all the pages went blank

Within a few weeks of acquiring Scrivener, I opened a large project I had been working on and found that, though all the files and sub-files were in place and visible by name, every single file is now devoid of text. A blank page with “0 words 0 characters.” And some of those files were long, like dozens of pages. A few other projects I had started were fine, as before, nothing missing. Unfortunately, I had not taken any snapshots of my work.

  1. Any idea what caused this? So I can avoid it happening in the future.
  2. Is there anything I can do to recover my work? Did it go somewhere else?

More info: This was the basic Scrivener project, which had the tutorial files on it. I had simply created additional files after the tutorial (so they appear underneath the tutorial files in the binder). The tutorial files are all blank, just as the files I created are. However, I find Scrivener also has another project, which has all the tutorial files and nothing else, and they are all intact.

There is nothing in the “trash” folder. Actually, there are files I sent there. They are all blank as well.

  • Jeff

Where are your projects stored? On your hard drive? In the cloud (that is, Dropbox, SugarSync, iCloud, etc.)?

On my hard drive.

That’s actually good news. It rules out things that cloud storage software does which can confuse and corrupt Scrivener projects.

If I were in this situation, I would open the Scrivener project directory, the .scriv folder, and in that directory open the “project.scrivx” file in a text editor. This is the main descriptive file that Scrivener keeps about what is in the Binder. This will tell you what the correspondence between Binder name and RTF filename is. Open an RTF that looks empty in Scrivener. What are its contents? Is there anything there? Or is the RTF file itself empty?

Okay. The project is called Scrivener. I found the file titled “Project” in the folder of that name and opened it using Notepad. It is not an empty file. Based on what you say, I take hope from this. What should I do next?


Actually, the file I opened in Notepad is the .scrivx file. You lost me on the part about opening an rtf file.

  • Jeff

Okay. First, and most importantly, ensure the “project.scrivx” file is not open in any text editor. Then run your Scrivener project and take a look at some text files that do not display text, but you think they should. Write the names of some of those text files on a piece of paper. Then close your Scrivener project. After Scrivener shuts down completely, open the “project.scrivx” file in a text editor.

The “.scrivx” file contains a description of the Binder hierarchy in a format called
“XML.” In XML format, it is easy to express lists of things. Each item in XML begins with a tag enclosed in “angle brackets”, that is, it starts with “<” and ends with “>”. The tag name is everything inside the angle brackets up to the first blank space or the terminating “>” if there is no space. Everything is tagged. The end of a particular description ends with almost the same tag that started the description except that instead of “” to start the description of a data item called “widget”, it ends with “”. (Note the additional forward slash, “/”.) If there is more than one widget description, there are simply many pairs of “” and “” tags. All tags inside the widget tags describe properties of a particular widget.

The Binder is described by everything between the “” and “” tags. Find those two tags. “” should be near the top. “” should be close to the bottom. The list of things in the Binder is a series of “<BinderItem …>” tags. I added the ellipsis to indicate that the tag may contain more description within itself. For BinderItems, there will be things like “ID”, the number used in the Files/Docs directory to number the RTF files. For example, a BinderItem that begins “” describes a folder that appears in the Binder. If the folder contains any text, then in the Files/Docs directory, there will be an RTF file called “12.rtf” that contains that text. The actual name that the folder is called in the Binder display is listed as a tag inside a called “”. For example, if the folder is called “Climax Scenes” in the Binder display, then the title would be expressed as “Climax Scenes”.

So, you want to look for a “” tag for a text file in the Binder that you know does not display any text in Scrivener. Then look up only a line or two to the parent “” tag and note the number in its “ID” attribute. Then go look in the Files/Docs directory for the RTF file that is called that ID. For example, if the enclosing says “<BinderIrem ID=“42” …>”, you want to look for the file “Files/Docs/42.rtf”. Open that file in a text editor. If that RTF file has text in it, you probably haven’t actually lost that item. Something else is corrupted about the project and is keeping Scrivener from correctly displaying the text. If, however, the file “Files/Docs/42.rtf” does not contain any text, you may have lost work. Hopefully, you have backups of some kind?

I skimmed your instructions and went right to the bottom line. If I understand correctly, the following observation is definitive: For the project in question, the Files/Docs folder contains nothing at all but a file called docs.checksum. No rtf files at all.

What is your affiliation with Literature and Latte?

To your knowledge, is what happened to me uncommon?

To answer your question, most of the files I lost started out as drafts in Word which I imported, and I still have those drafts. And some of the files in Scrivener I exported into Word at some point along the way so that I could print them. But there is a lot of editing I did over a period of weeks that is lost.

Thanks for taking the time to help me.


I am not affiliated with L&L in any way. I’m simply a Scrivener user like you. But I am also a professional software engineer by trade, so I’m pretty comfortable figuring out software systems like Scrivener.

I personally think what happened to you is uncommon. I once thought something similar had happened to me. I had moved a file from one place in the Binder to another by dragging with the mouse. I meant to scroll the Binder window, but I dragged a text file to a new location instead. (It had been about a 20 hour writing session, and I was tired and not really looking at what I was doing.) I didn’t realize that I had moved a file. I just thought that the mouse had missed the scroll bar. Then my next compile was all screwed up. I thought I had lost a scene, but I eventually found it hiding as a child of another text file (something I never do by choice.) And somehow the “Include in Compile” checkbox had been turned off. So it all ended up being user error on my part. And that was a relief.

Did you ever empty the Trash in this project? (Project->Empty Trash… or right click on the Trash icon and choose Empty Trash) That might explain what happened. Perhaps the Draft folder was drug into the Trash somehow and then the Trash was emptied?

I’ll just write it off as a mysterious freak occurrence and a temporary setback, get back to work, hope it never happens again, and back up my files more frequently in the future.

Thank you for your time and effort. Very kind of you.

If anyone is reading this post and taking interest in it: I did find the missing files. They had somehow migrated to a different folder in the path. After I cut and pasted them back to the appropriate folder, the files in the Scrivener project were all restored to their proper appearance, the pages were once again full of words.

Since I try to be careful about this kind of thing, let me first apologize for writing “the Draft folder was drug…” instead of “the Draft folder was dragged…”

And to jbenz, Hearty congratulations! Glad you found your data! And happy to know you now have more experience in what can go wrong and how to fix it. And you’ve taught me something in case I run into a similar situation.

Thank you!

Just wanted to add to this thread because the same thing happened to me last night.

The tester in me would love to spend the day trying to recreate this because there is something evil lurking in the night, so to speak.

However, the business person in me can’t afford the time but I want to leave a few breadcrumbs in case it helps Development or Testing to recreate.

How did I recover?
I did it the best way possible – I used a backup. Happily, the sequence was this:

  1. 7pm ish
  • Writing complete for the day
  • Autobackup
  1. 11pm ish
  • Miscellaneous prep for tomorrow
  • Noticed there was a problem (blank documents, and backup files were drastically smaller than normal - 39KB instead of 1,069KB).
  • Slept on it
  1. Today
  • Confirmed problem
  • Restored

My Configuration

  1. My Scrivener files live on Dropbox
  2. I use Scrivener Windows and Scrivener Mac. The Mac was not involved in this – it was off and in my briefcase the whole time.

What might have caused it? (Just a few clues about what I was doing)

  1. I suspect what caused it is that I had the Scrivener file open and renamed it’s folder from Windows Explorer.
  2. Apparently Scrivener is smart enough to notice and in that process, it appears to me that something went awry. The binder outline looked fine; the majority of documents went blank.
  3. Not sure if Dropbox has a role in this or not. When you rename a folder it will notice during sync. Not sure what happens after that.

What I wish would have happened

  1. I wish Scrivener would have alerted me to the fact that the folder had mysteriously vanished. I renamed the folder for something unrelated to Scrivener so I didn’t even think about it being open. This could have been catastrophic, relatively speaking, had I failed to notice and moved on for a while.

Just sharing; hope it helps :slight_smile: