Mac <-> iOS sync without internet?

I know that the desktop Dropbox client can do “LAN sync” when two computers are on the same wifi network, but not having time to experiment myself, I was wondering if the built-in Dropbox code for iOScrivener can accommodate that feature?

For me, it’s just a curiosity, but I was browsing Twitter, and author Gail Carriger is apparently in a situation where she will be without wireless signals of any kind (and probably no internet), but still wants to sync her iOS and Mac Scrivener projects. I figure anyone in her situation could be directed to create an adhoc wireless network on the Mac, to which an iOS device could connect. But without internet access, I don’t think that would allow sync to work.

The only option then, as far as I understand, is to use iTunes to copy the project from iOS device to Mac, or vice-versa, but that’s not syncronization… is it? (I’ve not even tried to use iTunes to transfer a project, but I’ve assumed you can only copy the entire project, not sync.)

This might really be a question for Dropbox support. If Dropbox puts the files where Scrivener expects them to be, then Scrivener doesn’t really care how they got there.

Obviously, a LAN-only sync would not update the Dropbox cloud, but that shouldn’t be an issue if both the desktop and the iDevice match: once the connection to the cloud is re-established, the cloud should update to match whichever local device connects first.


Not sure I understand… On the desktop app, there’s a setting I can turn on “LAN-only Sync”. On iOS Scrivener there’s no such Dropobox setting.

Are you saying that if I find a “LAN-only” option in to the iOS Dropbox app, that synced data will be available to Scrivener on the same iOS device?

Edit: I’m operating in the dark here with regards to how iOScriv interacts with Dropbox. I know the iOS Dropbox app has to be installed, but I don’t know if that means that the iOS Dropbox app acts as a proxy for syncing with the dropbox servers. The other possibility is that the app just provides the api libraries, and that iOScriv then connects over the internet to without exchanging any of the data with the iOS Dropbox app…

If I could just get confirmation that it’s exchanging the synced project data with the iOS Dropbox app, rather than doing it directly over the internet, then that’ll help a lot.

I’m not sure the distinction between the Dropbox app and the Dropbox API matters as much as you think. The API provides an interface allowing other programs to use Dropbox’s tools, but they are still Dropbox’s tools. I don’t think it matters where the ‘compare these two files’ command comes from: it’s still the same command.

Now, the iOS Dropbox app doesn’t offer LAN sync as an option, and the little bit of internet searching I did is pretty silent on the matter. Setting up sharing between devices requires internet access – the Dropbox servers have to approve access for both devices – but it’s not clear whether sharing between pre-configured devices does.

Which is why I suggested contacting Dropbox support.

It’s easy enough to test this if you have your own LAN. Configure the iOS device to use WiFi only (no cell), and disable the LAN’s WAN connection so that it can’t ‘cheat’ and use the Dropbox servers. I’d test with a single file using the Dropbox app first; if that doesn’t work, then there’s no chance that a full Scrivener project will.


I don’t think the LAN option on macOS/Windows Dropbox clients works in a fashion that would allow for not having a server in the middle that you need to contact. Whenever I’ve noticed it working, it is after the material has been uploaded to Dropbox and the second machine is made aware of it. Then it checks the local network for peers that already have the data stored locally, and negotiates a direct transfer between the two.

There are other options provided in the Scrivener user manual, §12.1.2, Managing Projects Directly, starting on page 147. My preferred method starts at the bottom of the following page. If you want an ad hoc network to simply transfer material to and fro, AirDrop is by far the easiest way to do that.

I also use BitTorrent Sync, which is peer to peer, no clouds. From their app you can send a .scriv folder to Scrivener (long tap on a fully synced folder), which it will import as a project. Going back to the Mac you would export the project from Scrivener and file the zip archive off to BT Sync—it downloads on the Mac, you unzip it and there you go.

It shouldn’t even require to be installed. If it isn’t it should ask for your full credentials when linking, rather than the handy “Allow” button that you get when their app is installed. Either way though, Scrivener works with the Dropbox server using the core API.

Thank you both for your feedback! It saved me wasting precious hours playing with adhoc networks when I could be doing something less techie and more creative.

And thanks for clarifying; I had the Dropbox app installed well before Scrivener was available, so I didn’t know if it had anything to do with the process; and I’ve mostly skimmed over the setup instructions that I’ve seen posted, so wasn’t sure if the DB App was required for syncing.

Since you mentioned AirDrop … I tried it yesterday, and was met by resounding silence. The phone and the iMac were able to pair, but AirDrop on the phone never reached the “send files here” point. This wasn’t for Scrivener, so I don’t want to spend your time on it, but are you aware of a decent AirDrop troubleshooting guide?


It can be a bit finicky in my experience (hence having BT Sync as a backup method). Most troubleshooting I’ve seen revolves around the basics: resetting wireless/bluetooth services (airplane mode for +10 seconds), toggling AirDrop access off and back on, and finally rebooting the device/computer if that doesn’t work. The efficacy of the fixes seems to be about on par with how stable the protocol is on the machine to begin with. :slight_smile: Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.

I’ve found between some devices it works flawlessly all of the time, and with others (my older MacBook Pro) I might as well not even try.

By the way I only use the “Everyone” setting (no iCloud account). All it means is that other people can see your avatar, it’s not a security issue and nobody is actually connected. Connections are only maintained during the physical transfer itself. That said I do tend to make sure they are off when in public. No sense in leaving ports open to stuff you aren’t using.

I’ve found that AirDrop will only work with 2012 Macs or later. I can AirDrop between my iPad and My iPhone, but not with my late 2010 MBA, my wife’s late 2011 13" MBP, or this mid-2010 iMac. I haven’t tried with my late 2011 17" MBP as that’s in London and I’m in Exeter at the moment.

In any case, for years I’ve been using a small app called DropCopy (Pro) to transfer files directly between my Macs; they’ve just launched, or I’ve just found, an iOS version. I’ve installed it, but I haven’t tested it yet. I’ve never used the Mac versions to move .scriv projects between computers, but it has worked well on everything else.


Nice to see DropCopy is still around. I used that years ago as well, I think 10.5 era. As I recall it was much more reliable than Apple’s, that said I’m having difficulty actually getting the .scriv folder into Scrivener from its mobile app. I’m not sure what it is sending, but it doesn’t seem to be sending it in a way works for Scrivener (or anything else that takes general files, for that matter, except as a zipped archive to Mail).