iOS+MacOS without dropbox, tips please

If there’s anyone who’s using Scrivener projects on MacOS and iOS without using Dropbox, how do you do it?

I have large projects (GBs) I want to keep offline, or at least, local network only, often need to change devices in a hurry, and can get confused about where I worked last…

Anyway, suspecting I’m not the only Scrivener on iOS+MacOS who’s not using Dropbox, I am wondering some users have tips to share about switching projects between devices ideally from experience which might help me and others. Thanks.

So that any proposed solutions don’t run up against your issues you have with Dropbox, just what is it that precludes you from using Dropbox, which is the way Scrivener works for this sort of thing?

Mmm…apparently I edited that bit out before posting. Thanks for asking.
I prefer not to save those projects to third-party servers.

“Often switch devices in a hurry” is potentially a problem for non-Dropbox usage. “Get confused about where I worked last” is definitely going to be a problem.

You can use Apple’s File Sharing mechanism to transfer projects to/from an iOS device without Dropbox or any other “cloud” service. However, this is a copy operation, not a sync operation. It involves copying the entire project – which with GB-scale projects is likely to take some time – rather than automatically uploading/downloading changes to make the two devices match. So keeping track of which version on which device is “current” is entirely up to you.

Maybe I posted this in the wrong forum? I’m aware of [some] of the limitations (which I appreciate are technical limitations, etc…) I’m hoping for advice ideally from users who are doing it (but I am open to anyone with ideas to try), but maybe I am the only one attempting this, after all.

Switch-devices-in-a-hurry is not something I want to do, but circumstances I find myself in. So I am left sometimes with leave the Scrivener project behind because I don’t have time to transfer or check where I worked last.

What used to work when I was merely switching macs was a portable drive. That was beautiful. (My entire home directory was on the drive. Yes, I understand there are risks, but I never lost work, as I have transferring to iOS.)

Things I’ve tried so far:

  • AirDrop sometimes slow
  • USB physical transfer
  • working off portable iOS lightning USB disk, but still have to transfer to Scrivener folder (super slow)
  • disk mounting software. Damaged test projects and I didn’t try that again
  • iOS sync apps, slow
  • giving up on Scrivener… but it’s so much better than anything else :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

I’m considering splitting my project somehow, maybe by reference vs draft, to see if that will speed things up, or some form of External Folder Sync with a WiFi webdav type sync (maybe Notebooks) but I’m not sure if that really helps at all, unless I skip iOS Scrivener and only work in Mac…

[P.S. I don’t have anything against dropbox per se. I just prefer not to store files I care about in the cloud/at a third party’s house, just as I would give some serious thought before storing my grandmother’s jewelry (if I had any of it) at the local self-storage.]

Honestly, for your use case I would get the smallest available MacBook and stick with an external drive for data transfer. There is no iOS-based solution that will work as quickly and easily as that.

One option in that situation might be to have a single small iOS Scrivener project that you do sync via Dropbox, used exclusively as an inbox for quick notes when you’re away from one of your Macs.


New hardware’s not an option at the moment, but thanks for the suggestion.
(The funny thing there is I bought an iPad for Scrivener for iOS,
having misunderstood early announcements/reviews to mean WiFi syncing.)
Especially If it’s not a health form-factor thing, I sometimes just take both devices,
and maybe there’s still a way to harness the lightning-USB drive.

I’m now considering Scrivener’s External Folder Sync with folders the Notebooks app (Notebooks for Mac • Notebooks) webdav server accesses. (The folders can hold/sync Scrivener projects, but I’m not sure how data-risky that is.)
EFS wouldn’t get the project to Scrivener iOS, but maybe it’d be a faster way to keep a reviewable copy on iOS.

  • What kinds of Scrivener project files won’t sync this way?
  • Is this a relatively data-safe option?
  • Do I need to have Scrivener closed before starting syncing? Or does that not matter because the External Folder Sync has to be triggered manually anyway?

(P.S., this isn’t me giving up on Scrivener iOS, just thinking of how to keep a review copy for times I have to change form-factor in a hurry.)

I don’t work in GB sized projects so my transfer methods (time-stamped ZIPs and Apple’s File Sharing) might not be acceptable to you.

Regarding keeping account of where I worked last––the primary source is the ever-present pencil and paper. The particulars are written down at the start/end of a session. I’ve convinced myself that this is a requirement––no excuses. Dependable and takes only a few seconds.

The cloud - - on occasion when it’s to my benefit, I do use a “no-knowledge”, user-owned-keys, third-party cloud service. I do understand your reticence––legal or other reasons––about using The Cloud. With that in mind in case you’re not aware, if you use iCloud backup for an iOS/iPadOS device, Scrivener’s files are included*. As far as I know, there’s no way to exclude them.

*I don’t use iCloud backup so hadn’t considered the possibility. I learned of this from @kewms (Scrivener Support extraordinaire) in a thread in which she participated. Maybe she’ll verify that my memory is correct.

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What exactly is making these projects so large? If the issue is GB of research, another alternative might be to use DevonThink Pro/DevonThink to Go for the research material. They offer a larger range of sync options, including WebDAV. DEVONtechnologies | Sync Technology

See Section 14.3 in the (Mac) Scrivener manual for full details on the Sync with External Folder option.

That’s a good idea… I may use my digital “pencil-and-paper” notebook or journal or breakdown and carry some actual paper!
I found sometimes that Apple’s Files and Scrivener don’t always agree on what the last modified date is. That’s part of what makes it so confusing! I suppose it’s part of the file packaging, maybe.

If you are using a manual “copy” operation, it would be a good idea to clearly identify which version is which in the file name, rather than relying on the date stamp. Because of the structure of a Scrivener project, the date of the project folder does not necessarily reflect the complete change history of the contents.


In fact, as I realized yesterday, the project modification date can change (at least on MacOS—not sure, iOS) just on opening… I assume an autosave feature side effect. So opening a project for any reason, including to figure out if it’s where you worked last, will make the last modified date wrong. :grimacing:

An idea I am toying with is using a physical marker, maybe a sticky note/flag that I can quickly move between devices. The filename idea is a good one, but would take some planning.