Syncing between Mac and Scrivener for iOS BEFORE having Scrivener for iOS

I have this problem: I’m writing a novel with Scrivener for Mac (and keeping it synced with my iPad via Dropbox and PlainText, working but tricky). I’ve been waiting for years for Scrivener for iOS…
I’ve downloaded Scrivener 2.8, I’m ready to download Scrivener for iOS but… next wednesday I’m leaving for a ten days vacation!
So, how can I prepare my novel on Dropbox in order to have it ready for my iPad when I’m far from my Mac?
I’ve created a folder “Scrivener” in Dropbox-Apps, then I’ve synced the novel into it… is that enough?
Please, help…


You don’t need to have your project in /Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener, but that is the default, so ti sounds as though you’re all set. Basically:

  1. Put any projects you want to sync in a subfolder of Dropbox somewhere.

Er, that’s it. :slight_smile: When you download the iOS version, you just choose the folder on Dropbox where you placed the projects, and it will sync. The iOS version defaults to /Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener, but you can choose any folder on Dropbox if you want (it’s just recommended that you only have Scrivener projects in that folder, because it will download to your device everything in the selected folder).

All the best,

Thank you very much! :smiley:
Only one more question: when you say “put any project into a subfolder” you mean I have to save a project there or sync it?
If I save (File -> Save) my project into the folder I find a file *.scriv, if I sync (File -> Sync -> With External folder) my project I have a folder called Draft, containing a bunch of txt files. Which is right?
Thanks again

Sync wth External folder is an entirely different feature - that’s for using Scrivener with other apps. Don’t use that. Just move your actual .scriv project into the Dropbox subfolder.

Thank you again :smiley:

Some questions. I have a project inside a folder that contains the .scriv project and some folders with inside “Research Files as Aliases”. These folders contain pdfs or that are about 30 mega each and few jpeg. Questions:

  1. Would it be better to have real files not as aliases inside the Scrivener project? And have one single .scriv file?
  2. Or should I keep the folder structure inside Dropbox?
  3. In this case, the path of the folder could it be Dropbox/Apps/XXFolder/xxx.scriv+pdfs folders?
  4. In this case, what about if I wish to have multiple projects inside different folders? Should I tell Scrivener for iOs to point to different .scriv projects inside different folders? Is this possible?

I hope that my questions are clear! Any help would be appreciated…

Thanks for your wonderful work!

Hi, especiale.

For the reasons Keith has given, you shouldn’t have Scrivener for iOS pointing to a folder on Dropbox that has a lot of non .scriv projects in it, as they will fill up the limited memory of your iOS device, even though they are inaccessible on that device. Also, as I understand it—and in my experience—Scrivener for iOS can only link to a single folder on Dropbox, so all the projects you want to work on with Scrivener on your iOS device will “have to be” in that folder.

That said, assuming that folder is the default ~/Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener/ folder, within that you can create separate folders for each of your projects, and Scrivener for iOS will sync with them and they will appear as if they were in the parent folder … you won’t see the folder hierarchy. That would be fine, with the caveat of not having loads of non-Scrivener files in there. But there is another solution.

I said “have to be” within quotes, but there is a way round that if, like for me, some of your projects have to be elsewhere on your HD; in my case, projects on which I collaborate with friends in China have to be in Cubbies as Dropbox is blocked by the GFWoC. The solution is to put a symlink to each of the projects you need to work on on your iOS device into the designated Dropbox folder. So, in my case, the projects are in Cubbies and ~/Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener/ only contains symlinks to them. Having been part of the Beta testing team since the beginning, I have had no problem working like that, and my collaborators in China have been able to access our shared projects as normal.

HTH :slight_smile:


Wait…you create the symlinks on the Mac, but do they work when a device accesses your Dropbox folder via an iOS device? I get that they would resolve if you opened that Dropbox folder via the Mac filesystem, but they wouldn’t work via direct access to Dropbox, right?

especiale - my advice would be to have your research files in a parallel folder (this may require re-importing them as aliases, of course, since moving them will break the alias link to them). E.g.:

/Dropbox/Research/ - PDF files etc
/Dropbox/Writing/ - Your Scrivener files.

Then you sync the /Dropbox/Writing folder with Dropbox. This way, all those alias files are available on the Mac but not taking up room on iOS.

derick - that’s right. Aliases point to a particular path, so if you import research files as aliases on your Mac, they will not show up in the iOS version, and you’ll just get a little icon telling you that the file can’t be opened in iOS.

If you want files available on iOS, they will need to be inside the project and not aliases.

All the best,

They absolutely do work. I have been working on some four or five projects on my iPad Air 2 by this method. The only actual Scriv projects in my ~/Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener folder are two projects that I set up related to Beta testing Scrivener for iOS. All the others are symlinks to the actual projects in two different Cubbies. If I put those projects in a Dropbox folder, my collaborators in China would not be able to access them, but by using symlinks, on my iPad Air they behave exactly like the two Beta-testing projects and I can work on them absolutely normally. Here’s screenshot of Scrivener for iOS on my iPad Air and a screenshot of a finder window on the Dropbox folders on my Mac, and if you look carefully, only “Scrivener.scriv” and “Test.scriv” have the normal project icon, the others have the symlink icon. (NB where attachments get placed in this new forum is more opaque than it was in the old forum!)

How it works under the hood, I don’t know. I’m not sure that I could open them by going to Dropbox on my iPad, choosing them to say “Open in …”, but as far as Scrivener for iOS is concerned, they are just normal projects. Mind you, not knowing how it works under the hood, it is possible there could be issues I don’t know about or which haven’t surfaced so far for me. A more geeky guru than me might have some knowledge worth sharing on that. So, if you want to try it, I’d recommend you start by using a symlink to a copy of any major project until you’re sure you’re not going to hit any problem; my projects are pretty simple, though they may contain many documents in the Draft. My research folders are virtually empty, and I don’t have images, either embedded directly or as aliases, so I don’t know if that would cause a problem.


This is interesting. For Symlinks do you mean Aliases? If this is the case, we could keep our original (real) files on our hard drive and instead put an alias in the Dropbox folder. Is this right? I doubt… We will see!

Emilio Speciale

PS and thanks Keith for the previous clarifying answer!

I am using MacDropAny ( to have the (original/real) files on my hard disk and put them on Dropbox. As such is fully synced on Dropbox. I have not tested this with Scrivener for iOS, because I am not a beta tester, but it should function.
All the best,

@xiamenese what happens if you try to view the aliased files from the Dropbox web interface?

@mijace MacDropAny deals with a situation where you want to symlink from other directories on the Mac to Dropbox, i.e. the actual files are in Dropbox but linked from elsewhere in the file system. If I understand @xiamenese correctly, this is the reverse – there are symlinks in Dropbox but the actual files are elsewhere on the Mac (in the folders synced with Cubby). What I don’t get is how or why Dropbox would be able to access the latter files. It seems to me there are two scenarios: 1) DB is actually storing them remotely in the DB folder, even though it shows them as aliases or 2) DB is recreating the file system (i.e. creating folders outside of the ~/Dropbox/ tree) on its servers.

in my case. I use MacDropAny and this is the situation:

  • my files are on my hard disk
  • in Finder ~/Dropbox the files are seen but are not stored
  • on Dropbox web the files that are in Finder ~/Dropbox are physically uploaded and present on Dropbox servers.

When I edit/add/delete a file (folder) through web or on my iOS Dropbox app it is synced with my files on my hard disk. The change is seen in Finder ~/Dropbox, but is not stored.

Hope it helps

Well here’s what’s going on, from my testing:

  1. created a symlink from test.jpg in Dropbox on Mac 1 to original.jpg on Mac 1

  2. viewed it on iOS, Dropbox web, and Mac 2. In all three cases, Dropbox had a copy of test.jpg , not a symlink

  3. edited it on Mac 2.

  4. viewed it on iOS, Dropbox web, and Mac 2. In all three cases, Dropbox had a copy of test.jpg , not a symlink, reflecting the changes in step 3

  5. viewed it on Mac 1. Dropbox had replaced the symlink with a copy of the edited version of test.jpg . The file original.jpg in contrast was unchanged (whereas if I had edited test.jpg on Mac 1, the changes would have been reflected in original.jpg).

  6. viewed it on the Dropbox web interface – I could restore the copy that I saw in step 2, but not the symlink


  • creating a symlink in Dropbox leads to the linked files being copied to Dropbox, although it will still appear as a symlink on the filesystem on which the link was created
  • if any changes are made to the Dropbox copies via another Dropbox client, the symlinks will be overwritten (even on the originating filesystem), and the original files won’t be changed, only the Dropbox copies

This seems like a recipe for getting stuff out of sync, and potential data loss (or at least messy processes of manually reconstruction). If the stuff that you’re symlinking from Dropbox will be read-only, it would probably work, but as soon as you change anything (via any Dropbox client other than the original) you’d lose the link.

  1. I have never tried to access the files on Dropbox through the web interface, so I have no idea what would happen. I have no interest in doing it. I simply want to have access on my iPad using Scrivener for iOS to Scrivener projects which I share with my collaborators in China and which therefore have to be stored in Cubbies. Nor am I interested in accessing any of those projects with any app other than Scrivener.

  2. There is one project called “2015-16 Teaching.scriv”, which I have been editing on my iPad, on my MacBook Air and on my MacBook Pro. I am not sure, but I think that, at least on my MBP, I opened that project from the Cubby, not from the symlink in Dropbox.

  3. To date I have had no problems with conflicts, merely being very careful to check that any device is fully sync’ed before opening the project or closing the device down … the same precautions that I have been adhering to for the past few years. Also, I have never had Scrivener running on my Macs while I’ve been editing on the iPad, and I swipe-close Scrivener on the iPad before opening any of the projects on one of my Macs.

  4. My collaborator on that project tells me she has opened it to have a look—she uses Scrivener for Windows—and said she found all the work I had done since she had last looked at it … roughly 15 short paragraphs of translation to which I added extensive notes and a revised translation with further notes.

I think, following your comments that it might be wisest to always open those projects on the Macs through the symlink rather than directly in their respective Cubbies. Also, I am waiting for my collaborator to have time to add comments or notes or make changes to the project to see what happens when I access it with Scrivener for iOS. I had hoped she would be able to do so during the Beta-testing period, but that wasn’t to be.

As I said, I don’t know what goes on under the hood, but it has been working for me up to now and allows me to leave my MBA at home and take my (non-WiFi) iPad to a coffee-shop and do some work.

@especiale, I don’t know the difference between an ‘alias’ and a ‘symlink’, someone more geeky will have to explain, but you create a symlink by opening Terminal and typing

ln -s ~/path to Scrivener project/project.scriv ~/Dropbox/linked folder on iOS/

so it might be something like

ln -s ~/My Cubby/project-x.scriv ~/Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener/

but it’s easiest to type the 'ln -s ’ and enter the paths by simply finding the project and dragging and dropping it after the space, typing another space and dragging your designated Dropbox folder onto the line, then hitting ‘Return’.


Just to clarify, given your comments, Derrick, this evening, I did some more work on the “2015–16 Teaching.scriv” project on my MBP, accessing it through Dropbox. On the MBP, the full project is in the Dropbox folder as well as in the Cubby; on the MBA there’s only the symlink.

So I did some more work, adding another four long comments on the paragraph I’m currently working on. I then closed the project on the MBP, quit Scrivener and allowed everything to sync.

I then woke up my iPad, fired up Scrivener and it said to sync Dropbox, which it did. I then opened the project, it opened to exactly where I’d left it on the MBP, with all the new edits in place. So I closed it on the iPad, then swipe-closed Scrivener and put the iPad to sleep.

Next stage, I woke up my MBA, allowed Dropbox and Cubby to sync, then opened Scrivener and opened the project from the recent projects menu. Again, it opened to where I had left on the MBP, with all the edits in place. So I closed down for the night.

I’ll finish the last of the notes on that paragraph, then ask Shirley to have a look on her PC, but I’ll wait until I’ve got her updated to the new version of Scrivener for Windows when it is out.

So, as I say, using the symlink seems to be working for me.


It seems quite mysterious to me that this would work, at least if understand the setup correctly.

As I said, I don’t claim to know how it works under the hood, just that, for me it has so far worked without issues.


FURTHER EDIT: Derick, re-reading your post when you did your trial, if I’m reading it right, you were trying it with a .jpg and presumably an image editor, whereas I’m using .scriv projects and Scrivener. My thought is that your image editor(s) are not using the Dropbox API that Keith has used in Scrivener.

Using symlinks is not my idea; someone else commented on trying them early on in the Beta-testing and I realised that that was perhaps the answer for me for how to access the projects I share with my Chinese collaborators on my iPad, when Dropbox is unavailable to them. I can’t remember who it was who first mentioned them, but Ioa pointed me in the direction of how to create a symlink.

In case it wasn’t clarified earlier, Mac Aliases are NOT the same as Symbolic Links. Symbolic links were a feature carried over when they built Mac OS X on top of the Unix-like BSD operating system.

I’m going out on a limb here and guessing that the Dropbox software doesn’t know what a Unix-style symbolic link is, and so sees it as a folder (in the case of a Scrivener project, that’s what the link is pointing to… the .scriv folder). So it treats that link as if it were a folder within the Dropbox folder hierarchy, and copies that stuff up to its servers.

Do note that if you have a second Mac with Dropbox installed and running, the Dropbox/ folder will (probably) contain the project, and not a link.

I hadn’t realized that things worked this way, but now that I know it’s been working reliably, I’ll probably switch up how I’ve organized my projects.