Scrivener not checking external folder on open

I am trying to set Scrivener up to sync with an external folder so that I can use my iPad to edit my manuscript. My iPad app is “Editorial”. I am just attempting to work with plain text files. I have the box checked “Automatically Check External Folder on Open and Automatically Sync on Close.” The process seems to work flawlessly when I close the Scrivener file. It automatically syncs and the draft is available on my iPad with no issue and with all recent changes in place. However, if I work on my iPad and then open my project in Scrivener, it does not begin any process to sync with the external folder. I know the files in the Dropbox folder have been updated, as I have checked to make sure that the edits are there. If I manually force Scrivener to “sync now”, it immediately picks up the changes and acts as anticipated. In trying to find a solution on my own, I did see an old post from back in 2011 that describes a similar problem. It is pasted below. However, there was no follow up to AmberV’s suggestions. Just to note, I even tried AmberV’s suggestion to change the .txt file in the external folder on my desktop to make certain that there was a new time stamp, but not even that triggered a sync when I opened the Scrivener project.

Any suggestions or ideas would be greatly appreciated.


Here is the old post from 2011 below:

Can you please help me? I am using Scrivener 2.0 Nano 2011 Trial on a new MacBook Air. I have “Sync with External Folder” set up. I have checked the option to “Check External Folder on Project Open and Sync on Close.” However, it has come to my attention that Scrivener is not checking the external folder on project open. It is still syncing on project close, so what ends up happening is that I lose any new words I have in the external folder.

Here’s what I am doing:

  • Write in Scrivener. Close Scrivener. Scrivener automatically syncs with the external folder in Dropbox. Wait to close my MacBook Air until after Dropbox has finished syncing.

  • Open my iPhone. Check the Dropbox app to ensure it synced and that the new words from Scrivener have appeared. Open Notebooks app and write more words. Close Notebooks app.

  • Open Macbook Air. Wait for DropBox to sync. Open the finder window and open the actual text document that was changed to ensure that it has the words I wrote in Notebooks. It does. All is working great up to this point.

  • Open Scrivener. Scrivener only shows the file as of last time in was edited in Scrivener and does not reflect any of the new words from Notebooks, even though I checked and they are clearly there in the external folder.

Note that if I close Scrivener, Scrivener will go ahead and sync with the external folder, overwriting my new file with its old file, thus destroying my newly written words. Also, there is no way to close without syncing. If you close Scrivener, it syncs. If you try to uncheck the box that says sync on close, the only way to save it is to sync (there is no save settings without syncing.) The only way around this I have found is to put a make it sync to a different, random empty folder in order to preserve my words. However, this comes with its own host of problems because when I try to sync back to my original folder, Scrivener has an error because there are already files in the original folder.

Luckily I have been able to recover all my words lost but it has been a big pain. I really need a seamless way to sync between Scrivener and my iPhone and right now it is not working at all. So far from my analysis, it seems like the disconnect is with Scrivener not checking the external folder upon open.

Any help you can provide me would be much appreciated!!!


Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2011 4:56 pm
Platform: Mac + Windows
Re: Scrivener is not checking external folder on open
New postby AmberV on Thu Nov 10, 2011 6:02 pm

One thing I don’t know is what you are using to edit the .txt files on your iPhone with. Perhaps it is not changing the modification date for whatever reason. That is all Scrivener has to go by when checking for changes (it could open and scan everything manually but that would take a lot longer). So if none of the files appear changed, things would happen exactly as you describe.

What does happen if you manually run sync after opening the project? Do any files come up in the sync collection with the changes you made?

What happens if you edit the .txt files on your computer as a test, does opening the project trigger a sync?

I have the same problem here. I close Scrivener on my desktop. Make sure I have ‘check external file on project open’ in the file -> sync -> with external folder menu checked as ‘active’, and go out with my iPad. Edit some field on the go with Editorial, return home, wait for Dropbox to sync and open the project. Nothing checks or syncs.
Tried a lot of different approaches but nothing seems to work.
I reported this as a bug today, but I thought it might be a good idea to add my experiences here.
Are we the the only ones with this problem, or are there more of you out there?

The main problem/caveat is that, if I forget to sync manually after opening Scrivener, I lose all my external editing. Just like reported in 2011.

Just can’t wait for the moment Scriv. for iOS appears, but in the meantime: help!

I’m probably way off the mark in asking this, but any chance this relates to the specific iPad app being used, rather than Scrivener? Judging from the reviews, Editorial is a fantastic app, but it deals with plain text files rather than rich text format (rtf) files, and this is the first time I’ve heard mention of it being used with Scrivener. Whereas success/compatibility (at the individual .rtf file level I presume) has been reported with the Textilus app. Perhaps there’s a difference arising from difference in file types being dealt with or from how the two apps deal with DropBox?

I’m probably wrong, but figured it doesn’t hurt to ask.

P.S. One more thought, also probably in error…

In the Sync with External Folder dialog, do you have “sync all other text documents in the project” selected? … your-ipad/

Thanks Springfield, but file type cannot be the issue here. Scrivener external folder sync is meant to work also with plain text, especially markdown. Other plain editors like byword present the same problem with syncing. And this is not about ‘other text documents’ either. I selected that, sure, but am primarily concerned about the draft files I want to edit on the go.
Thanks anyway,

Well, I managed to get it working. I deleted the external folder in Dropbox, started over, and let Scrivener create a new external folder under Editorial folder in Dropbox as a fresh start. (My Editorial app syncs to a folder in Dropbox named “Editorial.”) When I originally set this up and started having problems, I think I somehow let Editorial create the subfolder where Scrivener was syncing my manuscript. (My recollection is a bit hazy, but I do recall some confusion when I originally set up the original external folder.) MauriceB, you might try deleting the external folder and trying to set it up again, making certain that Scrivener creates the subfolder under your Dropbox Editorial folder.

(SpringfieldMH, thanks for your thoughts on this problem. Just to let you know, I picked the Editorial app specifically because I read several reviews affirming that Editorial worked with Scrivener and external folder syncing—so I don’t think the issue is specifically related to Editorial. But it is a good thought to check that out some more.)

Also, one thing I noticed: For the sync to work reliably, I needed to let the clock run a minute or so between saves so that the timestamps would be different. I couple of times I was too quick checking the iOS app and vice/versa after making changes and things got a little off.

This is my experience. Hope it may help.

It doesn’t sound like it’s relevant to this problem, but remember that it is not possible for two instances of Scrivener to share an external folder. So if you work on the project on Computer A, then via an external folder on your iPad, then on Computer B, Computer B won’t pick up the iPad changes.


I tried all you suggested ASimmons, but to no avail. I am giving it up for now. I will try again another time, while recording all my steps, with a new project. In the meantime, if more people experience this, please let me know.

Well, I started having having trouble using Editorial with Scrivener again as an editor for external file syncing, so I decided to change iPad text editors. I downloaded Plain Text 2. A day into testing, it seems to work fine. Scrivener is behaving as expected and so far no syncing errors or challenges. So I’m abandoning Editorial as a companion to Scrivener. If anyone has any iPad text editors that they like to use with Scrivener—I prefer to not work in RTF—I would love a recommendation. (And, of course, I’m looking forward to the day when there is an iOS version of Scrivener and I can say goodbye to the external file syncing compatibility issues completely.

Thanks very much to those of you who offered assistance.