iOS Scrivener Sync Altermatives, Part 1: iCloud Drive #amwriting

Many Scrivener users want iOS sync to work via iCloud Drive. Desperately. I hear from users on the Literature and Latte forums that they’re keeping their working Mac/iOS projects in iCloud Drive with no apparent problem.

Don’t do it! I also hear users who lose all their writing this way. It’ll work fine—until it doesn’t. Because of Scrivener’s unique “hidden multiple files” project format, the only recommended cloud service for “working” projects is Dropbox. Period.

Nonetheless, I’m going to suggest ways to use iCloud Drive to get work from Mac to iOS and back, and from iOS device to iOS device. These are file transfer solutions, not sync solutions. They’re not automatic. They’re not “transparent.” They don’t happen in the background without you doing anything (once you’ve set it up). If you’re looking for a “set it and forget it” solution, these aren’t it.

What they are, is safe. They use iCloud Drive. You can automate parts of the process. Still with me? Good! Let’s get into the setup.

System Requirements

iOS Scrivener 1.2 or greater
iOS/iPadOS 11 or greater
Mac Scrivener 2 or greater
Any version of MacOS that supports iCloud Drive

For iOS 11:
FileApp
For iOS 12:
The Shortcuts app, and a shortcut as described here: UnZIP and Open In…

Mac – iOS:

Mac side:

  1. First, set up your iCloud preferences for maximum safety when working with Scrivener and iCloud Drive
    1. Open the Mac System Preferences app, and open iCloud preferences.
    2. Next to iCloud Drive, click the Options… button.
    3. Turn off “Optimise Mac Storage”, in the bottom left of the options dialog. This is essential. Scrivener depends on your projects being physically present on your hard/ssd drive. If any portion of a project has to be downloaded from iCloud, you risk project corruption.
    4. For maximum safety, turn off “Desktop and Documents Folders.” This is less urgent than the “optimise Mac storage” setting, but if you don’t need this for other apps besides Scrivener, please turn it off. You will not use this to transfer Scrivener projects.
  2. Next, set up a transfer folder.
    1. Open up an iCloud Drive window. Create a new folder, and name it something obvious, like “Scrivener Transfers”.

    Work on your Mac Scrivener project as you usually do. When you’re ready to stop work on your Mac:

  3. From the File menu, select File->Back up->Back up to…

  4. In the Back up to: dialog, check the “Back up as ZIP File” box towards the bottom of the window. This is essential. Here’s where you make this process safe for your data. By making a ZIPped backup and transferring that, you save your project in a single file that isn’t vulnerable to sync corruption like an unzipped, .scriv project.

iOS side:

When you’re ready to work on your project on your iOS device:

  1. Open iOS Scrivener.
  2. Navigate to your projects screen if needed.
  3. If there are any copies of your project on your iOS device:
    1. Tap the “Edit” button at the top of your vertical projects button.
    2. Delete the iOS copies of the project. This will eliminate any possible confusion by working on an old copy of your project.
    3. Tap the “Done” button
  4. For iOS 12 or 13
    1. Open the Files app
    2. Navigate to the “Scrivener Transfers” folder (or whatever you named it)
    3. iOS 13+:
      1. Tap on the (most recent) backup project. The Files app will unZip the project. Wait until the project is unzipped AND uploaded to iCloud.
      2. Tap on the unZipped project. It will open in Scrivener.
    4. iOS 12:
      1. Create an “Unzip and Open In…” shortcut as described in this L&L forum post: https://www.literatureandlatte.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=287616#p287616
      2. Tap on your zipped project, and select Unzip and Open In… as your action.
      3. After unzipping, select Scrivener as your target. Your project will open directly in Scrivener.
  5. For iOS 11:
    1. Get a free third-party utility, FileApp. (Not the same as Files!!!)
    2. Open FileApp. Tap on the plus icon in the upper right corner. Then tap the import icon in the lower left.
    3. Tap Browse, navigate to your transfer folder on iCloud Drive, and select your zipped project. It will be copied to FileApp
    4. Still in FileApp, tap your project to unzip it there.
    5. Drill down into the unzipped project until you find a folder that has an extension of .scriv (very important!)
    6. Long press on that .scriv folder, then tap the export icon and open your project in Scrivener.

When you’re ready to put away your iOS device:

  1. Return to the projects screen.
  2. Tap the “Edit” button at the top of your vertical projects button.
  3. Select the project you just worked on.
  4. Tap the export button
  5. iOS Scrivener will make a zipped backup of your project
  6. Save to to the “Scrivener Transfers” folder (or whatever you named it) in Files
  7. (Optional) Delete the project from your iOS Scrivener app (select the project and tap “Delete” at the bottom of your screen) If you do this, you can avoid confusion about which version of your project you worked on last.
  8. Tap the “Done” button

Back to the Mac:

When you’re ready to start work on your Mac again:

  1. From the Finder, open the “Scrivener Transfers” folder (or whatever you named it) on the iCloud drive.
  2. Delete the unzipped project—it’s now old
  3. Double click on the most recent zipped version. Rename the unzipped project to something obvious (“My Project From iOS”) and drag it to your desktop.
  4. Go ahead and double-click the iOS version on your desktop to open it. Scrivener will incorporate the iOS changes. Close the project.
  5. Open your old Mac Scrivener project in your usual way.
  6. From the File menu, select File->Import->Scrivener Project
  7. In the Open dialog, select the project version from iOS that you dragged to your desktop.
  8. When you see the “Merge?” dialog, go ahead and select “Import and Merge”. After you’ve checked to be sure your changes made it over, you may delete the iOS version on your desktop (it’s secure in zipped form in your transfers folder.)

Optional Automation

If you’d like to have the “Mac Side” steps 3 and 4 automated, do this:

  1. From the Scrivener menu, select Scrivener->Preferences…
  2. Tap on the Backup icon
  3. Turn on these Backup preferences: Automatic backup, backup on close, backup on manual save, compress backups as ZIP files, use date in backup file names.
  4. Keep at least 25 backups.
  5. Choose your iCloud “Scrivener Transfers” folder as your backup location.

    Now whenever you either close your project, close Scrivener, or use cmd-s to save, a fresh zipped backup will be saved in your Scrivener transfers folder, named so you can tell them apart, ready to be opened in iOS Scrivener. If you don’t think you’ll turn off your Mac, close your project, or remember to type cmd-s, there’s one last automation step:

  6. Still in the Preferences dialog, tap on the General icon and select Automatic Quit. Put a checkmark beside automatic quit, and adjust the interval so that it’s not so short as to be annoying, but often enough that Scrivener will quit (thus making an automatic backup in iCloud) before you pull out your iPhone or iPad to work.

iOS – iOS

iOS to iOS is easier than the above in that we only need to worry about one environment. It’s harder because we have no way to automate any of this. Using this method to transfer files between two (or more!) iOS devices is totally dependent on user discipline to keep versions straight. Be told.

Prepare the Files app

  1. Open the Files app on your first iOS device, which I’ll call D-One.
  2. Next, set up a transfer folder in iCloud drive. Just as for Mac – iOS, create a new folder, and name it something obvious, like “Scrivener Transfers”.

Switching from D-One

When you’re ready to put away D-One, or switch to your other iOS Device, D-Two:

  1. Return to the projects screen.
  2. Tap the “Edit” button at the top of your vertical projects button.
  3. Select the project you just worked on.
  4. Tap the export button
  5. iOS Scrivener will make a zipped backup of your project
  6. Save to to the “Scrivener Transfers” folder (or whatever you named it) in Files
  7. (Optional) Delete the project from your iOS Scrivener app (select the project and tap “Delete” at the bottom of your screen) If you do this, you can avoid confusion about which version of your project you worked on last.
  8. Tap the “Done” button

Starting up D-Two

When you’re ready to work on your project on your second iOS device, D-Two:

  1. Open iOS Scrivener.
  2. Navigate to your projects screen if needed.
  3. If there are any copies of your project on D-Two:
    1. Tap the “Edit” button at the top of your vertical projects button.
    2. Delete the iOS copies of the project. This will eliminate any possible confusion by working on an old copy of your project.
    3. Tap the “Done” button
    4. For iOS 12 or 13
      1. Open the Files app
      2. Navigate to the “Scrivener Transfers” folder (or whatever you named it)
      3. iOS 13+:
        1. Tap on the (most recent) backup project. The Files app will unZip the project. Wait until the project is unzipped AND uploaded to iCloud.
        2. Tap on the unZipped project. It will open in Scrivener.
      4. iOS 12:
        1. Create an “Unzip and Open In…” shortcut as described in this L&L forum post: https://www.literatureandlatte.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=287616#p287616
        2. Tap on your zipped project, and select Unzip and Open In… as your action.
        3. After unzipping, select Scrivener as your target. Your project will open directly in Scrivener.
    5. For iOS 11:
      1. Get a free third-party utility, FileApp. (Not the same as Files!!!)
      2. Open FileApp. Tap on the plus icon in the upper right corner. Then tap the import icon in the lower left.
      3. Tap Browse, navigate to your transfer folder on iCloud Drive, and select your zipped project. It will be copied to FileApp
      4. Still in FileApp, tap your project to unzip it there.
      5. Drill down into the unzipped project until you find a folder that has an extension of .scriv (very important!)
      6. Long press on that .scriv folder, then tap the export icon and open your project in Scrivener.

Repeat the cycle as needed. Enjoy!

Scrivener iOS Update (Yay!) #amwriting

After a long hiatus, Literature and Latte have updated Scrivener iOS to v. 1.2! This update fixes several long-standing, annoying, non-data-loss bugs. It also provides compatibility with iOS / iPadOS 13.

Bugs fixed:

  • All modern screen sizes supported. No more letterboxing!
  • Dynamic type better supported in the Binder and the remaining UI. If you like to cram stuff on your screen, you can. If you like big type, you can have that, too.
  • Fixed the search field disappearance bug.
  • Fixed the disappearing image link bug.
  • And many more!

I’m enjoying the ability to show more stuff in the Binder synopses. If you’re a Dark Mode fan, you’ll like the new Dark Mode support.

Many people protest iOS Scrivener’s Dropbox sync protocol. Loudly. I’m going to be writing a new series on an alternative to Dropbox sync with iOS Scrivener. Learn how to improve your data integrity, and transfer your Scrivener projects amongst your devices, iOS and otherwise, with a cloud service of your preference and tools provided by iOS / iPadOS 13.

Stay tuned!

Aeon Timeline on iOS—Thoughts on Scrivener Workflows #amwriting

A moment has arrived that many of us who use both Scrivener and Aeon Timeline have long awaited: Aeon Timeline is available on iOS!

Scrivener and Aeon Timeline Meet on iOS

The iOS version of Aeon Timeline seems robust and full-featured; I can do almost anything with Aeon Timeline on iOS that I can on the Mac, with a few exceptions:

  • Screen real estate is cramped on iOS screens, so it might take several screens of information to display what’s available on one screen on the Mac. Don’t get me wrong; the display’s neither crowded nor sparse, and there’s nothing missing, but you might have to tap a couple of times more to see all three of your story arcs, for example.
  • Import and export options on iOS are limited—I suspect in large part due to iOS sandboxing.
  • I can’t sync with Scrivener.1 For that, I have to get back to my Mac.

Nonetheless, since I do use Scrivener on both platforms, and have built a timeline for my Scrivener project in Mac Aeon Timeline, having Aeon Timeline on iOS is wonderful.

  • On the iPad, at least, I can split my screen between Scrivener and Aeon Timeline. Thus, I can see all the information (dates, keywords, arcs, locations, tension) for my Scrivener docs that iOS doesn’t know about—while I’m looking at my Scrivener project. Even on iPhone, that data is now available even if I can’t have Scrivener on the screen at the same time.
  • On iPad or iPhone, I can now actually edit that data, and it will get incorporated when I get back to my Mac, sync Scrivener with iOS Scrivener, and then sync Scrivener with Aeon Timeline.
  • If you’re an iOS-only user, only titles, labels, and synopses would be synced anyway since you don’t have keywords or custom metadata. I’d suggest creating a timeline in Aeon from scratch, copying and pasting titles. You could still set up your dates, locations, arcs and tension in Aeon.

Thank you, Matt at Aeon Timeline, for this great little iOS app!


  1. Not syncing with Scrivener on iOS makes sense. Scrivener keeps the desktop project version largely unchanged on iOS, sequestering mobile changes in a special mobile area inside the project. If iOS Aeon Timeline starts messing with it, there’s a real possibility that it might create Scrivener sync conflicts. No one wants that. 

Literature and Latte Break the Silence @scrivenerapp #amwriting

The Scrivener Teaser Trailer  https://skyfire.vimeocdn.com/1467161308-0x147a2c2043b300e3d3c8977ba402c29968b54417/171898734/video/554074950,554074947,554074945,554074942/master.m3u8
The Scrivener iOS Teaser Trailer
The video says what I as yet cannot.

Pause it. Take it half a second at a time. Savor the features. It’s the real deal, the video that will be featured in the App Store entry for Scrivener iOS. It’s what I’ve been living with since mid-April.

Also check out these blog posts on the official Literature and Latte site:

Once Literature and Latte give the Official Word that beta testers may talk about features, I’ll be discussing each one of their posts, letting you know about best practices that we beta testers have discovered in testing, and talking about how to handle anything that might seem awkward or not provided (which will be damned little.) I have these posts already outlined, and my finger is hovering over the “Post” button.

Feel free to ask me questions — if I can’t answer them now, I’ll save them up for when I can.

In the words of Calvin (by Bill Watterson) “This is gonna be good!”

Of Touchscreens, Styluses, Elegance, and Kludge

The original Apple iPhone
Elegance: N. The quality of innovative simplicity. In engineering, an elegant design is one that solves a complex problem with breathtaking simplicity, provoking all the engineers who observe it to raw envy of the designer’s mad skillz.

Kludge: (pronounced klooj) N. An awkward, over-complex, but nonetheless minimally functional design. In engineering, a kludgey design is one which provokes its designer to say, “There’s got to be a better way to do this…”

When I first saw an Apple iPhone, the elegance of the capacitative touchscreen blew me away. With a single electronic input device, Apple’s engineers had reduced the number of mechanical switches in a smartphone from roughly 65 to a measly 5, compared to a Blackberry. It vastly reduced the chance of mechanical failure.

The capacitative screen was an improvement on the Palm pressure-activated screen as well, requiring neither pressure nor a stylus. The old Palm screens would wear out, since they depended on making physical contact between the layers of the screen. This could never be a problem with the Apple screen.

But this simplicity and improved reliability had a cost — precision. The touchscreen needed a touch 6 mm (1/4 inch) in diameter — the size of a small finger — in order for the contact to register. This was simultaneously both too big (for drawing or handwriting) and too small (for users with larger hands.)

The first touchscreen styluses were invented as a solution to the “too small” problem. With a conductive body and a rubber tip just big enough to trigger the screen, they enabled people with big hands to use the onscreen keyboard and small controls. For the iPhone, this was (almost) enough.

With the iPad, Apple introduced a screen big enough for handwriting recognition and drawing to be irresistible to app developers, but the precision problem remained. Now third-party hardware companies started getting into the act with “precision” styluses. The problem with these styluses?

Every single one of them is a kludge.

Even the passive precision styluses are kludgey, though they are better than the electronic or bluetooth styluses just because they’re simpler. They have a either a transparent or an open 6 mm tip so that the user can see the line she’s drawing. But the tiny connection of the 6 mm tip to the stylus body is delicate and prone to failure. The flat transparent tips can trap grit that will scratch the screen, no matter how carefully you clean before using.

The electronic styluses generate an electronic signal that fools the touchscreen into thinking that the tip is bigger than it really is. These can have parallax problems, meaning that it’s hard to keep the signal centered on the tiny tip when the user holds the stylus at an angle, producing position error. They are also useless if their batteries run down.

Most of the Bluetooth (BT) styluses are trying to reproduce the experience of drawing on a PC or Mac with a graphics tablet. They generally incorporate a precision tip, either passive or electronic. They also send extra information such as angle, tip pressure, and position via BT to the iOS device, that can be used to implement pressure sensitive response, angle response, and palm rejection. But BT can be slow, and the low energy version used in these styluses can disconnect easily. They don’t connect to the iPad or iPhone as a whole, but only to individual apps that support their special features.

Look at the Amazon ratings for these things. The very best average rating, for durable precision or BT styluses with decent manufacturing quality, is four stars. That’s because people don’t read carefully, run afoul of an admitted limitation, and give a bad rating.

I love my new Pencil by FiftyThree. But I would never recommend it to anyone who didn’t use or want to use at least one of the apps on its partners list, and who understood that not all of the features are supported by every app on the list.

Only the Apple Pencil isn’t a kludge. But it isn’t elegant, either — not to an engineer. Not by the definition above. It works because the screen on the iPad Pro is no longer a pure capacitative touchscreen. It has been redesigned to incorporate other means of getting the position, angle, and pressure information that an Apple Pencil provides, as well as capacitative touch. Without that hardware support in the screen it would be just another BT stylus — which is exactly why Apple never released a stylus until it had the more complex screen in place. It’s that hidden hardware support that keeps the design from seeming elegant, to me. Rather, it’s an example of creeping complexity — not necessarily a bad thing, but not elegant. The truly elegant solution lies elsewhere — and no, I don’t know what it will be.

But when I see it, my jaw will drop.

iOS Scrivener Beta Chugs Along #amwriting @ScrivenerApp

It’s in Testflight and it’s real
“No screenshots and no discussion of features…”

Nonetheless, iOS Scrivener is moving. Literature and Latte have widened the beta this week, and several dozen new pairs of eyes are looking for “unexpected results” (cough, cough, bugs) or even “It works (this way) on the (Mac/PC) and it’s confusing when it works (that way) on iOS…”

iOS Scrivener is much cleaner than it was when beta started, and it was pretty darn clean to begin with. Some of my fellow beta testers are disappointed that they haven’t been able to find any bugs…

I want to say publicly what I posted privately on the beta forum:

I’d like to express my professional admiration, Keith, for the amazingly small storage footprint of iOS Scrivener. 7.5 MB! Dear Heavens! With all the functionality you’ve managed to stuff in? If you told me you’d found a way to store part of the app in hyperspace, I would not be surprised. [futher effusive praise snipped]

Well done.

Other things being equal, a smaller app is a faster app. It’s also an app that leaves precious device RAM (the stuff the mobile device manufacturers don’t brag about because it’s so puny) to hold and work with your documents. That said, I’m sure it will grow a bit as it’s polished for release. No, it doesn’t have quite all the bells and whistles of Mac/PC Scrivener, but it has a lot. It should be usable as a stand-alone (neither PC nor Mac) composition app. It should work just fine even on a minimal storage device (so long as that device is big enough to hold your project(s).) I’m happy using it on my iPhone 5c, and obscenely delighted with using it on my iPad Air 2.

You’ve got a treat coming, folks. Wait for it.

It’s alive!!! #amwriting @ScrivenerApp

  Yes, that’s Scrivener for iOS there on the right of the second row. I am a beta tester. The rules are, no screenshots and no discussion of features, so I won’t.

The good news — it’s already solid enough that I’ve deleted Index Card from my devices.

More good news — I’ve already made 4 bug reports. That’s why they pay beta testers the big bucks . . . Oh wait. We’re not paid. Darn.

The bad news — I’ve spent a lot of time reproducing bugs and writing reports during which I might have been editing. Now I remember why I don’t QA software for a living any more….

Scrivener v. iOS, Part 6 – External Folder Sync Workflow Secrets

Image courtesy of Samarttiw / freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of Samarttiw / freedigitalphotos.net

Update 20 July 2016:

Do not use the Mac/Windows Scrivener “Sync With External Folder” feature with Scrivener for iOS! If you are having problems setting up your Mac or PC with iOS Scrivener, please follow Megan M.’s excellent step-by-step instructions at http://www.literatureandlatte.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=53&t=35108&start=15#p217129

End Update

I’m finishing up my “Scrivener v. iOS” series, here. It’s still relevant — despite the hopes of all, both developers and users, Scrivener iOS is not yet imminent, so all the current ways to get work done on your trusty iPad and/or iPhone and get that back into Scrivener are still of intense interest (at least, so my blog stats say.) For reference, earlier articles in the series are:

Scrivener v. iOS, Part 1 — Overall Approaches
Scrivener v. iOS, Part 2 — Remote Desktop Sharing
Scrivener v. iOS, Part 3 — Preparing Your Project for Sync
Scrivener v. iOS, Part 4 — Index Card Workflow Secrets
Scrivener v. iOS, Part 5 — Index Card Workflow Concluded

Please note: All of this synchronization info applies to Mac Scrivener only.

In many ways, the external folder sync feature is the most robust and flexible way to work on your Scrivener project on your iOS device. You can choose any iOS editor, any editor at all, that will work with either .rtf files or plain text files, and also work with Dropbox or WebDAV. The syncing mechanism is flexible enough that if your Mac can see a directory, you can put your sync folder there. This means you can use any general purpose cloud drive system you want — DropBox, WebDAV… and if your iOS editor can access it, you’re in business. You can set up Scrivener to automatically sync your project when you open it, to get changes from your iOS device, and when you close that Scrivener project, to automatically put your changes into the cloud, available for your iOS editor wherever you might be. You can set up a saved search, so that you can automatically include new documents in your sync collection without any hand-updating of a collection. You can even export both your draft for editing and your text notes for reference.

This is all good news, but what’s the bad news? The bad news is that none of your metadata (synopsis, document notes, project notes, keywords, custom metadata and so forth) is accessible at all. You also can’t rearrange your documents, you can only edit them. For me, this is a deal-breaker; I want the visibility into and control over structure that Index Card provides, with its ability to rearrange documents and see my synopses. And yet, periodically I try external folder sync again just because of its superior sync flow.

If access to your outline, synopses, and document notes doesn’t matter to you, the comparative ease of synchronization of external folders may be for you.

I’m not going to recommend a particular iOS text editor, mostly because there are so very many of them! Brett Terpstra has an extensive list of them on his website, with capabilities and drawbacks. There are nearly a hundred editors listed with details, and a cool mechanism for filtering based on the characteristics you are most interested in.

I will venture opinions on four of them: Textilus, Editorial, Matcha and Notability. This doesn’t mean that one of the other 96 might not be the exact editor you end up preferring; it means that these are the only ones in the list that I have extensive experience with.

Textilus is the only editor in the entire list designed to create a .rtf file, edit a .rtf file and output a .rtf file. It has features intended to make it easy to work with Scrivener’s external folder sync. Personally, I find its handling of Dropbox sync awkward, but usable if working with formatted text (beyond bold and italic) is critical to your workflow. [I haven’t tried the new Textilus Pro — but preliminary reviews from the App Store are not promising.]

Editorial is my personal editor of choice right now when I use external folder sync. It recognizes subfolders! a feature that is rare in iOS apps. It has global search — that is, it will search all the files in a given folder for a bit of text, or just the file that I’m currently working on. I find this incredibly useful when I can’t remember the name I gave the protagonist’s grandfather’s girlfriend… Its Dropbox sync is absolutely smooth and transparent — edit a file on iOS and it Just. Gets. Synced. It has a lot of features meant to be used by web programmers, and is extensible, meaning you can write your own commands for it if you are so inclined. It works great just as it’s installed, though. I just ignore stuff not applicable to novels. It works with Markdown — so you will be able to see your italicized and bold text if you use these.

Matcha has many of the favorable features of Editorial. It is also a WYSIWYG editor, so that if you’re irritated by Markdown codes you need never see them there. Its one problem is that files are always presented in “most recently modified” order, rather than the carefully numerical order of Scrivener sync files. [Note that my remarks refer to Matcha, not the new Matcha 3 — which I have not tried.]

Notability is a great note-taking app. It can import and edit .rtf files, which get translated to its own internal format. It also will automatically “back up” all its notes to a Dropbox folder in .rtf format, which could easily be your Scrivener sync folder. However, it’s strictly a one-folder connection to Dropbox, which precludes having your text notes available unless via another app. It will sync your edits to Dropbox automatically, but you must manually re-import your Scrivener edits. It will put any other notes you create into the Scrivener folder, too — which you probably don’t want. If you don’t edit very often on your iOS device, and you happen to have Notability, it’s usable, but I can’t see it as part of a regular workflow.

If you haven’t already, I strongly suggest reading my article, Scrivener v. iOS, Part 3 — Preparing Your Project for Sync. Unless you are using an RTF editor (rare) you will likely want to set up your project to deal with text only on the iOS side. My workflow suggestions are based on text sync, with Markdown italic and bold in your Scrivener files.

Workflow details:Screenshot 2015-12-10 13.27.12

  1. In your Dropbox, or in your Webdav drive, set up a folder to receive your Scrivener syncs. This must be an empty folder when you start.
  2. In Scrivener, set up a search to find all the files you’re going to want available in iOS. This can include text notes — characters, settings, and the like. Be clever about it — I search on labels I’ve set up. Scene, Chapter, Notes, Character are all possibilities. Save the search and name it something clever like Auto Sync.
  3. In Scrivener, choose File> Sync> with External Folder…
  4. This and following steps refer to the “Sync with External Folder” dialog box. First, choose the empty folder you set up in Step 1 as the shared folder.
  5. Turn on all the options in the option section. Then select the saved search you created in Step 2 as the collection to “sync only documents from.” This enables you to add a new scene or note, label it, and have it automatically show up in your sync. You can modify your saved search to sync only a subset of your documents, and again it will automatically sync correctly.
  6. Be sure to keep the “Take Snapshots…” and “Check External Folders…” options on! These are what make the process both automatic and safe. The snapshots ensure that even if you foul something up on the iOS side, your Scrivener original document is still available. The “Check External Folders…” option makes this all automatic on the Scrivener side.
  7. Set up your file types and file extensions. If you’re going to be using an RTF editor, choose “.rtf” as your file type, and “rtf” as your extension. Otherwise, choose “plain text” as your file type. If you’re using a Markdown editor on the iOS side, set up either “md” or “markdown” as your extension. Otherwise, “txt” is safest.
  8. Finally, if you’re using either Markdown or plain text, check the “Automatically Convert Plain Text Paragraph Spacing” box. When you’re editing on iOS, put two returns wherever you want a paragraph. They will be converted to whatever paragraph formatting you’re using when your edits return to Scrivener.
  9. Click the “Sync” button. Close your Scrivener project.
  10. On the iOS side, navigate to the sync folder you set up with your iOS editor. You’ll find two folders inside it, “Draft” and “Notes.” Find the documents you want to edit, edit them, and make sure they are written back to Dropbox or the Webdav server when you’re done.
  11. Voila! When you open your project in Scrivener, the external folders will be checked for changes and you’ll be asked if you want to sync. Do so, and your changes are saved in Scrivener. Scrivener will create a special collection, “Updated Documents,” so that you can check your changed files.
  12. Now edit in Scrivener all you like, and whenever you close your project, your changes will be synced to the external folder. Repeat these last two steps as often as needed.

Have fun with your external folder synchronization!

Musings on Franklin Planner, GTD, life, the Universe, and everything

Once upon a time there was a system called Franklin Planner. Back in the 80’s before even PDAs were dreamed of except by brain-fevered science fiction authors, the concept of having Goals, Planning to meet Goals, and having Everything in One Place was thought of by Hyrum W. Smith, who developed the Franklin Planner (FP).

Put everything in here, he said. Keep your contacts, your calendar, your to-dos all here. Paste in or hole-punch your photos and documents. Proudly strike off things you’ve decided to Not Do. Assign everything a goal-based priority, and then stick to that priority.

One of the nice things about the FP system was the fact that you made notes right on the day pages. You wrote down your phone calls, checked off your to-dos, made meeting notes, scribbled character info for the novel you were (not so much) working on in your spare time… it was ALL there, and you manually cross-referenced it every day as part of your 15 minute-or-so planning routine.

With the addition of contexts, voila! We have Getting Things Done (GTD). Or at least, so it seems to me.

Many snippets of information that are important to me, and many that aren’t, are in my iPad, in one app or another. The immediately actionable things are in Pocket Informant (PI3). But I’ve missed the all-encompassing comfort of the 2-page Daily Journal, with its notes integrated right onto the calendar and to-do list. I’ve tried and tried to simulate the sucker, and moreover, to have it be available on my Mac and my phone as well — anywhere, on any device, on which I happen to be working. Calendar — works great, thanks to Google. To-dos — work great, thanks to Toodledo. The Journal Page… not so much. Not as an integrated, permanent record. And forget about goal-based planning (which didn’t really work for me when I was employed. My goal then was simple — to keep my job until I was so burned out that I didn’t give a flying f**k, which happened about once every 4 years if not sooner.) Now I have a goal (publish a novel!), and no obvious way to do goal-based planning.

And until I started reading about GTD, I’d forgotten the other aspect of FP, which was that everything you thought of to do, every-freaking-thing, was to be written down in your undated lists. This was to get it out of your head, and onto paper, so you could review it every once in a while to see if you still wanted to do it, or if it still needed to be done, and if you could move it to a dated list or delegate it or otherwise get it off the back burner. But there was a back burner, right there in your paper binder which often seemed glued to one’s fingers —

Rather like an iPad.

Now the “back burner” is scattered. Some of it’s in my email. Some of it’s in my head. Some of it’s scattered around my house in what I think of as visual cues, but which in fact is clutter — stuff that needs repair, or to be taken to the dry cleaners, or to be meditated upon so as to figure out what the heck it is — but it’s something, and was important at one time or another or I wouldn’t have put it on the table I pass every day…

I miss the zen of the FP back burner. When I was using FP the way it was designed to be used (a brief period of about two years, maybe less) my house and my brain were both less cluttered. I’ve tried putting all that back burner stuff into PI3, but PI3 doesn’t seem to keep it out of my way. Maybe I’m using it wrong… but as a record of daily events, PI3 doesn’t cut it.

GTD has the concept of “Someday,” which is similar to FP’s undated lists. That’s in its favor, though it seems to me that it’s a reinvention of the wheel. But there is no comprehensive, cross-platform system that records as well as keeps a calendar, manages to-dos, and keeps that backlog of undone stuff out of your way until you’re ready for it. GTD itself is a methodology, not technology — and in my brief investigation of GTD, I’ve found as many implementations of GTD as there are to-do list apps. None of them has that integrated calendar/notes/to-dos. I found some app imitations of FP out there, but cross-platform is not in their vocabulary.

Anyway, I’m not going back to paper — I’ve tried that before, but the convenience of computerized repeating events and to-dos is too seductive. And I need those electronic reminders popping up in my face and blatting their offensive klaxon-like alarms. FranklinCovey doesn’t seem at all interested in selling their system as apps (that went out with Palm OS.) They’ve got a web-based version. My, my. Can you spell “cop-out,” boys and girls? I knew you could.

So yeah. I’m hacking up an app-based implementation of Franklin Planner principles for the twenty-first century. I refuse to actually write an app (I am bored with learning Yet Another OS — no interest there); instead I’ll be putting together a system, somehow. I’ll let you know when it’s done.

Scrivener v. iOS, Part 2 — Remote Desktop Sharing

20140122-140109.jpgA word about remote desktop software and services:

Supposedly this stuff is easy. Supposedly. I stumble over it occasionally, and tech doesn’t scare me or trip me up easily. The thing is, in order to set up a remote connection that shares your computer’s desktop to, well, anything, there are several layers of security and network obfuscation to placate. I believe that it is possible to set up something called “port forwarding” that will eliminate the need to use a third-party service to set up a remote desktop connection between mobile device and computer. (Help me out, here, please! Correct me if I’m wrong.) But if, like me, the words “port forwarding” mean little or nothing to you and you have no desire to learn more; if you have no idea how to implement it without all the hackers in the world glomming onto your poor unprotected computer, then you’ll need a connection service account. LogMeIn, until yesterday, provided these for personal use free. So far as I know, it was unique; but alas, no longer. Now you will pay for your connection service one way or another.

When you first set this up, I do suggest that you try remote connection from no further than the sofa across from your computer. Test your connection and make sure it works. There is nothing more frustrating than settling into a coffee shop, connecting to your computer at home–and nothing happens. Sometimes this happens anyway; your computer crashes, Starbucks’ WiFi is too slow, something. Why have it be a setting you could have corrected if you’d tested at home?

How it works is that first, really, comes the connection service account. You set this up, pay for it however, and then install an app on your iPad (or other device) called a desktop client, and another on the computer you want to access, called a desktop server. You may need to mess with your computer’s settings for desktop sharing and for sleeping or auto shutdown (bad when you want to connect remotely!) The connection service supplies instructions for this, some clear, some not so clear.

Once you have your server set up, you connect to your service account with the server app on your computer and leave your computer running while you travel to wherever. I suggest physically turning off your monitor rather than depend on screen savers/monitor sleeping; I’ve had connections refused because the screen saver was up or the monitor wouldn’t wake from sleep.

When you are at your remote location (your sofa for your first attempt) and have a decent internet connection, fire up your client app and log in to the connection service. The service should show a list with your home/office computer, the one with the server, displayed as available. Tap on that puppy, go through whatever security dance you’ve asked to have set up (depending on the service, you may set this up either at the service itself or on your computer or both) and voila! Welcome to Your Computer on your iPad, iPhone, or Android device.

Below is a list of what I’ve actually tried, along with my observations. This list is not exhaustive. Please note that if the service can stream sound/video to the iPad, many people, particularly gamers, find that to be a desirable feature. But for the purpose of using Scrivener remotely, I could hardly care less. It’s nice to be able to copy/paste between the computer and the mobile device, but I don’t consider it critical. Occastionally I do run into a website that uses Flash (which iOS does not yet support) and is unusable without it. Any remote app will let you use those sites by using a browser on your computer.

    • SplashTop:
    • Initial cost: $4.99 for the iOS app.
    • Annual upkeep: $16.99
    • Useful for Scrivener: Copy/Paste between PC and mobile.
    • Notes: Faster than LogMeIn ever was, and has sound/video streaming built-in if I ever want it. I like its user interface, which makes actions such as dragging objects easier than either of the other services I’ve tried. This is my new service.
    • LogMeIn:
    • Initial cost: $0.
    • Annual upkeep: $99
    • Useful for Scrivener: Copy/Paste between PC and mobile. File transfer features not really needed since I have DropBox.
    • Notes: I miss the way I could set the remote computer’s screen to be the size and color density I prefer. While LogMeIn doesn’t have SplashTop’s raw speed, its connection is more configurable.
    • Desktop Connect:
    • Initial cost:$14.99 for the iOS app.
    • Annual upkeep: $0.
    • Useful for Scrivener: Nothing in particular.
    • Notes: This is the oddball of the bunch. It’s the first I tried, two years ago–$15 looks good compared to $99/year. This company uses a little-known Google service to connect your devices instead of their own servers. Desktop Connect worked OK for a while, but the developer is slow to put out updates to work with system upgrades like iOS 6, iOS 7, or Mavericks. I tried it again after LogMeIn cut me off this week, but it is so slow in iOS 7 as to be unusable, and I have no confidence that an upgrade will arrive soon. Pity.

GoToMyPC deserves a mention even though I haven’t tried it. It is the grandpappy of all these services. It is well-reputed, has been around a while now, and consistently gets decent reviews in the App Store. If I could have gotten in for $22 or less, I’d have tried it before Splashtop.