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 v. iPhone XS Max? #amwriting

Does anyone out there have both a new iPhone XS Max and iOS Scrivener? If so, would you please open a Scrivener project on that XS Max while the phone’s in landscape mode? The tutorial project will do.

In landscape mode, you should see a display similar to this, with both the Binder and a document displayed:

But at least one person on the Scrivener forum reported that it wasn’t available—that only the binder or a document would show in landscape mode, not both.

Would you please let me know whether you see a side-by-side Binder and document via comment or email? (you can use my contact page form.) I’m very interested, as I’m contemplating my next iPhone—and I’d prefer a nice iPhone 8 Plus that shows the binder to a fancy iPhone XS Max that doesn’t.

Update: Scrivener Special Abilities on New iPhones (XS, XS Max, & XR) @scrivenerapp

Today was the annual Apple announcement of shiny new iPhones. If you’re a Scrivener iOS user, and considering a new phone, you may wonder which of the new iPhone XS and XS models will display the Scrivener binder in landscape mode.

The plus-size iPhones display the Scrivener project binder in a small sidebar.

Literature and Latte have said that iOS Scrivener uses the iOS size classes to determine whether a device can display the Binder in landscape mode. The key to this is whether the device has “Regular” width in landscape mode. According to the size classes just published for the new iPhones, the following new models have landscape regular width and therefore will display the Binder in Scrivener:

  • iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone XR

Other models that display the Binder:

  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone 6S Plus
  • iPhone 6 Plus

Note that the new iPhone XS (not Max) will not display the Binder in the sidebar, just as the older iPhone X did not.

Scrivener Special Abilities on Plus-Size iPhones @scrivenerapp

The plus-size iPhones display the Scrivener project binder in a small sidebar.

Here it is, nearly July—and that means it’s New Phone season if you’re an iPhone user. You may wait until mid-September to get the latest and greatest straight from Apple’s development labs. Myself, I like to snipe for bargains in late August as the phone companies discount Apple’s older models, which will likely be discontinued or released with different (usually smaller) storage configurations.

But if you’re a Scrivener iOS user and have a small iPhone (iPhone SE, or any of the iPhones 5) or a medium-sized iPhone (6, 6S, or 7)—there are some little-known capabilities of Scrivener iOS on large iPhones (6 Plus, 6S Plus, and 7 Plus) that may influence your new phone decision.
Without the extra keyboard row on the iPhone, you can't access fonts, spacing, or indents.

A small iPhone (1136‑by‑640‑pixel resolution—example: iPhone SE) won’t even display Scrivener’s extra keyboard row in landscape mode, for the simple reason that if it did there would be no room on the screen to display text. Because several formatting functions can only be accessed from that keyboard row on an iPhone, as a practical matter, Scrivener can only be used in portrait mode on a small iPhone.

Medium iPhones (1334-by-750-pixel resolution—example: iPhone 7) get that extra keyboard row in landscape mode. With that increased screen space, Scrivener can be used effectively in any orientation on a medium iPhone.

If you’ve used Quick Reference in your project in iPad Scrivener, those files will be available as Quick Reference items for your iPhone Plus binder.

Ah, but on a large iPhone (1920-by-1080-pixel resolution—example: iPhone 7 Plus) you get so much more! The binder sidebar, unavailable on smaller phones, is available on a Plus-size iPhone in landscape. It’s like a teeny iPad. If you also have an iPad, and set up some Quick Reference files in your project on iPad, you can display them in that little binder on iPhone. (At this time, you can’t designate Quick Reference files on the iPhone, whatever its size. Maybe next year…)


UPDATE 1 JULY 2017—

Keith Blount of http://literatureandlatte.com says that for the next Scrivener iOS update, Quick Reference will be enabled for Plus-size iPhones! Huzzah!


I’ve gone ahead and gotten myself an iPhone 6S Plus, not even waiting for August—I wanted to lock in the 3.5mm headphone socket before it disappears from the product line, as well as enjoy the sidebar in Scrivener. Happy phone shopping!