Peculiar iCloud Windows Issue

Hi all,

Longtime Mac Scrivener user here. This program really helped me get through graduate school and generally is a dream to use. For years I’ve stored my active projects in iCloud and worked on them with my laptop and home computer with no problems. Both machines were Apple and everything worked splendidly. However, over Christmas I finally replaced my fossilised 2011 Macbook Pro with a new Windows PC.

I’ll confess I was a little miffed about having to pay for a second licence for Scrivener, but I have grown very fond of its many features and all round delightful UI so I bought one. My thinking was that I would continue to use the same approach as I always had, but I come to discover that as far as Windows is concerned, all my .scriv files (or folders technically) are just 0kb empty labels.

I downloaded iCloud for Windows and every other file type synced over perfectly, it is only Scrivener projects that are having this issue.

I pulled an old backup I had on Google Drive (I know live syncing has issues and backup to multiple locations pretty obsessively), and downloaded it to the Windows machine where it displayed as I expected, a folder with a scrivener project file inside. However, for mysterious reasons, that folder refuses to sync with iCloud also, so I can’t check if it is displaying right on my Macbook.

I would include a screenshot but apparently that’s forbidden unfortunately.

It’s all a bit frustrating to be honest. I’m open to suggestions, and perhaps switching over to the backup-sync strategy that the site suggests, but that’s not going to work too well if Windows won’t recognise the file after I update it while working on my Mac.

On the Mac, use the File → Backup → Backup To command to create a ZIP backup. Transfer it to the Windows machine by any convenient method, uncompress, and open in Scrivener. It should open correctly. Make a few changes, then reverse the process to confirm that the Mac can open Windows-edited files.

If both systems can edit the same project when transferred via ZIP backup, then the issue you are seeing is related to iCloud, not Scrivener. If iCloud fails to sync correctly, there unfortunately isn’t much Scrivener can do about it.

Thanks for this, I’ll give it a go.

OK a quick check shows that the issue appears to be something specific to .scriv files. Backups as zips appear to sync quickly and can be opened and viewed on the Mac.

This might not be quite as frictionless as it was on a single OS but it works (and I guess is a little bit safer in terms of avoiding lost data/confused versions). Thanks for the tip, I appreciate it.

One hitch was that when I opened the project after sending it back to the Mac, the font had changed to Courier (from Palatino) for reasons unknown. Might have to dig into the settings on the freshly installed Windows version to see what might be the cause of that.

If it makes you feel any better, comparable tools either take the same “different OS different license” approach (iA Writer) or have a subscription model (Ulysses). :nerd_face:

Yeah, unfortunately the iCloud app on Windows doesn’t seem to work very well with Scrivener. Here’s a recent thread from a poster who was also trying to add a PC to a Mac workflow, who encountered similar issues with how poorly iCloud runs on Windows.

The method suggested by Kewms of transferring zip backups back and forth between machines will work. You might also consider giving Dropbox a try for syncing your live projects. The Dropbox app works relatively flawlessly on Windows, but I have no idea how well it performs on the Mac side. (Mac posters here seem to either love Dropbox or hate it.)


A fair number of people consider Dropbox overpriced, and some worry about its security for sensitive data. I’m not aware of any Dropbox-related reliability issues.

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Zero reliability issues with Dropbox on Mac or Win. I run the free version, though with recommendations to friends over the years have ended up with 8GB of storage.

Security - I consider better than Google so more prepared to store data on DB than I would Google Drive.

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I’m curious to know if you’ve ever had the font formatting mysteriously switch while working on projects?

I’m still trying to figure it out but it seems to be specific to any document that I alter on Windows and then later transfer back to Mac via the Zip method.

I’ll have to look into Dropbox because for documents and the like I don’t need much space at all in order to have a good sync across machines.

Make sure that both systems have your desired font installed.

Also, are the defaults changing, or is existing text changing? The Scrivener-wide defaults are device-specific: each installation of Scrivener has its own Preferences file.

I’m getting all sorts of weirdness between the two versions, even after setting the defaults to the same.

For instance, some of the text that I copied from a PDF and then formatted to default on Mac (just by highlighting it and clicking No Style) appears on Windows in the same font, but with the colour of the text outlined rather than filled. Text I wrote into the program directly appears the same. Highlighting either section appears to show the exact same settings, but it’s just being displayed differently for reasons I’m not entirely clear on. I can highlight the text and change the font or colour, but it still displays differently. Both versions of Scrivener are set to the Dark Mode theme, but on Windows, instead of showing black text as white, it’s showing it as either black (or sometimes transparent) text with a white outline, or white text with a black outline. Highlighting and changing the colours doesn’t seem to do anything.

If I go to the same PDF on Windows, and copy paste it into Scrivener, it looks normal. It seems to be some sort of strange hidden styling that occurs in the transfer between Mac and Windows.

Make sure the display preferences are the same on both platforms, for instance by using unformatted text that you created yourself. Trying to fix display issues and formatting issues simultaneously isn’t going to go well.