Seeking advice about cross-platform collaboration

I co-write plays with a writing partner. I use Scrivener for Mac and iOS. She uses Windows and Linux. Both of us use Google Docs for working on plays in progress. It allows us to work on a play on our own separate schedules, without the hassle of emailing files back and forth.

The problem is that when we want to make changes to the document in progress in Google Docs, we can no longer use Scrivener’s handy-dandy playscript formatting, so we have to format each change by hand (dialogue, stage direction, character ID, etc.) We’ve found several screenwriting add-ons to Google Docs but not a playscript formatter.

My partner has seen the excellence of Scrivener as a playwriting app, or perhaps she’s just tired of my evangelizing. She’s willing to buy a license of her own so we could both work in Scrivener. But I’m wondering if that’s the best strategy for us. Would we be able to work on a single project asynchronously, as we do in Google Docs now? Would it make more sense for me to purchase a separate Windows license, and allow her to log in to that version of Scrivener and thereby work on the same project I’m working on? Is there a better solution not listed here? Or should we just resign ourselves to writing an initial draft in Scrivener, as I do now, and then exporting that doc to Google Docs and working on it from then on in Google Docs, as we do now? Any advice appreciated.

Easy - Your writing partner gets a Scrivener Windows licence. I’m assuming you are using Dropbox to sync between Mac and iOS. You give her access to the Scrivener folder on your Dropbox and you can sync back and forth to your heart’s content.

WARNING - there is no live collaboration with Scrivener so make certain only one of you has the project open at a time and you give time for sync to complete etc.

Before going down the sync path, be sure everyone has read and comprehended this article. It’s honestly pretty logical, basic, and universally applicable—but it’s one thing to accidentally both edit one .docx file (and clean up the mess), and quite another to both accidentally edit a project format that can involve hundreds of them. While the info may be useful for all kinds of work, with databases and more complex multi-file formats such as Scrivener’s, it’s much more important to follow good sync practices (which again are honestly as dirt basic as “don’t unplug your computer while it is copying to the thumb drive” levels of logic, but you wouldn’t believe how many errors we see from doing just that, once the “wires” are invisible people get careless).

If sharing a project using live sync is not viable (scheduling means you both are sometimes on at the same time), then have a look at §5.3.2, Splitting & Merging Projects, in the user manual PDF. The subheadings I would look at in there are, Merging Changes from One Project to Another, and Collaborating with the Import Project Feature.

This describes a method that could be used to save a copy of the project into your share folder for your partner. Periodically they can let you know when they’ve reached a stopping point in the editing, and at that point you can import their “satellite project” into yours, merging the changes directly into it. You would then delete their satellite copy and create a new fresh one from the recently merged master copy.

For this, I would recommend using the File ▸ Back Up ▸ Back Up To... command, with Zip compression disabled. Key thing is that you can run that at any time to spawn a fresh copy of the project you’re working on without closing it or switching around confusingly, as Save As does. More importantly, it puts a date stamp on the file name, which could reduce sync related clashes when rapidly deleting and creating folders of the same name, and it will also help keep everyone on the same page. If your partner asks for an updated copy, and later that day a project pops up in the folder with today’s date, you barely even need to communicate about it.

Once get all of the details hammered out and the process learned, it’s honestly something that would take about five minutes of your time every now and then—and it means peace of mind and being able to work at your own pace and schedule, like you do now. Two people working off of the same project is always going to be more of an ongoing headache than periodically merging updates together into one master project.

You will need to be the one doing it for now though. The Windows developers have not yet added this feature.


Really appreciate the thorough and detailed response. This generous and helpful customer support is one of the main reasons Scrivener remains my most valued app, and L&L my fave online community. I’ll share this info with my partner and update when/if we try it. Thanks again!


Well, tried your suggested method, but Dropbox won’t let us use it. My partner downloaded the Windows version, but when I try to share the Scrivener project through Dropbox, I get an error message l on iOS (You don’t have permission to share this file), on MacOS (Dropbox couldn’t complete your request, please try again later) , and on (This file can only be shared as a link (can view). Am I sharing it wrong?

Make sure the Dropbox application is installed and running on both computers, and that both computers have access to the shared folder.

On iOS, see this article about configuring synchronization:

The underlying problem is that a Scrivener project is a folder – with subfolders and potentially hundreds of component files – not a file, and has to be handled as a unit by all the relevant devices.

Thanks, I’ll read the article (which is too long to read at the moment), but I’m not sure it’s a syncing problem. I’m trying to share, not sync, the project with my writing partner. It’s not that it’s rejecting her device. Dropbox won’t let me share the project at all – when I click Share and select that project, Dropbox won’t even let me type in an email address to send the link that allows her to edit the shared project. I was trying to give her access to this project from her computer – is sharing not the right procedure?
Here’s what I’m trying (from Dropbox on Mac):

  1. from Dropbox menu, clicking the file icon and navigating to the project to share (Apps=>Scrivener=>SharedProject)
  2. clicking on/selecting that file
  3. clicking Dropbox Share icon from the Dropbox menu at the top of the window (not the Share icon next to the Dropbox menu icon)
  4. Response: “Dropbox couldn’t complete your request”
    I can see underneath that notification banner that it’s trying to generate a window with field for me to type in the email address of the person I’m sharing with, but it won’t let me.

What am I doing wrong?

On the Mac, place the project in the shared folder using Finder.

If the shared folder is not accessible from Finder, change your Dropbox settings until it is.

If you want your collaborator to be able to directly edit the same version of the project that you see on the Mac, you are “syncing,” whether you choose to describe it that way or not.

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Nope. This time, following your instructions, I tried sharing the enclosing folder (not just the project file) on the Mac. Same response from Dropbox. Then I tried sharing the entire Scrivener folder. Again, Dropbox will not let me share. It will let me share any other folder in the Apps folder – except the Scrivener folder. So I’m guessing it’s not a Dropbox-only problem, but rather something to do with the Scrivener folder in Dropbox. What do I do now? This is incredibly frustrating, and it shouldn’t be this hard. I’ve shared Dropbox folders in the past many times, and never run into a problem until now, and only with the Scrivener folder.

What do you mean by “share” in this context? What specific commands are you using, on what device?

Are you able to successfully access the folder from all of your own devices?

I’m using the exact same commands I laid out in my earlier post.
Here’s what I’m trying (from Dropbox on Mac):

  1. from Dropbox menu, clicking the file icon and navigating to the project to share (Apps=>Scrivener=>SharedProject)
  2. clicking on/selecting that file (*update – the second time, instead of selecting the project file, I selected an enclosing folder)
  3. clicking Dropbox Share icon from the Dropbox menu at the top of the window (not the Share icon next to the Dropbox menu icon)
  4. Response: “Dropbox couldn’t complete your request.”

I just tried it from my iPad, using the Dropbox app. Same result: Dropbox will let me share any folder in my Apps folder – except the Scrivener folder, or any subfolders or projects within it.

As possible workarounds, I was wondering if it might be possible to share a new folder in the Apps folder with my partner, and then rename it Scrivener (after moving the existing Scrivener file somewhere else safely) and move my Scrivener projects into that folder, which would already be shared with her. Or alternatively, just put this shared project in a different folder, not the Scrivener folder, and share it with her from there? Or does it have to reside in the Scrivener folder?

To allow or invite another user to your Dropbox folder, one must “share” it with them. This can be done on by clicking the Share icon:

Sharing can also be done via the Dropbox app, on Windows by right-clicking the folder to share and selecting Dropbox Share icon:

When attempting to share on Windows as well as, I am seeing the same results as @brett.

Particularly would like to point out the warning I’m seeing from is “This package file can only be shared as a link.” This seems to mean it will be View only, not editable.

I’ve never shared Dropbox folders before, so this may be down to something I’m doing wrong or not understanding.


iOS Scrivener doesn’t care what the folder it uses is called. (Well, you need to configure a specific folder, but you can call it anything you want.)

I would suggest creating an empty folder and sharing it with your collaborator. Confirm that they can access it, and share a few ordinary text files back and forth. If all of that works, move a disposable project into it from the Mac, and confirm that they can access the project. If that still works, then try connecting iOS Scrivener to that folder.

Thank you, really appreciate the help. I created a new empty folder (in the Apps folder, FWIW), then Dropbox mercifully allowed me to share that new empty folder with my partner, and then I moved an empty project into it, which my partner seems to be able to edit. I have tried opening that project and editing the file she created (after she closed it on her Windows computer of course), and all seems to be working OK so far.

I think we’ll just use that folder for our collaborations henceforth. How do I connect Scrivener to it from the Mac? I’ve only ever used the default location (Apps=>Scrivener) for Scrivener projects, so I’m not familiar with creating or saving them in a different location. When I try to create a new shared project for us to work on, how do I tell Scrivener to save it into that new shared folder rather than in the Scrivener folder where all my other projects happily reside? I’m assuming that when I create a new, non shared project for my own work, it will continue to spring into existence in the Scrivener folder as usual. Or will I need to tell Scrivener where each new project should live whenever I create one? Or create it in the Scrivener folder and then move it to the shared folder? I don’t mind doing any of that, just want to make sure I set up each new project properly .

Also, whenever my partner opens the shared project (if either of us have made a change on one of the files), she gets the following error message: “While the project was opening, files were detected within the project package that do not exist in the binder. This may have been caused by a permissions conflict, in which the file system refused the deletion of files from inside the .scriv package that had been deleted from the project binder, or by synchronization between different versions of the project (e.g. on a cloud service). The recovered files can be found in the “Recovered Files” folder at the bottom of the binder.”

This error doesn’t seem to be affecting our use of the shared project, but I thought you and the Windows folks should know.

Again, thanks for the prompt and useful assistance! Even if we don’t figure out what’s going wrong with sharing from the Scrivener folder, at least we appear to have a workable workaround.

If you have the Dropbox application installed on your Mac, you should have a Dropbox location in Finder. You can create and save folders, and Scrivener projects within those folders, just as you can to any other location on your local drive. And likewise on your collaborator’s machine. Once you set up the shared folder, everything else should be pretty transparent.

If your collaborator is seeing synchronization errors, probably something on her side is misconfigured. You might suggest that she post here or contact us directly. I definitely would not ignore the errors though, as that’s a good way to end up with lost data.

Thank you! The sync error messages seem to have abated entirely, my coauthor and I are now happily batting a project back and forth, and our main challenge now is to remember to close the project when we stop working on it. I’m used to that because I also use the iOS version as well as the Mac version, but I still sometimes forget. We’re trying to get “Close project” into our muscle memory. Fortunately, we consistently tend to work on this project at different times of day, she in the morning, me at night, which helps. Anyway, just want to express my gratitude again for all the help. It’s so much easier writing a play in Scrivener than Google Docs! I’ll let you know if we encounter other difficulties. Otherwise, I expect her to buy the Windows version when her trial expires. Thanks again!

Have you got Scrivener set to close after a suitable period of inactivity? Since your Co-author works in the morning and you work in the evening, that should solve the “I forgot to close the project” problem for you both.



Wow, I didn’t know that was possible! I just looked it up in the manual and have set it to quit after 60 minutes of inactivity. I’ll tell my coauthor to do the same, if Windows Scrivener allows. Thanks for the very useful tip, Mark!
In further news about the Dropbox issue that caused all this commotion, DB will not allow me to move the newly created shared folder into the existing Apps=>Scrivener folder. When I try, it insists that a shared folder cannot be moved inside another shared folder. However, AFAIK, I have never shared my Scrivener folder with anyone, and the Scrivener folder is not listed among the Shared Folders on It’s only designated thus when I’m trying to share something in it with someone else, viz. my coauthor. I don’t suppose that using that folder with both iOS and MacOS Scrivener counts as “sharing” it, does it? If not, then I don’t understand why Dropbox consider it a shared folder. I realize this is a Dropbox issue, not a Scrivener issue per se, but any advice is welcome.

This wouldn’t be a problem except that now when I try to use my iPad with our new shared folder, Scrivener doesn’t see that folder – only my previously existing Scrivener folder. The Knowledge Base tells me that I would have to reconnect Dropbox with this new folder as I did when I initially set up Scrivener with Dropbox. But then I wouldn’t be able to use my iPad with my other, non shared projects, which reside in the Scrivener folder. And I don’t want to share those other projects with my coauthor. Is there any way for iOS Scrivener to be able to access more than one folder repository of Scrivener projects? If not, does anyone have any other ideas? I mostly use my Mac for playwriting, so it’s not a huge obstacle, but it would be nice to be able to use my iPad to access all my Scrivener projects without going the process of reconnecting Scrivener to Dropbox.

I know I have seen a few posts from Windows users related to this topic, but cant find anything recent from Mac users. I am working on a book with my husband. I am doing most of the writing and he is re-writing and editing. I know that there is no way to both be using the same document, however I am confused as to the best way to transfer information back and forth to make sure that we are working from the latest version. I would appreciate any tips or advice on how to do this. We are both Mac users.

Many thanks

Mac or Windows, it’s all the same issues and partial solutions.

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