iOS:Mac DropBox sync with *locally* stored files??

I’ve been using Scrivener, MacOS for a couple of years now. I love it, despite still barely having scratched the surface of it and despite still very much figuring my way around it. Nevertheless, I was delighted to be able to purchase the iOS version, since I am, more and more, using my iPad for serious work.

Today I finally drilled into the settings so I could work on an existing OS project on my iPad. I used the features within each device first, which led me to “Sync with external folder.” That seemed to work – the files appeared in my dropbox folder from my Mac; my iPad told me that it was syncing the precise number of files I had uploaded to dropbox – but no projects were visible.

That led me to the Forum. I searched for relevant threads and read the troubleshooting guide. I saw that that warns against using the “sync with external folder” option, which answered my initial question. [BTW: It would be helpful if this were explained in the tutorial on both Mac and iOS].

But from what I read in the guide, the only way to sync is to store my project permanently in DropBox.

I’m not at all comfortable with that.

Is there any way to sync these two devices while maintaining local control over one’s project/keeping it permanently stored on one’s Mac?

My apologies if this is explained somewhere and I missed it. I really made an effort not to duplicate threads.


Just in case you’re not aware; you go to, click on your user id in the upper right of the browser window, and select “install”. Once you’ve installed and configured the application, a Dropbox folder will appear in your home folder.

If you’ve configured iOScriv to use Dropbox, there’ll probably be an Apps/Scrivener sub-folder in the Dropbox folder once it’s done with it’s initial sync–unless you chose a different folder to sync iOScriv with. That’s where you will move your project to.

It will still be on your computer’s hard drive; the sync software just copies changes from your Mac to its servers, and downloads changes from the servers. If you want to see the project where it was originally on your hard drive, consider creating an alias of the project and moving that alias back to the original project location.

Most of the above is covered in the iOScriv tutorial, near the end, in a document named “Syncing.”

Your project is not “stored in Dropbox” as such. It is stored on your Mac, on your iDevice and also on the Dropbox server.

What happens is that you have the project in the Dropbox folder on your Mac. The Dropbox app on your Mac keeps a constant eye on this folder and when it finds a file that has changed it copies that file (uploads it) to the Dropbox server. It never leaves your Mac.
When you start Scrivener on your iDevice it looks in your folder area at the Dropbox server to see if there are any recently uploaded files which is not similar timthe ones present inside your iDevice. If yes, it notifies you. You tap the sync symbol and and copy (download) these files to your iDevice.

When you are done on your iDevice you do it the other way round. Sync, i.e. copy from iDevice to Dropbox server, and when you start your Mac it will copy changed files from the Dropbox server to your Mac, so when you start Scrivener it will check for changed files and inform that there are changes and do you want to include these in your project.

So you actually have local control over your projects. It is permanently stored on both your Mac and your iDevice.

The other two posters have already provided some feedback on DropBox, so I’ll only add that I installed DropBox myself specifically to support working between Windows and iOS Scriv versions. I am very happy with the DropBox sync process. Just be sure to follow the instructions in the tutorials.

As discussed in the iOS tutorial, you can also use iTunes to import and export projects with iOS Scriv. I have never done this, because DropBox is so convenient and easy, but it is an option.

I appreciate the speedy responses. But the reassurance about everything remaining local conflicts with how I’m reading the tutorial posted at the top of the threads here at the forum.

First, the tutorial instructs users to move projects into the Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener folder – it says to move the projects, not to copy them. And since by default, dragging a file into the dropbox folder in the finder moves the original file – i.e., it doesn’t create an alias or a copy – the word “move” seems intentional.

And, reading further in the tutorial, that reading seems to be borne out:

Under the heading “Keeping Projects in Sync Across Devices,” the tutorial states:

"Your projects are now stored in the /Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener folder. Make sure you open them from there when opening them in the desktop version and making changes."

And so I remain confused.


Hi Dogdays,

Let me try to clarify, and hopefully you will see that the perceived conflict is not accurate.

Lunk’s explanation of how DropBox works is succinct and accurate, so I won’t repeat it. (ETA: As is rdale’s!)

Yes the word “move” is intentional. The context is that you do this on your Mac. And after you do it, your project now resides in one place locally in the Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener folder on your Mac’s hard drive.

But now it also resides in DropBox servers on the cloud. It was uploaded to the DropBox servers, by the DropBox app, when you stored it in the Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener folder on your Mac. Your project’s files are now in two places, and it is the DropBox app’s job to keep the files in sync.

And once you’ve synced the DropBox project to your iDevice, the project will exist in three places: on your Mac, on Dropbox servers in the cloud, and on your iDevice.

Reread Lunk’s post with that in mind.

Note: If you had “copied” your project to the Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener folder on your Mac, then the project would still be uploaded to the DropBox servers–that result doesn’t change–but now it would be in two places on your Mac’s hard drive, which would surely result in confusion for you.

If you followed the instructions and “moved” your project to the Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener folder on your Mac, then this point in the tutorial is unnecessary. But it is simply reiterating that, if you do have multiple versions of the project on your Mac’s hard drive, you should only work with the version in the Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener folder. Any changes to versions in other folders will not be synced to your iDevices.

Hopefully this helps!

Jim –

I’m on the verge of understanding what you’re saying, which in turn reveals a fundamental misconception that I’m just now realizing I had about how DropBox works.

I had understood the DROPBOX folder that I can see in Finder as my window into items I’ve stored on the DropBox server.

It is only now dawning on me that to the contrary, the DROPBOX folder I can see in Finder is DropBox’s window into items I’ve stored on my hard drive.

Is that correct?

If so, that would clear all of this up. And if so, then many thanks to everyone for the help.

I’m very smart in so many ways, and sometimes, in other ways, not so much : )

  • Cara

If you move a project from Documents/Current to Documents/Archive, it is still stored on your local hard drive, right?

Similarly, Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener is just a name for a particular folder on your local drive.

Now, this particular folder is special because you’ve given the Dropbox software permission to upload it to their server. But it’s still a local folder.

(In fact, it being a local folder is why it’s so important that you allow Dropbox to finish synchronizing. If you don’t, then the local copy and the copy on their server won’t match.)





You can prove this, once your project is in the Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener folder, by turning off WIFI on your mac (I’m assuming you don’t use a physical network cable to connect to the internet…). The contents of the Dropbox folder will remain, even if you can’t connect to in your web browser, because the file is still on your hard drive. Syncing changes to and from the server will resume when you re-enable your WIFI connection.

This is different from a network file share, which you might have on a work computer, and is also different from macOS Sierra’s new Desktop & Documents iCloud service, which will remove some of your computer’s files once they’re uploaded to iCloud, to give you more room on your computer locally. By the way, don’t use this new feature if you keep any Scrivener projects on your Desktop or Documents folders.

Dropbox works by uploading copies of your files that are stored on your hard drive, and downloading updated copies from its servers to your hard drive. There’s always a copy of your files on your hard drive.

I just want to add that as Dropboxes Scrivener sub-folder and its content is actually on your computer’s hard drive it also gets saved automatically by Time Machine like any other local folder.

This, plus Scrivener’s numerous backup options–I for example have set it to Backup On Project Close + Backup Before Sync–grants you full control over your (local) files.