All my new work has vanished!

Hi Scriveners - I recently switched over to Scrivener from Word a few months ago, and I’ve really been loving the program but something seems to have happened that has left me in a bit of a panic.

I started using Scrivener in novel format by importing Word files, which appeared in the binder in a folder file icon that was separate from the Manuscript icon. On Friday, I decided to drag my files into the Manuscript icon, where I put them in the correct order and figured I’d be set for printing them out later.

Today, when I opened Scrivener, it showed the old version - i.e. the files were not only not where I’d moved them to, but they were the old files I’d originally imported into Scrivener, which reflected none of the work I’ve done since the original import.

For what it’s worth, I do back up to Time Machine, but even my efforts to locate the files on Time Machine aren’t working - i.e. I try to open a Time Machine file, but Scrivener would open up showing all the old stuff I previously described.

I’m really hoping someone can tell me what might have happened. The amount of missing work that this potentially represents is pretty massive.


Are you using a synchronization service such as Dropbox?

Scrivener’s automatic backups can be found by going to Scrivener -> Preferences -> Backups, and clicking the button to open the backup folder in Finder.

It can also be helpful to use Finder to search for .scriv files (Scrivener projects), in case you might have inadvertently saved a second copy of the project somewhere.


Thanks, Katherine. I did find my way to Back-ups inside Scrivener preferences, however all the work there was called by file names other than the ones I thought I’d saved them under.

For example, a file called “6” in the program was saved in the back-up library as “Extras” (which is a different file name of mine), but when I opened it, it appeared in Scrivener as “6”. Also, now that I’ve opened that back-up file, the binder looks the way I had arranged it last week - when I rearranged things so that my files are now under the Manuscript icon.

I then discovered that when I right click on the Scrivener icon on the dock at the bottom of my desktop, two sets of files turn up. The old, obsolete files appear on top, with what looks like the Scrivener document icon, but then below them are the recent, updated files, which are indicated by weird, screen-looking icon. I’ve attached a screen shot, so you can see what I’m talking about.

Could you tell me why I now seem to have two different sets of files and how I can finagle things so that when I open the program all I get are my revised files (the ones listed in the bottom portion of the screen shot)?

Thanks again,

This is… odd.

First, what did you actually name your project(s)? I ask because the internal files inside the Scrivener project have numbers for names, but you shouldn’t actually see those numbers unless something very wrong has happened.

Second, does anything other than Scrivener have access to your Scrivener projects? Are you saving them to a service like Dropbox? Editing the contents via another editor? Using third party backup software?


Hi Katherine - Each individual chapter has a number for a file name, corresponding to what chapter it is. The trouble happened after I dragged these files from the original import file (which consisted of all my imported Word files and appeared within a file icon above and separate from the Manuscript icon) into the Manuscript portion of the binder. The “disappearance” happened the next time I opened the program after this reorganization.

I back up to Time Machine and Drop Box, but I am not editing the contents via another editor. Take a look at this screen shot and tell me if that clarifies anything - when I finally located the lost file (under a different file name) and opened it, it seemed to open a second version of Scrivener, the files of which appear with different icons below the original import files, which in the screen shot are located on top.

At this point I’m a little afraid of closing out the program, because I don’t want to “lose” the files again, so if the above gives you any insight, that’d be really great.

Thanks a bunch for your help with this.

Please ask Finder to search for .scriv files (Kind: Scrivener Project), and post a screen shot of the results.

Did you drag the files from one Scrivener project to another? Within a single Scrivener project? Something else?

Do you just use Dropbox for backups, or are you also sharing your work to another computer?

Opening a new project will open a new Scrivener window. That’s normal behavior and nothing to be concerned about.


Hi Katherine - Here’s the screenshot.

I didn’t drag the files from one project to another, just into the Manuscript portion of the binder. What I have determined is that when I open Scrivener, it now opens both the current binder and the original, obsolete binder with the original Word file imports. I’ve tried closing the obsolete binder, closing the program, and then opening it up again but both binders keep appearing.

I only use Drop Box to back up. I’m not sharing my work with another computer.

I’m definitely out of crisis mode, as I’m able to access my current work, but I’d love to know why the original, obsolete version of this project is opening up along with the current version, and if there’s any way for me to get it to stop doing that.

Thanks a bunch!

Thank you for the additional information.

Here’s what I’d do.

  • Do the same search in Finder, but have it display the modification dates for the files as well.

  • Without opening anything in Scrivener, rename the files in Finder to give them unique names based on their modification dates. When you have multiple files with the same name, it’s very hard to tell which is which.

  • Once you’ve done that, start by opening Scrivener with no projects at all, which you can do by holding the Shift key when the program starts.

  • Then, open your projects in Scrivener one-by-one. Since you’ve renamed them, the Recent Projects menu may not work. Don’t worry, though, as you can still open them either from Finder or with Scrivener’s File -> Open command.

  • Working with no more than one or two projects at a time, identify the version(s) you want to keep. Make sure they have unique names and are in a known location: you might want to create a sub-folder in your My Documents folder and drag the “good” projects to it, for instance. DO NOT edit anything at this time: if you want to combine projects, make a note to do it later.

  • Make sure Time Machine has backed all of this up, then drag any versions you don’t want to keep to the Trash.

  • Open Scrivener without any projects again, and confirm that you can still find everything you want to keep. If you can, then run another backup and get back to work.

How did this situation happen in the first place? It’s hard to say. My best guess would be liberal use of the “Save As” command, as that would create a new project, causing your work to “vanish” if you opened the old project accidentally. If you use Save As, be sure to assign unique names to the copies you create.


Katherine, thanks so much! That’s a great suggestion, which I will do today, and I also like your theory of causation.

As I told Astrid, who has been advising me via e-mail (when the problem arose, I opted for every help mode possible), when I first ran into this problem, I was pretty freaked out that there wasn’t phone help, but I’ve been really impressed with the forum and the e-mail support. Having a problem like this has actually reinforced my satisfaction with Scrivener - it’s a great program and clearly part of a really solid company. Before switching to Scrivener a few months ago, I’d been writing novels with Word for 20 years, and thanks the the excellence of the program and the support from folks like you and Astrid, I don’t miss it one bit.

Happy Spring,

If you’ve been using “Save As” to back up your work, I’d like to suggest you instead use File->Back Up->Back Up to… this command creates a copy of your project with an optional date-stamp added to the backup name (you should use that option). The difference here, besides the automatic addition of a date to the name, is that it leaves you editing the original project, instead of the new copy.

To re-iterate: “Save-As” creates a copy of your project, closes the original, and opens up the copy for editing. “Back Up To” creates a copy, but leaves you editing the original.

I love that Scrivener has this feature, because it lets us create milestone backups that we have the chance to name however we like (“My Best-Selling Novel-rough draft-2016-04-13” for instance), without the risk of accidentally making changes to that backup when we mean to be continuing our work in the original project. Do note that the settings in Scrivener->Preferences->Backup will show you where automatic backups are stored, and what triggers those automatic backups. Those settings are separate from Back Up To.

That is a really good feature to know about. Thanks!