Working from 2 different computers

Hi everyone,
I know this has probably been covered before, and I have had a look around a couple of topics (especially the one around syncing, dropbox, mobile me etc. I have to admit I got a bit confused with it all and wonder if anyone could explain the best way for me to work on scriv files by utilising two different computers.

The way I see it my options are:

  1. Get an external hard-drive that both my macs connect to and just work from the folder on the external drive no matter which mac I am on. Obviously, this only works if I’m connect to my home network. This eliminates the need for syncing but probably causes problems if I want to work offline on a laptop

  2. As I have mobile me, work from the idisk even if my laptop is not connected to the internet, with the proviso that I don’t open the scriv file on the imac until I have synced my laptop with idisk.

  3. Go for dropbox (which was something I had looked at until reading the thread about problems that have been encountered)

Could anyone explain which is the best method as I would just like to get into my writing and share files on each computer with the minimum fuss.

Thanks for you help!

With option #1, if the external drive is portable enough, you could just bring it along with the laptop. There are a number of drive companies producing tiny enclosures that are just laptop drives in a case the size of a large wallet, and don’t need an external power supply (so all you need to carry around is a USB cable). Most are very easy to carry in a pocket or satchel, and some include encryption options which is nice since it is easier to lose the device the smaller it gets. Most of these are priced very reasonably for what you get. I picked up a little 250gb Western Digital for $50 USD or so, a while back. Of course, when you are home and within the radius of your personal WiFi network, you can just leave this drive plugged into one computer and share it. With that option, as you note, the main thing to be careful of is to make sure you always close Scrivener when you leave a computer.

With MobileMe and DropBox you’ll run into the same issues. That advisory is for all systems which have local storage that is automatically uploaded as you work. There are ways to make this safer, such as increasing the auto-save interval to something so high that only manual saves are committed to the Internet. The drawback there is you lose the peace of mind that auto-save gives you.

Personally I never even do that. All I save to DropBox are zipped backups from Scrivener, using the File/Backup Project To command. It’s easy enough to copy that zip file to another computer’s local drive, expand it, and start working, and far less risky. I’m fine with an extra step if it eliminates a raft of uncertainties.

Another side-effect of working this way is that you get more copies of the project floating around. Redundancy means security. The more computers that have recent copies (including Internet storage) the safer your data is (in terms of catastrophic failure, of course—not privacy). So I even carry over this policy of sharing zip files with the external drive too. I’d rather have three copies of a project than one copy on a portable drive.

Thanks for the quick response Amber. The network drive scenario seems the better way of working,nin so much as you only hav the file in one location, rather than having to worry that the copy u worked on from ur iMac synced to the cloud and then synced to the laptop when u next try to use it.

Do u think I’d be better using mobile me to store back up copies on a regular basis(not for synchiSinghsing the method u use for dropbox? Or would I be better off getting something like time machine as well as a portable drive?

Thanks again :slight_smile:

Well, part of that is made easier by the time and date stamp that Scrivener puts on zipped archives. When in doubt these can always be compared, but you are right the security of having extra copies does also increase the amount of effort required to manage them.

In regards to which backup method to use, my rule of thumb is: pick both. The more the merrier. You can never have too many, and in the case of the two options you’ve provided, both are what I would refer to as tier 1 backups. That is, backups that are easily accessible but should not be relied upon for long-term data safety. Time Machine is a great tier 1 backup because it is right there and has a nice interface for undoing accidental deletions, corruption, and so on. Internet services like DropBox and MobileMe are slightly less convenient (you need a 'net connexion, and have to rely upon an external agency to protect them), but can also be a good thing to have around in a pinch. For a tier 2, you really ought to burn a DVD at least once a week, maybe every other week, and let a trusted friend hold on to them for you. These are your backups that aren’t as easily accessible, but if you have a flood, fire, burglary, or other problem in your home, that’s your fail-safe. In my opinion you can simulate a tier 2 by increasing the quantity of tier 1 backups. DropBox is free, so why not use that as well as MobileMe? Now you have two storage bins located outside of your home.

But that’s all another topic. Returning to keeping your computers all working together, a network drive is a great way to handle that around the house, and Apple makes it really easy to do. Or you can pick up a little NAS from Buffalo for cheap and plug it into your network. If you go that route, I recommend getting one with two drives and set it up so that they are mirrored. If one drive fails the other will have an exact copy.

Thanks again, Amber. I think that’s solved my query on back-up. If I could just stretch your patience a little longer and explain my the process I’m going to undertake:

  1. All files are on laptop at moment. My imac has no scrivener files stored on local drive
  2. Transfer scriv files to the external disk drive, changing the name of folder on laptop to scriv archive where it can be left alone.
  3. Now every time I use Scriv > open existing document > i pick the files that are on the network drive no matter if I’m using the laptop or imac (right?)
  4. Then I can back-up reguarlarly to mobile me, which is fine so long as I dont open file from mobile me to work on and stick to network drive.

Does that sound about right? Sorry for my weariness in going for this but I want to make sure I’m right before I mess all my files up!

Points 1–3 are all clear, sounds like a good plan. On point #4, the only thing I’d clarify is that you want to use the File/Backup Project To... menu command to save backups to the MobileMe disk, and make sure the ZIP option is turned on. You can do this while you work. Unlike “Save as…” type functions in other programs, you’ll keep working in the original file. The backup function only makes a copy and archives it. This is much safer when working with Internet drives, as there is only one file being stored for every backup, instead of hundreds (Scrivener project files are actually many many files).

That’s great, thanks for your help!

Unless you’ve got vast files, you could also just keep all your scriv resources on a usb stick, and plug it into whichever computer you’re on at the time. I’m doing this - I generally also copy the data to my hard drive to work on it (the more the merrier indeed) and make my own zip backups to the stick and to my domain backup too. A stick is easier to carry around than an external hdd, and a fast 8Gb stick is well under £20 these days. There’s no reason not to work directly from the stick files, of course, except the flash memory has a more limited read/write span than a proper hdd (and read times can be slower).

Yes, and if you work off of a stick, I would recommend setting the auto-save interval a little higher. Nothing insane, maybe ten seconds or so. This will reduce the number of writes (those are the ones that reduce the life of the device the most). Scrivener by default does a whole lot of writing. Even just clicking around and looking at stuff will commit writes. Another thing I recommend doing with flash based USB storage is to reformat it using HFS+ (not journaled). It is much less prone to corruption than the defaults they usually ship them with. Of course, this effectively makes it Mac only unless you can install HFS+ drivers on any Windows computers you need to access the stick with, so keep that in mind.

ok, well I just got this message when moving a project from laptop to imac via usb:

[i]While the project was opening, files were detected within the project package that do not exist in the binder. This may have been caused by a permissions conflict, in which the file system refused the deletion of files from inside the .scriv package that had been deleted from the project binder, or by synchronization between different versions of the project.

The recovered files can be found in the “_Recovered Files” folder at the bottom of the binder.

Scrivener attempts to recover such files whenever a project is opened. To disable this behaviour for a project, hold down the Option key while the project is opening. If file recovery is disabled, holding down the Option key on open will re-enable it.[/i]

I went and checked which version of Scriv I had on both machines and found that the laptop was running a slightly older version. I went and upgraded and now I seem to be getting this message on most of the projects I open. Incidentally, these are not files that have been anywhere other than on my laptop hard-drive.

Any ideas?

Have you looked at what these Recovered Files are? This sounds like a known situation where older versions of Scrivener did not always tidy things up perfectly, and newer versions are more aggressive about creating recovered files. Those odds and ends might very well have been there for a long time, but only just now showed up.

It’s pretty much the same in all of them

'Keith Blount Your manuscript should have your address and contact details on the title page only. Your agent’s address can be included beneath if you have one. 600 words. NOVEL STANDARD MANUSCRIPT FORMAT by Keith Blount Blount / NOVEL MANUSCRIPT FORMAT / 1 CHAPTER ONE Chapter Subtitle Goes Here Standard manuscript format is often required for novels so that work can easily be read by editors. It allows editors to estimate word count and determine roughly how many pages will be re…

The text above is found on the index card for the folder called recovered files, the document called recovered file is blank

It’s okay to remove these if they contain nothing you need. What probably happened is you deleted some stuff from one of the template files at some point, but parts were left behind (the contents of the index cards are stored in separate files, for instance), and the newer version found them and produced copies in the Binder so you can decide what to do with them.

ok, gotcha. Thanks!

I wish I read this forum sooner. I have been working on a project on my MBP and my Mac Mini. I used my MobileMe disk (saved locally on both computers) as the go between without any problems … until this week.

Inspiration struck and I wrote steady for about an hour and then shut down my MBP. When I reopened the file, all of my text in the binder was missing from the other chapters. The notecards on the corkboard are intact (with text) but the binder view is blank. My photos are missing as well.

Is there anyway to recover the missing pieces or am I out of luck?


From your description, it sounds like you’re going to have to go back to an earlier backup. An “empty” Binder is probably the worse of two common cases. One is the file won’t open, but the data is largely there—that you see more often with other services. It seems iDisk’s brand of terror is occasionally not saving most of the files in the project itself. If the resources are gone, there is nothing to load from the Binder and you get blank documents. So yeah—another thing you could try is unplugging the second computer from the Internet and turning it on—maybe the cached copy on that computer is intact. Copy it out of the iDisk and then connect back to the Internet. If you have no recent backups, or that latter trick doesn’t work, there might be some in the “BinderStrings.xml” file, which you can open by right-clicking on the project and opting to Show Package Contents. Open this in TextEdit or some other text editor and see if you can extract the writings from the search index.

Thanks in advance to all who have provided so many welcome suggestions (here and on other threads) for handling Scrivener files on multiple computers. I’ve learned not only to be concerned about unwelcome boogeymen lurking in the shadows of modern networks, but also strategies to provide a high degree of security against file corruption/loss.

As a network simpleton, though, who likes not to think too much about such boogeymen or about technical computer network stuff, I prefer to let automatic updates do their thing without my interference. But, again, as a network simpleton, I’m curious whether I might be overlooking something in the way I’ve chosen to use Scrivener on multiple machines interfaced with MobileMe’s iDisk.

In my setup, I place all active and current Scrivener project files (not backups and not compressed) directly onto iDisk. These files remain on iDisk with requisite compressed backups sprinkled across a variety of external and internal hard drives. iDisk is permanently set to automatic sync – thereby minimizing my confusion and concern that I’ve remembered to sync it, or not.

Now, whenever I open Scrivener to work on any file on iDisk, I first move the file from iDisk to the desktop of whatever computer I’m working on. Upon completing my Scrivener session I backup to internal/external disk, and COPY the file from desktop to iDisk – where it will remain ready to be moved to the desktop of whatever computer I choose to use next time.

Have I set myself up for some bad actor to spoil my day?


igregor, that’s going to be pretty safe. As I have said elsewhere, the main considering in dragging or creating zipped projects on your network drive over “bare” projects is behaviour. It just really reduces the temptation (or the accidental cases) where you forget where is what and open off of the network drive. Scrivener can’t open a zip file, so problem solved in that case. But if you have a good routine and are very careful about it, feel free to continue as you have.

The only other clear advantage that zip files hold is upload speed. Text compresses very well, usually about about a 1:9 ratio, meaning your backups will upload that much faster, reducing how long you have to wait before sleeping the computer.

But wouldn’t it be safer and quicker in any case to zip the Scrivener project straight to the idisk, using the “backup to” feature? Is it actually okay to keep the project on idisk unzipped as long as you don’t open and work on it from that location? I didn’t realise.

William, you are right it is slightly less safe than zipping straight to iDisk. Keep in mind Scrivener is just files and folders when you get down to it. iDisk does files and folders just fine. Copying a .scriv project without zipping it is no different than uploading several hundred files. So the argument here is more of statistics. Over time, these services glitch just because networks are not flawless, even hard drives glitch and files will disappear. So when you represent your book as 8,000 files: you are increasing your statistical odds of losing something. True, one zip file is “all eggs in one basket”, but, who has just one zip file? You should have many, and the odds of losing all of them are very unlikely.

So, personally, I don’t see the point in skipping the zip. It takes less effort to create a zipped backup with the menu command. Sure I have to unzip it on the other end, but that’s so little effort in the grand scheme of things. That’s just my opinion of course. I’m totally fine working with zip files.

I understand some really hate steps though, so if it is a hugely abrasive concept, storing a bunch of files and folders on iDisk is theoretically fine. That’s what its meant to do, and that is all Scrivener’s project format is.