Reasons for using Dropbox

With all due respect to @AmberV, this above very long posts demonstrate why I use DropBox for syncing between macOS and iOS device.

It just works.


Except when it doesn’t, which it won’t, if you tend not to have good sync habits, which is a large part of the discussion.

At any rate though, I don’t think “I want to ditch Dropbox entirely…” is best answered with, “I just use Dropbox”.


May not be the “best”, but clearly not something not very productive (IMHO) to writing and using Scrivener. My best advice is to just use it, for others who may be reading the thread. To inject uncertainty about Dropbox without evidence seems a bit much for this forum. If there is evidence of reasons to not use Dropbox, let’s have it. And then please, Literature and Latte, to document those risks and fears.

If Dropbox is to be avoided, say so.

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I personally use Dropbox with no particular qualms. But I can think of plenty of reasons why a reasonable person might want to avoid it, starting with data security: for some situations and some data, any form of internet data sharing creates unacceptable risks. I also would be less fond of Dropbox if my internet connectivity were less consistently reliable, or if I were unable to follow good sync habits for some other reason.

The official position of Literature & Latte is that we use and recommend Dropbox, but we cannot guarantee their service in any way. (They aren’t us.) So we respect and support users who make different choices with their own data.


Specifically, what are the security risks with Dropbox especially compared with alternatives?

Because of [bad thing with probability], [event] might happen [state probability] leading to [impact described].

Let’s get professional about this and stop the gaslighting. If we should be worried explain why you have that understanding.

Dropbox just works. But if a security risk someone please explain the risks in professional risk management terms.

Or else stop messing around here with alternatives. Focus on writing with Scrivener as designed.

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Again, there are better places to extol the virtues of Dropbox than in a thread specifically about not using Dropbox and looking for alternatives. It’s like going into a Mac thread and telling someone to just use Windows to get around their issue with the Mac.


Well a specific technical risk is that Dropbox holds the encryption keys, meaning that your Dropbox store can potentially be vulnerable to both data breaches and “legitimate” law enforcement demands.

This is not unusual. True “zero knowledge” encryption is less user friendly and less resource efficient for a variety of reasons. For most users, convenience is more valuable than security.

But we have users all over the world. We have users in countries with few or no free speech protections. We have users who deal with sensitive health and financial information, both their own and other peoples’.

Do I care if the FBI reads my unpublished novel? Not really. But I’m not in remotely the same situation as a Chinese or Russian journalist writing about dissidents. To tell someone in that situation to “just use Dropbox” is insanely irresponsible.

(For people in less secure situations, the Committee to Protect Journalists offers some excellent resources. Safety Kit - Committee to Protect Journalists)


Finally some specific reasons to spread fear and uncertainty. Thanks. For some, this fear is justified to be expressed.

For the record, I am not advising “just use Dropbox” and I am not insane. I state what I do.

Too many people take on their own unfounded fear based on someone else’s fear—real or not. And some fear mongers like to use that expression of their fear for many reasons (show off superior knowledge, gain control, whatever), Not good. Just look at the world now.

I am a heavy Dropbox user, but I just lost five days of work because the last update broke a lot of stuff and made me redownload everything (something they clearly should have warned about but didn’t). So, it (usually) just works.

I never answered the follow-up questions and requests for specific issues, because I wasn’t intending to make any statements about one brand of sync service. Mainly, I was semi-seriously ribbing you by producing evidence of an even (much) longer post going into the various common troubleshooting issues that arise from using Dropbox the way you describe—and that’s just one article of many on the broader topic of syncing. It was intended to be a succinct counter-point to what you were, in my reading, implying: that other approaches require so much explanation that they therefore must be inferior. To elaborate on that counter-point beyond succinctness:

  • One workflow involves some setup, usage explanation, and forming of good habits, but results in a super safe workflow that makes it extremely difficult to run into issues with your work getting out of sync. That safety net involves (but not exclusively) both technological and human errors being much easier to recover from productively, to the point that using the word “recover” is a bit overly harsh.
  • The other workflow involves some setup (again, see linked page and why we would even need such a page, it’s actually not easy to set this up for a lot of people, despite our best efforts), usage explanation, cautions to be aware of, good habits to form, and results in a workflow that is demonstrably risky based on the very principle of the concept and application or technology itself (not the brand name providing it). Recovery from said errors can be extremely difficult to solve productively, and often involve reverting to some point in the past with a restored backup, simply to avoid the task of actual repair.

(In case it is not clear, I am not including minor conflict problems in either approach. Those can happen no matter which approach you use, and Scrivener has very similar tools for handling them within the project interface.)

To address risks: if one types “dropbox” into the search bar on the forum, the vast majority of the topics that return will be issues with usage, reports of mistakes being made while using sync in general, troubles with getting it working at all, configuration issues—and that’s not even getting into the larger bulk of people who don’t even realise the risks of how they are working, and come here to report vague problems with how their project is misbehaving/missing data/can’t be opened/etc. (thinking it is a Scrivener problem), or reporting the same kinds of issues for other services.

It is sync in general, being used like this, that is a riskier way of working, not any particular brand, and no particular brand is substantially better than the rest in these regards (and in most regards, I would say). It’s not even a Scrivener issue—go into any software forum or review board with a sufficiently non-technical audience and you’ll find the same problems being spoken of.

That was the majority of the point I was making, with regards to balancing risk and convenience vs safety and less convenience.

Moving on to whether or not Scrivener is designed to be used one way while other ways aren’t, this is not true. Of course Scrivener for desktop has no relationship with, or dependencies upon, any external cloud based synchronisation technology at all. It is 100% entirely oblivious to the whole concept, as it should be in these environments. So that shouldn’t even need to be given much thought to.

Doubtlessly you mean the iOS version with this comment, despite the broader context it was made within—but your implication is not accurate there either. We in fact put a lot of effort and work into making sure Scrivener’s design encompasses a wide variety of working habits and preferences. This wasn’t a retroactive decision, it was part of its core design goals from day one. We always wanted people to have solid alternatives to whatever sync we could put together.

Plugging your tablet into the computer with a USB cable or using WAN sync, and managing your projects directly is a designed, tested and established way of using the software—and by far the most secure, for those that do need a greatly elevated level of privacy. Using AirDrop is something we’ve deliberately added support for. The various mechanisms Apple has added over the years to better enable file system management on the device itself, without an attached desktop, also have received support, design and testing by us. There would be no Scrivener folder in, if we did not design this to be accessible, dynamic and productive.

Bear in mind, Scrivener for iOS is an offline tool in its default state. There is no prompt that encourages people to sync with a “Skip” button below it, like how iCloud gets pushed on you after every OS update. It’s something you have to go out of your way to set up and enable.

Saying “Focus on writing with Scrivener as designed” implies any other way of using it isn’t focusing on writing, or isn’t using Scrivener as designed. The simplest way of describing the alternatives to live sync is copying files from one place to another. That’s it, that’s all you have to do in practical daily usage. If that gets in the way of one’s focus, well, so be it, but I’ve personally never felt that way. That is what I intended to share, how I’ve refined that process, how in my experience one can live without live sync quite comfortably, and that doing so is all around a safer way of working anyway—which is something I put a lot of stock in personally.

Sorry to resurrect this post—figured it was better than starting a new thread. Since Dropbox has announced a large layoff and a pivot to AI, I’m worried that Dropbox might not remain a viable syncing option for very long. Either through feature pivot or because it decides to use user data to train their AI product on a non-opt-out basis. I can’t speak for everyone, but I would presume quite a few Scrivener users would prefer not to have their writing used to train an AI.

Just a thought!


If you have that concern best that you use another method to syncs your files to the iPhone.

I have no basis for any concern at the present time.

Thanks @Kalus, I’m having the same concerns. We should at least get an advance warning when they change their TOS when that time comes … Still reason enough to move everything else I still have in my Dropbox elsewhere and cheer @KB on with that rewrite that he’s quietly working on (I hope).

Only moving to AI now. Dropbox are a bit late out of the gate, aren’t they.

As the OP, that’s basically where I came from (only more opinionated…) Scrivener’s sync story at the moment seems to be “Dropbox works magically, everything else you do by hand from first principles”. Those of you who think Dropbox is just fine are happy. Those of us who don’t are… less so.

I’m perfectly fine rolling my own sync solution and leave the Dropbox-lovers alone. I’m just asking for better building blocks. What I originally asked for (it kinda got buried on the way) is a building block that does “given those two versions of the same ancestor Scrivener document, do the sync logic you currently apply to Dropbox mergers.” We could then go back to various philosophical discussions on personal tradeoffs. Though I’d probably just walk away smiling. :slight_smile:

There are (apparently) dozens of different reasons why some of us don’t like (or want to use) Dropbox. Arguing over those seems unproductive (see this thread). What worries me in the bigger picture is that Scrivener currently has a steep drop-off in usability between the “I don’t care, just use dropbox” users and everybody else, and it seems unprepared for a sudden shift in Dropbox’s mass appeal.

– perry

It’s not at all clear what “pivot to AI” means in this context. It sounds like they want to use AI to facilitate your search of your data: picture something like a corporate knowledge base stored in Dropbox. I am sure that you are not the only person who would object to having user data used to train a general purpose AI.

We didn’t write that logic, Dropbox did.

Um… well.

I know that Dropbox does the file shuffling thing. But when I accidentally edit a Scrivener document both on my Mac and my iPad and then sync, Scrivener tells me it’s found conflicts, and it tells me it’s rebuilding its data structures, and sometimes it tells me that it couldn’t resolve the conflicts and put the other version of the document into a binder for me to handle manually. None of that is Dropbox’s doing, is it?

It’s the finding of differences and conflicts and resolving or flagging them part that I want. That is, I think, quite Scrivener’s doing. The file-shoveling Dropbox stuff is exactly what I’d like to replace with some other movement mechanism.

— perry

What specifically happens is that iOS Scrivener puts its changes in a separate “Mobile” folder, which is incorporated into the main project when Mac Scrivener opens it. Mac Scrivener then compares the time stamps between the two versions, finds they are different, and asks you to resolve the conflict. That is indeed Scrivener code.

However, it’s up to Dropbox to decide which files are “current” as it uploads and downloads to/from the Dropbox server. That’s the place where iOS Scrivener invokes the Dropbox API (and doesn’t invoke the iCloud/OneDrive/whatever API). And that piece is handled directly by the Dropbox (or iCloud/OneDrive/whatever) software on the desktop.

So the current Scrivener code can’t resolve conflicts between changes made on two macOS systems (that both use Dropbox syncing)? Or two iPads? I guess that never happened to me (I’m basically a laptop-and-ipad kind of user).

– perry