Pulling together all manuscripts from different places and syncing

Ive been wracking my brain trying to figure this out. Read manual, posts here, etc. But I’m confused.

Years ago I used Scrivener for some book writing I was doing but some things got in the way (life, pandemic, etc) and hadn’t looked at it for years.

So, last year I downloaded a newest version of Scrivener and started writing a book (I’m finished! w/ editor now). It syncs beautifully to my Dropbox account. This is on my desktop. Last week I downloaded a version of Scrivener on my laptop for when I travel. Currently it has no files on it.

I want to start on the other books (I have 3 more in progress) but the files are scattered in different places. 1 book is in a different dropbox account, 2 others and some other writings are in my iCloud account.

This is what I gathered and before I do it, I want to make sure this is correct:

  1. download all the disparate files to my desktop and then import them to Scrivener (or just open the file using Scrivener, unclear to me).
  2. Sync and hopefully it will all go to the Dropbox account.
  3. open the scrivener version on my laptop and sync and… should work?

There is one issue, I can’t figure out how to add my dropbox account as the sync folder. I added the dropbox folder that my desktop uses as the back up on the laptop version, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how to get the files I have there on the laptop. When I go to sync or backup or import menu items they are all greyed out.

I am doing something wrong, I just can’t figure out what exactly. PLEASE help :smiley:

I would say:

  1. Gather the projects onto the harddrive of your desktop machine.

  2. If some of your projects were made in an earlier whole-number version of Scriv, open each in Scriv one at a time and close them again. This will let Scriv convert them to the current project format. If none need conversion, skip this step.

  3. Using the Finder drag all the (current) projects into your Dropbox folder on your desktop’s harddrive.

  4. Dropbox will sync everything to its servers in the background as usual.

  5. On the laptop, download and install Dropbox (if you haven’t already). Log it into the same dbx account you are using with the desktop.

  6. The Dropbox engine will sync everything from its servers to the Dropbox folder on your laptop’s harddrive.

That’s it. Copies of your projects will now appear in your Dropbox folder on both machines and you can open and work with any of them on either. (Though you need to close any given project (and let dbx complete its syncing at both ends) before opening it on another machine!)

[[To be clear: The only syncing in this workflow is being done by Dropbox (automatically in the background). In particular, MacOS Scrivener is not doing the syncing, nor is sync invoked from within Scriv.]]

Congrats on completing that book!


  1. If you have not previously been using Scriv on two machines on projects synced through Dropbox, you should read up on the good practices with this.

  2. Also, it sounded like you are backing up your Scriv projects to the same place as you are keeping your active project(s). That is not a good idea. Turn on the zip option for Scriv backups and change your backup location to somewhere else safe.

  3. In case you are unaware, Dropbox recently switched to a default which removes the files in your dbx folder and keeps them only on their server — with the idea of serving them back to you on demand. You need to either turn that off or exempt your syncing Scriv projects from it (on both machines). Scriv expects any project you open to have all its innards stored locally.


In addition to gr’s good advice I would also strongly suggest that you set up TimeMachine to backup your data. For more information see this discussion.

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Thank you! I will try this.

I think I’m confused about syncing, I’ll have to read up more on this. Doesn’t Scrivener have a syncing capability from within? Sorry, I’m feeling dense!

And thank you, that took far longer than it should have, but it’s done. I have another I got halfway through and then went to this one instead… so, going back to that!

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Never mind… I figured it out.

And I’m off…

Thank you again.

No, Scrivener does no syncing of its own.

On iPad and iPhone, it makes API calls to Dropbox asking for information and maybe asking for sync operations to occur (not sure about the last part).

On Windows or macOS, it does neither of those things, but it checks whether files have a time last modified matching what’s recorded in the .scrivx, independent of whatever sync server you’re using (or none). If they don’t match, it notifies you, collects the problem files in a Conflicts folder. Or it notices you have TWO .scrix index files and asks which you want to use.

Glad you got it sorted! —gr

In case someone comes by here and is wondering the same:

  1. Only the iOS/iPadOS version of Scrivener has settings to sync directly with Dropbox. This is as it must be, because the Dropbox app on you iPhone/iPad is not watching and syncing a special file folder on those devices like it does on your desktop. [Dropbox on your desktop is really two programs: i) the Dropbox app which is just a front end to your account (and which you really don’t need to do much of anything with)], and ii) the Dropbox sync engine which does the actual watching and syncing of the Dropbox folder on your harddrive. So, the bottom line for iOS/iPadOS is that there is no Dropbox engine for those OSes (b/c they were built around a closed file system — each app stores its files within its own domain).

  2. Desktop Scrivener has a function called Sync to External Folder, but i) the “sync” in that function name does not refer to syncing with Dropbox and ii) that function is for a rather different purpose than we are talking about here.

To be precise, the Sync with External Folder function is intended for situations where you want to make the contents of a Scrivener project visible to and editable by third-party software. It cannot be used to share projects between instances of Scrivener.