Dropbox introduces three-device limit on free accounts

Well, the day has come; The free Dropbox-account will add a three device limit (“old” connected devices keep their status but new devices cannot be added). While for the next year or so there are no panic - but the question will become urgent one day and before that day of panic, it would be nice if Scrivener for iOS supported more cloud services, (OneDrive).

Does Scrivener Mac/iOS sync over webDAV? It should. For much less than a cloud account, you can host a webDAV and have control over your syncing.

Also look into Resilio Sync. It’s a serverless cloud system that uses peer-to-peer to keep files synced. You can use it with Scrivener right now.

This is indeed bad news.

I hope this news in combination with the power of the iPad pro’s gives some new possibilities in the future for iCloud sync and the Scrivener iOS app.

I know iCloud Sync is impossible because of how iCloud handles file packages and I really want to Scrivener to keep that package file type as it’s format, but I hope Literature & Latte is still in talk with Apple about that.

Note that, in the US at least, a Dropbox subscription is a tax deductible business expense for self-employed writers.

As we have explained repeatedly, our decision about which cloud services to support is driven in part by the developer tools available on the various platforms. Support for OneDrive is therefore not entirely under our control.

If Dropbox or any other service is such a critical part of your workflow that being limited to “only” three devices poses a hardship, it might be time to evaluate your spending priorities.


Thank you for the great advice, I will check Resilio Sync. Apart from spending priorites, three devices are not really the question but the limitation imposed, what’s next? - it is a sobering reminder that not everything (free) is forever. Dropbox does not, for me in Sweden, represent a good value for money - when comparing with Office 365, (which I use because Word has a superior spell-check in my native language). I am sure that, in the end, it will be a minor inconvenience.

Dropbox quietly introduced earlier this month a new device limit for free accounts. Dropbox has quietly updated its terms of service to limit free accounts to only three devices to which users can sync data.

From my perspective, the problem is that the Dropbox Plus tier is such a big jump above the free tier. I would be happy to pay a $1-$3 a month for, say, unlimited sync and 20GB. Maybe $4-$5 for a bit more storage. While $10 a month not awfully overpriced for 1TB, it is far more than I need. Especially since for all the things Dropbox does well, the API upon which Scrivener relies is oddly slow even on very fast networks.

While iCloud would be great (in part for background sync), the difficulties have been discussed at length. Nevertheless, it would be great if this prompted a new look at sync. If iCloud remains impractical, there are many other cloud sync providers (GoogleDrive, Box, Microsoft, Amazon, to name a few) and it would be great if Scrivener supported at least one additional option.

Adding sync providers (even one) would, of course, be real work. However, I for one would see this as a worthwhile paid upgrade. Scrivener 3 has been out a while so I could see this feature alone being worth either ~$25 per platform (i.e. $50 total, for desktop + iOS) or, since iOS upgrade pricing is tricky, a $50 upgrade on desktop with the understanding it represents work value delivered across both platforms.

Scrivener in any case remains great. This is just the risk of being wedded to a single cloud service—if their pricing model or TOS become unfavorable, it is difficult to vote with your (virtual) feet.

Yes, I agree. It seems this is going to result in a de facto $100/year subscription charge to keep using Scrivener for many users. I’d happily pay for an upgrade to L&L instead.

Uh, no. It will result in a charge for the specific service that Dropbox provides: automatic synchronization with one or more iOS devices. iTunes file sharing will continue to work, as will any of the options for desktop-to-desktop synchronization. And of course Scrivener’s own functionality is unchanged.


Two other strategies:
https://forum.literatureandlatte.com/t/ios-11-support-of-files-app/37322/19 (KB, Oct 2, 2017)
https://forum.literatureandlatte.com/t/snapshot-questions/42033/11 (AmberV, Aug 3, 2018)

I haven’t tested the first in a few months; have been regularly using the second working off of time-stamped, zipped files. [Since this is a transfer rather than a sync, you’re not limited to using Dropbox.]

Hi Katherine,

Forgive me if I err but I sense a bit of impatience from you on this topic. While this is somewhat understandable in the face of near daily requests to add support for the cloud platform de jour, I submit to you that this is a new and different topic.

Your longstanding decision to rely exclusively upon Dropbox has been thoroughly explained. It was a reasonable business decision. Recently, however, a Dropbox-driven change has threatened to disrupt a substantial number of use-cases. Owing to this, and to the recognition that substantial work would be required to add the desired alternative sync functionality, some people, including me, have expressed a willingness to pay.

Therefore, the ask here is simply to evaluate the issue afresh. Should your team determine that the costs associated with such a change outweigh the additional prospective revenue, I would consider the matter closed. However, in the face of such an external development, the request to reevaluate seems reasonable.

Thanks, as ever, for a great platform.

The reason for using Dropbox is technical, it has an available API that can be used, so it’s not really a “business decision”, is it? So could you please explain how changes in the business model decided by Dropbox changes the technicality of the issue?

A simple solution would be to restrict iOS syncing to three devices and use a special, free account for that.

I think my comment is driven in part by a disagreement about how “substantial” the number of affected use cases is. Affected people have more than three synchronized devices, have a critical need to use Scrivener on any of them at any moment, and are unable to justify the proposed Dropbox fee. I only have four and could drop two of them from Dropbox synchronization without any particular pain and suffering, and I’m almost certainly in the upper percentiles of Scrivener users.

(Full disclosure: I have a paid Dropbox account.)

I’m also pushing back on the suggestion that the non-Dropbox alternatives are so completely inadequate that being forced to depend on them renders Scrivener itself unusable.

For the record, I’m not part of the development team, and am not in a position to personally evaluate the specific APIs involved. But iCloud support in particular has been a leading user request since iOS Scrivener launched. If there were a way to do it, we would. Changes to the Dropbox business model don’t really have much to do with the underlying technical issues.


I think Dropbox limiting free accounts to three devices is fine. I think it’s still within the acceptable range of casual users. Someone who might have a desktop, laptop, and a mobile device. I also think if there was anyone Dropbox should make life miserable for, it’s the free people. At some point you run out of carrots to offer people.

Scrivener relying on Dropbox isn’t that much of a problem. I also get that the package format Scrivener uses can cause some sync issues. Even if the format changes, this is not a quick change. I am not sure if they have to change it, also. Dropbox at the least is cross-platform. If Scrivener was still a Mac-only app I could see them moving to iCloud, but now that it also has a Windows app, Dropbox makes the sense.

What I find more concerning is that the iOS version hasn’t been updated since December 2017. It is starting to creep dangerously close to abandonware for me. There hasn’t even a been an update for the new iPads.

I guess a one-man development “team” has limited time available, when this “team” develops both the Mac and iOS version.

I use it on a new iPad Pro, without problems. What serious problems are you experiencing?

PS. I use other apps too that hasn’t been updated for a while. As long as they work, why should I bother about updates?

I don’t have a new iPad Pro, but from what I have heard it is not optimized for the screen and there are thin blank lines on the top and bottom of the screen. However, it one of those benchmark things for I view the upgrade cycle.

In terms of updates, there are a few reasons. Taking advantage of new OS features is one. General stability is another - especially in terms of new OS releases. Also, there are a lot of features the desktop version has that the iOS doesn’t. I would like it to be more of an end-to-end solution on iOS than it is now.

The one-man shop nature of Scrivener is a concern for me overall. Some sort of a roadmap for iOS improvements would be nice.

We do not comment on pending releases, but I can assure you that the iOS version is under active development.

You should not expect the iOS version to ever reach feature parity with the desktop version, however, due to the different capabilities of the two platforms.


Thanks for that.

I have never expected feature parity, but closing the gap would be nice.

For me, this constraint isn’t an immediate issue. However, since I’m running two desktops (Mac, Windows), two iPads (Pro, Air 2), and a phone (and want to dual-boot Windows to Linux to migrate off Windows 7 anyway), I’m going to hit it the next time any of those systems changes. Or crashes and has to be restored. And this device limit was imposed not too long after the filesystem limitations Dropbox introduced for Linux users (and advanced Windows users) — filesystem restrictions that make no sense based on what the major distributions default to. It’s difficult to trust that Dropbox will not continue to change things in ways that disrupt current users.

I recognize that the Dropbox API provides some capabilities under iOS that help with synchronization. But it’s hard to trust that they’re not going to really mess things up, and having only iTunes as an alternative transfer method may be impractical. As noted elsewhere in the thread, the lowest paid tier is a pretty steep price of admission just to use 1GB on four or five devices. I’d rather sub to L&L to fund iOS Files support or something than dropbox because they felt like changing the rules.

Please, please, please revisit other network sync options. I’m not advocating for a specific solution, but just having choice on this would at least insulate us from Dropbox turning even more hostile.

Thank you.

Maybe all of these people who are willing to throw money at KB to solve technical limitations that are not of his making and that he has no control over might be willing to do some of the legwork to research other alternatives in depth and find out if any of them have significantly changed so that they are a safe alternative to Dropbox?

I mean, it seems like every week we get some expert coder in here to tell KB how he’s doing it all wrong. Seems likely there’s an overlap there for the people who to pay money and the people who know how to code Scrivener to work with anything to get together and fund some research for the betterment of the community.