Dropbox vs iCloud for Scrivener

Hello all,

I started using Scrivener since a couple of weeks. Love it (although I already have a wish list).

My workflow at this point is I work on a local iMac, make a backup on Dropbox. I have a Macbook Air that syncs with Dropbox (which are the only files on that laptop).
If I work on the road on Scrivener, I it syncs with Dropbox. I give stuff that I changed a red tag, if I come home on the iMac, I look at which files have a red tag and I know which once need to be replaced on the iMac.

At this point I have a free account on Dropbox with about 9GB. And I have an iCloud account of 50GB for 0,99€. I would like to have the same for Dropbox because it’s been always very fast and reliable for me, but unfortunately Dropbox only has a 10 dollar 1TB option or the free version.
I’ve been thinking about using iCloud for my projects and Dropbox for all the rest.

Is there, for Scrivener, a reason why Dropbox or iCloud is better then one or another? (Also taking into account the upcoming iOS version). For instance, Scrivener files are in essence package files. I have the feeling that Dropbox ‘understands’ this. If I replace a 200MB scrivener file on Dropbox with a newer version, it syncs very quick and it seems to see the file as a folder with just a couple of files changed within. I don’t know if iCloud ‘understands’ Scrivener packages the same way.
If I’m thinking about using iCloud instead of Dropbox for Projects backup, are there developers (Keith?) that have reasons to tell me I should better stick to Dropbox?

iCloud suffers from the same (maybe even more?) problems that Google Drive and Microsoft’s One Drive/Sky Drive have with “live” projects. So don’t even bother trying to move the project you’re editing to iCloud (if you even can). Backups are another matter (see below).

The last I looked at iCloud (a few OS releases ago), I couldn’t easily navigate to the iCloud sync folder (it was hidden deep in my Library somewhere), so even sending backups there was difficult if not impossible.

If you are able to point Scrivener’s backup settings to iCloud however, it should be safe if you also set backups to be .zip compressed. Almost any cloud sync service works with .zip compressed backups, unless you run up against a maximum file size limitation.

I definitely agree with Dropbox over iCloud for “live” projects, where you want to share them between computers. For ZIP backups, either should be fine.

However, there is a critical difference between “backup” software and “synchronization” software. “Synchronization” software basically assumes that you are working on your own computer with your own software. So you can install the Dropbox software locally and have your Dropbox folder appear as just another item in Finder.

“Backup” software is designed to recover your data from nothing. Your computer was stolen or destroyed, you’ve lost your software keys, and you’re borrowing a friend’s computer to try to get work done while you figure out how to buy a new one.

Why does it matter? A system like Dropbox is designed to download files one at a time, or at best one folder at a time. Because a Scrivener project is a “package,” with subfolders and potentially hundreds of files, you really have to have the Dropbox software installed locally so that it can manage all the component downloads for you. if that’s not an option, it will be very very difficult to download a complete project via the web interface. A ZIP file would be fine, but of course you had to have created one in advance.

Backup software, in contrast, is designed to recover entire hard drives in one go. Getting all of a project or other “package” file is trivial. Select a folder, and poof everything under it appears on the destination computer, recursively, down to the bottom-most subfolder. (Check the documentation for the specific software you’re using for details.) If disaster strikes, this is what you want.

I love Dropbox. I use it myself. But I wouldn’t use it as my only backup for critical data.


About having a backup:

I work with my own iMac (copy 1), I have Dropbox (copy 2), and I have an external drive backup (copy 3) and I have Backblaze on my iMac that makes a contineous backup.

Thank you for all comments. Having iCloud as a solution for Scrivener backups is not a bad idea.

rdale, could you go into more detail about the problems that Google Drive and iCloud have in comparison with Dropbox if you are talking about live projects?
About iCloud Drive being hidden in the Library: I know it’s annoying. That, and that it doesn’t sync the same way as Dropbox. I don’t know the technical underpinnings of why it doesn’t, but a program like Readdle Documents on iPad can do an easy automatic sync with Dropbox, but it can’t with iCloud. There you have to navigate to the iCloud Drive folder, and click items, and then it downloads them to the iPad. There is still no software that doesn’t automatically syncs with iCloud on the iPad in the same way as Dropbox. For that last option there are thousands of apps. Again, I don’t have enough technical knowledge to know why that is, but it’s a pitty. I love Dropbox, but I wish they had cheaper and smaller plans. 20GB/50GB/100GB stuff or something.

From what I gather from the comments, Dropbox is a better option than iCloud for ‘live’ projects, but can someone tell me why? I’m not a complete tech-head, so it would be nice in not-too-technical terms, but I’m interested in knowing a bit more about it, because I’ve been wondering for this for a while. I hear a lot of developers complain about iCloud, but I’m wondering what is all so ‘different’ in the way iCloud syncs.

For the definitive answer, you would have to ask Apple.

But I think the basic problem, both with iCloud and with other services that have problems, like Google Drive, is that they’re too smart for their own good.

That is, Dropbox makes no assumptions about the content of the file, its relationship to other files you might have, or anything like that. You give it a file, it makes a copy on its own server and then on any other computer connected to that account. It tells you when it’s done.

Other services try to “help” you. “Oh, this is an RTF file, I’ll bet you want to open it in Google Docs. I’ll reformat it for you.” “Oh, it looks like this is a duplicate, I’ll throw the other copies away.” Or they can’t handle Scrivener’s frequent saves, and so fail to save all the changes to all of the project’s component files. Or they are so “invisible” that you break the connection without realizing that you still have unsynchronized changes.


Has anyone tried using Box as an alternative to DropBox?

Here in the UK £7/month for 100Gb although with a maximum file size of 5Gb may make it unsuitable for some Scriv users with large research folders.


It does make DropBox’ £7.99/month for 1Tb look seriously good value, although I’ve never understood why they can’t offer something like 200Gb for around £3/4 per month which would probably cover most people’s needs.

I haven’t personally tried Box, but it seems to be popular with academic users. I think it may have better security/privacy safeguards, which would explain its higher cost.

From what I’ve seen in the support queue, you need to be careful with settings, in particular making sure that it will upload/download entire folders (and their subfolders). Once everything is set up, though, it seems pretty comparable to Dropbox.


I’d been using iCloud for main store for my writing files for a while and it was fine until I accidentally opened Scrivener on one of my other machines. At which point it all got in a mess, with the .scriv file no longer appearing as a package (it became a folder). Anyway, these days I set Scriv’s backup folder to be on iCloud. Incidentally, I’m paying £6.99 for 1Tb.

I’ve been using Dropbox-based sync between two Macs with a live project for almost four years now, and my experience with it is absolutely terrible. In fact, it’s the major reason why I’m considering to move the whole project to Ulysses.

Here’s the thing — and I can’t stress this enough — the guidelines listed here is almost IMPOSSIBLE to comply! People FORGET things! And Dropbox is not that perfect either, it can be really tricky with live files.

ICloud has it’s problems, mostly its syncing efficiency and stability, but when it comes to syncing a live project between multiple computers, its mechanism is far superior to Dropbox, although I haven’t tried it with a project as complex as the one I’m working on now with Scrivener.

How did you reach the conclusion that iCloud is superior to Dropbox? If anything, the experience of the support team is exactly the opposite.

The fundamental issue with any synchronization service is that internet connections are unreliable. If the connection drops while the “local” version is different from the “cloud” version, then the risk of data loss is very high. That risk is inherently higher with complex documents (like Scrivener projects) than with simple documents (like Word files), because the amount of data that must be synchronized is greater.

The software can tell you when synchronization is occurring, and it can minimize the lag between “data saved” and “data uploaded.” It can be more or less intelligent about conflict resolution and duplicate files. But if you close your laptop and walk away from your WiFi connection, there’s nothing the software can do to stop you – or to prevent a “mismatch” between the local and cloud versions.


I haven’t tried iCloud syncing with Scrivener, so I’m not sure if it’s the case here. But based on my experience with Ulysses, yes, iCloud works a lot better than Dropbox. Nobody said it’s perfect, iCloud can be at times really agitating, but it can’t compare to the frustration I had with Dropbox-based syncing with Scrivener.
For instance, sometimes I went to work only to find out I’ve forgot to quit Scrivener on my home Mac. Sometimes it just didn’t sync correctly, especially when there’re newly created folders inside project bins, it simply won’t sync, the whole new folders. And after I found out it’s not synced correctly, I will have to quit the project, right, then Scrivener will save another version of the project. It’s driving me crazy. Ulysses with iCloud doesn’t have this kind of problems.