Save to Dropbox sometimes does, sometimes doesn't

I’m using 3.1.1 on a Macbook Pro and also the iOS apps. All set up to save and sync on Dropbox, which is very reliable on other apps.

I have just lost 2 most recent chapters while investigating why they wouldn’t sync to either of my iOS apps.

However I tried to save, and to sync, on all devices, the chapters stubbornly refused to appear on iOS. Restarting the app, they do not appear.

I expected to find ‘sync preferences’ and/or ‘save preferences’ as a way to turn the Dropbox save on and off – often helpful. Nothing helpful in app preferences or manual.

Any wisdom or suggestions I can follow?

My own wisdom is that I need to keep a copy of everything on another system e.g. Google Docs or a private website. But I would still like Scrivener to be reliable, and to offer accessible settings in case difficulties arise

How did you set up your iOS app to sync with Dropbox?
What isn’t working?

Scrivener’s automatic backups can be found by going to Scrivener -> Preferences -> Backups and opening the backup folder in Finder. That’s the best place to look for your missing work.

On the Mac side, either a project is saved in the Dropbox folder or it is not. Only projects in the Dropbox folder will synchronize.

On the iOS side, you can choose to store a project either “In Dropbox” or “On this IPad.” The latter area is not synchronized.

Our troubleshooting guide can be found here: … os-syncing

Our setup guide to synchronization can be found here: … g-with-ios


Thanks for responses. Dropbox is set up conventionally and everything saves to the one folder, nothing on the device, Mac or iOS. I have read the manual and the guides and I am not finding answers.

As explained, when I “Save” and then “Sync” on the Mac, changes are (often) not reflected on my iPad or iPhone.

If I close the project, either the sync happens or (as recently) there is a loss of data on occasion.

With other cross-platform systems I am familiar with, changes happen in real time (iCloud) or with alacrity (MS Word in OneDrive, Google Docs in G Suite).

Over the years I have been puzzled by why sync in Scrivener seems such hard work and prone to failure. So I am exploring whether it can be made to work more reliably. I would like to use Scrivener Mac + Scrivener iOS more but I need to improve the risk assessment!

I don’t lose work because I have learned to routinely duplicate everything in another system. Much of what I do is collaborated with others, so will find its way into a workflow which allows this. Much as I love Scrivener, it is not there yet (but it must come!)

It is usually because people are making assumptions that turn out to be unwarranted. They tend to transfer knowledge gained from working with other programs, which can often be an obstacle (I speak wearing my hat as a psychologist). Comparing the speed with which Word or other documents can be synchronised is misleading. They are “flat” single files, with a very simple structure. Scrivener projects are actually disguised folders inside which may be literally thousands of other folders and files. It takes time to synchronise such a complex entity. And in passing, it should be noted that synchronisation is not handled by Scrivener, it is handled by Dropbox. You do not need to do anything to synchronise a Scrivener project from your Mac. You just keep it inside the Dropbox folder, and it will be uploaded to the Dropbox servers automatically. The project exists on your hard drive, and a copy of it is kept on the Dropbox servers. There is no “Save” and no “Sync”. The project is saved automatically for you. (Look at Preferences - General - Saving and you can change the delay, if you want. Mine is set at 2 seconds of inactivity.) Just finish writing, close the project, close Scrivener, wait a decent interval (depending on the quality of your internet connection and the size of the project you are synching, and you should be fine. Be aware that Dropbox often shows an icon saying it has completed synchronisation when in fact it is still working behind the scenes. So make sure to wait a bit longer.

Perhaps because you are not answering questions.

How is your iOS Scrivener set up? Could you post a screenshot of its Dropbox settings?

“Sync” on the Mac has no effect whatsoever on the iPhone, which is a completely separate device with its own connection to Dropbox.

Did you review the troubleshooting links that I posted upthread?

  • Create a test project in the Dropbox folder on the Mac. Add a few lines of text, then close Scrivener and allow Dropbox to synchronize.

  • Using a browser, go to your account at Is the project there?

  • Open Scrivener on the iPad. Synchronize with Dropbox. Does the project appear?

  • If so, add a few documents and do the same thing in reverse. Do the changes appear on the Mac?

  • If so, synchronization is configured correctly. If not, what step failed?


^ This.

OP, if you are frequently experiencing instances where Mac changes are not being synced to iOS, this is a strong indicator that the DropBox app on your Mac has not finished syncing those changes from your Mac up to the DropBox cloud. As the other posters have mentioned, this has nothing to do with Scrivener. Be sure to monitor the status of the DropBox app on your Mac. Perhaps it’s pausing for some reason. On my PC, if my wifi is having issues, the DropBox app will pause, and the app does not always immediately come back online with return of wifi–sometimes it takes a while. So if you are having wifi stability issues, that could be contributing to this.

When in doubt, or until you’re comfortable that the sync process is working properly, after you’ve finished making your Mac changes, go to your DropBox account via a browser and confirm that changes have been uploaded. You can tell by the file dates on when the most recent files were uploaded to the DropBox cloud.


JimRac posted:

I think this is nearer the mark – thanks, JimRac. The Dropbox setup is good and it works quite a lot of the time. But is also unreliable – particularly on Scrivener. Perhaps this is, as other respondents have noted, that it is a longer process than plain text files. I live in a rural area, with quite fast broadband but at certain times prone to drop-outs and Dropbox might need a nudge to get going again.

I would appreciate a setting to turn off/turn on Dropbox to make this easier – as some other apps have.

You might want to consider using iTunes file transfer instead of Dropbox.

You can suspend the Dropbox software itself via its icon in the menu bar. That’s what I recommend if you know that your connection is temporarily unreliable.

The problem with a “suspend sync” setting in Scrivener is that as far as Mac Scrivener knows, it is just saving to a location on the local hard drive. What happens to the data after that is completely outside Scrivener’s “awareness.”


Thanks, Katherine … a couple of helpful suggestions.

I’m just out to get Scrivener working, saving and syncing more reliably. For me, this is a Scrivener/Dropbox issue only and it is occasional and overcomable, but like any unreliability it is annoying.

From my limited experience but quite wide usage of a number of writing/editing apps across different cloud solutions, Scrivener’s implementation of Dropbox could be better engineered. I’m not competent to suggest how, but it does seem to be clunky and at times bad-tempered, in a way that I don’t experience when writing in a different system.

The much-maligned MS Word, which I don’t particularly like, holds some allegiance from me because it is unusually robust and reliable across clouds and on all devices.

Forgive me, but there are thousands of people all over the world who appear to be having no problem with this at all – otherwise Tech Support would be overwhelmed with complaints. I think you have to accept that your problem is untypical, and almost certainly caused by problems with your internet connection, not Dropbox or Scrivener. There really is no need to reengineer Scrivener or Dropbox because they work for most people. And let us face it, it is not going to happen unless a lot of people are experiencing similar problems. If you really want to solve this problem, I think you need to spend some time on looking at how you can improve your internet connection. I know it is not easy in rural areas, but I do think it is the best way to go.

You’re missing the point. Scrivener only reads and writes files to your HD, on your computer, nothing else. It will work the same way irrespective if you use Dropbox, Sync, Box, Mega, or any other cloud service. Scrivener only uses a folder your HD, nothing else, like Word or any other software. If such a folder is synced to a cloud service by another app is completely beyond Scriveners knowledge and control. It’s done by a different app, usually in the background.

If your Dropbox app is having trouble syncing quickly enough when you work with Scrivener, maybe you should break up your Scrivener project in much smaller pieces in the Binder? Scrivener only read and write what you have open in the Editor, so if you break up the project in smaller pieces and don’t have the whole project open in the Editor at once there is very little for Scrivener to save to the HD when it saves and very little for the Db app to upload to the Db server.

I’m not sure how an unreliable connection to the internet would be improved by re-engineering Scrivener.


Yesterday, I was messing around with Better Touch Tool and setting it up to sync its settings, which is achieved via Dropbox. I was interested to be presented with an alert (by Better Touch Tool) that told me it could take two minutes for the settings to appear on the second computer. The settings consist of a folder with (in my case) fourteen items in it. So not a lot of material. I would surmise that the developer of Better Touch Tool has had experience of synchronisation via Dropbox taking longer than people expected, hence the alert.