A catastrophe, far too easily created

I recently set up Dropbox sync, as I just bought the IOS version to complement the Mac version, and wanted to sync them.

Just now, I downloaded Scrivener onto my new Mac as well, planning to transfer to this one eventually - and I did something I routinely do with my folders, which is drag it to the sidebar in Finder so I can open it quickly. However, i forgot that the Scrivener project isn’t a folder, so when I dragged it, the Mac treated it as moving the file. I got a little noise and a ‘moved file’ message, but I didn’t think it was a big deal. I just dragged it back again.

However, it didn’t work. I’ve searched for the problem, and it seems I have got the situation where I have the scrivx file, but not all the gubbins inside it. In all the faffing around, I managed to not think to disconnect my other Mac from Dropbox, so it won’t open on there either. My phone has been open continually, but although all the folders are there, only one document is still populated, The others have turned into ‘Untitled Documents’

I haven’t got a back-up. I’ve been getting error messages about the zip file not backing up, but haven’t had a chance to look into it. I wasn’t too bothered, because I use either Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, iCloud or Box for everything., I don’t have any non-cloud stored work at all. But of course having moved it to Dropbox from OneDrive, I didn’t bargain for it not just neatly leaving a previous version wherever it was.

I think it is all still there, because the project file is 7.5MB and there are 202 items in the Data file.

I’ve got all the drafts of my novel in Word, but I have done quite a bit of research that I have just typed straight into Scrivener. - about a month’s worth of work I’d rather not lose.

Is there any way I can get it back?

I’m a little surprised that Mac OS didn’t move the entire .scriv folder as a complete unit.

But in any case, the first thing I would try is to create a new project and use the File → Import → Scrivener Project command. If that doesn’t work, try importing the Data folder that you’ve found.


Hi Katherine

Thanks for your reply.

The first suggestion didn’t work because I got an error message to “merge changes before trying to import it into the current project.” I tried to do this, but of course I can’t open the project in the current (or any) version, because it says it is corrupt.

I have had some success with your second suggestion, but I need a little more help.

The Files-Data I mentioned I can view in ‘Show package contents’, but I can’t work out how to access them in their location, to enable me to Import them easily.

They’ve all got long numbered folder names, so I have just done a trial, and I can copy the folder name, do Import File, paste the name into the search bar, find the file, and Import it. Hey presto it appears in Binder – which is wonderfully reassuring.

However, if I could locate the folder during Import, I could (presumably) import them all at once, rather than individually.

Because the Scrivener project isn’t a normal folder, I can’t just double click and open it.

I have tried copying the file path (which I will put here, for my own reference in case I need it again)…

/Users/mac/Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener/–THE SCOTTISH EXILES.scriv/Files/Data

…but pasting it into the search bar during Import doesn’t locate it.

Have you got any ideas?

(I have changed the name of my post to make it more specific so others can find it in future).

Something else I have just thought about, is that on my phone, all the Folders and sub-folder titles are there, but no files within them. They have just turned into 'Untitled documents.

I think this might scupper the Import startegy, even if I have to do them one at a time. Because I have tried a few more, and the imported folders seem to be empty, unless the Folder itself (as a file) has content.

OK, well, I’m getting there! For anyone who reads this later, I haven’t found a perfect solution, but what I have discovered is that:

The files are all called ‘content.rtf’

This means that if you go to File - Import - Files then type ‘content.rtf’ into the search bar, you locate all the Scrivener text files on your computer.

You click Import, hen you have to go through Binder, rename them, and and move them to where you want them.

This isn’t too bad for me, as I have only been using the program for a month and most of the files relate to the project I am trying to recover.

It isn’t going to recover all the settings and bookmarks and notes and labels etc, but it will recover what you have drafted, which I think is a big plus.

Hopefully someone knows the file name of all these other bits of content, which would probably recover these too, if somewhat laboriously. I am thinking it might just be quicker to re-do them.

The file name for ‘Notes’ would be good though, if anyone can help…

Scrivener, by default I believe, makes a backup copy of a Sciv project when you close it. Since you are using projects on multiple devices, you must be very often closing your projects before opening them on other devices. So, Scriv will most likely have a very current back up stored of your complete and entire project (if not the most recent backup then a few back).

You could save yourself a ton of work by locating the relevant backup project, duplicating it and using that.

I know you said you keep everything in one cloud place or other, so where are your scriv back up files? Hopefully not in the very same place as your active projects! (And hopefully you have the auto backups set to zip, depending on what cloud service you store these on.)


As I said in my original post, I do not have a backup

Not all content.rtf files located
Another interesting point [in case the developers or anyone else is interested in this from a technical point of view] is that not all my content.rtf files were located by my search. I think it is possibly just the most recent that are missing. I can’t think of any reason for this, as I saved and closed Scrivener on both Mac and phone multiple times during the process of setting up Dropbox sync. There would never have been a point where [say] it crashed without saving. Might it be an Autosave’ glitch? (In the context of it somehow overwriting something I saved manually.) There were a number of empty files, far more than I can account for in the occasional ‘Untitled document’ slipped in between my work.

I took you to mean that you do not maintain a backup of your harddrive.

Unless you explicitly turned off Scrivener’s own backup function in Scriv preferences, you /do/ have backups of your project — though these may be in zip archives.

As I said in my original post, I’ve been getting error messages about the zip file not backing up.

Thanks for your patience.


Still trying to figure what happened that got you into this terrible situation.

The quote above suggests to me that either i) you had been working with the project in the first place with it placed in your OneDrive space, or ii) the place you inadvertently moved your project to was in your OneDrive space — from which you dragged it back to your Dropbox folder.

As some sync services behave badly with active Scrivener projects either of the above might be relevant.

Possibly relevant:

You tell us up thread that your phone was open continuously while the bad stuff was happening. Does this indicate that you had your project open on more than one device during the interval. This may also be a clue to diagnosing what happened.


Yes, I inadvertently moved it from Dropbox to a folder in OneDrive - from which, as you say, I dragged it back to Dropbox.

On my phone it was open continuously. It was not open on my other devices, and was closed on my laptop when I moved it and moved it back.

I can’t remember the precise sequence of events, but now you come to mention it, I must either have

a) had my phone open continuously, and therefore tried to open it on my laptop at the same time, or
b) closed it on my phone.

I think it will be (b). It would have been closed on my laptop when I inadvertently moved it, and open on my phone. But I wouldn’t have known at that point that there was a problem, so I would have behaved routinely. I followed the sync instructions very carefully, re closing, allowing to sync, then opening on the different device (the Scrivener instructions and tutorials and everything are very good, and I love a good prose instruction!). Since I only started syncing the previous day, I was still concentrating carefully (as I still am!).

I think looking back, I must have
i) closed it on my phone
ii) tried to open it in its replaced-in-Dropbox position
iii) got an error message (i.e. not been able to open it)
iv) opened it on my phone… whereupon it all looked OK – but what I did not know this at this time was that all the folders were unpopulated.

This comes with a slight qualification, which is that I opened the file I was working on, it was populated with text, and I added … three dots to the end of a sentence so that it changed and I would be able to tell if it was syncing (not, at this point, thinking the error message and inability to open it was permanent).

I do have a smidgeon of self-doubt somewhere though, because while I can distinctly recall keeping my phone open, (hanging onto the ‘last usable copy’, sort of thing), why would I have thought it was OK to try opening the corrupt version with it open?

So it is possible that caused a glitch.

What I really need at this stage is a list of file names, so that I can search for them on my computer. If you can point me to a thread that contains this (or suggest some search terms) that would be great. If not, I will create a new post at some point.

Thank you for the link by the way - I’m not going to look at it now or reply further until this evening, as I have an all-day Zoom workshop starting at 10, and I need to walk the dog first.



Scrivener’s automatic backups can be found by going to Scrivener → Preferences → Backups, and opening the backup folder in Finder.

All of Scrivener’s data is in content.rtf files, differentiated from each other by being placed in uniquely named folders. So locating every content.rtf file on your computer would be a terrible idea as you might damage other projects. A better idea would be to search for text (place names? character names?) that you would expect to find in the missing files.


PS For future reference, the way to “save” the copy on your phone from any Dropbox-related mayhem would be to use the Export option. From the main project screen, choose the Edit option, select the project you want, and then tap the Export icon down at the bottom. That lets you email a ZIP archive to yourself.

You could also move the project from the “Dropbox” area to the “On this iPhone” area, but that change would percolate back to the Dropbox server.

Thanks for your reply.

I didn’t have a backup, as there was an error and it wasn’t backing up (a OneDrive thing, possibly). I have changed the backup location to iCloud, and It’s backing up fine now. Needless to say, I will not ignore a a backup error message again!

This was what I did, and it worked fine (to the extent that I actually found them). I don’t think importing files does anything to them or moves them from their original position, does it? I only have one other project (I have only just started using Scrivener), and although the content.rtf files were imported from this one as well as the one I needed to recover, they are still functioning properly in their own project.

I’ve had a bit of a go at this, but I think really it will take less time to just do all the research again. However, I did find that the notes are saved as note.rtf, so I have now imported all of those from April, which is useful, because notes being small ideas and strategies they were not in Word documents. Now all I have to do is go through and attribute them to the right document.