Does anybody use Scrivener Desktop and iOS together?

Hello, first of all, I just wanted to say that I love Scrivener software. I own all three versions and, as a pc user, actually bought a macbook solely so that I could use the mac version.

I bought the iOS version years ago, with the expectation that I could proof read my manuscripts (written on my macbook) on an old iPad on the go (or in the bath!), and make revisions to the text.

Unfortunately, a few things have stopped me from using all but the mac version, and, looking at the iPad version a few years on, I wondered if anything had changed.

The biggest problems I encountered were:

  1. Firstly, the whole syncing issue. I keep all my projects open on my macbook, as being able to lift the lid and start working immediately was a revelation for me. Quitting Scrivener after every session, waiting for 5 minutes for all my projects to save, backup and then sync to dropbox was always a deal-breaker. I have a Dropbox account purely for syncing scrivener iOS - do I still need to shut down my projects on the macbook to avoid data loss?

  2. No revision mode on iOS. Editing and proof-reading seemed like the perfect use for the mobile version of the app. I know there were difficulties in the way the revision colours translated to iOS, but have there been any updates to this, or plans to implement the revision mode in the iOS version?

  3. Revision colours not available in dark mode. I really don’t like to read in light mode, and for some reason, the revision colours are not available in dark. Again, I read somewhere that it was difficult to implement in iOS, but are there any plans yet to add this feature?

I am aware that these are all questions that I was asking 4 or 5 years ago, but I just wondered if anything had changed since then?

I have tried again to work out a simple procedure for switching between writing on my macbook and editing on my iPad, but must admit, I have given up again.

Does anybody have any experience of a solution that works for them?

All the best,

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I use both macOS and iOS (on iPad and iPhone) all the time. I’m happy how the iOS version works and I fully accept that it’s not as powerful as the macOS version.

I don’t quit Scrivener after every session. I do close the projects. Projects can’t be open on two devices. And I press the sync icon after closing and watch the quick sync as I rest my brain and fingers.

You must be making a very large number of changes between closing projects to have to wait 5 minutes. I don’t see that. But perhaps my tolerance for letting the computer do the hard work that Dropbox does is enough to not be bothered.

Not really, though my projects are possibly quite large, with probably a million or so words in total and a lot of research files. Just timed how long it took from close on the macbook until the files were synced on the iPad and it was 4m 30s with only minor changes having taken place. :man_shrugging:t3:

When it comes to opening a project remotely off of mobile, you don’t have to close it on your Mac!

The software has extensive code for allowing that to happen safely, and indeed the entire mobile storage design is built around being able to do that. The mobile version does not actually edit the project! It looks at it, of course, but if you do so much as open an index card it forks a new file into its own data storage area. Everything you do in the mobile version is made to a supercopy that overrides the static desktop version on iOS. The copy that is open, back on the Mac/PC, isn’t being touched.

Once you return to the Mac, you’ll see a dialogue box warning you of changes (the presence of this supercopy having been streamed in from Dropbox as you work on it and sync from mobile), and once you see Dropbox is done downloading you can confirm sync. At that point the mobile version’s forked copy of the project is merged into the master copy on the desktop.

Now, for reasons that should be obvious, you wouldn’t want to do the same thing with an iPhone and an iPad, because they both edit the same supercopy, and would trample all over each other. There you do have to close out and sync before switching devices.


Ooh, this is exactly what I was hoping for! :slight_smile:

So, do I need to be sure to manually save the Mac version before working on the iOS version, or will the autosave automatically take care of syncing via dropbox?

Many thanks.

In most cases the auto-save system will have been streaming all of your changes to the disk, and Dropbox in turn will have been updating the server as you work on the Mac. It’s unlikely that it would take so long to upload the last change you made, by the time you get to the kitchen or wherever, and open up your phone, that it will still be out of date on the Dropbox server. But, it’s always a good idea to just look at the Dropbox activity thing and make sure it’s uploaded the last thing you did in Scrivener before leaving the machine, just in case the last thing was a huge edit (like importing a video or something), or if your 'net connection is really slow.

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Thanks for your reply. This was the main issue that was preventing me from using the iOS app. I am looking forward to giving it another go! :slight_smile:

The lack of a revision mode and colours in dark mode would be nice to see in updates, but I understand that the team don’t have the resources to address everything.

I know there is always a workaround using styles instead of revisions that I can use:
Many thanks.

Yeah, and that thread points out one of the huge problems with implementing revision mode on iOS, as currently designed, and that is the colour shifting bugs (probably rounding differences) between Apple text engines. So, as long as revisions are solely a product of precise RGB values, the idea is dead in the water.

It’s something that could use overall improvement for sure, such as using actual formatting codes rather than colours. The latter should be a product of the former.

But do also bear in mind that revisions colours are only one way to track changes between updates. There is a setting in the Sharing: Sync preference tab that will cause the Mac version to snapshot everything that the iOS version changed, if it involves changes of the main text. Snapshots have their own comparison feature that does not require you to be marking text manually, it just looks for the differences and marks them up for you.

That will mean the project bloats over time with snapshots—but the Snapshots Manager makes it easy to search for all of these sync-related snapshots and purge them periodically, if it gets to be a problem, as they use a naming convention.


Forgive me for continuing this thread, but I just ran into a question while testing out the iOS version again.

Being able to keep projects open on my Mac is definitely a game-changer, but I am concerned about reliability when working in iOS.

I tested out changing one word in a project in the editor on iOS and then leaving the editor open (without syncing). What followed was an alarming series of conflict warnings and options to manually open one of multiple binder structures when back on my Mac.

I understand the problem of altering the same project in multiple locations, but:

  1. Is there no way of warning that the project is open on an iOS device with unsaved (un-synced) changes?

  2. Is there a way to autosync the iOS project or is it left purely to the user having to manually sync every time before exit? This seems fraught with opportunities for error.

Apologies if this is covered in other threads, but I couldn’t find a definitive answer.

Other than this, I am really enjoying the opportunity to put my iPad to use! :slight_smile:

Many thanks,

Is there no way of warning that the project is open on an iOS device with unsaved (un-synced) changes?

Sync is just a fancy way of trucking data around, like you might more manually do with a thumb drive, right? A much more risky to use, but more convenient transfer technology. If you do not use it. If you do not copy your project back to the original computer, how is it going to know anything about the state of something going on, on a completely different device?

Is there a way to autosync the iOS project or is it left purely to the user having to manually sync every time before exit? This seems fraught with opportunities for error.

Please refer to this post for settings you can enable, or allow to run over cellular.

As for why there is no open/close detection with iOS, as I recall that notion is very complicated on iOS, where software shuts down if you stop using it for a spell, so even while the project is open, it’s state is essentially identical to when it is closed. But even if it were feasible to distinguish between open and closed, you’d still have to somehow communicate that fact (the Mac/PC versions use a lock file that syncs along with the project).

Thank you for your reply.

Apologies if I have misunderstood, but couldn’t there be a sync upon clicking to open an iOS project that communicates (sends a lock file) to the Mac/PC that the project is now open on iOS? When the project is closed on iOS (returning to the main projects page) it would sync and communicate that the project has been closed.
So, if I tried to work on the open iOS project on Mac/PC, I would get a warning message that the project is still open on iOS and continuing may cause file conflicts and data loss.

But the project isn’t “open” in a fully technical sense of the word. Like I say, it’s a bit weird with how iOS is kind of stateless.

Does it need to be technically open?

If navigating from the main projects page and into a project initiates a sync (to write a lock file) you can just call that ‘opening a project’ or even ‘starting a session’ or something.

Returning from the project and back to that main page initiates another sync (to remove the lock file), then you can call that ‘close’ or ‘ending the session’.

The bit in-between can be called being ‘open’ or ‘a session is running’ for the purposes of a warning on Mac/PC.

Technically, you could have synced manually in-between, but while the session is ‘open/running’ there’s still a risk that there could be conflicts.

Returning to the main screen would be called ‘closing’ the program or ‘ending the session’, but is just a place to initiate a final sync that also removes the lock file.

Apologies if I’m not explaining it very well! :upside_down_face: :sweat_smile:

I think what I am trying to say is that it seems as though two concepts are conflicting on the iOS app at present.

That ‘stateless’ iOS system you mention with no real open or close, and the syncing system, with an absolute requirement to manually ‘close’ a session by syncing.

With no feedback on the desktop version to warn that a project is out of sync (if I’ve forgotten to sync changes I made on the iOS app), the system seems prone to user-error and data-loss.

I was trying to suggest an option to create a pseudo-‘open-close’ session state in which some sort of warning notification could operate.

The issue is that Scrivener doesn’t control the iPad’s connectivity. If you don’t have internet access, it doesn’t matter what lock files Scrivener sets: they won’t be transferred to the server. And even if you do have access, you don’t necessarily want to do a full sync of a large project while you’re standing in line at the coffee shop. And you don’t want to lock the Mac version just because you looked up a character’s name but didn’t have time to close and resync when you were done.

There actually is an option to autosync when you open or close a project. (Which in this case means going to or from the Project screen.) It’s in the Settings/Scrivener/Syncing & Sharing section.

Thank you so much for your reply. It is a conundrum! I hadn’t considered a lack of connectivity.

Though, I do wonder why that’s preventing adding some sort of lock-file/session-alert system? Surely, the user’s expectation would be that the sync/session-lock won’t work if they don’t have connectivity, and the software could take that opportunity to show a warning/reminder message on project open that the session state cannot be synced until connectivity is restored. At least then there would be a reminder.

I absolutely do! :grinning: I would gladly take a performance hit if it meant I had peace of mind that my data was safe. And, doesn’t it do that anyway if you have turned on auto sync on open? If it’s an option and it is taking too long, then, like auto-sync, users can always turn it off.

Again, I 100% do! :smile: As a user of this software and not a developer, I have absolutely no idea which actions require a sync and which don’t. I don’t know if I can browse or open and close files to view them without needing to sync, and I don’t want to start experimenting and cause a conflict. If I didn’t have time to re-sync after an iOS session, I would always expect the desktop version to tell me that I have a project open on iOS. Perhaps an ‘ignore’ option on the desktop lock screen would allow users to bypass it at their own risk?

Also, in that moment I was looking up a character’s name, did I really only do that? Or did I forget that I had also highlighted some text beside it, or scribbled down a brief note? Most of the time I can never recall exactly what I did in a previous session, which is why I want the software to prompt me to sync. There are threads of users anxiously stating the mantra of ‘I have a simple rule, I do not walk away from the iPad without syncing and closing Scrivener.’, or ‘get in the habit of syncing before you put the device down’, and even users suggesting to set timers, reminding themselves to sync!

I hope this doesn’t come across as a rant in any way, as I sincerely love Scrivener to bits - I just see the syncing from iOS issue as too much of a risk for me at present. It is what stopped me from using the iOS version after I purchased it many years ago, and it appears it hasn’t changed in the intervening years.

Perhaps this all sounds overly cautious, for something that the developers obviously don’t see as a problem at all. So, as I stated in the topic title, I am genuinely interested in how people experience working with both iOS and desktop. Do you simply expect to remember to sync every time, and it’s not a problem if you forget once in a while?

In testing iOS again I have already found myself getting file conflicts, just by swapping between one device and then the other and forgetting to sync as I’m working out how things work.

For me, the idea of file conflicts is a critical issue that could lead to serious data loss. It could mean the wrong revisions getting published by mistake, or potentially even corrupting the file system with the loss of an entire project (some of which are over thirty years worth of writing).

But, am I mistaken in this? Do you see it as just something that is not a serious risk? Or do you just never forget to sync?

All the best, Ian

Overly cautious? Well, it depends.

First, I applaud your caution with your work. Far too many folks embark on technological journeys without doing any due diligence or risk assessment.

As a result, I’ve read plenty of posts to these forums over the years having to do with sync issues. However, many people on these forums, myself included, have sync’d Scrivener between devices for years with zero issues.

As you’ve already concluded, the sync process is not yet foolproof. It does require a certain amount of discipline, of developing a process and sticking to it. For me, this requirement means when I stop writing, I close Scrivener, take a backup, and make sure my data syncs. I do this process for whichever device I happen to be writing on. This is barely any additional work over what I would do anyway if I weren’t syncing, so for my workflow it’s trivial.

To sum up, for me the high risk of syncing has been and continues to be easily mitigated via a simple process.

But for you? Well, it depends. If the idea of conforming to such a process seems difficult to you, or if your workflow is such that you switch constantly from device to device, or your situation such that you face constant interruptions which require you to immediately stop working and move to something completely unrelated, then at this time taking on a new sync routine may be asking too much.

P.S. Your website is super impressive–one of the best author sites I’ve seen. :sunglasses:



Personally, I have auto-close enabled on my desktop, so I essentially never have the issue of Scrivener being “open” on both the Mac and the iOS device. I can trust that Dropbox has done its thing, the version of a project on the desktop matches the version on the Dropbox server, and that will be the version waiting when I reopen desktop Scrivener.

Then, on the iOS device, I’ve simply formed the habit of syncing before I start working and after I’m finished. Helped along by the iOS auto-sync options, this takes no more effort than remembering to save a file (back in the bad old days when you had to explicitly do that).

Plus I have three layers of automatic backups, just in case.

First of all, if you are concerned that a conflict in your active project will cause the irrevocable loss of thirty years of writing, you probably need to look at your overall backup strategy.

A synchronization conflict in a Scrivener project affects only that copy of that project. It does not affect other projects. It does not affect backup copies. And it most definitely does not affect the file system as a whole. (And even if it did, why don’t you have an external backup for critical data?)

Scrivener 3’s project format includes a number of checks to identify and notify the user in case of synchronization conflicts. Unresolvable synchronization conflicts in Scrivener 3 are extremely rare: I don’t think I’ve encountered one in several years, if ever.

By far the most common cause of synchronization issues these days has nothing to do with Scrivener. It’s the tendency of cloud services to store data only on the server, causing parts of the project to be inaccessible to Scrivener. That can lead to unresolvable conflicts. Fix that (Errors Opening Projects Stored on Dropbox / Cloud Syncing / Knowledge Base - Literature and Latte Support) and you’ve prevented more than 90% of the issues I actually see.

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Thank you for the information on resolving conflicts, it is very useful, though I would love to address the problem that causes the conflicts in the first place.

When you say — “I’ve simply formed the habit of syncing before I start working and after I’m finished” I can’t overemphasise how far from my own experience of working this sounds to me! :smiley: I am constantly moving between apps, programs, ideas, correspondence — the list is endless. Do you ever forget once in a while? I could never hope to instil a hundred percent success rate at remembering to sync, or even to know when I am going to be moving from one device to another.