Evernote's New Sync Feature & Scrivener

I’m found the free version of Evernote a delight. It’s perfect for storing web links and snippets of text I find on my MacBook at the library that I need to look at later at home on my iMac. But until yesterday, it wasn’t really a file sync application. The latest (1.2) version of Evernote, has this feature for its paying clients ($5/month or $45/year):

“If a file is opened from within Evernote, modified, then saved, Evernote will automatically update the file contained in the note.”

blog.evernote.com/2008/12/17/new … file-sync/

This gives Mac users the ability to sync files in other applications between two or more machines almost automatically, with an off-site backup being stored online to be safe. Just attach a file to an Evernote note and open it in the appropriate application from inside Evernote. Quite handy.

The hitch? They demo it in a video with a Photoshop file. But Photoshop files are stored separately. Scrivener stores each project as individual files inside an OS-X package. Nothing is said about whether it will work with that.

Free users are allow to attach a few file types to their notes and sync them, and I’ve tested Evernote with a PDF file. It works as advertised. But without a paid account, I can’t check it out with Scrivener files. If someone has both, they might want to see if the new feature works with Scrivener packages and report back to us here.

One added note: If Evernote can handle packages or be made to do so, this might offer a way to edit individual Scrivener files on iPhones. While users would not be able to manage an entire project in a Scrivener-like interface, it might be possible to create a simple iPhone application that understands the files inside a Scrivener package (typically book chapters) and lets us edit each one separately. Even though we couldn’t edit a book’s organization, we could edit the content, one file at a time. Scrivener iPhone would just be a standard rtf text application that understands Scrivener’s package file structure. It might even be something that someone else could create and sell, sparing Keith the time and labor required. (Perhaps the creator of WriteRoom for the iPhone would be interested.) And Evernote could then sync the edited document between an iPhone and a Mac.

–Mike Perry, Seattle


Thanks for this. It sounds like a step forward. But - not to knock Evernote - of which I was a contented user in its original version in my Windows days - doesn’t this facility mimic Dropbox, which provides file syncing and cloud back-up free (up to 2 Gig), and which we know works with zipped-up Scrivener packages?

Of course Dropbox couldn’t be the basis of the iPhone functionality you’re suggesting.


Yes, it does now mimic in a different way one of the main features of DropBox. I’m using DropBox for file synching right now. It’s particularly helpful, if you download SymbolicLinker from:


That let’s you create symbolic links (like an alias but with different features) inside the DropBox folder to cause DropBox to synch folders stored elsewhere. (After half an hour of trying, I gave up trying to create symbolic links through the Unix command line.) That way, everything you synch doesn’t have to be inside the DropBox folder. Unfortunately, judging by user comments, synching with DropBox only seems to work if the symbolic link is to a folder rather than a file.

I’m just trying to simplify. If I end up going to a pay service, I’d rather have one service to pay, and since Evernote has features I wouldn’t want to give up, it’s the prime candidate. Also, Evernote supports iPhones, and I hope to get one someday. I doubt DropBox will ever support iPhones. It’s more for office-to-laptop users.

Also, DropBox is a bit too automatic for my tastes. You can get into situations where an older file on one machine overwrites a newer one from another machine, particularly with applications that autosave. Evernote gives me more sense of control. That said, I use both and both are quite handy.

Anyone know enough how about how Scrivener stores files to know if my idea about a WriteRoom for iPhone like Scrivener text editor, one that only allows individual files to be edited, would work with an iPhone? It’d let users take notes and edit chapters on the go, which might be enough for most people.

–Mike Perry, Seattle

Not exactly – According to its developers comments in the forum, DropBox compares each file to a hash of the one it last updated. So the worst that could happen is it will create conflict copies of each file and force you to sort out which file you want or what changes you need from each file.

EverNote works the same way, or very similarly, in terms of handling notes that are edited on different machines or via the web. I’ve ended up with conflict copies from time to time. I tried it with a file and it seemed to handle it similarly, creating a conflict notebook with the edited version of the file.

You’re right that Evernote offers a very different interface for working with files. Seems like it’d be most appropriate for the occasional file you’d like to post or move between computers, whereas DropBox can handle entire directory trees.


Thanks for making clearer what DropBox does. I can sleep a bit more soundly now. I’m starting to like auto filesyncing by whatever means even though it still leaves me nervous.

I played around with how Evernote is handling its file synching scheme. I took a PDF file and placed it into a Evernote note. Then I opened the pdf in Preview via Evernote, attached a sticky note to the page, closed the pdf and reopened it again in Preview via Evernote. The stick note attachment was there. All was well and good.

But then I bypassed Evernote and opened the original PDF directly with Preview. I added another sticky note, saved the PDF, and exited Preview. Then I reopened the PDF through Evernote. The second sticky note wasn’t there. What was going on?

With Spotlight, I was able to discover that when I’d attached the PDF to a Evernote note, Evernote had created a NEW file for that PDF inside an obscure Evernote cache folder inside the Library folder. That’s the one I was editing when I opened the PDF via Evernote. The original PDF had become an orphan. The same would be true of any other document synched via Evernote. That must be why they stress that to use the feature, you have to do all your editing thereafter via Evernote.

The hitch is that that destroys any file organization scheme that you might have–for instance putting each project you’re working on in a separate folder. Use Evernote, and everything ends up in that cache folder. There’s probably a way to use Evernote to extract that file later, but I couldn’t quite figure out what it was. Also, any backup scheme you might have won’t work unless you’re backing up Library folders rather than just your document directory. So, for the moment Evernote filesyncing is a bit messy. It works, but only if you play by one set of rules.

There remains the issue of off-site backup. DVDs sent to my sister at the other end of the country give me off-site backup for completed books. But I need something for on-going book projects. My goal has been that no catastrophe short of Global Thermonuclear War will lose more than a day’s work. I’ve yet to achieve that, but DropBox does have potential.

At present I’m using DropBox mostly for my TaskPaper to-do lists. It synchs them quite well. I decided not to use DropBox to back up Scivener edits, even though using symbolic links let me keep the actual files outside the DropBox folder. Those get autosaved every minute, and having many, many copies made every day seems to be a waste of disk space at their end. Today, I’ll be experimenting with doing end-of-day “Save Project as” Scrivener backups via DropBox. Save the project to Dropbox at the end of each day and every few weeks delete the older copies. That not only gives off-site backup for a day’s work, it lets me step back a week or so if I decide I went off on the wrong track.

The “Save Project as…” in Scrivener is a handy feature. I wonder if, when Scrivener becomes more Applescript savvy, it would be possible to create a Scrivener script to automatically do that each time we quit Scrivener.


Hello all,

Please forgive this rookie question.

I’m working on my Ph.D. dissertation and have several backups on external Harddrives, but would like to also back up all my drafts online. I’ve looked at three solutions, mobileme, dropbox, and Evernote (paid subscription)., and wonder if you could offer advice.



Dropbox. It’s free, works great, and will definitely handle your dissertation fine. It’s not right for large-scale backups, but a single big project, no problem.

I agree. Simple and effective.