Syncing between Scrivener for Mac and the iOS app

First off, let me just say that I love the hell out of Scrivener for Mac. It’s my primary writing tool and I’ve recommended it to countless people (and even bought it for a few close friends). I’m not here to crap all over Scrivener by any means. That said, the “sync” functionality between the Mac app and iOS is a steaming pile of dinosaur turds.

Am I the only one who doesn’t understand why we can’t have Evernote/Google Docs-type of syncing? That is, mirrored documents across devices happening instantly and simultaneously within Scrivener itself?

First, off the setup—as it is now—is clunky and unreliable. For example, say I have to restart my computer and I forget to log into Dropbox. I’m the type of person to leave docs open all the time. I generally break up my writing time with other tasks. So, say I forget to log into Dropbox and then I’m out and about and want to edit and manuscript. Well, too bad. Any changes I’ve made won’t be synced. Or, say it is logged in and I want to make a note real quick. I have to manually re-sync my account, wait for it to finish, and then open up the manuscript. First world problems, I know. But still. We pay a premium price (IMO, considering the lack of functionality) for the iOS app and it seems like a clumsy afterthought. The Dropbox integration feels like L&L was looking for a way to make a few more bucks with a mobile app without having to invest any resources into it. If I could, I’d take my $19.99 back and give up the app in a nanosecond because it’s mostly useless to me as it stands. I just don’t feel like I can trust it. I’m always worried I’ll lose data because of how messy the whole thing feels—like it’s held together with tape and popsicle sticks.

On top of problematic syncing, chaining us to Dropbox complicates file storage on my computer. I use Google services for just about everything (Drive, Docs, Sheets, Forms) and pay for upgraded storage with them. Using Dropbox means I have to have a special folder in which the actual Scrivener files live, which is separate from all of the other folders for each project (containing cover design files, interior layouts, assets, etc.) or I will quickly run out of “free” space on Dropbox.

A Scrivener project is a much more complex object than a Google Docs or Evernote file, so synchronizing it is inherently a more complex task.

The Dropbox application can be configured to run when you start your computer, and that’s what we would recommend doing if you plan to switch between the Mac and iOS versions frequently.


I feel compelled to add my voice to OP’s. I use Scrivener across my Mac, iPad and iPhone and the syncing is highly problematic. I have dropbox running all the time on all devices, and yet whenever I open Scrivener on an iOS device I always get conflicts. Always.

There’s no apparent combination of carefully opening/closing apps or manually syncing Dropbox that can achieve a sync without creating conflicts. Invariably, conflicts are created with documents that I have already resolved. Can anyone make any suggestions?

I have used Scrivener and synced between three Macs, one or two iPads and one iPhone since iOS Scrivener was released and have never had any conflicts, or problems.
So the question is, what are you doing differently than me?

I usually close a project before leaving one of the Macs, and always if I suspect that I want to edit it on iPad or iPhone.
And I always give Mac Scrivener time to save any last changes, and time for the Dropbox app to automatically update any last changes to the server before closing the Mac.
All my Scrivener projects are in a subfolder in my Dropbox folder on the Macs, called Scrivener projects. The projects I want to be able to access from iPad or iPhone are kept in a subfolder below that, called Active projects. That’s the folder my iPad is synced with.
On the iPad, if I open Scrivener the first thing to do is to sync, before tapping to open any project. When i’m done, I sync before leaving the Scrivener app.

Backups are kept on a completely different cloud service and hence not in the Dropbox folder at all.

In what way does your routines deviate from mine?

How do you manually sync Dropbox?

Bad wording on my part. More like forcing, or ensuring a sync, by adding files and checking in the Dropbox app itself across all devices that the files are up to date. Maybe you could tell me what I’m doing wrong:

  1. Use Scrivener on my MacBook, Dropbox app is always running
  2. Save my work and close the Scrivener project
  3. Ensure Dropbox is synced before I put the MacBook into standby
  4. Some hours later I open Scrivener on my iPad or my iPhone and it asks to sync, which it does
  5. Conflicts occur

This happens every time, without fail. I also downloaded the Dropbox app on both devices and logged in, in case that makes any difference. The next day I usually spend on my MacBook resolving conflicts, only for the cycle to continue anew later.

There’s something wrong with your project then. That is not normal. I’d contact the support email and ask them what steps they recommend to resolve this situation, but if I was experiencing it, I’d try duplicating my project (File->Save As) to a different name, and then remove the older copy. Let Dropbox sync all of that, and then go to the iOS device and sync there.

Beyond that, the tech support folks may need to see your project and dig into the internals that keep up with syncing with iOS.

What rdale said. That’s not normal behavior.

What version of Scrivener do you have on the Mac?

One thing to try is to move the project out of Dropbox temporarily and use a simple test project to confirm that the basic synch functionality is working correctly. If it is, then either the project is damaged in some way or there’s some subtlety in what you’re doing that’s causing problems.


I have the same problem…I have been using Scrivener for Mac for years and now I just bought myself and IPad for on the go work. I have downloaded scrivener and Dropbox to my iPad . My Dropbox app syncs perfectly with my work on the mac but scrivener doens’t even pick up the new files at all even though it is syncing with parts of drop box…what is going on it is maddening. Already regretting the iPad and scrivener as i can’t afford to spend time on manually syncing my work.
Why is this sooo complicated?

It’s not.
In iOS Scrivener, in the opening projects screen, tap Edit, tap the cog wheel at the bottom, tap Dropbox settings, navigate to the Db folder where you have your projects. Save, back out, sync. Done!

BUT, make sure that the sync folder on Dropbox only contains the project you really need to edit on the iPad, nothing else! Otherwise the iPad downloads everything in the folder and that may take time and clutter upp your iPad for no reason at all.

A troubleshooting guide for iOS synchronization can be found here: … os-syncing