Working from an external drive

Since back in the day when Word used to crash at the very sniff of a network drive, I have always worked on files locally, irrespective of which application I used.

However, I’m just wondering if anyone else stores their Scrivener projects on an external drive, and works from that drive, rather than copying back and forth on to local machines? Is this a ‘safe’ option?

Thanks :slight_smile:


I probably don’t understand your question. Here is what seems to me a normal set up:

Drive A (local): application and files.
Drive B (remote): backup copies of files.

Drive A is in the machine I’m operating; Drive B could be a second hard drive, a flash drive, or file space at If you have the latter, then you may set up your iDisk to synch both its local and remote copies.

I wouldn’t regard the procedure you describe as very safe. Each time the application calls the file, or vice-versa, they would have to find each other on two different drives. In my experience, keeping them on the same drive works best. But, do make backups on remote drives, several times over.

I’ve never had anything crash in OS X because I have a network drive mounted, ever. At work, I often have half a dozen different drives mounted from a plethora of sources, for weeks at a time.

The way OS X presents drives to applications should be identical. It shouldn’t matter at all whether the drive is plugged in via USB, or physically located across the country in some data centre. Once mounted, I’m pretty sure they all look the same to an application. That is how things work with other UNIX systems anyway. An application has to be really digging deep beyond where it should be (unless it is some system utility) to know the source of a mounted drive. Maybe Word was being naughty.

I klutzed around trying to decide how I could edit Scrivener files on my Mac mini and my new MacBook, always working with the latest file. I finally gave up trying to find a syncing scheme that made sense and starting editing on a USB flash drive. I just plug it into the machine I’m using at the time.

I’ve only been doing this a week, but so far it’s worked fine. The only time I had a problem was when I pulled out the flash drive while still running Scrievner. It didn’t want to let me quit until I had replaced the flash drive.

For backup, I just drag and drop my flash project folder on to to similar folder on whatever computer I’m using at the time.

Since Scrivener files are mostly text, you can get quite a few of them on a 1 gig flash drive that costs maybe $15. And there’s the added benefit that the MacBook’s battery will last longer.

–Mike Perry, Inkling Books, Seattle

P.S. If you have a MacBook, you might want to get one of the keyboard protectors made by iSkin and others. In addition to keeping a spilled latte from drowning your motherboard, they (or at least the iSkin version) have tiny ridges to mark the f and j ‘home’ keys. That the lack of such was the only fault I could find with the MacBook keyboard.

A word of caution with thumbdrives, one of which you’ve already discovered. Make sure everything is closed before removing it. :slight_smile: I am positive on this, but I think Scrivener does some clean-up when you close a project properly. Frequently doing this might run the risk of damaging your project file.

Another is to make good use of Scrivener’s easy back-up system to leave zipped and dated copies of your project on both machines. That way, if the drive is lost or damaged, you can restore a recent if not current copy.

Question on the iSkin. I’ve been thinking of getting that, but have been worried that it will essentially duplicate a problem that some of the very first Titaniums had, where the screen actually pressed up against the keys, transferring finger grease to the screen. Does the screen come down and rest on the iSkin itself, or is there a bit of a space between the two? Its not like I eat cheetos will typing, or anything, but over time it would get annoying on those old Ti books.

I’ll second what Amber says and expand on it a bit.

File storage graded in terms of communication reliability—best first.
A local internal drive.
A local external drive (SCSI, firewire, USB).
A server on an ethernet LAN
A “commercial” server on the Internet via hard wires (DSL, Cable, T1, etc.)
Local or remote servers via wireless.
Local or remote servers via (gak!) modem.

The first three are by far the most reliable with the fourth a modest second. Wireless in general is reasonably reliable but communication failures are more likely (your neighbor turns on their forty-year-old vacuum cleaner).

Several big commercial programs have had serious bugs with network file-shares: Word, QuarkXPress, Photoshop. They’ve all been resolved and there haven’t been reports of substantial problems for a while—the networking code has just been getting better and better.

Scrivener makes modest demands on file systems compared to behemoths like Photoshop. I would feel very comfortable working off a local server instead of a local drive these days (unless, of course, the server is run by your cousin Ezra on a 10-year-old machine with his own cool free hacks to make it actually share files).


I haven’t tried it, but have wondered about keeping my original file on my laptop, and then when at desk having my iMac access this file via Target Mode - eliminating the necessity of syncing and keeping track of a file that moves back and forth between two computers.

Any thoughts? Anyone try this?

Target mode is good, and it works just like an external hard drive when you do this, but actually I prefer to just use OS X’s Firewire networking. It is super simple to do. Just plug the two computers together with your Firewire cable, turn on sharing on the laptop, and then from the desktop, connect to it in the Network browser of the Finder. It may not be quite as fast, but doing things this way means you don’t have to shut down and reboot your laptop. It using a separate network to do this, so you don’t have to worry about it conflicting with your Internet connexion or anything.


I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and I can’t see any indication that finger grease is being transferred to the screen. Apple may have learned their lesson with the Ti books and built in a bit more separation And the iSkin is actually quite thin, about the thickness of surgical gloves, so it doesn’t add much height. It does feel a bit odd, however, if you’re used to hard, smooth keys. It has slight a bit of texture to it.

Thanks for the update! It sounds like a good deal. I was worried that it would be thicker, like many of the other keyboard protectors I have seen.