Disappearing work

I’ve had this issue several times within the last week and it’s highly concerning.

My setup
I primarily use Scrivener on MacOS with Dropbox, and occasionally view stuff or make simple edits on my phone using Scrivener IOS.

What happened
I make additions to some existing notes, or add new ones using Scrivener on Mac (Big Sur). Whenever I’m done working with Scrivener, I close the project and then quit the app and always check to see that Dropbox is finished syncing before closing my MacBook.

Some time later, I will open Scrivener on iPhone and perform the sync before opening the project. There are no conflicts detected during sync. I notice that my changes aren’t there in recent items (or when I manually check). At this point, I exit the project on iPhone and go back to open Scrivener on Mac to discover that my recent changes are gone without trace.

Potential bug
It is my fear that the sync process on iOS is sometimes destroying my recent changes to the project on MacOS, despite observing all caution with Dropbox syncing.

Has anyone else experienced this issue when working between two devices?

Do you have multiple copies of the project on the Mac? This can easily happen for instance if you routinely use the “Save As” command to make a “backup” when you’re done working.


Did iOS Scrivener tell you that the Dropbox version had changed, before you tapped the sync icon?

Huh, interesting. Last week I used ‘Save As’ once to create a duplicate project under a new name, as my WIP novel has changed title. The data losses have been occurring with the new project. I don’t use the old one anymore, nor do I intend to ‘Save As’ again.

It’s alarming that silent data loss can happen by using such a basic feature; do you know what causes ‘Save As’ to do this?

So it may not be silent data loss so much as the data is saving to the copy you didn’t expect it to.

The way Scrivener works is that it keeps track of the projects you worked on. Unless you configured it otherwise, when you re-open Scrivener, it will re-open the last projects that were open at the time it closed. When you do a “Save As” you are actually creating a new project that is a close copy of the the previous project – but now that you’ve saved it, the new copy is your currently opened project and is the copy that all of your new work will go to.

So if I create “Test Project” under my Home folder, work on that for a while, then save and close, the next time I open Scrivener it will re-open Test Project under my Home folder.

Now I want to create a separate fork (copy) of this project, so I do Save As and save Test Project on my External hard drive. Scrivener is now tracking Test Project on my External drive as my “current” project, not Test Project under my Home folder. I would need to close Test Project on External and re-open Test Project on Home for that to become my active project again.

If this rings a bell, go check for your missing work in your various copies. In many cases, people find that their work is safe – just not in the project copy they thought it was in.

As an addition to Devinganger’s post:
Did you save that new version to the same Dropbox location as the old project? If so your iOS Scrivener should have reacted on this and downloaded that whole project. So you should have the project with both the old and the new name on your iPhone. Is that how it was?

It’s not “data loss,” it’s Scrivener doing exactly what you told it to, but you potentially not realizing the implications of your request.

As lunk said, if you saved the new project in the same folder as the old one, there should now be two projects on the iPhone. If there’s only one, then I suspect you’ll find the iPhone has been putting the “lost” changes in the old version of the project.


Thanks everyone for the help, but I was still getting strange behaviour occasionally. I did manage to fix it by reinstalling Dropbox to a different path using a new account, then saving a copy of my Scrivener project in there. This also fixed other issues I was having whereby every time I opened my project (either Mac or iOS), Scrivener would detect conflicts (despite no changes being made) and create more duplicate conflict files, even if I deleted them all prior.

Weird stuff, I wonder if there was something funky happening with my old (now retired) Dropbox account.