Collaborating with Scrivener

G’day forum,

Have fallen in love with Scrivener and am starting a collaborative project that I want to do using Scrivener. I’ve searched through the forums, and there seems to be some different ways of doing it, but I don’t quite understand how everyone is doing it. I.e. I have NO idea what subversion is and how to use it…

Specifically I want to have one scrivener file that two different people can work from via the internet , and to make sure that it is being backed up on our computers in between.

I was wondering whether people could share with me their “usage scenarios” around collaborating with Scrivener and help me out with getting started.

Many thanks!

In my opinion, there is no good way to do this. Eventually, in the future (i.e. three years from now), when storing stuff on your own hard drive is seen as the equivalent of storing a big bundle of cash under your mattress (maybe not the best analogy), this will be trivial. Today, I’d figure out which sections you want to collaborate on and use a dedicated tool for the purpose: SubEthaEdit, Google Docs, Writeboard, etc.

The best way to do this is to have an FTP account[1] that two can access, and a clear method of communication so that only one person is working at a time. The working procedure would be something like this:1. It’s your turn to contribute; so you log in to the FTP account and download the latest Scrivener zip archive

  1. After finishing your work, you use the Backup Project To... feature which creates a date-stamped zip file on your drive
  2. Upload this zip to the FTP account (it won’t replace anything already there) and inform your collaborators that the latest revision is up

They then go through the same steps just described on their own. This results in a folder on the Internet with a sequence of Scrivener projects, zipped up to protect them transfer of the Internet, and date-stamped to protect them from human error (opening an old version). This is, as you can see, essentially the opposite of what you are proposing. The back-ups are on the server and the working copies are on the machine. The latest back-up becomes the working copy when the other person downloads it.

You do not, under any circumstances, want to have an ordinary Scrivener file available on the Internet that people can just open and work on—in place. That is a recipe for disaster on so many fronts. Scrivener projects can only be open by one person at a time. Two people opening the same file and working on it at the same time would most likely corrupt it in a matter of seconds.

The only other alternative to this is emailing zip files to one another. Instead of the FTP account or iDisk or DropBox sharing (or whatever), you send the latest zip date-stamped project when you are done. This method also includes an automatic “I’m done; you go” message, so there is merit in that.

As suggested, the only other alternatives are formats and applications which have been designed for concurrent editing. These tasks are so complex that you are likely to only ever find them in programs which have been specifically design for doing that and little else.

[1]: That’s the old-school way. You might find Dropbox to be better, as it allows a shared folder which two people can remain synchronised with. Be sure to only put zip files in here though. It is tempting to throw the Scrivener project up in there by itself, but this can lead to the problems indicated above. Many people working all by themselves have made the mistake of opening a Scrivener project twice and messing it up. The more people working on the file, the higher the odds of that happening by accident.

Thanks for the tips - was really hoping to work on the project “live” and avoid backing up. Google Docs works great with this, obviously, but the organizing of the files and how you can organize things is so frustrating…

We keep being promised collaborative models of working and the future of the virtual office, but really we’re not there…

Thanks for the tips - I will give the iDisk approach a go, when we get up to that level of collaborating.


I hear you on the frustrations with Google Docs. I’m currently in a three-way collaboration using a single Google document and it is a super mess. It’s lovely in that we can all edit at once, but it has all the glory of editing a document in DreamWeaver. The same is true of the other collaborative models I’ve seen. The synchronous editing part is figured out, but so much development is spent on that that little else is left for sane, large project management like Scrivener provides. You are right, we aren’t quite there yet, and part of the problem is development time. Project manage is a large and complex area of development. Synchronous editing is probably equally as large and complex in other ways. In some ways, the best we have are various online Wiki projects, which do better for huge amounts of material, but are a bit clumsy when it comes to writing.

I work with a collaborator on fiction and films, so any software that will make that process easier is good news for us. I have hopes for, but so far the comment feature is not very interactive. Now Google is announcing WAVE, a web-based combination of e-mail, IM, images, films, and any other sorts of files.

My first impression is that it would be an excellent tool for collaborators, and it will be platform agnostic (although the current demo is Windows browsers only). There’s a good review by Tim O’Reilly, who has tested WAVE in book-collaboration projects, and a link to the very long demo film from the Google I/O conference: skip to the last 20 minutes to see the meat. … ail-l.html

Here’s another recent review of WAVE: … 47-1_3-0-5