Is it possible to access Scrivener projects directly from the (iOS) Dropbox app folder?

I have the Dropbox app installed on my iPad. I need it for applications other than Scrivener. Is it possible to access also Scrivener projects from the Dropbox app folder and not to use iOS Scrivener’s own Dropbox link? One more question: I have a paid version of Dropbox. Does its rewind option work with Scrivener files when Scrivener is synced via its own Dropbox link?

Why don’t you create a subfolder for Scrivener projects and point iOS Scrivener’s link there?

The Dropbox rewind function is a feature of Dropbox, not Scrivener. In theory, it should work fine. However, the internal structure of a Scrivener project is fairly complex, with subfolders and potentially hundreds of component files. We recommend using a backup protocol that allows you to revert the project as a unit, rather than counting on your ability to locate individual component files. A guide to backups for iOS Scrivener can be found here:

(The Files app, discussed at the link, would also be the recommended tool for sharing iOS Scrivener projects outside of Dropbox.)

There’s also a good thread on syncing without Dropbox here: Alternatives to Dropbox (sync) - #4 by perry


Yeah, I think so long as “Rewind” works well, it should work as good as any snapshot-based backup system, like Time Machine, where you can from the current state of a folder hierarchy say: bring this whole thing back to what it looked like in 2022-11-25, and it does so. We know that incremental backup systems do that really well, to the point they can be depended upon. Who knows with Dropbox? What technology are they are using? How widespread is its usage? Does it have programmed-in behaviours that make no sense, like treating Scrivener’s folder of files as “special”, on account of how it acts when using the GUI on a Mac?

In short: test, do not presume. Always test and re-test with as complicated and most destructive a scenario you can imagine, when evaluating recovery scenarios. Use disposable data, like a copy of the tutorial. Do your best to do your worst to it, and see how it manages rolling back the folder safely, every time.

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Hmm – I would quite suggest using @kewms 's simplest method: just create a Scrivener folder in your normal Dropbox, and point Scrivener to use that.

The reason: Dropbox has actually become very unhelpful to use, as its default is to not make files available, unless you a) click and wait for a download, or b) set the file to be always present. Whether that last even works with Scrivener is questionable, as there are actually many files in a project.

By comparison, when you use Scrivener’s own included method, Dropbox becomes entirely reliable, in my experience.

The reason is that Scrivener has gone to the trouble to use the program interface to Dropbox, which doesn’t play any of their marketer-driven games, as their other methods of access do.

You should be fine with Katherine’s method.


I think it’s not quite fair to call smart sync a “marketer-driven game”. I’ve recently moved around 90GB of files to online-only status to save space on my hard drive, using the feature. Those files still exist in the cloud (and Time Machine), but they don’t cram my hard drive up against its limit.

The problem is that

a) Dropbox made it the default behavior, and
b) users didn’t pay attention


On behalf of Dropbox users, I object to ‘b.’ Dropbox did very very little to call the changed behavior to the attention of users. They put it in the release notes, but they certainly didn’t make their "Dropbox is updated’ banner as visible as a change like this deserves.


Well, I would agree it’s usefui in that way, and I’ve used it so myself.

The central iPadOS problem is that DropBox regularly fails to actually download such on-demand files, when you open them from a number of iPad apps that I’ve tried. And also disappears from access at all by apps, after you’ve succeeded in downloading a few files.

The marketing feeling probably originates more with their link creation for the simple need to pass a file to someone else. You have to know to technically edit the link given, so that it will just give the file, not a load of come-ons to get the recipient to create their own Dropbox. And then deal with the above :slight_smile:

I’d agree the download-on-demand can actually be a useful feature, but again for normal persons, seems it would be much better as opt-in, rather than opt-out, not so?

Again, I’m just very happy that Scrivener chose to do the heavy lifting to use the internal mode it has, which is in my experience entirely reliable, rapid, no problems seem to appear, iPadOS to Windows anyway…

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All true, but some of us did pay attention and had no trouble adjusting.


Yes, and that was point (a). It shouldn’t have been the default.

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Thank you for your answer. I can’t get the Dropbox app on iPad work with Scrivener files. Yes, the projects are updated nicely via Scriveners internal DB link and yes, I have tried to access Scrivener projects through the Files app integration. The Scrivener Folder in Files and in DB app folder are defined as offline files. However, DB app won’t download the Scrivener projects. It gives error messages “File Type might not update” / “10 Files might not update” (there are ten Scrivener projects in my Dropbox.) All other apps are working nicely with Dropbox on my IPad. My system is IPad Air 4th Generation 2020 WiFi+Cellular 256GB, iPadOS 16.1.1 (20B101), Dropbox Version 306.2.

I haven’t earlier experienced any problems with DB on any Mac or Windows device. It is just this iPad. I don’t dare to mess with the DB any further for fear of damaging Scrivener projects. However, projects can still be accessed and updated via Scrivener’s own DB link on iPad, so maybe I’ll leave it as it is.

The question so far leaves unclear what you mean to do with such access. Of course, you can “access” with DB ios any file you have stored with dropbox.

If you mean, can you OPEN a Scrivener project in the DB app, the answer is a straightforward NO.

If you mean, can you tell the DB app to tell Scrivener ios to open the project and have Scriv manipulate the project directly on Dropbox (without importing it), the answer is again NO.

Presumably, what you were hoping to avoid was the wait with syncing in the Scriv ios app, by somehow using DB ios app to direct Scrivs attention to your project there. Trouble is, the DB app does not have the project, it is just showing you and index of what’s on the server. And while DB will load a copy of some sorts of files to your ipad (that it knows how to open anyway), how would that be a savings? There is no virtue in waiting for that rather than waiting for a Scriv sync (in fact, it would be worse, sine it would need to transfer the entire project each time — b/c DB ios gives you access to your db files, but does no syncing). Also, DB never puts those copies it pulls down for you back to the server, so even if you could manipulate the file it downloaded, the edits would be lost. Also, iOS is set up so a file held internally by DB cannot be accessed by any other app, so Scriv could not ever modify a DB resident copy of a project anyway (yeah, you can send it to the Files area, but then the DB connection is broken). Finally, DB ios app is oriented toward giving you access to individual files, but a Scriv project is a folder of connected files — something DB ios app is not geared toward manipulating.

There is simply no way to make DB ios app a more-convenient-than-Scrivener hub for working with Scrivener projects on mobile.

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”If you mean, can you OPEN a Scrivener project in the DB app, the answer is a straightforward NO.

If you mean, can you tell the DB app to tell Scrivener ios to open the project and have Scriv manipulate the project directly on Dropbox (without importing it), the answer is again NO.”

Thank you. This was a very clear answer to a very complicated question :blush:

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I had to think to parse what you were saying here, and then believe I understand.

First, I’m using almost exactly the same iPad model you are; just not having the cellular feature. And this is working perfectly since I got it more than a year ago, with Scrivener in its normal direct Dropbox connection, and swapping projects back and forth with Scrivener/Dropbox on a well-maintained Windows 10 laptop.

Also, you are seeing Scrivener work actually on Dropbox, also with its normal connection, if I understand you. Were you to use Scrivener on Windows or Mac via Dropbox, I think you’d find your projects are similarly perfect in communicating updates back and forth.

What I derive out of what you’ve said is that your concern comes from not seeming to be able to view the Scrivener projects using the iPad Files app. And that’s true and normal – you can’t!

The why of this is a bit of a long story, which begins a long time ago with Apple’s opinions of how a file system should work, begun with the original Macs. It’s been a long time since I dealt with this, which will help keep this to a short story.

In basis, platform-normal Mac and iPad files are generally thought to be a container which can contain more than one stream of data. In the old days these were called resource forks – I have no idea now. As far as I know, that’s how Scrivener files also work on both platforms – there is only one apparent file.

But we know that ‘file’ has many parts – and those are broken out as individual files if we look at a Scrivener project on Windows. I’m going to skip over because I don’t know, just how the Scrivener combined project (projname.scriv) becomes converted back and forth to a folder full of files on the Windows end, though I have an interesting guess. The point is that it’s automatic, and so you don’t need to concern.

Now, I’ve just moved to the late Beta version of iPadOS 16.2, for a particular coming ability I wanted to try, while the only reason to mention that is because display the Files app gives may be a little different. But it shows in function anyway what I remember, and I think can help your concerns here.

  • if I try to open a Scrivener project under Dropbox itself, I see a projectname.scriv, and Dropbox informs that it can’t preview it. I note it’s just a single item, not a folder, and so it’s the Apple format. And it’s quite reasonable that Dropbox doesn’t know how to show that, as it would have to be Scrivener to do so. The rest of the message is a little murky for iPads…open it on your computer??? But then we get to the next step.

  • Now, sort of following its instructions, I go as one might to Files, and locate the project with it under Dropbox. But I still can’t act on it – I get a greyed-out icon with a red w/white minus sign flash, and when tapping it, nothing happens. There’s a little monkey-business about this, probably tied up in Dropbox owning the file but not being able to act on it. Software runs by rules, and there clearly is one.

  • But…there’s another way, and I suspect here that it exists because Keith & co, Scrivener development, went an extra mile. So we’ll stay in Files, but instead of Dropbox, let’s look under On My iPad under Locations (on the left). And guess what…there’s a Scrivener folder there also. And a folder named Dropbox within it. And inside that, all the projects you have, this time looking like normal icons. Tap on one, and you add a panel with nice normal looking file information – and, you get an Open button. If you tap that, the project will indeed open, not in Files which can’t do it any more than Dropbox can, but as normal in your iPad Scrivener. Because it knows how to handle that single-‘file’ Apple object.

So I hope we’ve got the information here which will bring you comfort:

  • as I think you’ve already understood and agreed, use Dropbox in Scrivener’s internal, normal way
  • we shouldn’t be expecting Dropbox or Files to be able to open the Scrivener project object
  • but there’s a link provided that mirrors to that On My iPad/Dropbox special folder, which very nicely lets you verify the project information as it is on Dropbox (like update dates…), and conveniently open it in iPad Scrivener, directly from there.

I would just think of one more thing to be aware of here, as maybe you are, that there can be Scrivener projects on the iPad which are not on Dropbox, and not to be confused with the courtesy links just discussed. You can read in the Help project about those, which have sometimes a use, but not normally. Those projects would also be in this On My iPad/Scrivener folder that Files can see, not in its Dropbox folder. They also would show on your Scrivener app’s Projects listing, below the Dropbox ones on the left, and in the icons ordered by recent use. The icon always has a small label indicating the storage where they are.

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It’s not “converted” at all. It’s the exact same structure. Mac OS just hides it. To see it, locate a project in Finder, right-click, and choose the option to Show Package Contents.

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Don’t have a Mac these days, Katherine, though I had a lot of early ones including MacBook or whatever it was first called. Fine until I was dealing with corporates out of Europe, and then needed Outlook etc., which didn’t exist for Macs in the day. It is, however, a wonderful system and I keep working out whether I can have a set of tools there when this laptop gives up its final ghost.

I could look up about the files vs. resources structure of the set of Apple OS files these days. Somehow…not that important. That you can’t break the object down on an iPad covers the original questions here, I think. Thanks for your sight of it, though :slight_smile:

(having dealt with an insurance mega this afternoon, successfully even, I’m definitely feeling through for the day!)

Best, Clive

p.s. speaking of tools, I should certainly have let ProWritingAid inform me on typos as I just did for the original message: apologies for having to translate it :upside_down_face:

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“So I hope we’ve got the information here which will bring you comfort…”

Yes, that was all I wanted to know about it. Thank you so much :blush:

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