How do I safely use Scrivener on different computers without losing track of my latest version?

I mostly use my desktop to write but I’d like to use my laptop too. I’m terrified of mixing up versions. My manuscript saves to Dropbox when I close it on my desktop. When using my laptop, would I then go into dropbox, save it to my computer, write then back it up to dropbox and then when back on my desktop open it from Dropbox? How will I keep track of where I last used it? Normally I open my doc by just doing Scrivener-File-recent projects and clicking on the doc. Thanks for any clarification!

Hello finkeljo, and welcome to the forum.

We have a Knowledge Base article that offers some recommendations for working on multiple computers and sharing your project between them with a cloud-syncing service. Please note that some cloud-syncing options have advisories, and you’ll see links to those advisories on that webpage.

We also have another Knowledge Base article that outlines an alternative method for keeping projects synced.

The approach you choose will depend on which method feels more comfortable and seamless with your preferred working style.

Whichever approach you choose (or if you find a hybrid method of your own), I also recommend reviewing my colleague’s post about having backup options.

By following some of those recommendations, you’ll have options for recovering your work if your syncing method goes awry or in case of a computer malfunction or loss.

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Thank you so much for your response! The main thing that’s confusing me is this line from Using Scrivener with Cloud-Sync Services: “Choose a backup location somewhere on your local hard drive. Don’t use Dropbox.” If I don’t use dropbox, then I’m not syncing, so how can I use the document on my other computer? How do you make sure it automatically gets uploaded to Dropbox once saved on your local hard drive? Sorry for the confusion!

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Backup != Syncing. What this line tries to say is: Don’t put all of your eggs in the same basket. Otherwise you may end up losing your synced (working) data and the backup.

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And to add to that, if you have been pointing each computer’s backup folder to Dropbox, and using that as a way of keeping things up to date (what is described in the link Ruth supplied above as the “alternative method”), then you can ignore that advice. It is being given to those that take the riskier (but slightly more convenient) option of saving the project right in Dropbox itself and opening it directly out of the Dropbox folder on each machine.

Now as for using the backups to work, where you copy the latest one out of Dropbox, work on it, and then close and let it sync your latest backup—for that I definitely recommend going into the Backup settings tab and taking a look at the option to name your backups with a date and time, instead of just rotating through generic numbered backups.

It will be a lot easier to see which is most recent when they are sorted by date. I use this method myself, and never mess anything up or suffer any confusion over which to copy down and work on. I also save 25 instead of 5 copies, just to keep the record around for a little longer.

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Personally, I decided to opt out of any sync/dropbox/cloud/whatever features (I see to many people with too many ill-timed issues + what if you go out in the woods for inspiration and end up with no internet ? sort of), and bought me a tiny tiny USB 3.0 thumb drive.
All my active projects reside on it.
I just take it from my workstation to my portable device whenever I need.
My backups are set to be written on the computer drive itself, so no worries there (having the backups on the thumb drive would be ridiculously and uselessly risky).

The day the thing dies, I’ll just buy a new one. I’ll unzip my very last backup, move it to the new thumb drive, and simply continue as if nothing ever happened.

So in short, to answer the OP’s question : having only that one portable version of a project, no need to worry whether it is the latest one. There is only this one.

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Can also set Dropbox to back up folders on computer as well outside of Dropbox. But use a thumb drive as well and backup novel to different ssd drive on computer

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I suspect you are not using Scrivener’s feature to sync with Dropbox and perhaps confusing what backups are vs. Synching? If not, apologies.

If you were to store your Scrivener project in a Dropbox folder (I use ~/Dropbox/Scrivener/[PROJECT]) then the last version and place you worked on will appear when you open that project with the other device if opened from the Dropbox folder. That’s what you said you wanted and that’s how it works. And i consider it a Best Practice.

Then on you Mac set your Scrivener Backup folder on the desktop (in Preferences) to be somewhere other than in Dropbox. I use ~/Backups/Scrivener and set it to backup on each close keeping max number of copies. Use your system backup, e.g. TimeMachine or other, to make backups which will backups both the project and backup folders–and your entire system. I don’t think you need unless you want belt and braces to also save the backups to Dropbox as your projects are already there. Just me.

I also backup offsite copies with Backblaze.

Read more about syncing and backups in the Scrivener Manual.

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I read your response 14 times until it finally sunk in! Thank you, I think you solved my confusion. I want to make sure I understand and have done this properly. Does this sound correct:

  1. From now on my work-in-progress (my project) is in Dropbox. I will always be working on the Dropbox version no matter which device I’m on. (and that will be saved automatically every 2 seconds by Scrivener and I can manually save too, yes?).
  2. In Scrivener preferences, I have now set my backups to back up on my computer hard drive (and not in icloud, right?): /Users/finkeljo/Documents/Scrivener Backup
  3. Run timeMachine often

Thank you so much for your time. You have no idea how helpful this has been as I was conflating syncing and backing up.

One more thing…If I save the backups to a folder on my local hard drive, and not a folder in icloud, then the backups on one computer will be in a different place than the backups on my other computer. Meaning, I’ll have to separately create a “Scrivener Backups” folder on each computer and they will never be on the other computer, right?

A couple other comments for you:

  • Make sure Dropbox’s SmartSync is turned off for the folder(s) where you keep you Scrivener project(s).

  • Make sure you close the project on Computer A - and give Dropbox time to sync - before you try to open the project on Computer B.

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Yes and yes. And you can have them timestamped from the options.
. . . . . . . . .

Not quite. Scrivener will make changes every time there is 2-seconds of your inactivity, i.e. you not typing. That is the default interval and I suggest leaving it alone. You’ll not notice the saves.

And yes, if you want to do a manual save, Menu: File → Save. But why bother as all you have to do is pause to think or something, and the computer does it for you.

@scarlock makes two important points.

Once you setup TimeMachine, it will run automatically for you. The first backup (to say a USB drive) may take some time so leave the computer until complete. Otherwise, just let it run. Check it once in a while for “last backup” just to ensure it’s running. Every so often restore something to confirm the backup files are “restorable”. I usually do it a few times a week – not to test restore, but to retrieve an older version of a file or something. Handy to me.

Yes, that’s correct in my view. However, I prefer to keep backups outside the ~/Documents folder hierarchy as it’s something that I don’t really need to access, hopefully, ever. So I put in ~/Backups/Scrivener. Other apps that do backups, e.g. DEVONthink, BusyCal and others, I put those backups in their own subfolders under ~/Backups also.

a) If it’s in iCloud, it’s also on the hard drive (unless you overcame defaults and elected to use iCloud only in a browser), and
b) it’s fine to put zip backups in iCloud or any other cloud service, even Dropbox (but not in the same folder as the live project)
c) if you use iOS Scrivener, the default location for projects is ~/Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener
d) even if you don’t use iOS Scrivener, it’s still not a bad idea to put projects in ~/Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener
e) I keep folders for all my apps in ~/Dropbox/Apps
f) ~ means the user directory, /Users/Bobby in my case

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super helpful. Thank you!

The advice against putting backups on Dropbox is advaice against putting everything in one basket; if Dropbox somehow fails, you lose everything. I’m not sure why anyone would advocate against pointing your backups on a different cloud service, as that makes the backups sync up with your other computer(s)*. If at least one of those computers is set up for Time Machine, with a drive that’s always running, then your backups are preserved against deletion for as long as your Time Machine backups are preserved.

*But only if that service is set to always download files, instead of just when you try to access them. Many cloud sync services are going the route of only downloading files on demand, and backup services like Time Machine don’t typically count as a “demand” for the files.

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And in fact some of the most tragic situations I’ve had to assist with involve exactly this. People who depend on Dropbox as their only backup and then learn the hard way just how vulnerable to mishaps it can be.

+1
That is true for any means of backups.
It is a backup.
Never let it sit in the same place than what you actually intend to backup/safeguard.
Just take a second to think about it.
It is absolute logic.

And by the way, I fail to see the necessity to have backups that sync between computers…
Why not just use google drive or something like that? You don’t need the backup unless you actually do need the backup to fix an accident. That doesn’t mean you have to carry it around with you at all times.