Catastrophic Error - 33,000 words have just disappeared!!!

I was writing my latest book on Scrivener and just now all the text (33,000 words) disappeared and I can’t seem to recover it!! I have emailed their technical support but as yet I have not received a reply. I did not select all text or press any delete button. I was just writing, touched the space bar and it just disappeared! I have never experienced this before with any software programme and I hope someone can help me recover the text. After it happened I pressed undo and redo, closed and opened Scrivener and it’s still missing.

How can any software programme simply delete text like that and what can I do to get it back?
Many thanks

You should be able to get it all back by uncompressing your backups. You might also get it back by restoring it from Time Machine, or whatever other backup strategy you use.

If you did not make backups, that is just awful for you. Always be backing up. Always. A writer can never have too many backups. I archive every day’s work on different media. You never want to hit a catastrophe like this whether it is a bug in the software you are using, or a hardware failure, or something you did.

Wow I hope you can get those words back!

  • asotir

Hi astorir

I back up Scrivener on Word but I can’t seem to recover it from there and I didn’t do anything - this has to be a software problem and that many words can’t just disappear!
How do I uncompress my back-ups on Word?

Many thanks

I’m sorry to hear about your loss - I’m sure that it’s only temporary - one of the features that attracted me to Scrivener seven years ago was its security - which incidentally I’ve never had to use.

One thing I don’t understand is when you say that you backup Scrivener on Word. Do you mean that you compile or export what you’ve written to MS Word every day? Scrivener’s own backups should be somewhere on your computer - see the menu item Scrivener > Preferences > Backup for the location.

Hi Hugh

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
I recovered everything except the three hundred words I wrote today and I can live with that!


Yay! Great to hear that you were mostly able to recover things.

For future reference, there are a few normal but sometimes unexpected behaviors that can produce these symptoms.

The first happens when the user deliberately or accidentally selects a large chunk of text, then types something (anything) else. As in most word processors, this simply overwrites the selection. In Scrivener in particular, though, the Cmd-A keystroke combination (Select All) is very close to the Shift-Cmd-A combination (Create Annotation). So it’s possible to mistakenly select the entire document, then start typing the “annotation,” and there goes a big chunk of work. An immediate Cmd-Z (Undo) is your best choice here.

In a similar situation, a user selected a large block of text, then typed the <$wc> placeholder, expecting to get a word count. They were very shocked when, instead, the text disappeared. :frowning: The <$wc> placeholder is used to insert the word count into a Compiled document; from the Scrivener editor’s point of view it’s just text and the typeover-selection feature worked as designed. Again, an immediate Undo would have remedied the situation.

I also helped a user who had mistakenly used the Cmd-K shortcut, which Splits the current document at the cursor, then places the cursor at the beginning of the new document. If you use this command at the bottom of a document, the new document will be blank, and everything above it will “vanish.” It’s not undoable because of how file commands work. It can be pretty shocking, especially if, as in this user’s case, you weren’t aware that the Split command existed. However, the missing text isn’t actually gone. It’s still there in the Binder, and the Documents -> Merge command will glue the two halves of the document back together.

Both these situations can be compounded by some attempts to fix the problem. For instance, dragging newly created Split documents to the project Trash will take them out of their position in the text. They’re still in the Binder and searching will still find them, but it becomes a little more difficult.

The third thing that can happen doesn’t actually affect your data at all. If you are used to viewing a folder in Scrivenings mode, you’ll be used to seeing all of that folder’s subdocuments in a single text stream. If, instead, you accidentally or deliberately look at just the top level folder (or file), the subdocuments won’t be visible. If the top level folder itself contains no text, you will see … nothing. This is likely to happen if you need to reset your user interface (the ui.plist file) for any reason. Switching back into the Scrivenings view should cause everything to reappear.

Finally, as you’ve discovered, good backups are the best defense against all problems of this kind. This might be a good time to look at the Scrivener -> Preferences -> Backups pane, and make sure that the options match the way you work. There have been a few cases where, for example, the user had backups set to run whenever they closed the project. Unfortunately, they left Scrivener running for days at a time (a practice I don’t recommend, by the way). The backup rarely ran, and so they weren’t well-protected when a problem occurred.