Like a lot of folks, I’m in this tough situation: I totally understand the issues L&L runs up against in trying to allow iCloud or any other type of syncing; but at the same time I’m feeling continually stymied by Dropbox’s changes, their adding device limits to free accounts, the new announcement of their bigger, more bloated service, etc. Scrivener is the only thing I really use Dropbox for anymore; I don’t want to pay Dropbox $120/yr just to sync a fourth device, and I’d gladly turn off the service altogether if not for Scrivener’s current dependence. (Again, understanding L&L’s position also.)
That said, I read someone suggest they use an app called CloudMounter instead of the native Dropbox client on their computer: Looks like it works behind the scenes to JUST make your Dropbox files available in Finder (on macOS) and keep them synced, without having Dropbox running (or, presumably, all those new services they’ll be adding with the update).
So I’m curious, has anyone tried using this, or any other service, to simplify things a bit with their free* Dropbox account? Does it work? Or, does it change something that destabilizes Scrivener files the same way iCloud does? If anyone has any input, I’d be glad to hear it! Thanks!
*—Frustrating thing is I’m not a total cheapskate; I’d be glad to pay Dropbox a modest amount of money for what I need: well under 50GB storage and the ability to sync four devices. $12/mo or $120/yr for 2TB is just a bit much, especially compared to what I pay for a lot of other services I use that do more for me, for less.
This means that they can disable third party applications at any time, without warning. Attempting to use a third party application to get around their space or device limitations strikes me as … risky.
If they are using the Dropbox API to build their own smaller client, then it should be legit—that’s basically what Scrivener for iOS does—however wouldn’t that then count as a “device”? I.e. I don’t think you’re going to get around any limits with it. I’m similar in that I have no desire to run the big bulky always-on official client. For myself, I use a tool called dbxcli for the rare few things I need that company’s services for. It’s just a command-line tool, open source, for uploading and downloading, basically. But I think it counts as a device—i.e. I’m using it on my computer instead of the big always-running official client, but it’s still my computer making use of that network.
By the way, you don’t have to use Dropbox with Scrivener. iCloud Drive is just fine—you mainly just want to make sure it doesn’t have the option enabled to “optimise” your Documents & Desktop folders. Likewise you would not want to use Dropbox’s SmartSync, or OneDrive’s similar options. The only sync service we’ve noticed warning signs of serious issues with is Google Drive. There are many alternatives out there that work fine.
This is after all (at least within the context of the horrific baseline level of complexity that is multi-machine synchronisation) a dirt simple capability, of keeping some files and folders up to date between machines. That’s all a Scrivener project is. If CloudFront can do that safely through the Dropbox protocol, then it should be fine. I always encourage extensive testing before committing to anything.
I’ve just tried cloudmounter and here are my thoughts:
It’s not a way around the device limit. CloudMounter registers itself with Dropbox as an app. If it’s not running on a previously approved device, the registration won’t work, just like any other app that works with Dropbox.
It’s unwise to use it for live Scrivener projects. Unlike the Dropbox client, CloudMounter saves nothing to your local hard drive. Scrivener depends on having any projects it’s actually editing physically stored on your local drive. Working through CloudMounter is equivalent to and potentially as dangerous as using the Mac OS “Optimise Storage” option.
It would be fine for storing zipped backups. Like iCloud and Google Drive, storing zipped backups should work fine.
It seems sluggish. It took a long time to upload the Tutorial project to Dropbox as opposed to how quickly upload went on the Dropbox client itself. But I didn’t run comparative numbers, so this is merely a subjective impression.
Bottom line : I won’t use it for live Scrivener projects, and it doesn’t work around the device limit, so I’m not going to bother. If you wanted to use Dropbox for other purposes, well, it will work as a remote drive which, to be fair, is all it’s claimed to do.
THANK YOU for this very thorough answer, I appreciate it! As I read further about it I noticed that it doesn’t store anything on the local drive, and was worried that might cause problems.
I’ve pretty much made (begrudging) peace with the device limit, but now I’m anticipating a more bloated, feature-heavy version of Dropbox, and frustrated that I have to keep its services running literally just to maintain Scrivener syncing. (It’s the only thing I use Dropbox for anymore.) So this was just a shot in the dark; I’ll just keep hoping that someday another solution presents itself.
I’m a little confused here … hasn’t L&L been specifically saying not to sync with iCloud Drive because iCloud doesn’t support the way Scrivener’s package files are put together? And … I’m not sure if iOS has the option not to ‘optimise’ the contents of your drive, if you’re syncing between Macs and iPads/iPhones?
If I’m wrong and there’s a way to safely use iCloud, I’d love to know! Thanks!
FWIW I think that you / we do not need to fear that the Dropbox client itself is suddenly going to greatly increase the amount of resources that it uses on your computer.
The main new features on offer are “smart sync” which enables you to store some files and folders ONLY on the Dropbox servers, which is definitely not a feature that I want or need, and “rewind” (if that is what it is called). This works exclusively on the Dropbox servers, and lets you roll back files, folders, or your complete account, to restore it to a previous state.
Having said that the new client does appear to allow you direct access to Paper documents which seem, finally, to be getting rolled into the main Dropbox experience.
Sorry for the confusion, I didn’t realise you were asking about iOS and Mac, but rather just multiple Macs. The options are pretty much wide open for the latter given how the OS isn’t locked down.
With iOS, there isn’t “sync” (at least in the sense I believe most people use it) with iCloud Drive, but through Files.app you can access your projects that are stored on a Mac iCloud Drive account, and copy them into the Scrivener folder (and then vice versa when you’re done). I haven’t actually tried that myself, I don’t have an iCloud account, but I’ve tried it in theory with other methods of putting .scriv projects into Files.
Regarding the bit about iCloud Drive being unable to support packages: that is a confusing thing about how Apple refers to their services. There is iCloud Drive, which works a bit more like Dropbox (except way more complicated and heavy-duty, if you’re worried about that kind of stuff! Just because it is built into the Mac doesn’t mean it is slim), and then there is iCloud sync, which is a protocol used by iOS software to communicate with their servers. It is these protocols that do not support the wholesale and safe synchronisation of entire folder and file structures (whether we refer to them as packages are not, on a Mac). It’s a puzzling omission, considering how useful that would be for so many different applications, but that is the part we cannot work around.
And that as a whole is why we are limited in what we can support. It isn’t just whether or not the core service can sync folders—it’s whether their development tools for iOS make it easy to do that. Even Dropbox doesn’t make it easy. We have to use their core API to basically emulate how the Dropbox client works (like I say, probably very similar to this tool, except that it downloads stuff to local!). So it takes a very flexible development toolkit with a robust system capable of handling thousands of files to really pull this off.
Thank you for the more thorough explanation of what the problem is. I knew it was something specific to iCloud and not just a matter of L&L being too lazy to implement it but I didn’t know it was specific to iOS or the nature of how iOS and macOS work differently. (Though with iOS’s built-in allergy to treating the file system like a file system, I can sorta see how that happens. Hopefully someday, especially with the changes being made to iPadOS, this will be taken care of someday.)
This actually has me thinking. I’m writing and drawing comics, so I generally work in two very distinct writing phases: Working on the initial outline of the comic, which I work primarily on my Macbook and iMac, and then using that outline to start the visual layout and pacing of pages, which I do on my iPad (split screen, with Scrivener in a narrow column to the left and Procreate in a wide column to the right, so I can navigate and refer to my outline as I sketch thumbnail pages). I do sometimes make minor edits to the outline while I’m thumbnailing, but it’s pretty rare that the two writing phases otherwise overlap.
So I suppose if there did come a time I wanted to ditch Dropbox (and assuming iCloud sync is still impossible), I could move my ‘master’ document into iCloud and use that during the outlining phase on my Macbook/iMac; then make a copy of the document on my iPad to refer to while thumbnailing (and remember to copy it back at the end of that phase if I’ve made any significant edits). Not QUITE as mindless as complete sync, but it’d be a way to get the job done at least.
Oh indeed, that would be lovely! But given how they seem to think sandboxing is actually a good idea, it would surprise me if that happens any time soon.
It’s not that bad in my opinion, especially if you have a very phase-oriented way of working as it sounds, using Scrivener primarily as a reference. I don’t use any kind of sync at all. I just send any projects I’m working on to my phone with AirDrop before I head out, or use file management tools. Syncing seems to me like a whole lot of extra complication that demands a kind of usage I simply don’t myself require (jotting down notes in the kitchen and then sitting back down to work on the Mac—for example, I try to keep my life from becoming a constantly-on work cycle—when you’re making tea, just make tea).
And for this, with iCloud Drive hooked into Files you wouldn’t even have to do the file transfer bit like I do.