A few questions on using Scrivener

Hi All,

I’m new to Scrivener and I’ve decided to do my thesis using this app. I tried to search for these answers but couldn’t find them.

  1. When I import pdf book into Scrivener, where it is stored? For example in Zotero there is a folder for each and every book I’ve imported, but I can’t really see what’s going on in Scrivener.

  2. I set my backup folder to be Google Drive folder. So I am not syncing from Scrivener, just saving my files there. I guess that’s okay? Should I expect problems if I try to download my project from Google Drive and continue to work (in case something happens to my computer and I have to reinstall OS or buy new one)?

  3. I’ll have more then 2Gb of PDFs imported into Scrivener. Should I expect any crashes, lags or similar?

Thanks for help

Hi and welcome, :slight_smile:

  1. PDFs and other images can only be imported into the “Reference” folder, but from there you can copy them into a document in the Draft folder—they cannot exist ‘bare’ within the Draft folder but must be contained within a document.

  2. If by back-ups you mean zipped back-ups, then you can use Google Drive/iCloud Drive for that. Do not use either of those for active projects as they will screw them up. See, for instance:

scrivener.tenderapp.com/help/kb/ … e-advisory

the same is true for iCloud Drive. They are safe for zipped back-ups—I use iCloud Drive for that—but you have to unzip those back-ups to some other location if you want to open them in Scrivener. For online storage and synchronising active projects, both Dropbox and Cubby work well. If you’re going to use one of those, read:

scrivener.tenderapp.com/help/kb/ … c-services

That was written some years back, since when many of us have been using Dropbox/Cubby to sync projects across computers or share projects with collaborators … indeed if you wish to use an iOS device as well as your desktop/laptop for your projects, you have to store them on Dropbox. I have been sharing projects myself for many years, but do read carefully and be rigorous about shutting down and allowing the cloud service to sync fully on all machines before opening the project on a different computer/iOS device.

  1. Scrivener shouldn’t crash and should merely be slower to load if your project is that heavy with PDFs, and if you also use Scrivener for iOS, the first download of the project will probably take a considerable amount of time. I think many academic forum members who have to deal with that amount of research material prefer to use Devon Think (Pro (Office)) as a repository. I don’t, so maybe someone will be along to advise on that. Also look into linking as an alias rather than importing; again it’s not something that has mattered to me, but it keeps your actual project leaner while still allowing access to your PDFs.

The only other thing I would suggest—and like Devon Think, it will depend on the state of your finances!—I’d have a look at Bookends for your reference management, rather than Zotero as it will give you a much more seamless experience. Others would no doubt recommend other reference managers.

Good luck.


Thanks Mark

  1. I was thinking about PDFs not in Scrivener app itself, but on hard drive. So, when I import PDF into app, does Scrivener store that file somewhere on HD? Because when I go to folder where I saved the project, there’s no PDF file.

  2. I don’t need sync option nor I use iOS, just need to save the project and its content on cloud in case something happens with my computer. When I close Scrivener and when upload is complete Google Drive icon stops blinking, that’s how I know that everything is saved on cloud.

  3. I’ve realized if I make link to pdf, I can’t do highlights or make comments. I’d like to work having split window, one with pdf to work with and the other for taking notes. I don’t mind if it takes long to load/save project; as long as I don’t have to worry about crashes and lags while using app I am fine.

  4. I choose Scrivener not to save as zip. Sometimes (experience with Zotero) I’d like to look into folders and check all the files there. Are you saying that zipped files are more secure from corrupting or I misunderstood?

I’ll look up for Bookends.

Thanks again!

Yes, zipped backups are more secure from corruption by Google Drive and iCloud drive. You reason for not using zipped backups is not a good one when it comes to scriv projects. You cannot literally look into the project file to see that all the files are inside it that should be. And if you just mean you anxiously want to open you back up project with Scriv to see that its contents are there, you shouldn’t really be doing that if the project is located on one of the above. Much safer to zip. You can always anxiously open the zipped file – which safely makes an unzipped copy you can peek in but does not mess with the zipped project itself.

When you put a pdf into a Scriv project, Scriv stores the project internally.

You are only going to be working on one thesis, so what is the advantage exactly of putting the pdfs into the project as opposed to just organizing them in a folder on your Mac? There would admittedly be something nice about having a single project window with split editor between your text and a pdf. But the benefit it seems to me is minor and not worth it if it cramps what you can do with the pdf. For it is not hard to set two windows beside each other – one scriv project window, one pdf app window – and work that way. That way you have access to all the pdf markup power in your fave pdf viewing app. And your pdfs are still sitting out in easily accessible Finder space to be used/manipulated for whatever other purposes might arise.

I urge you not to drop 2 gigs of pdf files into your Scrivener project unless you have a strong reason to.

Besides index files and such, Scrivener only loads into memory the content you are working on, so having a lot of content or pdfs stored in your project does not really cause lag.


Something you have to understand, although a Scrivener project looks like a file on your HD, it is in fact a ‘package’. Within that package are all the individual files that make up the project; every single document in Scrivener is a separate file on your HD, hidden in that package, and then there are the various indexes and all the application files needed to join them together into what you see in the Scrivener interface. Every PDF you import into Scrivener is stored internally in that package … that’s why you couldn’t see them. By the time you’ve finished your PhD, the files within the project package could number in the thousands, depending on how you cut up your draft into smaller pieces—this is the great strength of Scrivener, that you can work with small parts knowing Scrivener will put them all together into a whole through the compile process.

For instance, I was involved in a translation of a document from Chinese to English. The source text had 64 paragraphs, including counting headings as paragraphs. In Scrivener, I split it up so that every single paragraph, even a one word heading was a document, so the project ended up with 64 documents in Chinese, interleaved with 64 documents in English, 128 documents in all … roughly 23 pages of A4. I did it this way, because the commissioning organisation wished to have the Chinese and English interleaved. While working on the translation, I could have all the Chinese in a Scrivenings session on one editor and all the English in a Scrivenings session in the other editor; I could compile the English as a continuous text for proof-reading, and when finished compile the whole thing with Chinese and English interleaved. So just that one (actually only part of a) project had 128 text files plus the sundry indexes etc. within the package.

Fundamentally, it is this nature of Scrivener that makes Google Drive and iCloud Drive unsuitable for storing active projects. Editing a single small paragraph in a project can generate changes is nearly a dozen internal files. Also, every time you pause for more than 2 seconds, it will automatically save anything that has changed in the project since the last save; that’s great for security, but Google Drive and iCloud Drive can’t keep up with the load, it seems. A zip file, by contrast, is a single file, not a package; zip-up your project and the result is a single file which those cloud services can cope with.

Have you done the tutorial you find under the “Help” menu. Do do it. Scrivener is a very different beast from Word et al., so it’s better to familiarise yourself with how it works before you get too deep into crucial writing.



Hi, thanks both for explanations and suggestions.

I remember doing bachelor thesis. It was hell. Lots and lots of single word docs, folders and subfolders…I’d really like to avoid that trauma again :slight_smile: Scrivener seams to be a great solution to have all organized in one place and easy and speedy access to all articles, books and infos I need at one particular moment.

I’ve read the tutorial and watched some youtube videos on using Scrivener. I have an idea how my workflow will look like, but honestly I’m not sure yet. Before I get into real work, I’m just playing around for now.

Be sure to read the chapters in the manual on backups, so you are clear how it is done in Scrivener. Specifically, be sure you review and set the number of backups to retain. I think that is in Preferences and that the default is only 5 backup copies. People have got into trouble assuming that Scrivener retained all of their project backups, only to find the 5 most recent in the backup folder.

On the subject of backups, Scrivener’s automatic backups are a good start, but I would use some other alternatives for something as important as a thesis. My thoughts on backup strategies can be found here:


@ JimRac
I’ve noticed that, I checked that out. This means infinite backups?

@ Katherine
Thanks for the info. The very best strategy is to have important files in dozens of different places :smiley: Last summer I bought very expensive Western Digital external HD just to backup important files. I barely used it, as once I’ve done with all backups I kept HD in a shelf. Couple of months later I wanted to look up for some pictures only to find out that HD is not working. On the other hand I still have cheap Transcend HD I bought almost 10 years ago, works like a charm. Bottom line, to feel really safe you need to use couple of different places for the same backups.

Yes, you can set Scrivener for infinite backups - I do - but I wanted to point out to you that is not the default setting. You will need to go into preferences and set it yourself.

If you are dropping 2GB of pdfs into your project, you really do not probably want to set Scrivener to infinite backups! Certainly not if you have Scriv set to backup on close. That will quickly fill your hard drive.

I would set the backup cycle to a modest finitude, back up my Mac regularly, and periodically backup either your mac or at least the thesis project to a second backup drive/location.


I’ll start with one file at the time, or portion of files and see how it goes. If I experience some problems I’ll let you people know, just for the record. It cross my mind to remove pdf file once I’m done with it. Practically I don’t need pdf in Scrivener after I finish reading, taking notes, citations etc.