Using Scrivener on two or more computers

I saved the file destination to Dropbox so that I’d always have access to my writing files. However, I get a warning that Scrivener is open on another computer. What’s the best way to smoothly transition from using Scrivener from one platform to another?

As is, I get the recommendation to make a copy of the file, but if I do that, how do I keep track of all the new things that I add to the file so that I can merge the two files later?

I feel like the new Scrivener should have a better way of managing the file between different devices…

Well, is Scrivener open on another computer?

If you’re sure it’s not, you can safely ignore the message.

To know what changes you make, take snapshots before you start. Or backup the entire project.


The short form is that on your two PCs/Macs, you run the Dropbox (or other sync engine of your choice other than Google Drive which is known to have a higher than normal rate of corrupting Scrivener projects) client on each of them as the same account.

You save your live project files under the Dropbox synced directory.

** KEY IMPORTANCE: You do NOT leave your Scrivener project(s) open. When you are done, you save and close them (and being the paranoid sod I am, I even shut Scrivener completely down so that the process doesn’t end up hanging on to open file handles longer that it needs to). This makes sure your project files are always in the latest, static, consistent state as they are synchronized. **

** KEY IMPORTANCE 2: If you are going to shut the computer down, you make sure that Dropbox has COMPLETELY finished syncing the entire set of directories/files before you go ahead and shut down/sleep/shut down the Internet. This makes sure the cloud server copy is completely in sync with the locally saved copy of your latest modifications. **

** KEY IMPORTANCE 3: On the new computer, make sure Dropbox has completely replicated the latest changes in its folders BEFORE you open your Scrivener project. This makes sure the second computer’s local copy is completely in sync with the cloud version, which is in sync with the first computer’s local copy. **

Follow these steps faithfully, and you should have no troubles. Notice that syncing between two or more computers, whatever sync engine you use should follow these same steps.

Also, make sure that your backup copies are NOT being saved to the same sync engine’s folders. Doing this puts all your eggs in one basket. I set mine to save my zipped backups (which have the date/time stamp in the file name) to a shared directory on OneDrive. My live projects save to my Dropbox\Apps\Scrivener folder so they are accessible from both my Windows PC and Mac as well as my iOS device. This way I have access to all of my backups AND my live projects from all my devices, but I am using two separate sync engines to ensure that my backups and live projects never get clobbered by the same disaster.

Thanks for this info. Would you care to list the steps of how to sync this way?

Sure. Mostly, it’s just the initial setup, and then a couple of paranoid habits.


  • I have a folder in Dropbox called Apps\Scrivener (which is the default). Under this folder, I keep all of my active Scrivener projects.
  • Because I am using free Dropbox, I only keep active projects there. This shortens sync time on iOS and preserves my Dropbox quota.
  • I set up the DropBox client on my Windows, Mac, and iOS machines. They sync everything down to the local user’s DropBox folder.
  • I ONLY open and close my active projects in Scrivener directly from this location. I don’t copy them elsewhere on the hard drive. If I need to duplicate them, I open them in Scrivener and do as Save As to a new name in this location.
  • On iOS Scrivener, I open Scrivener, force the sync, then open the project I am working on. When I am done, I close and force the sync again while I still have network connectivity. This makes sure that iOS is always seeing the same version as the other computers.
  • On Windows or Mac, I always make sure I open Scrivener, do my work, then close Scrivener (thus saving my current project) on whichever computer I am working on. I then monitor the DropBox client until I see that it has synced the project changes to the cloud. If I can access the other computer, I also validate that the DropBox client on the other computer has received the changes as well. This is key to making sure I never corrupt my files.
  • I configure DropBox to always keep a copy of the Dropbox\Apps\Scrivener folder on my Windows and Mac computers.


  • I have a top-level folder in OneDrive called WritingArchives. I use shallow folder hierarchies because I don’t want to run into OS-specific length limitations on path names.
  • Under this folder, I keep all of my inactive Scrivener projects. I also keep all of the reference materials here that are not included with the project directly.
  • I set up the OneDrive client on my Windows, Mac, and iOS machines. They sync everything down to the local user’s OneDrive folder.
  • If I need to move an active project to archive, I pick either the Mac or the Windows machine (not iOS). I first make sure that OneDrive and Dropbox clients (on both machines if possible) are fully synced. Then I move the project folder/package from Dropbox\Apps\Scrivener to OneDrive\WritingArchives. And then I monitor both sync clients (on both computers if possible) until all changes have been synchronized and all local folders show the same projects in the same directories.
  • Moving an archived project back to active? Same process, other direction.
  • I configure OneDrive to always keep a copy of the OneDrive\WritingArchives folder on my Windows and Mac computers.


  • I have a top-level folder in OneDrive called WritingBackups.
  • I set my Windows and Mac Scrivener global backup options to keep an unlimited number of backups, produce a zip archive, create a backup copy when I manually save and when Scrivener is closed, use the date/time stamp in the filename, and to use the OneDrive\WritingBackups folder.
  • I do not use per-project backup settings.
  • I configure OneDrive to always keep a copy of the OneDrive\WritingBackups folder on my Windows and Mac computers.

With this setup and process, I have all of my materials available on any of my three devices. I don’t have to worry about backups, for the most part – since only a single ZIP file with a globally unique name is being created in the same folder all the other backups are in, I can find any backup I need for any project. The timestamp ensures I can always find the latest backup ZIP file, and I can rename the backup files if they are a special milestone (and even move them out of the OneDrive\WritingBackups folder into the OneDrive\WritingArchives folder if I really want to keep them pristine). If I’m simply moving between Windows and Mac, simply making sure the sync clients are done before I walk away is enough to keep my data in good shape. If I’m using iOS, I follow the sync steps in the manual and again, just make sure all the updates have been written back to the cloud.

Finally, I have a local disk backup (TimeMachine for Mac, Windows 10 backup for Windows) for each of the PCs, and I have a cloud backup service as well in case my house burns down.

Speaking of paranoid habits, I just had a bug melt down my files on Scrivener. I posted it on a separate thread, but since you seem so knowledgeable, I thought I might ask if you knew the answer.

This bug deleted all my saved pictures (first turned the pictures to blank folder icons, then when I restarted Scrivener, deleted all but the last picture saved).

Do you know how I can access previously saved files so that I can recover my media?

Sorry, as of now I don’t use images in my WIPs, so I have no idea what issues could exist with them and steps to recover them.