Procedure for Sharing via Thumb Drive

Since I’m new to Mac, I’d like to confirm that the following procedure would work well. I have an iMac at home, and Windows laptop.

  1. When I’m ready to leave on a trip, I backup then save the current project to a thumb drive.
  2. On the laptop, I open the project from the thumb drive and save it to the laptop hard drive
  3. On the trip I work on the project on the laptop
  4. When I get home, on the laptop, I save the project to the thumb drive.
  5. On the iMac, I load the project from the thumb drive and save it to the iMac hard drive.

That should work fine, right?


That’s how I always did it. I didn’t have wifi at home until about 6 months ago, and even before I was using a Mac I often needed to get a project on both my Windows desktop and laptop. Somehow copying never seemed as sure a thing to me as doing a Save As to the USB. It does mean being very careful where things are saving and which is the most recent version.

Now that I do have wifi, I finally got brave and installed Dropbox on all my machines, but that also means being very careful, doesn’t it? It always looks to me as if the majority of pleas for help on these boards have to do with problems going back and forth no matter the method.

That should work fine. It’s a matter of taste, but what I do myself is more like this:

  1. When I’m ready to switch computers, from the open project I use the File ▸ Back Up ▸ Back Up To… menu command, with the .zip option enabled. Compression will reduce the file read/write overhead to one instead of potentially thousands, and with thumb drives tending to be a bit on the slow side, that can make a huge difference in how long the save process takes.
  2. On the second computer I then copy the .zip off using the file manager and extract it, replacing the old copy of the project with the new one.

Going in the other direction is precisely the same procedure. That’s a Mac-Mac workflow for me. With Windows it might be more expedient to just double-click the .zip on the thumbdrive and extract from there. With a Mac, as you’ve probably noticed, there is no .zip browser when you double-click, it extracts it right then and there into the same folder, which in this case would negate the advantage of using a .zip file to speed up thumb drive transfers.

That is in my opinion another advantage to using the above approach. There is no ambiguity when all of your transfer copies are zip files (and date stamped by default at that). On each computer I only ever have one copy of the project that is unzipped. Meanwhile this method of saving date stamped .zip files to a transfer medium means they “stack up” until you delete them. It becomes, in it’s own way, a secondary backup.

This approach is very difficult to mess up, whereas with Save As you have to be giving the whole thing a lot more thought, and that means more opportunity to autopilot past a mistake. If I make a mistake with this method nothing is harmed—I can’t accidentally open the old copy on the old machine and unthinkingly Save As over the thumbdrive copy. If I mess up, the original .zip is still there for me to extract a fresh copy from.

While I don’t use cloud stuff at all, I do use Resilio Sync for this kind of stuff. It’s just easier than digging a thumb drive out of a drawer and going through all of that. Resilio is a direct peer to peer sync system, no cloud—all of my computers share a common “Transfer” folder where I can save zipped copies. I could just dump the project into there, but I tend prefer a cautious approach when using complex sync technology—and again .zip really speeds up everything, especially over WiFi, which is even slower than thumb drives.

The general problem with cloud services is that people expect them to be instantaneous, not understanding that a cloud storage is just another hard disk but you access it via the internet. As long as you make sure that everything is up to date, uploaded and downloaded, between your computer(s) and the cloud storage server, everything works just fine.

Yeah, that’s the main problem, but in my experience I’ve run into cases where some systems will seemingly sync things incorrectly. It’s something I have encountered in quite some time to be fair, and perhaps many of these bugs have been worked out by the major providers. The service I mentioned for example, did some damage to a project that I was live syncing, and so I stopped using it for that purpose. I also had issues with SpiderOak’s sync feature overwriting recent changes with an older copy of the project—again years ago. Of course, that I no longer try is certainly a factor in why I never see it happen anymore. :slight_smile: But given how easy the zip method is to use, I don’t have a huge inclination to try.

Yes, the second problem with cloud services is that they are sometimes unreliable. This spring Box suddenly refused to sync some files, no matter what I did, and the files were no different from other fikes. iCloud Drive stopped syncing altogether in april for me, on my Macs. It works fine on my iDevices but I can’t access any thing on iCloud from Finder on my Macs. Cubby ceased to exist. Etc…
so far Dropbox is the only really reliable alternative in my experience. They haven’t destroyed any of my data or files.

If I didn’t need to share files and projects with other people, I’d try Ioa’s system … in fact I might try it anyway for my own personal stuff. But I need Sync to share my projects with Shirley and other collaborators in China—in spite of Sync’s advice to the contrary, it’s the only way I’ve found since the demise of Cubby and the blocking of Dropbox—and I use Dropbox to share other stuff over here.

But, as one of you said, essentially, ‘patience’ and ‘care’ are the watchwords for using cloud services.


Back from the trip. That system worked perfectly.

For simply working for a few hours at a coffee shop, I’ve been doing this, and I want to see if it might cause some problems:

  1. I copy the entire folder holding the project to a thumb drive
  2. I rename the folder MyProject.lock on my iMac
  3. I put the thumb drive into my MacBook and open it and work in it on the thumb drive.
  4. When I get back home, I copy the folder back to the iMac and delete the MyProject.lock folder.

Are there any problems with that? That is, could it confuse Scrivener?

Other than the increased wear and tear on the chemistry of your thumb drive (from using a program that does an awful lot of auto-saving to many different sectors), no that’s perfectly fine. You’re basically just copying “x.jpg” to another computer, adding a pixel, then deleting “x.jpg” on the home system and copying the newly updated “x.jpg” back down. The only thing I would do different is only copy a .zip to the thumb drive and copy it down, using on it using the local drive.

As for Scrivener, all it uses is what’s on the disk, it doesn’t have some separate concept of “x.jpg” that would cause it to get confused if you rotated the file.

By the way, I use Finder tag colours for what you’re doing with naming conventions. When I copy something off of the machine and want to make sure I remember not to edit it there, I add a red label with right-click. I don’t do anything with the copy. When I get back home I drag the updated copy back to the workstation, it overwrites the the original and that includes the red label being “switched off”.

Nice tip regarding tags. I’ll do that.

After doing this a few times, I’ve found it’s too dangerous. That is, unless I’m very careful, even with colored tags and folder renames, it’s too easy to open the wrong version by mistake.

So, I’ve gone to Dropbox syncing instead.