version. You should do this on each copy of Scrivener you use.
- Create the following directory in your Dropbox folder if it doesn’t already exist: Dropbox / Apps / Scrivener
- Take your project file and move it into the new folder: Dropbox / Apps / Scrivener / YourProject.scriv
- Quit Scrivener.
- (Optional) Restart your computer. I do this to make sure there are no cache files or anything left lying around. It shouldn’t be necessary, but old habits die hard.
- Open the Dropbox folder and navigate to Dropbox / Apps / Scrivener
- Click on your project file to open it in Scrivener.
Scrivener will open up and replace the Recent Projects entry for your project with the new Dropbox sync version. From now on you should be able to open Scrivener as usual on that computer and it will simply open the .scriv project file from your Dropbox folder.
Syncing between devices
If you want to set up a second computer, like your laptop, you should navigate to the Dropbox folder on that computer and check it has synced Dropbox / Apps / Scrivener / YourProject.scriv. This might take a moment. Once the .scriv file is there and Dropbox has finished syncing, you can click on the file to open your project in Scrivener. This will refresh the Recent Projects menu with the new location for the .scriv project file, just like with your main computer.
From now on, any changes you make on one device will be reflected in Scrivener on your other devices each time Dropbox syncs — whether those devices are computers, iPads, or even your trusty iPhone.
Keith from Literature & Latte wrote a blog post recently where he said you don’t need to quit Scrivener on one device before opening it on another device when using this kind of Dropbox sync. In theory it shouldn’t be necessary because Dropbox will keep everything synchronised automatically just by saving your project as normal. (You don’t need to use the manual File > Sync menu any more.)
But if you make changes on your computer, and then different changes on another device before Dropbox has a chance to sync, you can end up with conflicts that you’ll need to sort out manually. Don’t worry too much though — Scrivener will flag these for your attention.
I hope that helps demystify the new Dropbox syncing in Scrivener. Once you get yourself set up it works smoothly and is far superior to the old manual syncing method. I’d like to thank Bettina from bettinadeda.com for the question about syncing Scrivener between her PC and laptop that formed the basis of this blog post. You should check out her excellent article about five writers who use Scrivener.