Software week resumes (previously here and here). OK, it may not correspond to an actual "week," but it should go through at least seven installments. This one continues the theme of how you can use a syncing program, in my case SugarSync, with programs that store their information not in familiar, standalone .DOC or .PPT files but rather in "bundled" storage units. This time we turn to the writing program Scrivener, which I've used as my mainstay for the past two years or so and about which I've testified before. (Eg here.)
First, about Scrivener itself. It is Mac-only, though as discussed here and here several PC programs approximate some of the features. And, as the designer of Scrivener, Keith Blount of Cornwall, England, explained four years ago in an intellectual history of the program, it shares a spirit with some other PC and Mac programs, including Ulysses. For later Software Week discussion: in what circumstances and for what kind of users would a program like this justify a move to the Mac.
Why do I keep mentioning this software? I've used a ton of word-processing programs over the years, from The Electric Pencil in the late 1970s, through WordStar and WordPerfect and XyWrite and a winsome native-OS/2 program called DeScribe, and Oracle's OpenOffice, and of course the inescapable Word. I've liked some better and some worse, but they're all basically utilities. Scrivener is different in adding an organizational ability. It allows you to work easily with blocks of text -- chapters in a book, items in a list, scenes in a novel, sections of an article -- and view them separately when that is convenient, or together when that is. Keith Blount explains some of the reasoning behind this approach in an interesting video interview, here. After the jump, comments that appeared in email from a young lawyer who has found the program surprisingly valuable. Also, at $39.95 it's cheap.
But Scrivener stores its data in complicated bundles, not self-contained .DOC files. How do you sync it between machines or back it up to the cloud? Easy.
The conceptual approach is the same as mentioned previously Personal Brain: you rely on the program's built-in capacity to create a ZIPped archive of each "bundle"; you transfer that ZIP file from one computer to the next; you unZip it on the other machine, and you're in business.
Step-by-step sync details after the jump. Plus the lawyer's testimonial; plus an important user note on previously mentioned Personal Brain.
Using Scrivener with SugarSync:
1) Create a Scrivener file (known as a "project") and have its normal storage site be the "Documents" folder of the Mac computer you are working on.
2) When you're done, save the "project" as you would normally, with Cmd-S. But then also create a ZIPped archive of it, for transfer to your other machines. The command sequence is File/Backup/Backup To. Two details are important here: specify the "backup to" site as the "Magic Briefcase" folder, which SugarSync will automatically transfer to all your other computers when they are online. And, be sure to check the "Backup as ZIP file" box. This will produce a file with a time stamp in its name, something like "My Project 2010-09-07 12:40.zip" The time stamp means that you can create a series of these archives without worrying about duplicate file names, and you can easily see which one is newest.
3) Go to your other computer,. Using the Finder, move or copy that most recent ZIPped file from the "Magic Briefcase" folder to the "Documents" folder. Conceptually, you're transferring it from the common folder that is shared among the computers, to the folder where you'll work on it locally.
4) Un-zip that file in your "Documents" folder, which will produce a file called something like "My Project.scriv." Housekeeping detail: if there are earlier versions of that file on this computer, when you un-zip it, it will get a name like "My Project1.scriv." That's fine -- you can just work on that one. But for tidiness, I move older versions of "My Project.scriv" to the Trash (where they're still recoverable) before unzipping the new one.