One week ago, Scrivener launched an iPhone app and updated their desktop application to support syncing projects between devices through DropBox. I tried it out and figured I’d help you do the same.
In order to work on your existing projects on-the-go, you will need a few things. First you will need a free DropBox account. If you are new to cloud storage, here is the cliff-note version: DropBox is easy to use, they’ve been around a long time, and they keep your files safe and encrypted. Signup for a free account then mosey on over to their download page and get the desktop version of the application. Once installed, this will create a new folder on your computer (Mac in my case):
Only the stuff you put in this folder gets synced up with the cloud, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally uploading all those nude selfies you keep on your desktop. Oh, that’s just me who does that?
Well in any case, once installed, grab your iPhone and give this link a nice press. The Scrivener iOS app costs $19 (here in the USA at the time of this post), but well worth the money if–like me–ideas hit you at random times and demand attention.
Once the app is installed, fire it up and hit the sync icon in the upper left, next to the plus icon:
Choose to sync from Dropbox, login to your account, and let the app do its thing. When it finishes, you will notice a brand new folder appeared on your computer in the DropBox folder called:
Nothing else happened on the iPhone, but that is okay.
Syncing your first project
On the computer, go ahead an open Scrivener to your work in progress. Then choose File->Save As… and navigate your way into the Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener folder, and save your project there.
You could just move the project file manually, but I am of the school of thought that having extra backups is never a bad thing. Just remember your working copy (and your synced copy) is now in the Dropbox folder, and the old one is just your backup.
Close down Scrivener and wait until you see the little green check in your Dropbox folder, like in the image above. This indicates everything is synced up to the cloud.
Now switch over to your iPhone and open the Scrivener mobile app. Hit that sync icon one more time, and you are done! From here on out, everything syncs automatically, or at the push of a single button.
The Scrivener mobile app
The app is absurdly easy to use. Once you pick a project, you basically start with a mobile view of the left-hand menu from the desktop app, and you are free to drill down to look at your characters, locations, notes, everything.
If you drill into Manuscript, you can access your chapters and start working away. They keyboard has a cool left/right sliding toolbar that gives you quick access to some of the advanced style features you would expect on a computer:
Congratulations, you are ready to go!
Once you have made changes on the mobile app, just tap the sync button and modified files will make their way back up to dropbox, and then down to your computer again, all in a matter of seconds. The next time you open your Scrivener project file (the one in the Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener folder), you will see the changes ready to go.
As with all multi-device syncing, it is a good idea not to edit things in multiple places at once, as this has a tendency to confuse even the best synchronizing software. The safest use case is to have your Scrivener project open in only one place at a time. Leaving your computer? Save and quit. Made a change on your phone? Exit back out before you sit in front of your computer. This way you only ever have your project open in one place.
If you do happen to leave Scrivener open on your desktop then make changes on your phone, be sure to press they manual sync button (the one on the right) before you carry one with further changes on the Desktop:
Likewise, if you have Scrivener open on your phone but made changes on your computer, you should make your way back to the app start screen and hit the sync button.
If you are like me, about half of your ideas strike you while you are lying in bed, lights out, sleeping wife beside you. I am a big fan of the accessibility feature on the phone that lets you invert the screen colors, and I’ve linked it up to the triple-click on the home button (Settings->General->Accessibility->Accessibility Shortcut). When an idea strikes in the dead of night, a quick triple-click later and I have a great nightvision-preserving non-wife-awakening editor:
Lastly, if you have one of the new iPhones (6, 6S, or later) that supports the “3d touch,” make ample use of this trick. Force touch anywhere on the keyboard, and suddenly you get a mouse-like cursor that you can steer around with your thumb, helping you jump around with ease.