Syncing issues across machines

I’ve recently been having issues access cloud-stored projects from my iMac and MacBook. I don’t remember having this problem previously, so it may be something that has happened since upgrading to Sierra.

I split writing time between home (where I use an iMac) and working remotely on my MacBook laptop. For some time, I’ve been storing my Scrivener projects on an iCloud drive, so that I can access them fairly easily wherever I am. When I stop working on a Scrivener project on either machine, at the close of my working session I both close the file and quit Scrivener.

Recently, when I would open an existing file on the other computer, I began to get messages that the file was still open on the other computer, even though it was not. A couple of times this happened, I was opening the file on my laptop before I left the house – to make sure I could access my Scrivener project even if there were issues with internet access wherever I was going. When I got this message, I would go back to my computer and re-open Scrivener and the project, and then close both again. Another time I just shut down my iMac completely. In both cases, this seemed to take care of the problem.

Last night I opened a project on my iMac and got this same message (that the file I was trying to open was presently open and being used on my MacBook), even though it was not (and Scrivener was not on). It was a relatively new project and as I scanned it, it seemed to be intact. I told it to save the version I was looking at and discard any old versions. I ended up working on this project all night, by which time I had written about 20 pages of new material. I took a short break and, as usual, closed down the file and Scrivener. A few hours later, I opened the file on my MacBook, and it said there was not one but multiple versions of the file. It showed one with a date/time stamp of about 6:30am, when I had stopped, another from several hours earlier, another with the time I had originally started working, and another from several days ago. I chose the most recent version. The section I was last working on was what appared when I opened the file and it was up-to-date.

After working on this file, I went to the three sections on which I had spent most of my time overnight (and which represented the bulk of what I had written). These sections were all in the state they had been in at the start of last night. In other words, they were not as they had been at the time I saved and closed the file at 6:30am. They were as they were when I had first opened the file at the beginning of the evening (when the version of Scrivener on my iMac told me the file was open on my MacBook, even though it wasn’t). I tried opening a saved version from TimeMachine but no matter which backup I select of this file, when Scrivener opens it I am still getting the same version.

Apparently the program is managing the individual section files in some way that I don’t understand. I’d love knowing if there is something I should do differently.

I have so many projects due before the end of the year and I can’t spare another all-night to recreate this work. When I give Scrivener the command to save the project I evidently can’t trust that it’s saving a complete version somewhere. It’s making me consider switching to something where I can have complete confidence that it’s saving my work.

Your problems has nothing to do with Scrivener, but everything to do with iCloud drive. The instructions for Scrivener are very clear: if you want to sync between computers, i.e. access the same live project from different computers, the only reliable cloud storage is Dropbox. If you insist to use something else, you should have Scrivener zip the project and then you have to unzip it before opening on the other machine.

Are you using the new ‘Documents on iCloud’ thing that Apple invented? It is known for being unreliable.

I have been using Scrivener with Dropbox for over 3 years and never had a single hickup, never lost anything, although I occassionally forget to close the project on either machine before opening on the other, or on the iPad.

Get a Dropbox account and stay away from iCloud with your Scrivener projects and you won’t have any problems.

As noted, iCloud is known to be unreliable for Scrivener projects, and the new Documents and Desktop iCloud feature in Sierra is worse. Briefly, Scrivener manages the component sections as a single unit (the .scriv project package), but iCloud does not, which can cause the metadata that Scrivener uses to keep track of everything to be mismatched with the contents of the project.

You can find Scrivener’s automatic backups by going to Scrivener -> Preferences -> Backups, and clicking the button to open the backup folder in Finder. Best practice would be to place your backups in a different location from the live projects, so that no single disaster can get them both.