Scrivener and Dropbox

I have two important tools that I use for writing, setting aside an internet connection, Spotify and Twitter. The first of these is Scrivener, software for writing and structuring writing, which allows me to easily break up and structure writing, as well as keeping details of background, characters, locations, loglines, pitches etc. It also has a pretty good scriptwriting mode for the writing of dramatic scripts.

The other tool I use is Dropbox, which not only backs up my documents to the cloud, it also keeps my myriad of computers in sync. This enables me to close an active Scrivener project on my home computer, open either my work or personal laptop and carry on working, nigh seamlessly.

However, as I discovered this morning, it is very important indeed to close the active Scrivener project and allow the sync to complete before re-opening the project elsewhere! In the past I’ve had minor inconveniences where I hadn’t closed down properly and Scrivener informed me the project was already open elsewhere. This was annoying if I wasn’t anywhere near the offending computer, but at least it was manageable due to Scrivener warning me of the problem.

However, sometimes the original computer doesn’t successfully sync, perhaps due to an unplanned shutdown or system crash. Since Scrivener is then not actively open on the original computer, it is then tempting to ignore the warnings on the second computer and re-open the project and sync changes back to Dropbox. When, however, the same project is re-opened on the original computer Dropbox isn’t sure which is the correct version and, in an attempt to avoid overwriting unsynced changes, saves copies of the files with the text ([computer name]’s conflicted copy [date]) appended to the filename.

Unfortunately, these conflicted copies can break Scrivener projects, which relies on files being in the right place. Scattered conflicted copies makes Scrivener think something is wrong and it refuses to load the project, claiming the project file can’t be found.

If you don’t have a recent full backup, here’s the way to correct this: Delete every conflicted copy. In some cases, if you have made different changes on different computers, you might have to decide which version of a file to keep in the Files/Docs subfolder, but other than that there should be no files named ‘conflicted copy’ remaining. You may find, if you have moved documents in the structure, that you have to re-move them, but that’s a tiny inconvenience, all your work is retained and nothing is lost. Once all the conflicted copies are deleted, you should find that Scrivener can load the project without problems

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