Version history?

Is there a version history automatically created? You see earlier saves and go back and compare text? Like snapshot, but done automatically like Google Docs.

There is an option available in the General: Saving tab that will take snapshots of all modified text throughout the project whenever you save (Ctrl+S), which makes that command actually useful since it is otherwise by and large a placebo, given how the software auto-saves frequently.

Otherwise there is no periodic snapshot—we have never felt those are of much use. That they just spam clutter that you have to wade through. It is far better to culture a habit of creating meaningful save points yourself. It is worth considering again how Scrivener is an auto-save based program, not an open-maybeSave-close style document editor. Saving a version stack in the latter model is much more conceptually aligned with working patterns than something that fires off a save halfway through every other sentence you write. That’s what we mean by version clutter.

Well is there a version history? So if an accident happens you can go back to the previous version or compare text? Something?

Because if version history relies on me saving before the accident happens, that isn’t going to work because I don’t know when accidents are going to happen.

It is not entirely clear what sort of accident you are imagining, but…

Maybe what you are worried about is what project backups are for, yes? Scrivener has a built-in backup function. A typical setting is to have Scrivener make a backup copy of a project when you Close the project (I also have Scriv set to backup when I invoke manual Save — another thing you can attach to the Save command that Ioa mentioned.) It is a generally good idea to turn the zip option for that on, also. If five versions doesn’t feel like enough, you can also increase the number of backups Scrivener maintains.

I’ve had power go out several times in the summer and winter. I’ve had a cat delete text and move stuff around in Scrivener. It’s those unexpected accidents.

No, Scrivener does not maintain a version history comparable to Google Docs’. A number of services provide offsite backups at 15 minute intervals, probably one of those would be the best choice for this specific use case.

Would they preserve all parts of the project in sync with one another?

(I doubt anyone could say for sure … unless the answer is no.)

If the project is closed at the time, sure.

I’d recommend testing what happens if you try to restore a project from a backup taken while it was open.

If it worked a thousand times, it could fail on the next try, but I suppose that’s true for everything but mathematics.

I’m very interested in this!

But I had trouble locating General: Saving. I looked under Project>Project Settings, but there wasn’t a general tab there. Am I looking in completely the wrong place? (i.e., not something from the menu bar?)

Thank you very much!

In the macOS version of Scrivener, Menu → Scrivener → Preferences → Icon: Backup then a switch setting for “Backup on each manual save”. This what you are looking for?

This seems excessive to me as I have backup checked on for “on project close”. I used to do “on project open” but then I never took advantage of any of that and all it ended up doing was collecting a large number of backups zip files. I keep all the backups in ~/backups/scrivener folder to keep them unburied in the ~/Library folder somewhere.

In Menu → Scrivener → Preferences → Icon: General, I have auto-save after “2” seconds of inactivity (which I believe is default).

If you have Windows version, I can’t help.

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This particular advice was speaking in combination with the option to automatically create document snapshots of all modified documents upon a manual save. That gives users the middle-ground option to quickly and easily create a working complete version history without having to save every change to the project.

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This kind of accident is separate from what would benefit from versions though, in most cases. That’s the kind of thing that an auto-save based design is ideal for. If the software is saving your work every time you pause for two seconds while thinking, then in most cases a power outage or feline incident will at most only cost you a sentence or so.

Keeping track of a sequence of past states of what is auto-saved, on the other hand, is a form of protection against our own mistakes more typically. It’s a way of going back in time and restoring a component of the work from that point in time.

Scrivener’s automatic backup feature serves as one component of that version stack, and creates a new, completely separate, copy of the project under certain criteria (the default settings of which match how most people work on a daily basis). Whole-“document” versions like that are not always super useful in a more elaborate program like Scrivener, where text can be spread across thousands of outline nodes. Being able to retain individual version tracking within those nodes is also of great benefit.

The option I pointed out helps to make this process more automatic. You don’t have to think about snapshots as you edit individual pieces of the outline (though you still can of course), and only need work within the old reflex of periodically saving while working, whenever one feels they’ve done some good amount worth keeping.

Exactly, and satisfies the desire to provide simple comparison between saved versions of the project. The version is being stored as a series of snapshots within the project, rather than something outside of it like a backup. Two projects are a lot more difficult to compare against each other. It’s not a huge pain, but it’s not like clicking a button and seeing which text was changed.

As for whether or not this is a bother because one needs to remember to save, I don’t know about that. It seems unlikely that the average person would forget to think about saving now and then, so I think on the whole this mechanism works well for this desire. There will always be outliers, such as the OP evidently.

So the ctrl+s will take a snapshot of the modified text which is good. How would I find it to see what changed?

I’m not the only one with high Focus (Clifton Strength) and get so focused I think of nothing but the scene and words and don’t drink, get up, save or do anything but write for up to 3 hours at a time.

The snapshot(s) of whatever document is in the Editor pane can be accessed in the Inspector. You can pull up any snapshot of the doc right in the inspector. There is also a compare function there that shows markups on the snapshot to indicate the differences between it and the current state of the document.

I’m the same way! I can sit down and lose an entire day without standing up if I don’t take care of myself. It’s not my place to give general advice, but for myself, I have found “Pomodoro” style working habits to be a bit of a life changer. There are plenty of free timers you can install that help remind you to get up, stretch and look out a window every half hour or so, with a longer 15 to 20 minute break every three or four cycles of that. Cutting my time into intervals helps with forming good habits like saving work and such, and I find that I feel better at the end of the day when I remember to pay attention to the timer.

So the ctrl+s will take a snapshot of the modified text which is good. How would I find it to see what changed?

The best all-around tool for this is the Documents ▸ Snapshots ▸ Snapshots Manager. You can check for changes between snapshots (select two to compare between them, or just one to compare with the current state of the text) right within this window, but more importantly you can search for two key pieces of information:

  • All snapshots created at the behest of this snapshot-on-save feature will be tagged as such, with “(Save)” in the name. So you can search for that to specifically get all such automatic versions.
  • Type in the date to see that slice of time by itself, across the entire binder. So for example if I search for 2021-12-05 I’ll see all of the save points I made today.

This is also a good tool for clearing out old versions you no longer need, as you can search by relative date as well, select bulk snapshots, and click the - button to purge them. Table 11.1 in the user manual PDF has the search codes you can use. For example, <1m will find every snapshot that is older than a month.