What is the best way to save and back up with Scrivener?


I’m new to Scrivener. I bought it to work on my first movie script but am now using it to organise and write a dissertation! It’s important that I don’t lose my work. As I understand it there isn’t a cloud save feature that is reliable, what there is is a local save and DropBox backup. I want to know the best practice for saving with this program.

I’ve had a read at L&L guide: https://www.literatureandlatte.com/blog/the-low-down-on-backing-up

Should I not have backups zip because of the risk of file corruption?

If I use the DropBox backup does this mean there will no longer be a local backup?

Is the best option to copy my Scrivener project after closing, manually to the cloud?

Also, I’d like to add that I am unable to move or copy any Scrivener files I make. I’m using the macOS Catalina beta. When I click once on my Scrivener project in the Finder menu it automatically opens the program. Is this a beta specific problem?

A piece of general advice:
What you are asking are fairly basic questions. If you don’t know the answers or quickly find them on the support pages it’s probably a bad idea for you to use a beta version of the OS for your normal work.

I haven’t seen any indication that zip compression is a problem. Have you?

Are you actually talking about backups, or syncronizing your main project file? Backups, as detailed in the link you provided, are copies of your project, created when triggered by Scrivener according to the backup settings shown in the article.

For the sake of this discussion, there are 2 kinds of backups: The copies of your project made according to Scrivener’s settings, and the more general computing term “system backup”, which refers to a separate copy of all of your files, which changes, additions, and deletions kept up with until your system backup storage runs out of space. A system backup can allow you to retrieve a deleted file from years ago, if you were backing up to it for multiple years on a sufficiently large storage device. Scrivener backups are typically 5 copies of your project, from the last 5 times you closed that project. Once you make a 6th Scrivener project, the oldest copy is deleted. These settings can be changed, as illustrated in the article.

Putting your Scrivener backups on Dropbox replicates them to dropbox.com and any other computers you’re syncing dropbox to, but it’s not a system backup, in the sense that six months from now, deleted Scrivener project backups will be gone entirely from Dropbox and synced computers, but a true system backup (using Time Machine, for instance) will have that older backup copy until it runs out of room to store old backups. It will also have backups of all your other files.

Are you using the dropbox software on your Mac, which creates an icon in your menu bar that indicates when it’s syncing,and when it’s not?

No. You, as a human being, must remember to do that. If you just close your project at least daily, the automatic Scrivener backups will trigger. If you have a good system backup, such as a drive being used by Time Machine, the “Scrivener backups” folder on your computer will be protected, along with your “live” project, wherever you put it when you created the project… plus all your other computer files.

Note: Never put your “live” project into the same folder as your backups.

It’s ill-advised to do important work on a Beta OS. Especially since there may be a bug or change in the OS that affects how Scrivener works. They’ll release an update to Scrivener in time for Catalina’s release, if necessary, but probably not before. As you’re experiencing a problem with the Finder (which has nothing to do with Scrivener), there may be other bugs in the OS that could corrupt your writing project.

Thanks for your comprehensive answer rdale. I mentioned the zipped backups because I read several post that other cloud save services like Apple iCloud can corrupt files, also there is a comment on the link I posted above the first commenter PJ says “it’s not so straight-forward to recover SCRIV files from Dropbox. Due to the “package” file architecture that Scrivener uses.”

What I want to have is a persistent cloud save and allow synchronisation between by Mac and laptop. Now, as I understand it this is done by saving the project file in the dropbox folder on my computer which I get by installing the Dropbox software? I haven’t got the Dropbox software installed but I have requested it. I have a Dropbox Basic account.

If I understand what you said correctly I can copy the backup files manually from the default save location, but you recommend an automated solution. Or can this be set to the Dropbox software once installed?

I’m new to using the program so my questions will be basic to experienced users but it doesn’t negate my need for assistance and I’ve seen other new users also have trouble. If the best you can for a first-time user is tell them to go away and read the instructions then this isn’t welcoming and is potentially damaging the Literature and Latte brand to person/s who are researching their product.

I didn’t. I said that using a beta version of the OS is probably a bad idea if you’re not an experienced user, which your questions suggest that you’re not.

To sync your project, the safest cloud sync solution is to install the dropbox software. You don’t have to request it, just log on to dropbox.com, click on your user icon (in the upper right corner of the browser window), and select “install” on each of your Macs. This will give you a program that you can install on each Mac, and it will in turn prompt you to enter you dropbox credentials, create a Dropbox folder on each computer, and syncronize anything from your dropbox cloud account to that folder on each machine. Be sure, once you’ve done that to understand the following once you have all that set up: scrivener.tenderapp.com/help/kb … c-services

Note that this is NOT a “backup”. The phrase people on these forums use is “live project” for the Scrivener project you’re actively editing. Backups are what you set up under Tools->Options->Backup; they’re copies of your project, created by scrivener when you close the project.

The automated solution, if it wasn’t clear already from the above, is to install the dropbox software on all your computers, and then move the project file (using the Finder) into the Dropbox folder, let it sync up to dropbox.com, and then go to your other computer and let the dropbox software there sync changes FROM dropbox.com. Once that’s all settled, open it to edit, close it, and let the final changes sync UP… and repeat the cycle.

Be absolutely clear that you understand that the dropbox software, and pretty much all cloud sync software for any service I’m familiar with, just uploads copies, changes, and deletions of files from your hard drive (leaving those files in place on your hard drive) within the folders it has permission to manipulate. There are some programs that write directly to cloud services, but Scrivener is not one of them. The Mac and Windows versions of the program do not talk directly to Dropbox (or iCloud, or …) at all; they just write to your hard drive.

If you don’t fully understand where your files are, or when changes to those files get synchronized, you need to learn how it all works, when it’s safe to open a synchronized file and when it’s not, before you try using this. Sync conflicts are not fun to deal with.

PJ’s comment is incorrect. See Why won’t my files upload from usb to ipad scriv - #3 by devinganger for a demonstration of how easy it is to recover a full Scrivener project from the Dropbox web interface. However, having said that, using the Dropbox software to sync the local save folder to Dropbox (and then to your other devices) is definitely the best and most trouble-free way to do it.

If you sync your live projects via Dropbox, do not use Dropbox to sync your backup files as well. That’s putting all your eggs in Dropbox’s basket. Many of us will use a second cloud sync provider (I use OneDrive) and set our backup folders to a folder that gets synced to that second cloud service. You have to set that up once per Scrivener installation and not override the backup location on a per-project basis (each project will use the general backup settings). It is also recommended that you increase the number of backups from the default (I use unlimited), set the backup to create the ZIP archive (so you only have a single file to sync/recover), and set the timestamp in the filename.

Using Scrivener with a beta version of Mac OS is unsupported and entirely at your own risk. Doing so with a project as important as your dissertation is extremely risky.

Also, please note that this is the Scrivener support forum. We have no idea what bugs may or may not exist in Catalina: you would need to ask an Apple forum about that.


However, things become significantly less straightforward if you are trying to recover an older version of the project using the Dropbox change history, as would probably be the case when trying to recover a backup.


…that use case would never have occurred to me, because that just…

No. Yuck. Owww.

And now you know why I tell people not to rely on Dropbox as their only backup…


Thank you everyone for your answers. You’ve helped me make some progress! :slight_smile: I know I’m asking a lot of questions but it’s because I have to ensure I don’t lose any work.

So what I now have is is Dropbox installed on my Mac and MacBook.
I have Scrivener saving my live project to the Dropbox drive.
Both computers are able to open the live project - I understand that you must close upon finish before opening on a different computer to prevent sync conflicts.
I also now have backups on each computer.
I have set backups on each system to not be zipped (to minimise risks of corruption.)

I need to work out an automated backup solution for the backup files. In the mean time if I want to manually make a duplicate save of my work to the cloud, email, OneDrive, memory card, external HDD, etc, is it better if I copy my live file or the backup?

Also, is it good practice to regularly export to a Word file so that I always have an accessible version of my work?

I will be working a lot on my MacBook which isn’t running beta software.

Do you mean that I should have the live project save to a normal Mac folder but have that folder automatically duplicated to Dropbox?

Hi SirKnight,

This is not a good idea. In fact, zipping the projects should decrease the risk of corruption, because then whatever syncing and backup services you use only have to deal with one zipped file, and not hundreds of files across a number of folders.

Others have made similar points upthread. Why do you think zipped files are a problem?


Sorry, just saw this point. But it does not say zip files increase risk. Instead, it reinforces the point that zipped decreases risk, because it flattens Scrivener’s complex “files in folders” structure to one “easy to copy” file.


Yes, I do this too. Certainly can’t hurt!

If you’re making backups as often as you should, it doesn’t matter.

The Dropbox folder on your Mac is a normal folder as far as Scrivener is concerned. The Dropbox software handles the duplication for you.