Tips on Syncing iOS with Desktop Scrivener

It seems there are a few people falling victim to assumptions regarding the “Sync with External Folder” feature (which was added at the same time as the iOS compatibility in the Windows version). Also, some people don’t seem to understand how to put a project into Dropbox so that it can be accessed with the iOS version. So for those of us who are experienced with this procedure, let’s share what we know so as to get people up and running with minimal fuss.

Setup steps

  1. So, to start, you need a account.
  2. Then, download the dropbox software to your computer. If you are logged on to the website, click on your name in the upper right area of the page, then click on “Install”.
  3. Once installed, it should create a “Dropbox” folder on your computer.
  4. If you don’t already have a folder for syncing with Scrivener in the Dropbox folder, create one. Name the folder for Scrivener in general, not for a specific writing project; all projects must go into this folder to sync with the iOS version.
  5. Finally, close your desktop version of Scrivener, and move one of your projects from its original location to the new Scrivener folder you just created in Dropbox.
  6. Let Dropbox finish syncing the files up to the servers (the icon for Dropbox in your windows toolbar/mac menu bar will change, and clicking on it will reveal if it’s up-to-date, or still syncing). One a slow internet connection, this can take a very long time, depending on the size of your project and the number of files in your binder.
  7. Finally, in Scrivener for iOS, set up sync if you haven’t already, and then tap the sync button and wait for it to finish.

Please let me know if I’ve left anything vital out, and I’ll edit the steps. Please feel free to share your tips here, but if you’re having other issues, please start a new topic; your support questions might get overlooked in this thread of conversation.

Very helpful. Exactly what needs to be on the very first page of the ios tutorial under “How to open an existing file.”

I’m three hours behind on getting to play with this as I stumbled through the forums. But it sure is a great day to finally have this in hand.

Thanks, Keith, for the hard work on this. Just needed the steps in this thread in your tutorial to have avoided today’s chaos.

We had 600+ beta testers and honestly, no one has had a problem with setting up sync until release, so it’s taken us somewhat by surprise that so many users have been trying to use Sync > with External Folder. Actually, I think I understand why with Windows users - the Sync with External Folder feature has just been added to the latest Windows version at the same time as iOS sync, which I can see might cause some confusion. The Sync > with External Folder feature has been available on the Mac for six years, though, so I didn’t think anyone would try to use that with the main Scrivener sync, given that the tutorial clearly (I think) covers what you need to do and at no point mentions this feature. If your just follow the instructions in the tutorial, really you should be fine. Of course we will update it based on user confusion, however…

I honestly think it is the word “Sync” that throws people off in the wrong direction. They start looking for a way to Sync, possible search the Help, and end up with “Sync with external folder”.

The circular arrows (indicating ‘sync’) on the iOS version should be called ‘Save changes’, not Sync.

My humble advice is – avoid the word “sync” because it makes (some) people think they have to do something special, something complicated.

Good basic tutorial @rdale. I was just about creating something similar, because it’s very obvious how this works when you have it in place, but not before. So some simple explanation was in place.

Here is my short version;

  1. Setup dropbox app on your Mac (

  2. Buy and install Scrivener iOS ( … &at=10ldvx)

  3. Set up Sync in iOS devices by clicking the “recycle” arrows > Choose Dropbox > Default dropbox folder (Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener).

  4. On your Mac > Copy* your Scrivener project into the new dropbox folder (Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener) > Wait until sync is complete (all files are “green √”).

  5. Choose sync again on your iOS device and your projects with all contest is synced.

  6. Remember to hit the Sync button (“recycle arrows”) everytime before you switch device.

Happy Syncing!

* The reason I say “copy” and not “move” at this point, is to make sure you have a safecopy while testing out the sync features.

On the Desktop, there’s no mechanism to “set up” a project with Dropbox within the Scrivener interface the way there is in the iOS version, but there is a way to “set up” external folder sync within Scrivener for Mac/Windows. If one is starting from their Mac or PC, and looking for the function within Scrivener by which to do this setup, Sync with External Folder is the only feature to be found that features the word ‘sync’.

I wish I’d had this insight during beta testing, but it’s only occurred to me now that people are reporting confusion.

… which means you will have to remember that you from now on will have to projects with identical names but in different folders – one which you will be working on, and one which will be left to slowly fall asleep and get old? Unless you suddenly forget which one you were working on and start working on the redundant one on the desktop. Then you will really have ‘sync’-problems.

About “safe copy” – you do have backups, right?

Oh yes there is! You “Save as…”! The confusion comes from using the word “Sync”, suggesting that you need to do something else than just Save in a new location (unless you want your iDevice to upload all your Scrivener projects).

Save As may technically work, but it’s not obvious if a person doesn’t understand Dropbox, or if they’re familiar with Sync with External Folder. If you’ve synced with an external folder to use with Plain Text or the like, and you don’t really understand Dropbox all that well, then it’s only logical to look for “sync with iOS”, or to assume that “sync with external folder” has been retrofitted to work whatever magic is necessary to sync with the iOS version of Scrivener.

Reading the iOS tutorial is key, but lots of people jump in without doing that on the desktop, and they muddle through. I think there are a lot of people who will leave the tutorial for later, assuming everything will be so familiar as to make it optional.

Hi lunk,
Since this is the version 1.0 of the Scrivener iOS I think it’s smart to leave “extra” safety copy behind just in case, before trusting the new sync feature completely. I’ve learned this the hard way, far to many times with other programs over the years and it costed me many rewrites etc. Just trying to help others here to avoid the mistake I did. And I’ve already found a couple of smaller sync issues (read more here: "Leftovers" in DropBox? (Sync issues)).

Backup is running always of course! And to three different physical places as well.

I’m losing the will to live. I have followed the instructions in the tutorial. I have replicated what has been suggested here. I keep getting:

“Could not complete Dropbox operation. Error 4. The file doesn’t exist. (The file doesn’t exist).”

I know it exists because I have been using it on my desktop version which stores the files in my dropbox account.


Where are you getting this message? Within Scrivener on iOS? Can you post a screenshot of the dropbox folder containing the project on your desktop?

Within Scrivener on IOS.

I don’t know how to do the screenshot or how to post it. Sorry.

Best to start a new topic with a title like “Could not complete Dropbox Operation” so people with similar problems, but who solved them, can chime in. Also, in that new topic note which device and software is giving you that error, be it the Dropbox software on your Mac, or Scrivener on iOS. People can then help you post screen shots or whatever is necessary to fixing your issue.

Hmm, okay, thanks. That’s $20 I’ll never get back.

??? :neutral_face:

I’m just trying to ensure that you get the most eyeballs possible looking at your issue.

Can you create a new project in the iOS version (in dropbox) and access it on the desktop?

Also, the previous suggestion about a new thread was a useful one - it will help other people see the problem and contribute suggestions if they know how to overcome it.

I’m sorry to hear you are having problems. Apple will give you a refund if you are not happy, but hopefully we can get you up and running.

Is that the exact error - “Error 4”? Not 400 and something? This error message is coming from the Dropbox servers. It is, as the error says, a generic “No file on server” error. I’m not sure why you would be getting this, however, given that Scrivener should never try to download a file that never exists. Please try the following:

  1. Open

  2. Load the Scrivener pane of the Settings. (If this pane is blank, quit Settings app by double-tapping on the Home button and swiping up on the Settings app, then launch it again - there’s a bug in iOS whereby the settings for newly-installed apps do not show up in Settings until it is relaunched.)

  3. Tap “Reset Scrivener”.

  4. Turn on “Reset Dropbox Sync Cache”.

  5. Quit Scrivener by double-tapping on the Home key and swiping up on Scrivener.

  6. Relaunch Scrivener.

  7. Sync.

This will force Scrivener to do a complete refresh of the sync, checking all local files against what is online rather than just syncing what has changed, rebuilding the local sync cache.

Hopefully this will clear out the gremlins, but let us know if not, because I’ve never seen this error before and it didn’t come up once from the 600+ beta testers (but then, no matter how many beta testers you have, there are always new problems on release day!).

All the best,

Hi everyone,

don’t want to interrupt, but the thread suggests general info on syncing.

I always read about handling Scrivener iOS. In short: You gotta sync before loading a project (maybe you have changed things in between on your desktop version), and you gotta sync before you quit Scrivener iOS, so you can go on working on your desktop.

BUT: Do I also have to “sync” anything when working with the desktop version? I’ve worked with Dropbox for quite a while. I saved projects in a Dropbox folder, waited for it to upload, then (after download from Dropbox) loaded it on another computer and so on. Never thought about syncing.

Now why is there a sync button in the desktop version 2.8? When I load a project that’s on Dropbox, what exactly do I load? Do I have to hit the sync button after loading? Or do I hit it after saving? That would be strange. Everybody talks about syncing the iOS version (which I understand), but I wasn’t able to find anything about the sync button in the desktop version. Can anybody enlighten me?

Best regards,


It looks like Rdale and Happy Writer have some great step-by-step instructions for getting started with syncing. However, I thought I’d add some screenshots for getting a project set up from a desktop to an iPhone (assuming one already has Dropbox installed on all their devices). Even though I’m using an iPhone, these screenshots should work with the iPad version as well. I hope these help clear up some of the confusion in the forums.

Step 1: Open your Scrivener project and choose File > Save As…

Step 2: Place your Scrivener project in a designated folder in Dropbox. I created an “Apps” folder and then a “Scrivener” subfolder (which is the default on iOS), but it can be anything you like.

Step 3: Make sure your project has completed syncing with Dropbox before moving to the iOS app. Also, be sure to close the project on your desktop to avoid any syncing problems.

Step 4: Launch the iOS app and tap “Edit”, and then tap the gear icon

Step 5: Tap “Link Dropbox” and allow Scrivener to access your folders in your Dropbox.

Step 6: Point the iOS app to the folder where you saved your Scrivener project in Dropbox. Since I used the default “Apps/Scrivener”, I then just tapped “Done.” If you named your folders differently, you’ll have to tap “Other” and select the correct folder from Dropbox before tapping “Done.”

Step 7: All done! You should now see your Scrivener project in the iOS app

Last step: After making any changes, make sure you sync them to Dropbox by tapping the sync icon. If you want to see your changes on your computer, they should be there! Just remember to close the iOS app before opening your Scrivener project on your desktop.

I really hope these help! Thanks to Keith and the Lit’n’Lat team for a fantastic iOS app! I’ve had a blast using it so far :smiley: