iOS and DropBox

I really like using scrivener on an iPad but I was dismayed that the dropbox file integration is all or nothing since that means long sync times because I keep all my desktop projects in dropbox for the backup. At first I tried making a folder just for sharing with iPad but no go. I recently started using OmniOutliner for iOS and their approach is very simple, you open just a single project at a time, No enormous everything list but they do keep a list of recently opened projects, very easy and no ten minutes to wait while dropbox sync’s forty or fifty irrelevant projects.
I would like to submit that a recent list of projects would be easier for the user to manage on the iPad rather than an all or nothing large list of projects.
What do you think?


What was the issue with keeping a separate folder for the iPad projects? Works fine for me.


Yes, same as Katherine, I have no problems keeping projects in different folders on DropBox,

I keep all my projects on DropBox, with …/Apps/Scrivener containing the ones that sync to iOS (ETA: iOS Scrivener is linked to this folder) and …/Apps/Scrivener-NotOnIOS containing the ones that don’t. Works perfectly.

You might want to describe in more detail how you had things structured and what the failure symptoms were.

I keep all my projects in my Dropbox folder, but it only ever syncs the projects that have changed. You can tell this on an iPad because the icon is different for projects that need synchronising. It is true that this sometimes takes longer than it would for “flat” files like those which are used by OmniOutliner (I think those are xml, but I’m prepared to be corrected). A Scrivener project is really a folder containing hundreds or thousands of files, so its structure is much more complex than an OO file. No surprise if it takes longer to synchronise than a flat file.

And incidentally, if you are relying on Dropbox for backup – DON’T – there have been a few threads recently with tales of woe caused by people confusing Dropbox with a proper backup service. It isn’t.

It will definitely take longer to scan 40-50 projects for changes than it will to scan just one or two. But, as noted above, there shouldn’t be any need to keep the “irrelevant” projects in the iPad’s synced folder.


first I unlinked dropbox via the scrivener app then I clicked to link dropbox but I don’t get the option to select a specific folder, Unless I missed something, I just get the message asking for permission from Dropbox to allow scrivener access, I just tried this again and there is no obvious way to select any specific folder to link to in Dropbox.
what am I doing wrong?

Using Finder on the Mac, make sure the folder you want exists and has fully synced with the Dropbox server.

On the iPad, tap the Edit button at the top of the project list, then the gear icon. Choose “Dropbox Settings” from the resulting menu to choose the folder.

Alternatively, go ahead and use the default Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener folder on the iPad, but use Finder on the Mac to move everything that you don’t want to synchronize out of it. Anywhere else in Dropbox is fine, just not that particular folder (or its subfolders).


Here’s the thing, I’m not reporting a bug and yes there is a very Kludgy workaround but I am making a feature request.
there are a lot of hoops for the user to jump through the way the dropbox integration is currently implemented on iOS, I am suggesting that the alternative is almost effortless for the user and I see no downsides. I can open any project in dropbox without having to worry about it being in a special “iOS” folder and I have a list of recently opened projects to refer to when I want to reopen something. I am saying that the way dropbox integration is implemented in OmniOutliner is superior (at least the user facing side) to the way Scrivener is doing it and suggesting that you take a look at it and give it a consideration.
At least IMHO it makes the experience much smoother for the end user which is why I am posting this in the “wish list” forum.


Thanks for the concern. I have my dropbox local copy on my RAID array and only use the cloud storage as my plan B although even if I did lose everything I am of the opinion that no one else would notice or care. :=)

Neither of those things provides a way to recover a file that was modified or deleted, which is why it can’t be counted as a backup. A backup lets you go back to a previous version of a file or folder.

I’m sorry, but I’m not completely understanding the issue?

Is the issue that you don’t want to synchronize 40 projects to the iPad when you might only need five? Or is it that you want to have a listing of the five (or whatever) most recent projects out of that 40?

iOS Scrivener has to be completely functional with no internet access. That means that whatever projects you want to work on have to be stored locally on the iPad. Which, in turn, means that Dropbox needs to be able to keep all of those projects current, and there needs to be a mechanism to tell Dropbox which projects those are. (I have a 1 TB business-level Dropbox account. I don’t want all of that data on my desktop, much less my phone!)

The problem with comparisons to OmniOutliner (and most other applications that come up in these conversations) is that an OmniOutliner file is a single text-based document. A Scrivener project contains potentially hundreds of individual files, in a wide variety of formats, totaling potentially many megabytes. It is simply not the same thing.


As several people has already said, but perhaps worth repeating: it’s really easy to make a specific folder just for sharing with iOS Scrivener.

I have ALL my Scrivener projects in a dedicated folder called Scrivener Projects. Inside it I also have a sub-folder called Active Projects which is the one I link to iOS Scrivener. If I want to get access to a project on my iPad I simply move that project to the sub-folder.

The “recent list” on the iPad is essentially what you see in the projects screen, i.e. the projects that are synced.

So what you are asking for is already very much possible and rather simple. It’s not rocket science…

And one more thing… Projects can easily be moved between Dropbox folders using the Dropbox app on an iPad. So you wouldn’t even have to leave your iPad to handle all this.

Just to enlarge (which I grant is probably unnecessary) on the point about Scrivener projects being more complex than OmniOutliner files, if you right click on a project in Finder on your Mac, and choose Show Package Contents, then look at the Data folder inside (don’t fiddle anything inside the package, by the way) you will get an idea of what is going on. In one of my projects, the Data folder contains another 676 folders, most with one or two text files inside them.

I like lunk’s idea of the Active Projects folder. I’m thinking I could combine that idea with tagging and Hazel on Mac – I already have tags for “status:urgent” and “status:in progress” so I can find important stuff quickly, and Hazel could automatically move projects with the appropriate tag to the right folder. Easy enough to do it by hand, however.

I’m not trying to stir a hornet’s nest or deny that there is a way to do what I want. what I am trying to say is that having to manage folders in DB in order to keep a usable short project list is more steps than not.
Neither Scrivener for MacOS or for Windows maintains a project list and there is really no need for one on iOS, is all that I am saying.
None of this has anything to do with version control or local copies either it is simply a design issue. The project list is a list t hat the end user must spend time managing for IMO no reason. I don’t have to do it on Mac or Windows, why on iOS?
There is nothing intrinsically different about iOS that would require this project list which due to the way that scrivener files are packages can take a long time to sync.
Other iOS programs allow me to ‘open’ or ‘open recent’ files from dropbox and that is a much easier and frictionless way which I would like to suggest as an approach that scrivener for iOS could take.
Let me go further, the projects list is completely unnecessary since I can already see my list of projects in dropbox, there is no need to duplicate it in scrivener (the other versions do not) and it adds busy work to my schedule.
the only thing you lose by eliminating it would be complexity.

what you are referring to is version control and in this case quite off topic.

I don’t want to synchronize any projects in scrivener for iOS, I want dropbox to do that for me automatically, I am aware that the file structure of the .scriv files is complex which is why I want the simplicity of the Mac and pc versions of scrivener to apply as well to the iOS version.
what value does the projects list add to scrivener for iOS that I do not already get by opening up the dropbox app?
AFAIK it only forces me to maintain one additional list and sit around waiting for sync’s that I don’t need and are keeping me from getting on with my work.
I say just get rid of that projects list and let me manage my projects in dropbox with one less sync needed.
write documents in scrivener and manage folders of documents in dropbox…just like on my Mac.

This is not correct. iOS does not have a true “file system” in the way the Mac OS does. Each application’s files are stored in that application’s own data area. To open iOS Scrivener projects from the iOS Dropbox application would require that Dropbox know that the entire contents of the .scriv folder belong together and should be presented to the user as a single “thing.”

This is not possible as iOS is currently structured. And even if it were, the change would need to be made to the Dropbox software, not to Scrivener.

And FWIW, you absolutely do “manage the project list” in Mac OS. Every time you open Finder.


Having Dropbox manage the list for you would not eliminate the need to synchronize. Synchronization is the mechanism by which data gets from the Dropbox server to the iOS device. Whether you’re personally requesting it or not, this step needs to happen one way or the other.

And, again, how is Dropbox supposed to know which projects to sync unless you tell it?


Yes there is. Mac OS and Windows are completely different from iOS in the way they can handle file systems. The Files app tries to give the user a sense of having something similar on an iOS device but it is actually fundamentally different. iOS apps are sandboxed.

For iOS Scrivener to be able to handle the project packages it needs to download them to its own internal space of memory. It can’t do what Mac OS and Windows do and just access a file system.

The core of Mac OS and Windows are built on the same basic principle as MS-DOS, and you do know what DOS stands for, right? There is no DOS in iOS.