How To Sync Scrivener With Your iPad

ipadscrivAny reader of this blog will know that I like to compose in Scrivener and, like the name of the company which develops Scrivener (Literature and Latte), I love coffee too. The best place to drink coffee is in a coffee shop and a problem with being a writer is a very real threat of becoming an agoraphobic. If you put all of these things together then you end up with a simple problem; I want to use Scrivener in a coffee shop.

The iPad version of Scrivener was promised back in 2012 and the basic requirement of writing on a tablet has not been more eagerly awaited since Moses came down from Mount Sinai. I have no doubt that the guys at Literature and Latte are doing all they can to get this out and the worst thing would be to release it before it was ready. Scrivener has set a high standard and disciples of the software would be disappointed if the iPad version wasn’t the same.

In the mean time we need to carry on writing and I need to keep drinking coffee. (seriously, the problems in my life are just so complex, aren’t they?) So, here’s what we can all do about it until the final solution is delivered.

Sync Scrivener with your iPad

The boys (and girls) at Scrivener have enabled us to sync the best writing tool in the world with whatever we choose via an external folder.


The simplest method is to sign up with Dropbox. You can have a free account with a minimum of 2GB of storage. To put this into context; a novel is roughly going to be about 25MB so, in other words, there’s space for about 80 novels.

Set Dropbox up with Scrivener

Once you have the dropbox account you then need to set it up with Scrivener. This is easy. Go to – File/Sync/With External Folder…

Browse to the dropbox folder and then create a new folder in your novel’s name.

Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 10.00.17


Keep everything else as-is and click Sync.

Now, every time you close your Scrivener project it will automatically sync with Dropbox. If you don’t close Scrivener then you can manually sync by simply going to File/Sync/With External Folder Now

First bit… Done.


I’ve tried a couple of tools on the iPad, for both editing and writing, and the stand out favourite of mine is now Textilus. (thanks to some comments from readers of this blog)

Once you open Textilus, go to the Settings cog and then choose Link With Dropbox. Log in to your Dropbox account and that’s it. Go in to the Local Dropbox folder and then choose Remote Dropbox at the bottom. Voila.

Seamless Syncing

You will now be able to enjoy a seamless sync between your iPad and Scrivener. This means that you can go out occasionally and meet people, perhaps notice the weather outside, enjoy the feeling of freedom and creativity, oh… and have a coffee while you’re at it.

Until next time…


48 responses to “How To Sync Scrivener With Your iPad

  1. Sadly, I think this syncing method with Scrivener only works with the Mac version. Windows users will have to wait until a future update.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Michael. I would add that you should make sure that you close the project in Scrivener before working on the files on the iPad or the document could become corrupt.

    Also, if you use a plain text editor on the iPad, make sure that you select Plain Text for the format of the external files.

    • Thanks for this, Jim.

      I must admit I’ve always left the file open in Scrivener and edited away naively on an iPad. So far, I’ve never corrupted anything but there’s always a first time. Thank you for alerting me to the dangers.

  3. Brilliant! Instructions easy to follow.

  4. Does synching with Textilus give users a Scrivener-binder-like ability to rearrange the order of sections? Most iOS text app sort their document list either alphabetically or by recent use.

    Scrivener’s ability to rearrange content is one of its most useful features. Lacking that, tweaking the text isn’t that important to me. I’ll just wait for Scrivener for iOS and use my aging MacBook. Lugging it around is good exercise.

    –Michael W. Perry, My Nights with Leukemia: Caring for Children with Cancer

    • When scrivener exports, it attaches a number to each folder and text file within the structure so that it can be viewed in order on the iPad. I’ve never tried to rearrange those sections though.

  5. Simon, I use a Mac and iPad for the majority of my work, but I also have an ageing windows laptop (operation ‘persuade the missus I need a macbook air’ has hit some significant obstacles recently). I’ve never found any issues with syncing – as long as I check dropbox syncs have finished before I close down/sleep. I’ve found that is usually the reason if the most recent changes I’ve made on another device don’t seem to be replicated.

    There’s a great google+ community for Scrivener (called “Scrivener Users”) who are incredibly helpful if you are having issues.

    • I’m an idiot. Editing the exported files from a Mac version on an iPad updates those files that can only be read by a Mac. So I edit on iPad, sync back to Mac and then (and only then) can I use the windows laptop (because the .scrivx file has been updated).

      Sorry. I’ll get my coat.

  6. I’m not sure I entirely understand this… Can Textilus open Scrivener project files directly? Or do you have to extract the individual scenes as text files or something?

  7. and for Windows users (yes, Michael, I know I’ve said this before!)… while we don’t have the easy synching ability that the Mac people have, we can still use Textilus on our iPads, save it to our dropbox folders, and then when we’re back on a PC, we can either import, or do a cut and paste, into Scrivener. So – while not seamless – if you really want to use Scrivener (and you do, of course!) and you want to join Michael at that coffee shop, but you don’t feel like carrying your laptop, you can still get the job done.

  8. Thank you for these guidelines.

    Is it possible to sync Scrivener (Mac) with Pages (iPad)?

  9. Thanks for this post. Might try textilus. I’ve been using Simplenote on the iPad which syncs nicely with Scrivener, but the issue with a switched around binder is a bit annoying. Having said that, I wrote the bulk of a chapter of my thesis on a flight the summer before last!

  10. Thanks for this Scrivener tip! Can’t wait to give it a try.

  11. Thank you, Michael, for this post. Very helpful! I’ve been looking a long time for this “solution.” Your writing about routines, schedules, etc., has caught my attention . . . so your blog has joined my RSS feed funnel.

  12. I have a novel manuscript in MS Word I want to prepare so I friend can read it on her Ipad. So I compile it into an ePub file in scrivener and then export it into Dropbox? And then what do I do?

  13. Another editor that syncs well with Scrivener is Notebooks for iOS. It’s a plain-text editor, so you’d have to export your docs as .txt files from Scrivener, but (as best as possible) Scrivener retains the formatting you might have included such as italics, bold, etc. when you sync back. It’s slightly magical.

    Your files don’t render as RTF in Notebooks, which has a ‘rich text’ option that works only with HTML – but it’s decent for on-the-go editing. Notebooks can also handle Markdown, but as tags rather than a rendered, formatted document.

    One thing I really like about it is that Notebooks includes a ribbon of *customizable* keys, so you can choose your own special inserts – such as an em dash or typographer’s quotes – and have them a single tap away when writing.

    Also, Notebooks uses a folder-document-subfolder hierarchy, but that doesn’t translate into anything Scrivener can export or import for sync. Notebooks lets you arrange individual text files by various sort orders (including manual sort), but that only affects how the files are sorted in Notebooks. It won’t affect how they appear in Scrivener once you’ve synced again.

    In general, rearranging the contents of a given Scrivener database won’t work in *any* external text editor. As Michael pointed out, the external files are prepended with index numbers in their filenames; those are used by Scrivener to determine where they’re supposed to appear in your Scrivener sort.

    Lit and Latte, on their support site, strongly recommends that you do not change those filenames’ prefixes. The system, if you’re paying attention to it, is one you could probably emulate yourself, but I’m not sure I’d risk it.

    Also, subfolders in your Scrivener Drafts folder are included as blank documents when you export (at least as plain text). They are not converted into subfolders; it’s a flat export. So if you’re working on something that has a lot of subfolders, it can get a little difficult to parse the sorting scheme.

    None of your handy annotations will export either, so if you’re relying a lot on notes attached to a given document, you’ll probably end up a bit frustrated.

  14. Thanks for the post. I just now needed something other than a Markdown editor, and my first search popped this up. Downloaded and done!

  15. Thanks for the rec. re Textilus. I’ve been using “Plaintext” to sync Scrivener via Dropbox through the apps subfolder and that is what the documentation from Textilus insists on. I see in your example you suggest syncing to a folder called “Sync Demo” in Dropbox ie not the app folder. Is the app folder a recent upgrade feature? I am confused by it what ever it is.

  16. Thanks for that Michael and for the intro to Textilus; I’m very impressed with it. Syncing as you suggest works fine; I’m still puzzled by the “Apps” folder in Dropbox and the reference to it in the Textilus documentation but as long as it works……
    Thanks again

  17. Just downloaded and installed Textilus on my iPad. Linked it to my Dropbox account okay. But for some reason when pressing ‘Remote Dropbox’ I can’t see all my Dropbox folders … only one folder in which I have no Scrivener projects.

    Any advice appreciated.

  18. Tried unlinking and even uninstalling and re-installing the program and it still only links to 2 of my Dropbox sub-folders (neither of which contain my Scrivener files). Totally weird.

  19. Thank YOU! Just about to go travelling and only have an ipad. You’ve saved my life.

  20. Interesting post. I’m contemplating this set-up as I think about replacing my 2008 MacBook with an iPad (90% of my work is done on a desk top). How much memory do you need on an iPad for this to work?

  21. Just tonight I managed to sync my Scrivener project with my favorite mobile app iWriter. Works like a charm!! Happy writing, all!

  22. Excellent. Since my MacBook died the other week, I’ve been printing out all my files from the desktop to work ‘on the go’. This will be easier. Please Scrivener, hurry with my iPad version!

  23. I am one who no longer waits for the Scrivener app for iOS. It’s been three years and not a sign of it not even a beta version. I run Scrivener on my Mac and would love to have it for the iOS but unfortunately I think it’s sounding more and more like Vaporware.

  24. Thank you. This information has been very useful and extremely helpful. Much easier than emailing everything to myself and copying/pasting into Scrivener. Especially since the formatting routinely got screwed up that way!

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