Multi-author Projects

I’ve seen a few posts about the difficulty of sharing a project between machines. But, I didn’t see a good solution for multi-author projects. What would be the best way for two authors to work in the same project?


It’s actually not that difficult to share a project. The best way is to generate a backup using the File/Backup Project To... function. There are two advantages to using this: first it has an option to zip up the file for you, which makes it easier to copy around and send in e-mail; secondly it will automatically datestamp the file, significantly reducing confusion over which copy is the latest. So it’s no problem to finish off a working session, and send via e-mail a zipped project to another author, or place it in a shared Dropbox folder.

Where it gets more difficult is in the human aspect of things. So you send the project off and now they are working on it—what do you do? If you keep working in the project yourself, then when they send you their updated copy, it will be very difficult to manually merge the changes between their project and your local copy. Waiting until the other person finishes can be a waste of time, especially if they take a while—you have to keep all of your notes and revisions during this time and then apply them again once you get the updated project—then they have to do the same while you are working on it.

Good communication can alleviate some of this. If it is well known which sections of the book each author is working on, then you can more safely keep working in your local project file until they send updates. Then integrating the changes between the two project files is a matter of dragging over the area they were designated to be working in. Using labels inside the project can be one way of effectively communicating which files you’ve marked as “Don’t touch”. If each author has such a label, you can easily see what they are going to be working on in their local copy of the project, while you have the hot potato.

Somewhat ironically (at least on the surface), it’s actually a bit easier to work with another author that isn’t using Scrivener. Then you can use File/Export to produce copies of the draft items for them to work on. They can change the filename to “filename-edited.rtf” or whatever so you know which ones need integrating. The next version of Scrivener will have a workflow like this but way more useful. You’ll be able to export files in sequential order and they can edit away on them. Then when they inform you they are done, you can run a command which will automatically integrate everything for you. But again, that only works with another author that isn’t using Scrivener. The problem with two Scrivener users is that the project format is just way more complicated than a folder of files, and is designed from the ground up to have a very tight integration with a running application process. It’s being updated constantly and every action impacts multiple files, keeping everything safe and speedy. It’s enormously the right choice for a single author working on a book, but makes it nearly impossible to come up with a good scheme for multiple people working on the same project resource at once. It would involve a major redesign which would probably have a negative impact on the vast majority who just use a project file by themselves.

Another upcoming tool will be snapshot analysis. You’ll be able to more easily integrate files that two people have edited at the same time by taking a snapshot, pasting in the new content, and then running a comparison between the two and integrating sub-file level changes.

So the hot potato method, combined with label communication for marking areas to keep out of—or the export folder method are the two best choices available.

Thank you for the very quick response. I was afraid that was the answer from all the posts I’d read.

We’ll have to figure out system that works for us. It will probably involve the use of Word and Scrivener-- As if one of us is not using Scrivener.