Edit Mac Scrivener 3 With iOS Ulysses, Part 5: Aeon Timeline—Scrivener—Ulysses Workflow #amwriting

Scrivener and Ulysses CAN get along

Articles in this series:

Part 5: Aeon Timeline—Scrivener—Ulysses Workflow

Introduction

In Part 1 of this series, I talked about changing your Scrivener habits in order to edit with Ulysses, eventually. In Part 2, I talked about changing your existing project so that it compiles with the Scrivener “Convert MultiMarkdown to Rich Text” (MMD→Rich Text) compile option ON, and so that it syncs as smoothly as possible with Ulysses. In Part 3, I discussed setting up sync between Ulysses and Scrivener on either Dropbox or iCloud Drive, and best practices going forward. In Part 4, I discussed some simple methods to refer to your Scrivener metadata (or outline) while working in iOS Ulysses.

If you’re new to my articles on how to edit Scrivener projects with Ulysses, please review “Is this workflow for you?” in Part 1. I strongly recommend you make the changes to your existing Scrivener project that I suggested in Part 2 and set up sync as in Part 3 before proceeding.

Workflow with Aeon Timeline

An Aeon Timeline (AT) timeline that’s synced with your Scrivener project already has much of your Scrivener metadata in it. Further, you can both view and edit that metadata on your iOS device by opening your timeline in iOS Aeon Timeline (or on iPads, by putting AT in a split-screen with Ulysses or in a slide-over panel.) You’ll need to have AT installed on both your Mac and on iOS for this to work.

I don’t recommend this workflow if you don’t want to use AT for, well, a timeline. In order to sync your Mac Scrivener project with AT, you’ll need to actually build a timeline with at least relative dates for your texts (called events in AT). It’s a lot of effort if you don’t want to work with a timeline. In that case, you’ll be ahead by compiling your metadata to an outline document, as I described in Part 4. Besides, while AT is not expensive software (as such things go) it’s not free either, and you’ll need to buy both Mac and iOS licences for it.

So let’s assume that you already use AT and have a timeline for your Scrivener project set up and syncing. You are syncing title, synopsis, label, status, keywords, and timeline-specific custom metadata (start date, end date, location, and arc.) The only Scrivener metadata that’s in your project and not in your timeline are your Inspector document notes and maybe non-timeline custom metadata.1 How do you integrate your AT timeline with your Mac Scrivener—iOS Ulysses workflow?

The key to understanding this workflow is that AT syncing happens on the Mac. You can’t sync your Scrivener project with your AT timeline on iOS, even if you have both iOS Scrivener and iOS AT installed. The only way to get your changes from iOS AT into your Scrivener project (or vice-versa) is to open your timeline in Mac AT and sync with your Mac Scrivener project.

  1. Be sure your AT timeline is available on iOS. If you’ve always used your timeline only on Mac, you’ll want to move it to a cloud service folder—your Dropbox folder, your iCloud drive, Google Drive—that you can access with the Files app on iOS.
  2. Sync your project with your AT timeline. This happens on Mac, and your Scrivener project must be closed before you can sync it with your AT timeline. This is not a problem since you want your External Folder Sync to happen before you move to iOS anyway. Close your Scrivener project, which will execute External File Sync, then sync your project with your AT timeline as normal.
  3. On iOS, open your timeline in iOS AT. Open Ulysses and start working on your draft. When you need to refer to your metadata (outline), switch to AT, or put AT in a split screen with Ulysses. If you want to edit your outline, go ahead and edit the metadata in iOS AT. You don’t need to do anything special to make your changes available on Mac. You can work on your timeline too, if you want.
  4. When you return to your Mac, sync the changes to your AT timeline with Scrivener project before you open your project in Scrivener. AT will write the changed metadata back to your project.
  5. Finally, open your project in Mac. Your metadata changes are already in place. External File Sync will run, incorporating your changes from Ulysses.

That’s it! There’s no chance of sync conflicts between Ulysses and AT—Ulysses can only edit main text, it can’t change metadata. AT can’t edit main text, it can only affect metadata.

Enjoy!


  1. If you still want to refer to those document notes as a compiled outline, as in Part 4, just modify your compile section layout to only include your title and your document notes. If you have custom metadata that’s not timeline data, you could include metadata if you like. What you won’t want is your synopsis—that’s in your AT timeline. 

Edit Mac Scrivener 3 With iOS Ulysses, Part 4: Dealing With Scrivener Metadata #amwriting

Scrivener and Ulysses CAN get along

Articles in this series:

Part 4: Dealing with Scrivener Metadata

Introduction

In Part 1 of this series, I talked about changing your Scrivener habits in order to edit with Ulysses, eventually. In Part 2, I talked about changing your existing project so that it compiles with the Scrivener “Convert MultiMarkdown to Rich Text” (MMD→Rich Text) compile option ON, and so that it syncs as smoothly as possible with Ulysses. In Part 3, I discussed setting up sync between Ulysses and Scrivener on either Dropbox or iCloud Drive, and best practices going forward.

If you’re new to my articles on how to edit Scrivener projects with Ulysses, please review “Is this workflow for you?” in Part 1. I strongly recommend you make the changes to your existing Scrivener project that I suggested in Part 2 and set up sync as in Part 3 before proceeding.

If you need a review of Markdown, and of MultiMarkdown tables, you can find them here:

What is Scrivener Metadata?

For this series, I’m assuming that you’re using Mac Scrivener to organise your work: You use the Corkboard, the Outliner, collections, keywords, labels, and and so forth to give you information about your project.

Metadata is defined as “data about data”; in this case, I’m referring to data both about each document, and about your project. Each document in Scrivener potentially has these metadata items:

  • A title
  • Created and modified dates
  • A label
  • A status
  • One or more keywords
  • A synopsis (plain text)
  • A corkboard image
  • An Inspector document note (rich text)
  • A section type
  • An “Include in Compile” flag
  • Document Bookmarks
  • Custom metadata

In addition, the entire project has:

  • Project Bookmarks (which refer to in-project notes as well as external references.)

As of this writing, even iOS Scrivener can access and edit only a subset of these:

  • Title
  • Label
  • Status
  • Synopsis (plain text)
  • Corkboard image
  • Inspector document note (rich text)
  • “Include in Compile” flag

So far, we’ve managed, in Part 3, to transfer the project notes to Ulysses (any text in the project that isn’t part of your draft.) Let’s see about the others.

Referring to Your Outline

You can do better than iOS Scrivener does here, as long as you don’t need to edit your outline on iOS. (But we’re assuming that you want to organise in Mac Scrivener, so this should work fine.)

For our purposes, the “outline” means most of the metadata you can view in your Mac outliner view (title, synopsis, label, status, keywords, custom metadata) plus your Inspector document notes. Sorry, but corkboard images, section type, document bookmarks, and the “Include in Compile” flag won’t make it over. To begin:

  1. Use File→Compile… The compile dialog will open. Illustration of outline compile setup
  2. Set up a compile of your entire draft. If you don’t want some of your Draft outlined (for example, I outline only to the Chapter level, not to individual scenes), set up a collection that contains only your outline documents and filter your draft to include them only.
  3. Pick a format from the Compile for: list. I’d suggest either Multimarkdown (poorer formatting but you can view the outline directly in Ulysses) or PDF (better formatting for document notes, but you must view it split-screen (iPad) or separately (iPhone) in your favourite iOS PDF app.)
  4. Select your compile format (Markdown Outline for Multimarkdown, Full Indented Outline for PDF.)
  5. Assign your Section Layouts. Choose the same “outline item” layout for all your section types. (e.g., all Decimal Outline Item or all Bulleted Outline Item, or some other item type depending on what’s offered in the compile format you picked.)

If we only wanted titles and synopses, we’d be done and could compile now. But to include the rest of our metadata, we must edit the section layout we picked.

  1. Click on the pencil icon in the preview of the section layout.
  2. Click “Duplicate and Edit Format” in the alert box that appears. This will take you to the Compile Format Designer. How to add metadat to an outline compile in the Compile Format Designer
  3. In the Compile Format Designer dialog, check all the checkboxes except “Text” for your selected layout (its name will be in bold.) This will get all your metadata (title, synopsis, created and modified dates, label, status, keywords, and any custom metadata) as well as your Inspector document notes compiled into your outline document.
  4. Click “Save” to save changes and return to the main compile dialog.
  5. Click “Compile” to compile your outline.
  6. When your compile is finished, you’ll see a standard Mac save file dialog. Name your outline file, and save it to your chosen cloud service, outside your project sync folder.
  7. If you produced a Markdown outline, open iOS Ulysses and add it to your external files. Don’t add it to one of your project external folders!
  8. If you produced a PDF, open your iOS PDF app and open the outline with it.

N.B.: You may find that the full outline document is pretty hefty (my current work-in-progress has an outline of 8,000 words, including all synopses, document notes, and metadata.) Further, if you compiled to a Markdown outline and imported it to Ulysses, Ulysses will (helpfully, it thinks) put the whole thing into a code block (because Markdown code blocks can be made by indenting with a tab at the start of every line, rather like an outline.) Ulysses then becomes pretty darn slow. To speed it up, put your cursor below the code block, and tap your delete (or backspace) key once. The entire code block should be selected. Tap the delete/backspace key again, and Ulysses will (slowly) remove the code block tag so that your outline becomes a normal Markdown indented list. Be patient: it took about five minutes for that 8,000 word outline. After this, Ulysses will be much speedier.

Editing Your Outline

It’s easy to say that you should wait on metadata changes until you’re back at your Mac and use Scrivener. But if you’re like me, you won’t remember your changes that long. If this is the case, I suggest you put Yet Another Inline Annotation™ at the top of your text in Ulysses (just surround it with double parentheses ((like this)) .) Date it, and note the changes you want to make to your metadata. When you sync with Scrivener and check your updated documents, you should see your annotation so that you can make the needed changes to your Scrivener metadata. After that you can delete the annotation if you like.

Dealing with Bookmarks

Bookmarks… just don’t transfer well to iOS. Not even iOS Scrivener will give you access to them. But if you must have some of them available, here’s some strategies. All of them require some effort on your part, and some may require maintaining two lists, one for Mac Scrivener and one for iOS Ulysses. You’ve been warned.

  1. If a bookmark refers to a document on your Mac only, there’s nothing to be done. There’s no way to access that while in Ulysses or on iOS in general. All you can do is move it to the Web or a cloud service so you can access it as in Step 2, below.
  2. If a bookmark refers to a document on the Web or on a cloud service that you have access to (your website, iCloud, Dropbox, Evernote, etc.), you can put a link to it in a text document within your Notes. If you choose to do this, I’d suggest taking these out of your project or document bookmarks—having to maintain the list in two places risks forgetting to update one or the other.
  3. If a bookmark refers to a text document inside your project and it’s synced to Ulysses, you can add it to Ulysses’ Favourites list. This will require maintaining both the Mac Scrivener bookmarks and the Ulysses Favourites list, with the risk of updating one but not the other. Or you may choose to move the document to the Web or a cloud service and follow Step 2 above.
  4. If a bookmark refers to a non-text document inside your project (web archive, image, PDF, etc.) again there’s nothing to be done other than export it to the web or a cloud service and add it to your list in Step 2.

My own strategy has been to keep all my non-text research in a cloud note service (Evernote, but OneNote might serve as well.) Rather than building bookmark lists, I use the Evernote app on Mac and on iOS to refer to it. This way I avoid the whole issue. (Some Scrivener users whose research use is heavier than mine use DEVONthink and its iOS companion app. I haven’t tried it so I can’t say how well it works, but many academics swear by it.)

iOS Scrivener Two and a Half Years On #amwriting

The truth: I hardly use iOS Scrivener any more.

It’s just too limited compared to Mac Scrivener (or even Windows Scrivener). I can never see the aspects of my project that I really want to see. There’s no Scrivenings mode. There are no collections. The Corkboard only ever shows one level of one folder. Keywords and custom metadata are missing.

It goes on. I self-publish, and the facilities to produce a manuscript that’s ready to upload to Amazon and Smashwords just aren’t there. The iOS Scrivener compiler has few features compared to Mac or Windows.

As for research, I don’t use Scrivener at all for that. I use Evernote instead. It’s much easier to find what I need there, and I can display Evernote on a second screen on Mac. On the rare occasions when I use iOS Scrivener these days, I can split the screen between Scrivener and Evernote. I really don’t like my research crammed into the same app as my manuscript. (N.B.: This is Scrivener heresy. One of its heavy selling points is keeping research and manuscript together. I’ve tried it. Every third project, it seems, I try it again just to see if it works better than Evernote. The answer has always been no so far.)

So iOS Scrivener doesn’t work well for me for either planning or publishing. Its lack of easily configurable overview makes it less than ideal for drafting. The only time I find myself using it is when I want to jump start my actual word production for the day by using handwriting recognition. But since I found a workaround to use handwriting recognition with my Mac, I don’t even use iOS Scrivener for that any more.

It’s not a bad app, iOS Scrivener. I like it. If Mac Scrivener didn’t exist, or if I had only an iPad, it would be my writing app. But as I have a lovely tiny Macbook Air 11, I just don’t use it.

Bummer.

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!

9 Tips for using Scrivener with Aeon Timeline 2 #amwriting

Scrivener can have a high learning curve. Aeon Timeline 2 (AT2) can be tough as well. Here are some tips for using them together, that I’ve gleaned in the time since Scrivener 3 (Mac and Windows beta), Scrivener iOS, and AT2 (Mac, Windows, and iOS) were released:

Scrivener and Aeon Timeline 2

  1. Syncing between Scrivener projects and AT2 timelines only happens between desktop versions. iOS Scrivener and iOS AT2 don’t interact. If you are an iOS-only user, you’ll need to build your AT2 timelines manually. If you have both desktop versions, your changes in iOS AT2 and in iOS Scrivener will coordinate when you run a sync in desktop AT2. The rest of these tips presume that you have desktop versions of both apps.
  2. If I can’t see it in Scrivener, I don’t bother. I use AT2 when I need a time-based view, and to do massive “time when things occur” changes. Things that I can add to AT2 but which I can’t sync to Scrivener [Examples: Character entities (neither names nor notes), Place notes, Arc notes] I don’t bother with. Instead, I create “events” from my Scrivener notes on these things, and place them on the timeline at the point they first appear. I use Scrivener keywords (AT2 tags) for character names.
  3. If I don’t have a use for an AT2 field, I don’t bother. This may seem obvious, but if I see a field in a template, I assume I must fill it in—that it serves some purpose I don’t know about. I spent hours, for example, wondering what to do with the Tension field, coded as a percentage. But it made no sense to me, so finally I deleted it. It was the same with Participants/Observers; first they force me to use Character entities in AT2, which don’t sync except as names of Participants or Observers. Second, I get almost all of that info by simply tagging/keywording events with my character tags. So I don’t bother with those, either.
  4. Use AT2 on iOS to make Scrivener keywords available. iOS Scrivener doesn’t allow access to keywords from the desktop apps. If you’re setting up an AT2 timeline anyway, accessing and changing your Scrivener keywords comes along for free—see item 5 below. (Mind, I wouldn’t recommend iOS and desktop AT2 for this alone—but it does let you work around an occasionally annoying iOS Scrivener limitation.)
  5. Structure your Scrivener project to help AT2. AT2 gives warnings when a Scrivener item isn’t connected to an AT2 event during sync. These can run into hundreds for a large project! AT2 can also be set to ignore both folders and non-text documents during sync. To use this to your advantage, set up your Scrivener project to use a document and not a folder as container for anything you’ll want on the timeline. (For example, you can change a chapter folder to a text. It will still contain its scenes, but it will be easier to put the chapter itself on an AT2 timeline and track it there. For clarity, I’ll refer to such a changed folder as a “document group.”) You can adjust your global Scrivener preferences to treat all document groups as folders (see section B.4.5 in the Scrivener manual). You can also adjust your project settings to treat document groups the same as folders during compile (see section C.2.3 in the Scrivener manual.) Conversely, use a folder for any container you’re sure you don’t want on the timeline. In this way, you can make AT2’s sync warnings when a Scrivener item is not connected to an event fewer and more useful.
  6. For Scrivener 3 (Mac, and Windows beta), set up your date fields in Scrivener before your first AT2 sync. Use the Custom Metadata feature to add both a Start Date and an End Date field to your Scrivener project. Make these fields plain non-wrapping text fields. My experience suggests that using the Scrivener date field type option (which will be used if you let AT2 automatically create these) is fraught. Any change—to Scrivener, to AT2, even an OS update—may result in dates being misinterpreted. Text fields are safe.
  7. Make use of Scrivener’s Title, Status, Synopsis, Keywords, and Labels metadata. These can all be synced with AT2. In general when syncing, a Scrivener thing (text, folder, document group) will connect to at most one AT2 event; you can set various Scrivener built-in metadata to sync with that event’s properties. Scrivener Labels sync to Colors in AT2, Status to Complete, Keywords to Tags. Scrivener’s Title will be AT2’s event name. Scrivener’s synopsis syncs as the AT2 event’s Summary.1 This gives you a pretty darn complete outline in AT2.
  8. When you create your timeline file, correct the Complete property format. AT2 creates this as a simple checkbox in the Fiction template. Before your first sync with your Scrivener project, change this to a single-line text field. (In AT2: Timeline > Timeline Settings > Properties) Then AT2 will automatically offer you the opportunity to sync AT2 Complete with Scrivener Status.
  9. Use AT2’s Arc and Location fields. When you set up AT2 syncing with your Scrivener project, you can have AT2 add these to your Scrivener project’s custom metadata. Use ad lib.2 Note: AT2’s default Arc and Location fields are single line, which would mean that an event (scene? Chapter?) could belong to only one arc, or take place in one location. If you like to make your scenes do double-duty or your chapters take place in more than one location, change these to multi-line fields before your first sync with Scrivener. (In AT2: Timeline > Timeline Settings > Entity Types, check “Allow multiple per event.”)

I hope these tips help you use Aeon Timeline with Scrivener effectively!


  1. Partly because I use Aeon Timeline, and partly because Scrivener Document Notes (Scrivener manual section 13.2.2) are only visible in the Scrivener Inspector (which I often leave closed on my Mac, and only appears in a popup on iOS), I choose to stuff all of my document note-type things into the synopsis, which I artificially limit to 453 characters. If I can’t describe a scene in about three Tweets, I haven’t figured it out yet. 
  2. As of this post (Mar 30, 2019), there is a bug in AT2 that prevents it from creating more than one metadata field in Scrivener at a time. To work around this, you can either create the fields in advance in Scrivener, or create them in several passes in AT2 by repeatedly tapping the gear icon in the sync panel.

    To create fields in Scrivener in advance, I recommend using a text without wrap field for dates, and a text with wrap field for such things as Arc or Location, which might have multiples for a single event. 

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.

iOS 12 v. Scrivener iOS: Image Links Lost

If you use Scrivener on both a desktop machine and on iOS, there’s an incompatibility between iOS 12 and Scrivener iOS you should be aware of.

The incompatibility regards images inserted as links via your desktop Scrivener. If you edit a document containing such an image link in Scrivener iOS, the image link will be erased.

It’s impossible to create such a linked image in Scrivener iOS, so this warning applies only to images created via desktop links. Here’s a link to the Scrivener Forums thread in which this is discussed in detail:

Missing Image Links

It’s on the list for the next Scrivener iOS revision, but that may not happen for a few weeks, as the developer (who is responsible both for Scrivener Mac and Scrivener iOS) is swamped. In the meantime, I suggest you turn on the following in your Scrivener Preferences (or Options, if you’re on Windows):

Scrivener > Preferences > Sharing > Sync > Mobile Sync “Take snapshots before updating documents.”

Turn on this preference in Scrivener Mac 3.x to preserve any image links. Similar options are available in the current versions of Scrivener Windows and Scrivener Mac 2.8.1 or newer.

If you turn this on, Scrivener will preserve a pre-Dropbox sync copy of any document you edit on iOS. Should you lose an image link, simply drag and drop the image link from the snapshot back into its rightful place in your edited document. If you don’t use Dropbox (you might instead use iTunes, AirDrop, or some other iOS file utility) then I suggest you make a backup or take snapshots manually before you incorporate any iOS edits into your desktop project version.

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.

Back to Writing Gear Basics #amwriting

I have a regrettable tendency to over-complicate things. Mostly it happens due to impulsivity, made worse by ADHD. I’ve recently taken stock of my customary writing gear—in particular, the load I carry in my backpack. In order to make it practical to walk as much as possible to coffee shops and to the train stations to my part-time office in Chinatown, I’m doing a thorough overhaul and downsizing of what gear I choose to pack.

The upswing in gear started when I discovered Duet Display back in 2016. Not that Duet Display isn’t a fine, fine piece of software; it’s just that I decided I needed to have two displays all the time, so I needed to schlep my iPad and a cable along all the time, and I always needed to be able to plug the MacBook in, because—well, the MacBook assumes it’s supposed to charge the iPad, even when the iPad has more battery life left than said MacBook. So I had to take the MacBook power supply, and I might as well add another cable to charge my phone, and why not take my external hard drive? It only weighs a few ounces…

As of last week, for almost any writing expedition, I’d take:

  • MacBook Air 11
  • External hard drive for backups
  • Charger for the MacBook
  • Extension cord
  • iPhone with stand
  • iPad (mostly for use as a second screen) plus folding screen cover/stand
  • 2 Lightning cables for the iDevices
  • USB 3 hub so I can plug everything into the MacBook at once if needed
  • Bluetooth stylus
  • Charger for the stylus (just in case)
  • Non-electronic backup stylus (just in case)
  • 2 Bluetooth keyboards, one each for the iPad and iPhone (just in case I decided I wanted to work on the phone or the tablet—or both—instead of on the MacBook)
  • Mini USB cable to charge the keyboards (just in case)
  • Bluetooth mouse with extra batteries (see above)
  • Noise cancelling headphones with extra batteries (ditto)

When I got where I was going it would take me ten to fifteen minutes to set up and later the same to pack.

I started thinking about this when I realised that I almost never actually used the iPad any more as a second screen. I found a little-known feature of Scrivener, available even in version 2.x. This setting works in MacOS full-screen mode (as opposed to Composition Mode), and enables the Binder and the Inspector to slide in from the sides when I move my mouse to the left or right sides of the screen, respectively. This effectively increases the screen area available for Scrivener by nearly 40%. I wasn’t using my iPad because this feature is disabled if a second monitor is present. Also, I’ve become skilled at using a split full screen on the Mac, for those times when I’d like to have, say, Aeon Timeline on the screen at the same time as Scrivener. (Mostly though, I can’t do that because AT can’t sync a Scrivener project that’s open.)

Slide-in panels increase Scrivener’s apparent screen size.

I still need the mouse as it’s hard for me to touch-type on the MacBook without accidentally hitting the touch pad which moves the insertion cursor, with hilarious but irritating results. (I’ve set up the mouse to disable the touch pad.) When I’m at my part-time office, I can borrow a big monitor from the monitor pool, and then a BT keyboard comes in handy. But I’ve dropped the following from my list, and my pack feels a lot lighter.

Items dropped:

  • External hard drive for backups
  • stand for iPhone
  • iPad plus folding screen cover/stand
  • 1 Lightning cable
  • USB 3 hub
  • Charger for the stylus
  • 1 Bluetooth keyboard (keeping the one that has a built-in iPhone stand, thus avoiding duplication)

When I’m going to my office rather than to a coffee shop, I can also leave behind the extension cord. If I’m going to a coffee shop I can leave behind the second BT keyboard. If I’m only going for an hour or two, I’ve taken to just packing the iPhone, a keyboard, a couple of cables, a USB adapter—and the headphones. I might see if I can come up with a really lightweight and compact extension cord—alternatively I might carry a small external battery. But that’s it.

Where does this leave my poor lonely iPad? I’m not sure. I really like its bigger screen, but I can’t use it as a phone. 95% of what I can do with the iPad can be done on the iPhone 6s Plus’ large screen (for a phone) as well, and the rest can be worked around. And there are many things that I can do with the MacBook that absolutely cannot be done on iPad (or iPhone.) Sometimes I go days without opening the iPad’s cover. I suppose I should sell the silly hunk of aluminium and simplify my life, but as you can tell, I’m emotionally attached to it.

A problem for another day.