Help Saving

Apologies as this must have been dealt with at length elsewhere but

  1. I am doing a thesis and petrified that I will lose it so what is the safest way to back it up?
    I see some people suggesting to compile each chapter to Word but that seems cumbersome.

2 When I save to dropbox, it appears to create 2 files and sometimes 3
Sometimes with .scriv, sometimes without, and as a zip file.
Can I eliminate some of these? It seems unnecessarily complicated.

Thank you

Yes, on point one I would think that a bit excessive. Compiling the entire work out to a single file—that’s fine. It only takes a few seconds and once you set it up you can just leave the settings that way until you need to transition to using the compiler for other things.

A better solution, if you just want a non-Scrivener backup of your data, is the File/Export/Files… menu command, which comes with a lot of easy to use options for exporting just about everything in the project. You can just select the Draft folder, or even export the entire Binder, preserving your research and background material as well.

I’m not sure what is happening there without a little more information into the processes you are using (what constitutes “save to dropbox”, File/Save As…, or dragging a closed project in Finder from one folder to another, or something else?). I can say that .zip is Scrivener’s default backup format and unless you have a strong reason to not use Zip files (huge projects can take a while to compress, for example), I would recommend leaving that option on. It’s much safer, especially when transferring material around the Internet.

Thank you Amber

I am “saving as…” to Dropbox…but after experimenting I have discovered that when I close the project it automatically saves it as a zip file with the most recent name used with a “” ending.

Consequently, I am ending up with dozens of copies of the project in dropbox.

  1. Any tips on the healthiest way to save the project daily?
  2. Thanks for the info as export as files. I suppose this would save the written work in separate files that I could then join together. But what is the advantage of this over simply compiling?


Okay, I think I understand better what is happening, now.

I myself don’t worry about this too much. That very feature you are talking about, where Scrivener automatically saves a copy of the project when you close it, is good enough for me most of the time. It is already accomplishing exactly what you want, except you’re going through extra steps to accomplish that, and in doing so you’re ending up with a proliferation of projects since, in actuality, you’re writing your book into dozens of projects.

See, “Save As” in Scrivener works the same way as in Word and most other programs, it moves you to the new project after creating it. So when you use “Save As” to make a copy at the end of the day, you’re making a brand new, entirely separate project out of your book, moving your session to that, then closing it and consequently making a new automatic backup stream for that one version of your book that you’ll probably never return to. That in turn will mean the automatic cap feature, that rotates old backups, won’t work because each writing session is concluded with a totally new project. It understandably only rotates backups for the project that was closed, not other projects entirely, and it can’t know that these are all “the same” just because they are named similarly.

Consider reserving Save As for those cases where you really do need a whole new project, and I would say those are pretty rare. In most cases all you want is to freeze a copy of the project, set it aside, and continue working. For that, the File/Back Up/Back Up To… menu command is your best choice. It makes a dated backup, optionally zip compressed (which I recommend for Dropbox), but most importantly it leaves you in the same original session.

What does this small change give you? Just a little more clarity. There is now a clear distinction between backups and the one single project you use to work in. There is only ever one single project that you work in. Everything else is a backup. When you close that project, only one automatic backup is created; no fuss. Of course if you use Back Up To minutes prior there will be two backups, but that is your choice, the software is at least working at its most efficient.

Compile can only create a text document of your WIP, or whatever is in the Draft at the moment. Projects may otherwise consist of thousands of PDFs, annotated research, archived web pages, notes, to do lists, etc. It just seems to me that having both this and a compiled draft is best.

Personally, I don’t mess with either exporting or compiling while I’m working on a project. Redundant copies of the project are good enough for me. At the very end, when I’m done with the project for good, I will do a full Binder export, compile a final copy, and then close the project and bundle all three into a .zip file. This is set aside for some foggy point in the future where I may need the working material. This is my long-term archive. In that zip I have my Scrivener project—just in case Scrivener still exists in thirty years, if not I have everything I typed into the project anyway, in files, as well as one merged copy of the actual product itself.

But like I say, that’s only something I do when I’m all done. I do not work in a scenario where I may lose access to Scrivener, so I don’t have a pressing need for an “all the way back to txt files” level of backup.

Dear Amber
What an excellent, thorough reply.
Thank you so much!

Dear Amber

I notice that the program saves the file as “.scriv” on closing and that a zipped back up file is created with an extra code staring with T.

So you end up with an ever increasing load of backed up zip files, any changes that you make. I am just at the start of this project so I am going to end up with hundreds of back ups.

That is fine. But what do you suggest. To file them all away, or deleter older back ups?

Thank you


You can manage a number of aspects of Scrivener’s backing-up processes in the Preferences (from the menu-bar: Scrivener > Preferences > Backups). These include an option to define the number of back-ups that are kept (and others to specify when they’re made, which of course governs the frequency with which they’re made, and where they’re kept, which will naturally be important to you if you need to restore one).

Dear Hugh

Thanks for that good info.

What do you personally think works well?

I don’t think that there is a simple answer to this question. It depends fundamentally on the financial and/or sentimental value to you of your Scrivener projects.

But it may also depend on more immediate practical factors. For example, if your computer’s hard disk is relatively long in the tooth, you may feel it wise to backup more frequently. If you have little or no other backup protection, then that may be another reason for you to choose to make more frequent backups. On the other hand, if your Scrivener project is very large, with lots of words, photos and, possibly, videos (in your Research folder), and with many megabytes or even gigabytes in it, it can take a relatively long time to save as a back-up and so frequent backups can potentially slow down your work; consequently with very large projects you may decide to backup less frequently, say on closing your project.

For myself, I set automatic zipped backups to occur when I close a project, which I do for other reasons at least once a day; I backup externally to a folder in Dropbox, and I keep the five most recent copies. As far as ordinary saving of my projects is concerned (as distinct from backups), Scrivener is set to auto-save my projects to my computer’s hard disk after three seconds of inactivity (again resettable in the Preferences: Scrivener > Preferences > General: Saving).

Separately, I also regularly backup my computer’s hard disk as a whole to a local external hard disk in two separate ways, using the applications Time Machine and SuperDuper. In my experience there are few sounds worse than that of a dying hard disk when you have no decent backup protection.

The .scriv file is (should be) your working project. It could also be the “Save As” copy, if you are creating those, but the point is that those files aren’t saved when you close the project; they’re saved when you create them, and then whenever you pause after making changes to them.

The extra code starting with T is the 24-hour time code.

Stop using Save As to back up. Visit the menu Scrivener-Preferences, go to the Backup tab. There’s an option there which will turn the vestigial “manual save” into a trigger for creating a time-stamped, zip-compressed backup. There’s also a setting there that will make scrivener keep up to 25 backups before it starts removing old versions. The manual save setting will let you use CMD-S or File->Save to create these backups, which should assuage your petrification, while Scrivener’s built-in auto-save function will keep what you’ve written a few seconds ago recorded to the hard drive.

Making these changes, and abandoning the Save As backup method (use File->Back up->Back Up to… menu instead, if you must) will keep your backup set clean, and it will automatically delete old backups. Continuing to use Save As will create a mess of slightly different project file copies & their backups, which can lead to confusion when you need a legitimate backup.

Dear Robert and Hugh

Thank for those excellent replies. I’ll follow both of your suggestions.