Tech Luv Thursday: Syncing With Scrivener

Hello all! Welcome to another Tech Luv Thursday feature. If you’re new here, then just a heads up about the post. Two Thursdays every month I discuss (and often gush) about tech that rings my bell. Although I’m a writer, I used to wear bunches of other hats. My past includes stints as: a technical writer, software trainer, database analyst and help desk analyst first. I love my tech. Now, this spot doesn’t always feature tech for writers, but I know alot of us are gearing up for NaNoWriMo 2015, so this seemed like a good month to focus on some of my favs.

Scrivener, as you guys know by now, is my go-to software package for any writing on my agenda. They’ve been talking about a Scrivener App for forever and a day, but we’re still waiting. It’s understandable. Making Scrivener, which is already an intense program, cloud-based, would involve a major coding undertaking.

While we don’t have a Scrivener App, we do, however, have the ability to sync to it. So I thought I’d share what I’ve been doing to make Scrivener mobile.

Hello Simplenote

I started using Simplenote about a year ago after reviewing several other notetaking apps out here. You can read my feature on Simplenote here. It’s great for quick, no-nonsense notetaking. One thing I didn’t realize is it’s also good for is syncing with my favorite app, Scrivener. Imagine my surprise when I came across this option after an intense Google search for iPad syncing options.


Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 8.11.51 AM
Simplenote is a great, basic notetaking app that also happens to play well with Scrivener.

Getting Started

So how does this whole syncing thing work? Follow my instructions below and give it a try. Feel free to comment and let me know how it works for you or what other techniques you use to sync your work!

  1. Make sure both Simplenote and Scrivener are installed on your machine. You should set up Simplenote–you’ll need a username and password.
  2. You should also have a working Scrivener file. Once you’ve added some text to a scene and saved for the first time, you’ll be able to sync.
  3. From within Scrivener, click on the File menu, select Sync, and choose with Simplenote.


Simplenote sync 1
The Sync with Simplenote option is under the File menu and Sync.


  1. You may need to sign into Simplenote the first time. Once you’ve set it up, your credentials will remain populated.
  2. After entering your Simplenote logon credentials, if necessary, you’ll need to enter a Project Keyword. I recommend that you keep this simple and all lowercase so it’s easy to remember. I called mine testproject here, but you can use whatever you like.


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You’ll enter your Simplenote credentials once. It will remember you. From there, you’ll just need to remember the Project keyword.


  1. Click Continue.


Step 1: Select Existing Documents To Sync With Simplenote

  1. From there you’re going to select documents to sync.
    • Make sure Select documents to sync is selected, otherwise it can get pretty messy. As you’ll soon see, Simplenote is exactly what its name implies. You aren’t getting a ton of bells and whistles with this tool, so only sync what you’d like to work on that day. Don’t think you can do that? I didn’t either, but I got used to it.
    • Leave Take snapshots of affected documents before updating, selected. That way you can do a compare between documents if needed.
    • Insert blank lines between paragraphs should remain selected. This allows for easier reading on the go. Don’t worry, if you don’t want this formatting in the final and didn’t set it up this way in Scrivener, it won’t compile this way.
    • I prefer to leave Delete from Simplenote any project documents not selected for syncing selected. This is completely up to you, but if you don’t choose this, then after you’ve synced your work you’ll end up with a bunch of documents hanging around in Simplenote. If this option is chosen, then files not selected for syncing with Simplenote will be deleted from the app during the next sync–without touching your original file.
    • The Draft Folder section displays all documents within your Scrivener file. Click the check box next to each document you’d like to work on in Simplenote. You can also select other items to sync under the Other Text Documents section.


Simplenote Sync 3
The Draft Folder option allows you to select which files to sync. Extremely useful when this list displays fifty chapters!


  1. Click Continue.

Step 2: Select Documents To Import From Simplenote

This section will mostly appear blank and that’s okay!

  1. To make sure your changes sync into their original location in the project, choose the highest level location from the Import selected documents into drop down. Mine reads Manuscript here, but this could be Short Story or what ever format you picked. If you want to have your changes sync somewhere else within the Scrivener project, select the location from this drop down.
  2. Leave the Remove blank lines between paragraphs in imported notes selected. This is going to make sure all of those extra spaces mentioned in the section above don’t go back into your Scrivener project. This is a default. I’d leave it selected.
  3. Just as we chose a similar option in the previous section, I’d leave Delete from Simplenote notes marked for this project but not selected for syncing, deselected. This allows you to sync certain sections whenever you choose.
  4. Again, you have the option to select from Notes marked for this project and Other notes.
  5. Click Continue.


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Choosing the highest level option from the Import selected documents into option, insures your changes will update the original document in your Scrivener project.


You should receive a confirmation that your sync is complete! You’re now about to work on your Scrivener files–remotely!


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Once you’ve follow the prompts, you’ll be notified the sync is complete.


Working Remotely

I work remotely on my iPad, but I can also access Simplenote from my phone, my Kindle, any place I want. I just need Internet access to be able to sync the files. If I know I won’t have Internet later, I open the files on my portable device at home and sync before leaving. Simplenote will display the file locally when I get to my destination, without requiring an Internet connection. Below is a screenshot of the Test Project on my iPad. I now have the ability to edit my Scrivener file directly on my iPad!

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The file chosen for sync is on my iPad!

Syncing Back To Scrivener

Once I’ve worked remotely, I’ll want to sync my work. I just repeat the steps from before in Scrivener.

  1. Open my Scrivener project.
  2. From within Scrivener. Click on the File menu, select Sync, and choose with Simplenote.
  3. You may have to enter your Project Keyword again. If you’re prompted, enter it exactly like you did the first time. Then, if prompted to Keep or Discard  the keyword, choose to keep it.
  4. Select the Draft Folder you’d like to sync. Notice I now have a red arrow to the right of my folder because I modified the file.


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  1. Unless you have a specific need to make changes here, leave everything as is. Click Continue. 
  2. Unless you have a specific need to make changes here, leave everything as is. Do verify that you are importing your changes into the highest level version of your project–if you want to update the original document within your Scrivener project.


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  1. Click Continue.
  2. You’ll receive a Sync Complete! confirmation. Click okay.
  3. Your changes will display on an Updated Documents window in Scrivener.


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  1. To view it in the binder in the main project folder, right-click on the Updated Documents heading and choose Return To Binder.


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How I Use This

The question really is, how do I not use this? I sync before my critique group–then make notes directly into the document while I’m there. I use it to take my work on vacation, in the car (when I’m a passenger), coffee shops, anywhere I anticipate a long line. When I get home I sync and everything’s there.


  • It works. Every time. After six months of using the tool I haven’t experienced any issues.
  • It’s free. There are other apps out there that claim to do the same, but Simplenote doesn’t cost a dime.


  • Tags don’t always work in Simplenote after a sync. You have to delete the tags, then reenter them manually fo them to show up. This hasn’t been a problem as much lately, so it’s possible they’ve worked on this.
  • There’s no grouping option. So if I import in twenty chapters, I’ll see the containers and the scenes as separate elements.
  • Formatting does not show. It doesn’t mean you’ve lost it. For example, I have text in my files that’s italicized. It will all still be in Scrivener when I sync, it just doesn’t show up in Simplenote.
  • Chapter titles do not display on a container or scene. I always need to know how mu chapter begins so I can pick the right file.

Despite the cons, this system has worked very well for me. Thanks for stopping by, and remember, love your tech!