What's actually in a .scriv file?

Could someone tell me what a .scriv file actually is, and what it contains? Say I create a project and the name is MyProject. Scrivener creates a file named MyProject.scriv. Suppose I then add several PDF files to the Research folder. Does MyProject.scriv then contain actual copies of the PDF files? Or does it just contain a pointer to where the PDF files are located on the Mac that was used to create MyProject.scriv? Does MyProject.scriv contain all other items unique to MyProject.scriv, such as labels, notes, etc?

Another question. Suppose I purchase a second copy of Scrivener (at $40, one of the all-time great tech bargains) and install it on another, different, Mac. I then port MyProject.scriv via a USB thumb drive from the first Mac to the separate, second, Mac. If I fire up Scrivener on the second Mac and load in MyProject.scriv, will everything that was on the first Mac now be available on the second Mac? All the contents of the Research folder, for example. All the labels, notes, etc? All the document files?

If the answer to the second question is ‘Yes’, then using an online storage such as MobileMe should be possible, providing providing you have only one Mac using Scrivener at any given time. If the answer is ‘No’, then online storage is not simple.

I hope someone can answer these questions for me.


  1. A scrivener project is actually a package — which can contain thousands of files — wrapped up to look like one file in the finder. So everything is there, basically. If you Ctrl-click, or right button-click on a Scriv. project you can inspect package contents and see what’s there. But don’t mess around with anything in there separately or you may make the project unusable.
  2. Important, if you have that second Mac, as many of us apparently do, you don’t have to buy a second copy, thanks to the generousness of Keith’s licence for Scrivener. Provided that Mac is genuinely used by you, or any members of your immediate family, you can load Scrivener on it and use the same licence number.
  3. I suggest you read the thread on “Working with network drives” (https://forum.literatureandlatte.com/t/working-off-of-network-drives-mobileme-thumb-drives/5101/1) closely. Dropbox, particularly, is great for the purpose of syncing files between machines, but, given the nature of the Scrivener project, keeping the working copy on Dropbox can result in loss of work, as a number of us have experienced. Back up your project to Dropbox as a flat zip file — Scrivener does that if you wish with “Save As”, or Shift-Cmd-S — and it is much more safe, and can be unzipped on the other machine, with the process repeated in the other direction as necessary. From other things said, given the potential failure rate of thumb-drives, I think the zipped back-up approach is wisest for them as well as other cloud storage services, Mobile-Me, Mozy or whatever.
    But I’m sure someone else will come in with a more authoritative answer.

Edited to add URL and make small correction.

Anything you drag into the Binder becomes a part of the project. So yes, you can safely move the .scriv file to another computer and everything will be there—all support files, labels, keywords, even the state of the project window, such as if you have a vertical split open, will be saved. The only thing that doesn’t transfer should be self-evident: if you drag items into the references panel in the inspector, that only stores a link to the original file. Obviously those will get broken while on the second computer in most cases (if the user name is the same, and the file and folder structure is identical, links would work on both machines).

Incidentally, while on the topic of multiple computer usage, you might also want to check out the ability to save out your preferences into a file that you can move to the new computer and load in Scrivener, there. In the Preferences window, use the “Manage…” drop-down menu at the bottom.

Mark covered everything else.