Save, backup, sync help?

Hi all, I hope someone is able to shed some light!

After thinking about it for years, I treated myself to the MacOS version of Scrivener after enjoying using it on iOS (iPhone).

However, despite reading the help documentation and watching videos, I am struggling with implementing the save, sync and backup suggestions.

As far as I understand, save, sync and backup are three different things. Scrivener suggests saving locally, backing up locally/external HD/both, and syncing with Dropbox.

Because I started my project on my iPhone, I’m trying to make my iPhone and my laptop sync as seamlessly as possible so I can also work on my laptop.

My phone syncs to Dropbox. I open my project on my laptop via the Dropbox folder. I then save it to a new folder on my hard drive and also designate a separate local backup folder.

I make a change on my laptop, I ask it to sync to mobile, but no joy.

I am trying to do everything correctly, but I obviously haven’t because it’s just not working. If I add something to the project on my laptop, I can’t make it appear on my iPhone. I can make changes from my iPhone appear on my laptop though.


Many thanks for any suggestions!

Have you tried watching the tutorial video and the syncing with cloud services article? … ion?os=iOS … c-services

Sounds as if Dropbox is not set up to synch the Mac folder correctly.

That is the mistake. You leave the project in the Dropbox folder on your Mac and work from that.

Thank you for taking the time to share these links. I had watched the first video repeatedly but because I’d started my project on my iPhone (and presumably most people start projects on a computer?), I was still a bit mixed up. Thank you for that second link, I had read it in the past but have now read it thoroughly again.

Thank you so much! Yes, this seems to have been the problem. I have now tried working from the Dropbox folder and everything is now syncing.So relieved, thanks again.

Now I think of it, initially I did try once working from the Dropbox folder, but then I read a lot of articles about saving things and thought I understood I was meant to have a saved copy elsewhere to work from, but I think I understand everything better now.

So saving is to keep a separate copy locally if you wish, but not essential, although the backup is essential?

There are more preferences surrounding these tools than rules. It sounds like you might have encountered some opinion that extolls the virtues of the same method I use myself. It is described in this knowledge base article on best practices with sync tools, as the “Alternative Method”. (And do skim the rest of that article, that is good stuff to know for sync in general, no matter what software you are using with it.)

I would not recommend that method for your iPhone, unless you are like me and you don’t care about convenience as being the pillar upon which to design a workflow, but rather with security and protection through redundancy. I use file management tools to get Scrivener projects on and off my device directly—it is as simple as moving things between folders in Finder, once you know where to look.

One misconception worth clearing up I think is that there is no such thing as “offline” and “online” where it comes to sync. The big clue is in that word: synchronisation.

When we synchronise two things together we are aligning key aspects of their configuration into parity—in the case of “cloud storage” we are referring to files and folders, usually. Dropbox keeps the files on your iPhone synchronised with the same files on your computer. They are not opened from over the Internet yonder—that would be so slow that nobody would use it. Everything is local, that is why it is so fast, that is why you can work on your project in a tunnel. As you write and use your project, Scrivener saves it to the disk, Dropbox detects changes, and it synchronises itself with your computer. Later on your phone will connect with Dropbox and synchronise itself with Dropbox, and round and round it goes.

Hence: dragging a copy of a project out of ~/Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener to, say, ~/Scrivener Projects, is not making a “local copy”. Both of them are local copies. What you have done though is made Dropbox and all of its complexity, risks and conveniences, blind to the file.

Personally I would not introduce confusion by having two separate copies of the same project stored in two different folders, but like I say there are more preferences than rules here. :slight_smile: I would certainly agree with the latter part, and the more the merrier. As I mentioned above, sync is an equation that favours convenience over data security at the expense of multiple vectors of risk. Whenever you increase risk for any reason, backups become more important.

In most cases it is best to keep your backups away from the same sync technology used to operate on the primary data. Keep these eggs in separate baskets. I also suggest reviewing the other settings in the Backup preference pane to make sure they suit your workflow. I prefer to save 25 backups, and tick the option to back up on manual save, so that I can easily do so periodically when the work is moving along quickly.

I am having the same problems. I don’t understand why this is complicated.

I create a new Project on my MacBook, and it’s set up (presumably, because others are) to backup to Dropbox. From there it should also sync with my iPad version. It’s done this with other projects, but then suddenly, it’s not doing it with two other projects. Everything is in the same Dropbox folder , so I don’t understand the randomness!

I use a Mac, so I don’t understand all these different pathways (using codes, and //, and all that, which is what seems to be required.

I’m going crazy. I am using Scrivener for ease, and instead, I’m banging my head against a wall.

Backups are not the way that you sync with iOS Scrivener.

Assuming that you can create a new project on your iOS device, and see it appear on your Mac, in the Dropbox folder, then you have the sync set up correctly. Just move projects to that folder and work from there on your Mac, following the guidelines (always let Dropbox sync after you close a project, always allow dropbox to finish syncs after you boot up & log on to your Mac before opening a project…).

Don’t put your backups in the same folder. Note that by “backup” I’m talking about copies of your project generated automatically based on settings in Scrivener’s preferences, under the Backups tab, and via File->Back Up->Back Up To… If you’re creating backups just in case something goes wrong, don’t use File->Save as, use Back Up to…, or rely on the automatic backups that are generated when you close the project.

This is craziness.

Everything I do is in Dropbox. This includes Scrivener. And, by the very nature and rationale of Dropbox, I don’t NEED a backup.

Anyway, I also have everything to/from Dropbox synced with my iPad. Until Scrivener! For some reason, things only randomly sync. Everything is saved as a .zip or a .scriv file, so I don’t understand why SOME are in the “correct” file and some are not.

Moreover, how do I OPEN the projects??? The ONLY way to do it is by going into Dropbox, and opening the folder (the .scriv), but for some reason, that seems to be forcing the error message.

First of all; a backup is a copy from which you can recover data if something goes wrong with your main document, such as “oops, I accidentally selected everything and hit delete!”. Second, Scrivener creates automatic backups specifically for that contingency (and other, less dramatic ones). Everybody needs backups, and Dropbox copies are clones that can be wiped out everywhere if you wipe it out in one place. Don’t rely on Dropbox as your sole source for recovering from an accidental delete.

Second, in order to help you out, you’re going to need to break it down step-by-step.

First, on your iPad, I assume you have Scrivener set up to sync to Dropbox, and you do synce whenver Scrivener prompts you to… is that correct? If you create a new test project in Scrivener for iPad, and sync it, does that project appear on your Mac, in the Dropbox folder moments later? Can you open that project in Scrivener for the Mac?

Backups, which are copies of previous versions of your project kept for the unfortunate event that something happens to your live project, are .zip. They are not the ones you use for syncing with the iPad. They shouldn’t even be in your Dropbox folder, in case something corrupts it! Have your backups somewhere else! And use Time Machine to keep a backup of everything on your laptop!

Your live project, the .scriv package, is what Scrivener is automatically saving every time you stop writing for a few seconds. You don’t have to save it manually, ever! But you need to have it in a Dropbox subfolder and you have to tell iOS Scrivener to look for projects to sync in that folder.

What’s so complicated about this??

This is an old story about why you should not rely on Dropbox for backups:

I’m sure our friendly airedale :smiley: will sort you out. I’d only say that I find most problems of this sort occur because people make assumptions that turn out to be incorrect, hence the need to take things one step at a time.

I once tried to help a user who had synchronized their personal Dropbox with their work machine. They changed jobs, but forgot to deactivate the Dropbox sync on the work machine. Their former employer wiped the Dropbox folder, and Dropbox proceeded to synchronize the now empty folder with all their other systems.

They lost all their data. There wasn’t a darn thing I could do.

Dropbox is NOT a backup service, it is a synchronization service. PLEASE do not count on Dropbox (or any similar service) as your only backup for critical files.


Aha!!! These answers make sense now, differentiating between the back-up and the sync! How lovely that my problem is solved by an Airedale, given that my academic area of expertise happens to be dogs (and not computers, clearly).

My understanding was that the backup was supposed to be in Dropbox, but now I completely understand why it [u]should not[u] be. It is also a good reminder to back up my entire computer to my little Marshmallow hard drive once in awhile, as I’m way too dependent on my life being on Dropbox.

Thank you! I will go step-by-step through the replies and hope that when I de-tangle crazy, all will be well.

You should do it as often as you can. The computer is a machine that can fail at any time without any warning whatsoever. New, old, it doesn’t make any difference. Received wisdom used to be that you should have at least three separate backups kept in three physically different locations (your house can be burgled or burn down). I heard of a person who had one copy of research done over three years on a laptop that was stolen from a “secure” locker. Elsewhere on these forums there is an unfortunate person who seems to have just lost most of a publication they were supposed to be submitting to a publisher last week. There are many horror stories, but sadly, many people don’t realise that they need to inform themselves about good backup strategies.

I would advise that you keep your external hard drive connected to your Mac as much as you can, and learn to use Time Machine. That will give you a backup for every hour for the preceding 24 hours, and at greater intervals as you go back in time. I have a single external drive that has two partitions, one of which is used for Time Machine, while the other hosts a clone of my hard drive that is updated every evening at 8.30 pm using Carbon Copy Cloner. My whole Mac hard drive is also backed up to a cloud service (Backblaze) which only costs a few dollars a month. If I were being really sensible, I might invest in another cloud backup service as well, just in case Backblaze goes down, even temporarily.

Expensive? How much is your TIME worth? T. E. Lawrence famously lost the MS to Seven Pillars of Wisdom and had to rewrite it. That would be stressful. Be wise. Have lots of backups. Computers are much less reliable than dogs :smiley:

But I thought Dropbox WAS a Cloud service? I do have iCloud, but since I thought DB was the same service, have not backed up to it…

Dropbox is a SYNC service, not a backup service. With Dropbox you have a folder on your hard drive that gets synchronised with a folder on Dropbox’s servers in the cloud. Whatever you put in the folder gets copied, but nothing you put anywhere else is copied. And if you have another computer or device that saves stuff to that folder, it will be changed in the cloud, then sent to all your other devices that sync with that folder. So if you delete stuff on one device, it will be deleted in the cloud, then deleted from your other devices. That is why it is not a secure backup service.

Backblaze ( is different. It basically sits there and in the background copies the whole hard drive of ONE computer or device to the cloud (it’s encrypted) and whenever anything on that ONE hard drive changes, it copies the changed stuff to the cloud. Changes on another device have no effect. Have a look at their website. It should make it clear.

A “cloud service” is a service that stores data on the provider company’s computers, which are physically located in a data center somewhere. What exactly the cloud service does depends on the provider company. In this context, synchronization services allow you to easily share your data among multiple devices, all of which are connected to the same account with the provider company. Backup services store a static copy of your data so that you can recover it if something happens to your own system.

iCloud is Apple’s registered trademark for their synchronization service of this type. Dropbox is a completely different synchronization service offered by a completely different company. BackBlaze is a backup service offered by a third company.