Sync has odd behavior that makes it unusable

I thought I’d give Scrivener a try now that it can sync with other apps. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to get the sync process to work in a sensible way.

I keep my notes for a project in a couple of hundred text files stored in an elaborate hierarchy of folders. I imported these into Scrivener as “Research” successfully. The trouble came when I ran a sync operation to export these notes to a MobileMe folder and thence to Notebooks for iPad. The sync operation did not preserve the folder hierarchy – all the notes files appeared in one undifferentiated list and the folder was renamed from “Research” to “Notes”. When I ran the sync operation a second file, the files made a return trip to Scrivener and ended up in a tab marked “Synced Documents”, destroying the original hierarchy. The “Draft”, “Research”, and “Trash” directories that originally appeared in my Scrivener sidebar disappeared as well. All I have now is a long undifferentiated list of notes and a splitting headache.

And this is after watching all the introductory videos! Scrivener must be one of the least intuitive apps I have ever tried. It gets such rave reviews, so I must be missing something. How do I get Scrivener and an iPad app to mirror a hierarchy of notes?


Hi George,

It’s just the view, you’re okay! :slight_smile:

First, yes, they will not retain their hierarchy away from Scrivener; the documents you sync will all be just a flat list in the external folder. You can however check the box “use file numbering” under the options in the Sync with External Folder dialogue to have them retain their proper order, rather than being sorted alphabetically.

When you bring them back into Scrivener, however, they will be where you put them originally in the binder; Scrivener uses the internal IDs it creates to recognize which file is which and where it belongs. But when you run the sync, the Binder view switches to show the “Sync” collection, letting you know which documents have been updated from the sync (so if you changed everything in the external folder, they’ll all appear here, but if you had made alterations to only one, that would be the only one showing up here, letting you know that it had found the changes and updated your document). To get back to the regular binder view, just click the little “X” in the circle at the bottom of the Binder or click the “Binder” tab at the top:

You can click the “Collections” icon to hide the tabs at the top as well after you’ve switched back to the normal view.

As for the folder names, files that get synced to an external folder get sorted into “Draft”–everything that came out of your Scrivener draft folder–and "Notes–documents that came from anywhere else, including Research but also any folders of your own you may have created at the same level. “Trash” is for documents that had been synced but have since been removed.

§13.2 of the Scrivener manual goes into detail about all this, so you might want to take a quick read-through of that as you set this up and get it running. It’s a fabulous feature! Also, if you haven’t already, I strongly recommend going through the tutorial project that comes with the program (Help>Interactive Tutorial). You can choose not to do it all in one sitting, so don’t let the estimated length deter you–it will help you so much to get a grasp of the program and see what you can do and how things work.

Hope that helps a bit. Welcome to Scrivener and the forums!

Most people don’t find Scrivener “the most unintuitive app”, I have to say. And to deem it so based on your attempt to use a feature that allows you to sync between two very different devices with very different file capabilities seems rather unfair. The tutorial video explains that the hierarchy is not represented in the external folders, and that a sync collection is created upon re-syncing.


• When you sync to an external folder, two folders are created. A “Draft” folder for files from Scriveners Draft folder, and a “Notes” folder for everything else. There is no way to sync the hierarchy itself, because despite superficial similarities, a hierarchy of files and folders on disk is not comparable, or capable of two-way non-destructive syncing, with a flexible hierarchy such as can be found in Scrivener’s binder (which can be arranged arbitrarily - unlike a file hierarchy which can only be sorted alphabetically, by kind etc) - and in which images or text files or PDF files can act as containers as much as folders can.

• When you sync back, a collection is shown - in yellow - displaying the files that were synced. This is not the binder. Nothing has been destroyed, or flattened. As MimeticMouton points out, just close the collection to return to the binder.

Please click on the “?” button in the folder sync sheet for a full and comprehensive explanation of how this works, or refer to the Help manual, where all of this is covered in detail.

The tutorial video is admittedly a little light on explaining that a collection is created to show the synced documents, but at the end it does demonstrate using “Reveal in binder” and shows the binder reappearing with the synced documents in place, so perhaps you missed this part?

I hope that helps.

Thanks, MimeticMouton. The view you show in your screenshot (on which “Binder” is located after “Synced Documents”) is not shown when the sync ends; you need to click on the “Collections” icon in the toolbar to reveal it.

KB: Well, that’s a shame, because syncing the full hierarchy is an essential function for me. I guess I need to keep looking for the app that offers it. I need to be able to sort and consolidate my notes in the field.

Intuitiveness is in the eye of the beholder. I have a lot of experience self-educating myself in new apps and I really do think that Scrivener is one of the most unintuitive for the beginner, probably second only to Mathematica. It introduces a huge amount of novel terminology shared by no other Mac app. That’s the tradeoff of offering such a rich and unique feature set, but it’s still very intimidating. Others obviously disagree and I’m glad that they’ve found the app that fulfills their needs.



Last time I checked, more than 6000 members had registered for this forum… meaning at least 6000 Scrivener users out there… implying at least 6000 diverse views about which features are necessary, which are useful, which are incomprehensible, which are amusing but trivial, and which are mere bell and whistle… suggesting at least another 6000 undeveloped features which must be devised, programmed, and inserted… not to mention at least 6000 current features which must be modified… before Scrivener can be the perfect tool for all users.

By the time such advancements are made, another several thousand users will have come on board, requiring yet another multi-thousand-gadget upgrade – if, that is, all are to be led to their hearts’ content.

Frankly, that’s a lot to ask of one team.

As for intuitive, I suppose one man’s intuition is another man’s impasse. You might note that for many thousands, the learning curve, whatever you imagine its slope to be, is well worth the climb.


As I wrote, I think it’s great that so many people find Scrivener useful to them. The Scrivener team has made the world a better place. I just wish I could count myself among them.