Scrivener v. iOS, Part 3 — Preparing Your Project for Sync

4walls-bigScrivener Mac has two methods of external synchronization. They are not mutually exclusive. You can use one for part of your project and the other for another part of your project; or you can use one method for one remote session, and the other for the next.

Both methods of sync allow you to automatically make a backup (snapshot) of any edited document before changes from external editing are applied. I strongly recommend enabling this option! When (not if) you have accidentally edited a document both on your iPad and on your Mac, this will enable you to reconcile the two versions. It will also help you restore accidentally lost formatting.

Both the methods of sync have limitations: Neither allows you to work with keywords, statuses, revision levels, nor with custom metadata, with Inspector comments, with Inspector footnotes, nor with your folder structure. You may lose Inspector comments and/or footnotes if you edit a document. You can’t get at project notes. There are (usually) limitations on formatting available for body text within your documents. Index Card sync only supports DropBox; you can use any folder-based cloud service with External Folder sync, but that means iCloud is out.

First, let’s talk about the pros and cons of either External Folder Sync or Index Card Sync.

  • Index Card Sync Pros:
    • You can sync your synopses.
    • You can sync your document notes.
    • You can sync document order.
  • Index Card Sync Cons:
    • It is plain text only. You can, with preparation, preserve or add boldface, italics, inline annotations, and inline footnotes. All other formatting (blockquotes, lists, etc.) will probably be lost if you edit a document containing them. Embedded illustrations go bye-bye.
    • All Index Card syncing is manual. You must manually sync with DropBox both before and after a planned Index Card editing session.
    • It is limited to DropBox for syncing services.
  • External Folder Sync Pros:
    • It can be automated. When you set up External Folder sync, you can specify that you want to automatically sync changed files to your sync folder when you close your project, and automatically check for changed files and offer to sync when you open your project in Scrivener again.
    • It can sync files in either RTF or plain text. If you’re lucky, with RTF you may be able to preserve the formatting of your documents.
  • External Folder Sync Cons:
    • All you get to edit is the document body text. No structure information (ordering, synopsis, document notes) is synced.
    • The format preservation promised by RTF syncing is largely an illusion. There are damn few RTF editors for iOS that can work with non-iCloud services (essential), only one that I know of that requires no internet connection, and none is truly complete.
    • You must use a folder-based cloud service for this to work, one that your chosen iOS-side editor also supports. DropBox works, and works well. iCloud is out of the question.

So. It looks like this is a good fit for you. You’d like to work on your project on your iOS device during long subway rides or during your weekly backcountry day hikes. You’re working on something that doesn’t have illustrations, tables, lists, or other non-supported formatting. What do you need to do to your Scrivener project?

I’m not going to cover the actual sync setup. This is well-covered in the Scrivener documentation. They also have a pretty good video of the sync process.

First, I suggest you eliminate unnecessary formatting in your Scrivener documents. If the Compiler can do a bit of formatting for you, let it! Go to Preferences, Corrections panel, and turn off “Use smart quotes.” I also turn off “Replace double hyphens with em-dashes” and “Replace triple period with ellipses.” The Compiler can add these back when you do any output.

Second, to avoid computer confusion remove smart quotes from your documents as well. Select all the documents you plan on syncing (or, heck, just every document you’ve got in your project) and put the editor into Scrivenings mode. Now select all the text. Then, from the format menu, select each of the following items:

  • Convert:Quotes to Straight Quotes.
  • Convert:Bold and Italics to MultiMarkdown Syntax
  • Convert:Inspector Comments to Inline Annotations
  • Convert:Inspector Footnotes to Inline Footnotes

Now you will find that text that used to be Bold is now surrounded by double asterisks like this **Bold**. Text that was once Italic is now surrounded by single asterisks (*Italic*.) I suggest that you use these indicators for Bold and Italic from now on as you work, both in Scrivener and on your iOS device.

You will also find that if you had Inspector comments or footnotes, they are now embedded in your text inside bubbles. These will show up in synced plain text documents as being inside double parentheses ((Inline Annotation)) or double braces {{Inline Footnotes.}} When you edit plain text documents on your iOS device, you can add annotations or footnotes by putting them inside (()) or {{}}. Double brackets [[another Scrivener doc]] can be used to add internal links.

If you’d like to have your project notes available on your iOS device, don’t use the Project Notes feature. Instead, make a folder for project notes similar to the Characters and Places folders, and put project notes there as ordinary documents. You can sync your project notes docs (and your character and place notes as well) right along with your story documents. Especially if you’re using External Folder Sync, make use of Inline Annotations. You’ll have these for reference when you’re editing your documents on your iOS device.

If you would like to work with your story structure on your iOS device, your only choice available is Index Card. Here are my suggestions to make Index Card more valuable:

  • Anything you would be tempted to use as a keyword (for example, character or place names) for easy search, just list it in your synopsis instead. Scrivener has a fast synopsis-only search, and those names will also be available in Index Card.
  • More generally, put into the document synopsis anything you would like to have visible at a glance while looking at a display of all your documents’ index cards. Draft status, goal/motivation/conflict/resolution, a brief scene description — anything that will help you to understand what’s in the doc without actually looking inside. Scrivener provides lots of ways to tag stuff, but if you want to see it easily in Index Card, put it in the synopsis text.
  • Use inline annotations or document notes for any material you’ll want to refer to easily while working on your main document text. These will be readily available while editing your document in Index Card.

In Part 4: Scrivener v. iOS — Workflow Secrets

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