Scrivener and Ongoing Projects

Hi all,

I was wondering if there’s a recommended or a well known approach to deal with the scenario of an ongoing updatable writing project.

Basically I’d like to use Scrivener for writing and maintaining the documentation of a project. This documentation would be exposed to others in a different format (html/pdf). But as any documentation it will be evolving over time. So what I’m wondering is if there’s a known way to:

  1. version documents managed inside Scrivener
  2. make Scrivener sync with an external storage of the files

thanks in advance,


PS: after reading the above I know it might not be the clearest description, but I couldn’t come up with anything better. Please ask questions and I’ll try to clarify. Thanks

I’m not perfectly clear on the premise, so I don’t know if these suggestions will do quite what you want but I think, based on your questions anyway, this shouldn’t be a problem.

  1. Snapshots is what Scrivener calls these. You can read all about them in §15.5 (pg. 212 of the user manual). This isn’t “version control” to be clear (and why they are not called as such). But since Scrivener is a single-user program true version control would be overkill for nearly everyone that uses it.

    If you are interested in proper version control you should search the forums for use cases. People have successfully put projects into version tracking systems. It takes a lot more vigilance than the average user will be willing to put up with, but administrating any version control system is going to be that way. The main thing to remember is that putting a project on Mercurial or Git won’t magically make it multi-user access. If two people open a project and then try to commit changes, worlds will explode.

  2. The File/Sync/with External Folder menu command, which is documented in §13.2 (pg. 153). This does practically word for word what you ask about, but I don’t know if all of our words match. :slight_smile: It just exports text files from the Binder as text files on your computer (or a file share, or a synchronised service like Dropbox) in several different formats. Others (or yourself on a non-Scrivener computer/device) can edit these files freely and when you open the project later it will ask if you wish to update the binder with the changes. It will automatically create Snapshots for you in order to reduce data loss from conflict collisions, and it will also update the external folder with any changes that have been made within the project.

  3. Finally you can link external resources such as graphics and PDF files into the research areas of the Binder using the File/Import/Research Files as Aliases menu command. This creates a Mac alias inside the project pointing to the original resource. Hence, other people can edit the resource since it isn’t technically a part of the project. It will otherwise in all ways (save for a small badge indicating it is a link) act like a fully imported resource in your project.

As for periodically generating updated versions of your documentation, Scrivener is fantastic for that. Especially once you get it all tweaked so that post-compilation is a short process if any at all. See the user manual itself for an example of a PDF that is periodically updated from a Scrivener project and never stops evolving.

Thanks Ioa… I’ll start with your recommendation and try to figure out if our “words” match.


My apologies for reviving this thread, but I’ve been trying the Sync with folder feature and I’m probably doing something wrong as I don’t seem to get the results I want.

I’ll start by referring to the confusing parts:

  1. In the Sync with External Folder dialog I’ve set the target directory

  2. In the Options section I’ve checked two options:

    • Sync only documents in collection (my collection currently contains 2 documents)
    • Take snapshots of affected documents before updating


  1. in the Format section both dropdowns are disabled. I’m using Markdown in Scrivener and I’d really like it to give me an option to export/sync as pure text files
  2. after performing a sync I get what I suppose to be a warning:

Screenshot from Scrivener-544x411-201210091203.png

  1. I don’t see any files in the target directory

I’m wondering what I’m doing wrong or where my expectations are wrong about this.



PS: Ideally for me, Scrivener would allow me to keep in sync a bunch of selected files in the format I want it to. Basically I’m working on the documentation of an open source project and writing this in Markdown. Once it is completed/updated I’d like to sync it with a directory which is versioning in Git and served online.

I hate having to “bump up” this question, but I was really hoping to get an answer and figure out if/how Scrivener could help in this scenario before my trial is over.



Sorry for leaving you hanging. Are you saying that there are no other directories inside the “Draft” and “Notes” folder in the folder you are syncing with? That warning means that Scrivener thinks it’s found something there. Could there be any hidden folders inserted by there by Git?

All the best,

Thanks for following up KB.

What I’m saying is that nothing gets out or in Scrivener when using the Sync with Folder using a Collection (containing two entries in Scrivener).

I’m 7 days away from running out of the trial and while I’m finding Scrivener a good tool for me so far, I need to figure out how it works with the scenario which is the most important one for me.



Sorry for the delay in getting back with you, I’ve been on vacation and just returned. I believe the problem might be that you have all sync content disabled. You state that the only checkboxes you have enabled in the Options section are the snapshot and collection options. This would imply you have neither the Draft nor “everything else” checkboxes enabled. Since collections are not, by themselves, root containers of information but rather places to display information that is contained elsewhere, if you disable all of the places where data can actually be contained, then it doesn’t matter if it is in the collection or not, because the root data itself is disabled.

It would probably be best to just check off both of those two container options, since you are using a collection. That would give you the most flexibility with the collection as you wouldn’t have to worry about whether stuff is in the Draft or elsewhere in the binder—just toss it in the collection and now you know it will sync.

Anyway this would explain why the format drop-downs are disabled, and why nothing actually happens when you try to sync.

As Keith already pointed out, the error you are seeing is most likely unrelated. That means there are other files in the sync hierarchy that the software isn’t expecting. It’s just warning you that these files will be ignored and if you wish for them to be handled they should be placed in the appropriate sub-folders. It’s probably just hidden Git control files though, so nothing to worry about as you don’t want technical files polluting your binder. It just means you’ll have to put up with the error perpetually, if you intend to use Git to record the changes that occur in this folder.