Dedicated Conflicts and Comparison Tool

Since the launch of the iOS version, I’ve slowly started migrating my working projects to Dropbox.

Once this process began, I noticed that I have in some cases 7 or 8 different location copies of the same project. Some are Scrivener created copies because the Scrivener thinks I’ve got the project open in different places. Some are squirreled away local copies and backups, and some are… Frankly I have no idea why they are there and how they got made. Now that I’m editing in up to six different virtual locations (iPhone, iPad, MacMini OSX, MacMini WinX, MacBookPro OSX, MacBookPro Win7) I’m running into a problem of pulling up what I think is the most up to date version of a project, and have several parts of the project be older, and then overwrite the edits done else where in the next sync.

See what I mean, all of these projects are the same root project.

Years ago, before Al Gore invented the Internet and Usenet had a high signal-to-noise ratio I used a product called “Beyond Compare” and it was great for what it did. I wish I had a similar tool that could look inside of Scrivener projects like that.

Would it be possible to develop a dedicated tool (I’m thinking an external one) to open multiple project files for comparisons? For example, feed it four different versions of the project, have it chew on all of them, and then generate a new project as a result that has all the congruent text in black and the variations merged in their respective locations as different colored text?

As more and more cloud-based storage of projects occurs, I think this would be a useful means to de-conflict projects without risk of major data-loss. Especially since it would be using the power of your computer to scan through all that text, rather than trying to eyeball which parts of the dozen project files have that one annoying typo killed forever!

This sounds like a great idea. I have a dead SSD disk and am migrating to a new computer, plus I’ve had trouble opening some of my projects with Scrivener freezing on me, and it’s pretty laborious finding the correct version of various files. I would love to have a conflicts and comparison tool.


I would even go a step further and ask for an option for merging (previously forked) projects. This would be great for collaborative work.

Keith has hinted that version 3 of Scrivener will be able to merge projects. I don’t know any details, but maybe it’ll be able to help with this kind of situation…

To avoid this kind of thing in the future, when you create your own “backups”, use File->Back Up->Back Up to… and tick the option to insert the date & time into the backup filename. I’d also recommend adding in descriptive text to the name. With text like “1st draft complete” and “Ed-directed-rewrite1” along with the date the backup was created, it’ll be a lot easier to figure out the chronology of the versions.

The tool as I have described, would do this. Might be some clean up but nothing a solid editing pass couldn’t fix.

God news and great strategy for dealing with intentional backups, but it doesn’t help when the muse is running hot, you grab the nearest device and load the project only to get that dreaded warning about the file being open elsewhere, and given those three options, quit, risk it, or make a copy.

My whole point is that the easier it is to to use in multiple places the easier it is to inadvertently fork your work, and that makes it too easy to apply editing energies to the wrong fork. If you need a more historical example, consider the personal hell of James Joyce, during the lengthy editing of Ulysses he was annotating edits on galley sheets, rather than pre-typeset copy. He nearly drove his publisher to suicide by this. He kept editing and editing and editing and sometimes re-editing the galley sheets with marginalia that he had done countless times before. It’s not a true analogue but however it describes why I’d rather be able to use this digital wonder of mind to save my energy for the writing and the editing.