At first, I wondered if this was too obvious to even be worth posting, but the first time I tried to use Scrivener with Dropbox as a backup, I ended up losing over 1,000 words. Evidently, the way that Scrivener saves automatically using a bunch of different files confuses Dropbox’s syncing. Luckily I was able to recreate the stuff I’d written. I’ve heard in podcast interviews and whatnot that sometimes people rewrite scenes from scratch to try to make them better, but my attempt at that didn’t work out so well. I don’t have the original content to know for sure, but that was my gut feel, and it was enough to turn me off of using Scrivener for a while, especially since I had a lot of work in MS Word already.
After hearing Neal Stephenson speak at Unity Temple a few weeks ago and learning that he uses Scrivener, well, that was enough to get me to try it again.
So I got back on the horse and put my Scrivenings (?) in a folder that wasn’t synced to Dropbox. I decided to go with a manual back up. Under the File menu, you go to “Back Up To…” which let’s you select a location to which to save your back up file (select “Backup as ZIP file” so that Dropbox only has to sync one file, and since it has a timestamp in the file it won’t overwrite previous backups). That worked well, but I had to remember to actually do the backups.
After a few weeks, I was exploring the options instead of actually writing, and I noticed that you can set Scrivener to back up a project whenever it is closed (or opened if you want a copy to revert to in case you don’t like anything wrote). Brilliant!
The automatic backup option is under: Tools -> Options and then on the box that comes up, on the Backup tab. Select “Turn on automatic backups” then select which options you want below that. I have mine compressed as zip files (again, so it only backs up a single file into the Dropbox folder), as well using the date in the file name (again, just to make it easy on the Dropbox syncing mechanism). I keep the five most recent backup files (there are probably reasons to keep more or less, but 5 seems like a good starting point).
Finally I set the backup location to a special folder I created in Dropbox to store all my Scrivener backups. Done!