1 Master file, two writers collaborating - any ideas?

Hi Guys,

I have had a good look around and cannot see any specific references to working with a co-writer. Anyone doing similar and developed a solution for smooth, loss free collaboration?

I have thought of;

Specific individual editing areas.
Assigned days for editing the master file.

Without strict admin discipline, the potential for loss of work is certainly there. Perhaps others have a work around?

Live collaboration isn’t really the issue for us, just continuity and cohesive preservation of work.

There are many threads about working with a co-author. Xiamenese goes into great detail about the steps he has taken to make this work.

And the one thing to keep in mind is “back up is your friend”. Discipline is key though. Both in editing and backing up.

Thanks for the lead Jaysen,

I have had a peep about. There does seem to be enthusiasm for web-based simultaneous editing but frankly, that’s a tough technical nut to crack as others have mentioned. I think discipline in backup and allocation of areas is the thing.

Mr X, as I call him, uses an entirely manual process. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to PM him for some tips.

The enthusiasm is more the feature creep type things that KB (the L&L owner/developer) is very good at resisting. Not only are there technical issues, but the large scale support needed for that type of solution… not even going to start thinking about it. Already have a headache.

in essence, you can do what you want. You do need some discipline and rules. Others do it. Mr X seems to be most willing to detail the methods.

Have fun.

Thanks again Jaysen, I will PM ‘Mr X’ and plead for the key to his well-spring of knowledge and experience. The more I use Scrivener the more I love it. It is a mint for academic work and I’m beginning to see wonderful tools we can exploit in the non-fiction world as well. This forum is a great resource too.

I doubt anyone here with a Mac has failed to discover Textexpander? 8)


Having got a handle on just how potentially troublesome Dropbox syncing can be, I have been playing with another favourite piece of software - Hazel. I am trying the following;

  1. Assign a local Scrivener backups folder say, Documents->Scrivener backups
  2. Placing Hazel rules on my Documents->Scrivener backups folder that copies the file across to local Dropbox folder for storage/upload.

Assign local backups to the correct local folder with Preferences, and Robert’s your Relative. You work always with a local folder, nothing is open across Dropbox. When your work is finished you backup, a copy gets sent to Dropbox and another computer can access the (closed) file.

Now please correct me if I have missed something: I’m not prissy about being put right though I always have the final word at home, “yes dear”.


Thanks for the PM. Sorry not to have responded sooner … bit busy here. Also, I’m responding here so that anyone else can follow this thread and see what I have to say.

I’m not sure why Jaysen thinks I’m the guru in this, but I have been collaborating with a friend in China over a couple of projects now. I’m on a Mac, she’s on Windows — until she can afford to move onto a Mac! — and as we’re working with Chinese, that constitutes a real, deep–down technical problem with character encoding. The only way round it has been for me to install Windows Scrivener on my MBA using Crossover — a non-techie’s, graphical front end for WINE — and cope with whatever loss of functionalities results from that.

We keep our active scriv folder in a shared Cubby — I put her onto that, though Dropbox would do just as well … more on Cubby in a minute. Scrivener puts a user-lock file in the project package when it’s being worked on or is open on one computer, so it can’t be simultaneously opened on a second; if you try to open it on a second, an alert comes up telling you that. On the one occasion when I wanted to work on it and she was doing so, I merely exited and waited, rather than forking the project — Scrivener offers you the choice to open a copy, but that way madness lies as the two versions would be different.

The only time there was a small issue with the project, there was a conflicted document which she dealt with without problem … it was in the early stages of our collaboration through Scrivener, and I think she must have shut her computer down a mite too quickly before Cubby had completely synchronised.

As Jaysen says, backing up, especially to an external drive, is a no-brainer in any case — a friend staying with us had a wine+computer moment a couple of weeks ago; he was lying down watching a movie on his 15” MBP and fell asleep … trouble was he had a full glass of red wine balanced on his ample stomach! Straight onto the MBP. Even more stupidly, rather than getting hold of me immediately, as it didn’t respond, he plugged it into the mains and tried to restart it. End of MBP and he lost all his data as he had no back-up!

The other thing I do, though Shirley my collaborator hasn’t got into the groove yet on this, is take a snapshot when I finish editing each individual document in the project, and if I stop work half way through. I think you should institute that as a sine qua non of collaboration.

Why Cubby? Well, having heard about it from Nom, I gave it a try. Just as stable and secure as Dropbox, gives you 5GB of free space rather than 2GB, but, most importantly, I think, doesn’t reserve a whole folder on your hard drive in which everything to be sync’d through the cloud must be put, but rather allows you to designate individual folders as Cubbies, even folders on external drives, and they will be sync’d.

And, I think even more useful in collaboration, I have Cubby and Scrivener set to give me alerts through Growl, so that every time the project is modified on Cubby, Growl puts up a notification for a couple of seconds. I find it very companionable if I’m doing something else on my computer and Growl tells me every few minutes that she’s working on our project — when I was in China, we used to go to coffee-shops together and sit opposite each other, working on whatever each of us had to hand at that moment :slight_smile: — and more important, Growl tells me when she closes the project, as I get a message “user.lock deleted”, and I know I can take over. If I am not using my computer when she’s working and finishes, so I don’t get that message, I check my Trash, as the user.lock file will be in there — I keep my Trash empty as much as possible.

I don’t know if Dropbox will send you alerts through Growl in the same way, as I haven’t used it as a Scrivener collaboration space; it may do. But receiving alerts telling you what is happening with the project in terms of your collaborator’s being active or not is extremely useful.

So, I have no qualms working collaboratively that way. If either of us is in any doubt, we get in touch through WeChat — WhatsApp or Skype or equivalent would do as well — and confirm. If you you are both on Macs, you shouldn’t really have any trouble. If your collaborator is on Windows, and you’re not using CJK or possibly other non-Roman languages, you should be OK, though you might run into odd problems with less common accented characters, “guillemets” and such-like … it’s the same underlying character-encoding problem, but you shouldn’t have your whole text turned into gibberish.

Obviously, unless like Shirley and me you have a 7–8 hours time difference, you would need to come to a basic agreement on who gets to work on it when, but I personally think working with the active project in the cloud-space would be more straightforward than using back-ups, as it then becomes unclear what is the “master project”, as your collaborator won’t be working on the file you have on your hard disk but a separate version.

Anyway, best of luck with your collaboration.

Somerset, eh? Briar Kit Esme is in Dorset, I believe; I’m in Devon as much as I can; Keith’s in Cornwall as are several other Scrivenisto/as … West Country rules! :smiley:

Mr X

Mr X (Mark),

What a splendid response, thanks very much for sharing your time and experience. I will re-read your post a few times with care, and take a good look at Cubby. My pal and co-writer is a Windows devotee, I simply can’t get through to him on that one but have weaned him across to Scrivener. Syd is a total cynic when it comes to anything ‘auto’, particularly cloud storage. We use Dropbox, but prefers to do things manually which should keep us out of trouble - so we’ll see.

Do you have any thoughts on my Hazel workaround?

Somerset/Dorset has been home for us for many years though I have wandered the globe for the last 30. The quality of the light and the people hasn’t been touched by any place I’ve been, even China. So yes, West Country is tops ‘Mr X’, I agree. I hope you get down to Devon before the weather turns Autumnal.

I think you delivered my justification for “calling you out” in the remainder of your reply. :stuck_out_tongue:

And I thought you had a more manual process. I know, I know. Headless people shouldn’t go around thinking… Seeing that it is mostly automated is quite intriguing. Not that I need anything like that, but it really shows that KB has this thing pretty darn close to perfect. I’ve tried, but can not find a good/reliable/easy-to-manage way to resolve the multi-user conflicts but I’ve not managed a workable solution. Even presenting a theoretical whiteboard problem folks draw the same conclusion: not with the file format used (with no idea of what the application is, they all go to “put it in a sql platform” or they move toward complex locking schemes, neither of which KB should even think about).

Anyway, someone should find a way to take your post and manual-ize it. But that’s just me…

Actually, no. I think I had a look at Hazel some years ago, but found I couldn’t really understand what it’s about. I think, though this might surprise Jaysen, I actually don’t like things that are automated or things that expect you to work their way.

About the limit of my automation is using Dropbox and Cubby. I don’t feel in control if my software is determining the way I do things. I know Hazel, Butler, LaunchBar et al. are apps where you set the rules for what they do, but I’ve never got into it. I do have TextExpander, but haven’t even really got into using that.

So, I can’t comment on the Hazel automation side. But as I say, the thing is, if you collaborate using a back-up like that, there is the question of which is the ‘master file’, as each back up that Syd works on becomes the new master, and what happens to the old one? Presumably, you also won’t have the ‘historical back ups’ of the project in the same way that you would if always working from the single master. But if you have worked out how to manage that, then go ahead.

Incidentally, I keep my active projects on Cubby, and have the back up location set to my Dropbox. Copies of each on different cloud services.

One of the great things about Scrivener is it lets each of us find our own best way of organising, structuring and managing our projects. In a sense, how you manage your projects and back ups and collaboration is up to you … nothing is imposed other than that the project can’t be open on two computers at the same time. And that is great.

Mr X

See my reply above. :slight_smile:

But I’d agree with you. I think Keith has got it just about perfect. The only thing you really have to make sure of is that your Dropbox/Cubby/Whatever has fully sync’d before shutting down. I guess that is even more essential if you’re collaborating with someone on a project with the active folder in the Cloud. If you’re meticulous about that, I’ve found the whole thing straightforward … well, using the Windows version of Scriv under Crossover, leaves a lot to be desired. Some shortcuts simply don’t work, though the menus do; and having different keyboard shortcuts is a hindrance anyway … but at least under the latest incarnation of Crossover, they’ve managed to map ‘Cut’, ‘Copy’ and ‘Paste’ to Cmd-X, Cmd-C and Cmd-V instead of the ‘Ctrl’ versions.

Hmm … I’ll leave it to someone else to do. :slight_smile:

Mr X

Too tired to do work tonight, so…
Mr X Collaboration Manual.pdf (109 KB)

Note: my starting assumptions were that manuals have to be books and books require lots of pages. Since there was just one post, hard to stretch it out to “lots of pages” (especially without diagrams). I could have made the text really big, but that annoys me, so I made a mini-manual instead (correct size is 40mm x 50mm). :smiley:

I’ve always known those little dogs are evil…

Well, I was going to make a PocketMod version, but my Pages template is so old it doesn’t work anymore. :unamused:

Hmmm… maybe that’s a Friday night project (certainly easier than getting multi-site WordPress domain redirection to work - I’m really going to have to properly learn *nix architecture some time soon).

I’m not sure that means what you think it means…

What you likely need to look into is communication specifications and implementations of said specs in specific applications. EX: how does apache manage the virtual server settings based on DNA CNAME alias (learn DNS protocol, then HTTP header spec, then apache handling of header info). These are OS independent and are applicable as user space implementations between all OS types.

Learning OS level arch is only useful if you are doing OS admin or low to mid level programing for a living (os file manipulation in scriv is able to be very abstracted via language libraries these days so scriv would be very gray area if implemented in say Java).

See attached (PocketMod instructions on page 2). :smiley:
Mr X Collaboration Manual (PocketMod edition).pdf (155 KB)

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