Scrivener and Google Drive

I posted something in the Zen forum, and someone suggested that I ask here. I just downloaded the trial of Scrivener because I’m looking for better software to write short stories and scripts in. My idea was that I would save my files in the Google Drive folder on my hard drive, and thereby protect my documents. However, I read online that Google Drive will not work with live files for this purpose.

If not, this will be a deal breaker for me on this software since I don’t want to trust all of my work to a single hard drive. Also, I’ve used Google Drive for years, and I have a lot of data invested in it, so it’s not practical for me to switch to Dropbox or another cloud platform.

A Scrivener project appears to be a single thing within Scrivener, but in the file system, it is actually a folder containing an index, sub-folders and tens, hundreds, thousands or more individual files, depending on how you organize and granulize your projects. Essentially, a database. Of which many pieces are likely opened and modified during any Scrivener session, no matter how brief or how few if any changes are made. Some cloud sync services have trouble dealing with such numbers and frequencies of activity. As I understand it, this holds true for both Windows and the Mac’s OS X, even though OS X hides the details of the project folder’s contents by presenting it to the user as a “package”. To cloud sync services and backup utilities, however, it always looks like described above, even if the details are hidden from the user.

For background on this, read the articles under Cloud Syncing in the Knowledge Base at

A workaround for Google Drive…

  • Create/edit/maintain your live Scrivener projects somewhere else on your local internal drive than in the Google Drive folder
  • Periodically, in Scrivener, when in a live project that also needs backed up to some place like Google Drive, do a File > Back Up > Back Up To, of the project currently open, to the Google Drive folder, being sure to set/check/use the “Backup as ZIP file” option. This can be to a different location (i.e. the Google Drive folder) than where the live project and routine backups reside locally.

This compresses the entire project (folder, index, subfolders and many files therein) into a single physical .ZIP file that Google Drive should be able to handle reliably. Then be sure to leave the PC on long enough after that for Google Drive to actually sync that new backup file up to Google.

It helps, to assure that the name given to the .ZIP file includes project name, date, and time. Date/time stamps in file systems can get changed for a variety of reasons. Having date/time in the file name itself assures separation, identification, and multiple versions of backups (rather than, say, just overwriting a single file over and over again, which is risky).

In the event that you need to recover from such a backup that is up on Google, download/copy it out to someplace else on your local drive and use Windows or some ZIP utility to unzip/decompress it back out into the folder/subfolders/files that compromise the project and you’ll be able to then work on that.

It’s worth testing this, or any other backup/sync scheme or service, periodically, to assure that it is current and working as you assume it is. You may also want to periodically copy the backup ZIP files to USB thumb drives, CDs, DVDs, etc.

The compressed .ZIP file version of the project created above constitutes the “simple” file (i.e. single physical file) that the knowledge base article about Google Drive refers to.

Hope that is of some assistance.

Yes, that helps a lot. I think this will solve my problem, actually. I didn’t know at first about the backup files, but that makes it much safer.

You could also point your automatic backups to your Google Drive folder, setting the backups to be zipped, with the datestamp, then use File > Back Up > Back Up Now to run that at any time when you’re working (as well as having them automatically created on open or close, however you set it in Options). Then still use File > Back Up > Back Up To… for backing up to an external drive or other locations that are more likely to change or not always to be available.

I have scrivener in my Google drive folder. It works fine. I haven’t read all the replies here (sorry) just wanted to let you know it is possible. AS the other guys said, just set your backups to go in Drive as well and you should be fine.

After I installed scrivener, I just drug it over to Drive folder on my desktop, set the backups path and started writing. It isn’t the best yet, because I still can’t work in the cloud (on my chromebook) but it works. I have it autosaving every time I stop for 3 seconds, so i know I’ll always have my work safe.

I’m glad to hear that keeping your projects in Google Drive has worked for you so far. We have had a lot of reports of problems, owing to the multi-file nature of Scrivener projects and the way that GD sync works. Because of this, we currently advise against using Google Drive for live projects. Perhaps as GD has developed, it has come to a point of working more reliably with projects.

Generally speaking, we advise keeping your backups separate from where you save your active project, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that you keep your backups in Google Drive as well as your main work. If you do, I strongly encourage increasing the number of backups saved, or using a separate folder within Google Drive for the backups from each of your machines so they do not overwrite each other. This way if you do run into a sync problem at any point, you are more likely to have a recent good backup from the machine where everything last worked correctly.

Be sure too that you store your backups as zipped files (the default setting). These are treated as a single file, so they won’t be subject to the same potential multi-file sync problems as an un-zipped project.

Just putting in my comments as well,
I use scrivener with google drive consistently (the project(s) is(are) in the drive folder), and I’ve noticed two things:

  1. my google drive service seems to crash a lot though I’d attribute it to other reasons other than overloading it with scrivener’s auto save tendencies (I have other services that conflict installed on my pc). It’s easy enough to restart the service, and you really only need to update the cloud once every so often (I think my laptop is set for every hour or something like that) so the service not constantly running is a non-issue.

  2. the update of the cloud can take a while depending on bandwith (internet connection speeds, etc.). I typically work at home so I never run into bandwith issues and a 1mbps upload speed is more than sufficient to update an entire 500+ file project in less than three minutes. The only time I’ve really had an issue with that is at my university where the connection is shared with a few hundred people with multiple devices each and a super computer all at once.

So after reading the reports of the problems with drive, I’ve come to the conclusion that the problem is in the configuration of the drive client rather than with any other component. What I mean by that is if it’s set to update constantly, not only are you going to need faster internet speed and more bandwidth, but you’ll also be waiting longer for it to finish since you’ll be changing the files constantly while Scrivener is in use.

To simply restate another suggestion, use drive for a backup, since that is really what cloud storage is: an online service that lets you use it as an external hard drive for you backups. So, set up drive to only update every so often to reduce the work that needs to be done, or just keep the backup (and only the backup) of the project online. I’ve been using this since I first tried scrivener back in 2012 and not once have I had issues directly related to the software of either drive or Scrivener or the interaction of the two, but that’s because I set it up right to begin with. My main projects are saved to the cloud folder, and backups to %appdata%.

And before anyone asks, it is a bit complicated to limit the update interval of drive (I’m a programmer, so yeah…), so I’d just advise to click the “pause” in the settings (3 dots when you click on the drive icon in the taskbar) and then unpause it whenever you want to update it, wait for it to finish, then pause it again if you’re going to continue working.

Hope this helps a little.

I have my Scrivener projects on my local drive, but a backup to the google drive is only two clicks away. That is, the Google Drive is the default location.

I probably back up 5-10 times per day, and there are currently 378 backups of my different projects, each with the date/time info appended.

Also, I occasionally copy a recent Google Drive backup onto my Scrivener Backup thumb drive.