Posted On September 21, 2016 by Print This Post

Scrivener for Ipad by Pat Haggerty

Scrivener for iPad

You don’t want me to get started on the desktop version of Scrivener; we’d be here all day. Suffice it to say, Scrivener is the King of editors for long or short form fiction. It allows you to collect your research, plan your stories and characters, write scene by scene, and even generate the final output (compile), all in one tool.

For a long time when people would ask what Scrivener was missing, I’d say “I really wish I could edit my projects on my iPad.” Well I can’t say that any more 🙂

Why a version of Scrivener for the iPad?

Seriously? I can’t believe you’d even ask that question. Don’t you have down time when whipping out the computer, even if it’s a laptop, just isn’t practical? Where do you spend time waiting? Lines picking up the kids? Soccer practice? The doctor’s office? Your lunch break? Waiting for meetings to start (or stop)?

My day job sends me all over the world. Mostly it’s east coast US but occasionally it’s somewhere strange. Right now I’m typing this post looking out my hotel window at the Gulf of Guinea. That’s the part of the Atlantic Ocean where it nips in on Africa’s west coast. North of me is Lagos, Nigeria and South, the direction I’m looking, there’s nothing but Ocean for 7000 miles, all the way to Antarctica.


When I travel, I spend time in Uber cars, hotels, restaurants, airports, and waiting, waiting, and more waiting on, in, or for most of those same things. While my tiny Mac Air does a great job of being portable, and has a heck of a battery, I don’t always feel like hauling it around with me, or pulling it out on a 20 min Uber ride. But you know what I always have, and rarely mind pulling out? My iPad.

General setup

I am going to assume in this post that you write, or would like to write, on both a standard computer and on Scrivener for iPad. If that’s true, then one issue you might be wondering about is project synchronization. In other words, will you see the edits you made on the iPad when you open the same scene later on the desktop? The short answer is: Yes. But it’s going to require a little bit of setup.

Before you start using Scrivener for iPad you’re going to need a Dropbox account, not the iCloud, not a USB key, Dropbox. Scrivener for iPad can synchronize through iTunes but it’s a little bit of a pain. Here’s what you need to do.

  • Set yourself up a Dropbox account. The free one will be fine as long as you still have space in it (I swear, that free Dropbox account is like the entry drug of the iCloud world)
  • Install the Dropbox application on your desktop
  • Open Explorer or Finder and click on the new Dropbox folder
  • Create a new sub folder under Dropbox where all your shared Scrivener projects will live. Personally, I have a Dropbox\Writing\Scrivener folder and all my Scrivener projects live there
  • If you have existing Scrivener projects in other locations, and you want to edit them with the iPad, move them into the newly created folder

You really do want all your Scrivener projects in a separate folder. I started with all my projects in the Dropbox\Writing folder, but I noticed the synchronization on the iPad took a freaking day and a half. Then I did some research and discovered that the iPad version of Scrivner will download every file in the folder you tie it to, then figure out which ones belong to it and of those, which have changed. Not what I want to do with the better than 1000 files in my main writing projects folder. I created a new Dropbox\Writing\Scrivener folder, pointed the iPad Scrivener at it, and all is now well.

iPad setup

The setup on the iPad is easy. Use the app store to by Scrivener for iPad. Last I checked, it will cost you $19.99. Pricey by normal app standards, but it’s worth every penny.

The first time you run Scrivener for iPad it should ask you which folder to synchronize with. If it doesn’t, or if you already selected one folder and now you want to select a different one, you can get back to sync folder settings by doing the following:

  • Click the back arrow in the upper left corner of the Scrivener interface until you’re looking at a list of projects
  • Click Edit just to the right of the Projects list
  • At the bottom of the project list is a gear icon, click it
  • Select Dropbox Settings
  • Click Other
  • Browse and select the project folder in Dropbox where you are keeping your Scrivener projects
  • Click Done


Getting to know Scrivener for iPad

If you’ve worked with Scrivener on the desktop, then the interface is different, but very familiar. You start with a list of Projects. Select an existing project that you created on the computer or you can also create a new project right here. Personally, I think I get more control by creating the project on the computer first.


Once you have the project created, click on it to open for editing. The interface is similar to what you see in the desktop version. Down the left you have the Binder and you’ll recognize old friends there: Manuscript, Characters, Places, Research, etc.


Clicking in a scene will open it for editing and will expose a few additions to the standard iPad keyboard. Please notice that clicking on the three horizontal lines at the top edge of the keyboard will allow you to scroll the extra buttons left and right to display even more additions. Additional buttons getting in your way? Clicking the four dots over a down arrow will disappear them. Pressing the double, angled arrows in the upper left corner of the text window will maximize it, hiding the binder, and giving you even more space in which to work.


Pressing the stylized “I” at the top of your scene will load the Inspector pane, where some of your scene planning and metadata live. Notice for example that I’m keeping track of the POV of each scene, and the POV is also associated with a color.


If you click on the Manuscript folder to see a list of all the scenes, notice how that POV color is also displayed there.


Backing up to the main project view, selecting the icon on the right edge of the Manuscript link which looks like four cards will display that folder in Corkboard view:


We could go on and on but seriously, if you know Scrivener then you will recognize all the great things from the desktop tool, right here in Scrivener for iPad.

Synchronizing between the iPad and the desktop versions of Scrivener

First, a couple of rules I like to work by:

  • Rule number one, there’s no editing in both versions of Scrivener at the same time
  • Rune number two, there’s no editing in both versions of Scrivener at the same time! You close the one. You close the other. But you don’t have them both open at the same time.

When you’re editing on the desktop and you want to synchronize to the iPad

  • Dropbox will do all required synchronization as you write. Close Scrivener when you’re finished on the desktop and wait for the Dropbox icon on your computer to let you know when it’s finished synchronizing with Dropbox.
  • Did you just read that? Yes, wait until Dropbox is finished synchronizing everything to the cloud
  • Open Scrivener for the iPad and it will ask if it should Sync with Dropbox. Select Sync Now

When you’re editing on the iPad and you want to synchronize to the desktop

  • Once you’re finished with your edits on the iPad you need to push them to Dropbox. To do so, click the box with an up arrow on it in the extreme lower right corner of the iPad editor. In the menu that comes up choose Sync Now. An alternative is to use the back arrow in the extreme upper left corner to move back to the list of projects. The projects waiting upload will appear with a blue triangle icon (see below). Pressing the circular icon up towards the right corner of the projects view will push all out of date projects into Dropbox.
  • Close Scrivener for iPad because you know, we don’t want them both open at the same time.
  • If you’re watching the desktop machine, the Dropbox icon should come to life until the files have been synchronized
  • Open Scrivener for the desktop and happy editing


For those of you who just don’t like following basic, easy to understand rules, editing with both versions of Scrivener open is actually possible. I don’t prefer it because I think it overcomplicates things (see, I’m not a rule follower by nature, but I do like the easiest path to success).

  • If you edit on the desktop, all changes are auto saved. Wait a moment to allow Dropbox to sync, then switch to the iPad. Press the same Sync Now button we used earlier and Scrivener iPad will download the latest copy. Start editing
  • When finished with editing on the iPad, press Sync Now Switch back to the desktop and after a moment to allow Dropbox sync to complete, press the new “Synchronize with mobile device button” found just above the binder.

Not hard, but not as idiot proof as my technique

Time to run

Well the sun’s set here in Nigeria and it is time for me to find food. Last night I tried the first of five restaurants in the huge hotel where I’m staying and do you want to guess what they served? Tex-Mex! I’m from Dallas, TX originally. I fly half way around the world to Nigeria and end up in a place which serves freaking Tex-Mex. Figures. But hey, I had my iPad with me 🙂

So next time you’re waiting in line, or waiting for a plate of Nigerian Tex-Mex, and that idea strikes from on high, don’t wait until you get home or try to whip out the laptop. Just open up your new friend, Scrivener for iPad, and get that scene written.


P.S. If you plan on writing a lot on your iPad, invest the money and get a Bluetooth keyboard cover. Here’s some buying advice for you



Got questions? Ask away, Pat will get to them as soon as he can!

Join us on Friday for Tessa Shapcott!


Bio: After four years in the USMC, Patrick Haggerty studied Actuarial Science and Computers at Georgia State University. He has spent the past 15+ years developing and delivering technical training courses for Learning Tree International. On the side he has a successful consulting practice doing web application development for clients ranging from the United State Marines to Delta Airlines.

Seven years ago, stuck reading a mediocre book in yet another hotel, Patrick decided to try his hand at fiction. He may not be published, but these days you are much more likely to find him spending his evenings writing romance, than code. Patrick is an active member of RWA, RWAustralia, RW New Zealand, and is VP of Membership for Gulf Coast Romance Writers of America, and VP of OIRWA.

Similar Posts:

Share Button

Writing Geekery with Pat Haggerty


8 Responses to “Scrivener for Ipad by Pat Haggerty”

  1. Great, concise article, Pat–thanks! I do have one question that I haven’t yet been able to get answered with complete confidence, that I wonder if you know the answer to.

    If I use my iPad mini to write, generally I wouldn’t have a wireless connection available (and I don’t have cellular coverage on this iPad).

    If I write on the iPad and can’t connect to Dropbox when I’m done, will I have to go into Scrivener once I have a connection and do the whole sync thing from the beginning, or will it automatically finish the sync process once it senses a wireless connection?

    Not that the syncing seems like an arduous process, but I just wondered if Scrivener “knows” what to do. Thanks!

    Posted by Linda Fletcher | September 21, 2016, 9:39 am
    • Hey Linda,

      In my section, “When you’re editing on the iPad and you want to synchronize to the desktop.” I talk about how once you’re finished editing on the iPad you need to press that Sync Now button. That’s what you will need to do. Wait until you’re somewhere where you can get online and then press Sync Now. If you simply close the iPad and forget it, it will not sync automatically once you get home or get the iPad back online.

      Not that I’ve ever done this (eye roll), but if you accidentally open the desktop version, start to edit, then realize that this is the old version because you forgot to sync the iPad Don’t panic! Close the desktop, sync the iPad, then reopen the desktop. It will notify you of a conflict and will create a Conflicts folder in the binder. In the conflict folder, under a sub folder with the time stamp on it, it will place the conflicted iPad version of the scene. You can then decide if you keep the one on the desktop, the one from the iPad, or somehow combine the two.

      Hope that helps 🙂

      Posted by Pat Haggerty | September 21, 2016, 12:15 pm
  2. Pat – Your posts are always awe-inspiring and a little frightening to a non-techie like me. I’m going to pass this on to my husband, who is a techie but not a writer, since I think it might prove useful for his work, too.

    Thank you!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | September 21, 2016, 8:31 pm
  3. Totally irrelevant comment on your useful post, but it cracked me up that you wrote “the Inspector pain” (for pane) when your example is about the guy being tased.

    (Dang typos that the spell checker can’t catch!!)

    Posted by J'aime | September 22, 2016, 3:45 pm
  4. This comment in from Caren via email!

    Great Info Pat! Thanks, Caren Gallimore

    Posted by Carrie Peters | September 22, 2016, 5:22 pm

Post a comment

Upcoming Posts





Follow Us