File has reverted back to original save from a year ago, no trace of work since then

I opened Scrivener today to work on a play I am writing, and to my horror, the file that opened was the original file that I saved last fall, not the updated version(s) I have been working on since then. There is no indication of any snapshots taken between then and now, either, which I did frequently, as well as having the program set to Auto Save at close. I checked through some other of my Scrivener files and none seem affected, just this one. This is really horrifying to me, as I have just lost months of work and can’t figure out why.

Is there anything to be done about this?

The only possible explanation is that you actually opened the file you saved last fall instead of the one you worked on last time you opened it. Neither Scrivener nor Finder can “revert” anything on their own.

Make a search in Finder for all Scrivener projects and sort them by “last edited”. Maybe you have changed folders over time, possibly since the release of the iOS version?

Lunk’s suggestion is a good one, you probably just opened an old copy of the project.

But you also may want to try finding and opening a recent backup copy of your project, from the last day that you opened the project in its must current state.

Look in Scrivener options/preferences to find the folder where the backups are stored.

Do this prior to opening/closing the project repeatedly. Depending on your backup settings, opening/closing the project repeatedly may overwrite all of your current backup copies.

Yes, the key phrase here is the passive “and the file that opened was…”. As in, you opened Scrivener and something else (not you) opened a project file – but, we are thinking, not the one you expected!*

In the Finder, go to the project file you want and open it yourself. Then you can be sure the project file you are looking at is the one you expected to see. Let us know if this doesn’t resolve the puzzle!


  • It is an open question at this point why this might have happened. For example, you may have been tidying up recently – renaming/moving project files around in the Finder. That is one possibility.

Hi, thanks for writing me about this.

I am not very tech-oriented and didn’t know I had to set the backup to not erase past the previous 5 saves, and of course in my panic yesterday I opened and closed the program a few times, so now the only backups listed there are all the old file, resaved yesterday. I have tried searching in Finder as suggested for all Scrivener files, and nothing else is coming up. Any other suggestions are welcome, thanks.

Do you have backup of your system using TimeMachine?

And another thought… The file you opened has to have been the one you worked with a year ago, so there has to be a more recent copy somewhere, in another folder, or on a different computer, or such. There must have been two versions of the project - the one year old and the new. If the same name - different folders. With similar but not identical names - they could be in the same folder.

If they have exactly the same name the backups would have the same name and would have erased each others copies, but the original files would not be touched.

… and do you have more than one Mac?

I do have Time Machine but in a stroke of terrible luck my external hard drive broke a month ago, and I have procrastinated on getting a new one. So I can’t actually access my backups via Time Machine right now. I may try to recover the hard drive - it got dropped on the floor and when I plug it into the computer it lights up and starts trying to work but never shows up on my computer…I really don’t know enough to know if there’s even a way to get that stuff back.

Another problem altogether but compounding this one. :blush:

I only have one Mac but I did log onto an iPad to do some other work, I don’t think I opened Scrivener at all then but the iPad was connected to my home network…? Could my files somehow have gotten saved over there I wonder?

But there still has two be two .scriv packages somewhere on your computer. The old one from a year ago, that you saved somewhere, and the one you’ve been working on the last year.

Have you searched for .scriv in Finder looking at all your files?

And there is some reason to suspect that your two projects (the year-old one and the one you have worked on since) have the same filename.

Does the list of “Recent Projects” contain more than one entry for your project? If you’re seeing the project’s name multiple times, it’s likely that you’ve got two or more copies; try opening all of them at once to figure out which one is the one with your most recent work.

The OP has opened all her backup projects since, so the recents list is likely just full of those now.


I have looked for all .scriv files in Finder, yes, and still can’t find the right version. I had no idea that the program was set to only save the previous 5 versions of the file, too, so since I opened the file multiple times in trying to figure out what was happening, now all the auto-backups are that version, not the one I am trying to find. I have since changed the setting to save all versions but that isn’t helping me with this current problem.

I still have no idea why this happened or where my more current writing has gone. If anyone has any more specific instructions beyond searching for .scriv, I am all ears, but beginning to think I have lost this text entirely.

Hi Sara,

In Windows I would check the recycle bin for recently deleted projects. Does Mac have a recycle bin?

Have you ever completely backed up the data on your Mac?

Have you ever saved any version of this project to external storage (USB stick, flash drive, etc.)?

Hoping one of these questions will give you some idea of where to find a more recent version of the deleted project.


ETA: You didn’t mention and I don’t think I saw anyone ask you: Do you use any cloud storage services such as DropBox or OneDrive?

Also, when was the last time you were able to work on the missing version of the project? Did you do any compute maintenance or cleanup after that? Move any folders around? Install any new software?

One more question: Is it all possible that your Scrivener project was unintentionally located on your external hard drive? Have you accessed the project since your external hard drive broke?

Here are a few additional techniques and ideas. They are all independent from one another, so if one doesn’t look like something you’d like to try, you can move on to the next:


To step back for one moment into the realm of “Doh”: have you checked the Trash yet on your Mac? It could be sitting right there and search won’t look in the trash folder.

[size=120]Repair Spotlight Index[/size]

And from there we can segue into another possibility: Spotlight not finding a project doesn’t mean the project doesn’t exist. Spotlight is a search index based tool, which means the index must be healthy in order to completely trust it. Using a tool like Maintenance can help with that (you could disable all of the default options and only leave “Spotlight index” enabled). Do note that if you do that the Mac will have to go through everything to rebuild the index. This will take hours, maybe even days. It will let you use the computer in the meanwhile, but it will be a little slower and Spotlight won’t be reliable until it is done.

[size=120]Using macOS Shell Commands[/size]

Beyond that, there are other, more thorough and much much geekier ways of searching for files on your Mac that can cut through Spotlight’s limitations and scan the actual disk as it stands rather than relying on a separate index.

The first code example I give in that thread contains a method to search for “phrase” through all of your projects. Hunting for a phrase of text you know you’ve written since last year may help, and you can’t rely on Spotlight having that phrase in the index since it doesn’t dig into projects themselves. The solution provided by Robert will search more comprehensively, even through files that may have nothing to do with Scrivener. If you ever backed up your manuscript to RTF and forgot about it, that might dig it up!

The command-line is not to be trifled with, so I’d understand if you don’t want to mess with it, but if you copy and paste and follow the instructions carefully you shouldn’t run into issues. The two commands we are using here are ‘find’ and ‘grep’, the former is for finding files and the latter is for finding text within files. We find a bunch of files, search their text, and print a list of which files have that text and where they are.

[size=120]Path Finder as a Better File Finder[/size]

One last approach is Path Finder, which is unsurprisingly an alternative to the default Finder (but you can use it on top of Finder and that is how it works by default). Path Finder is specifically interesting for having a non-indexed search mode like Finder used to have many years ago. It’s slow, but like the command-line stuff, it uses your data as the source, not a proxy index.

Using its search tool, you could locate RTF files created in the last year that happen to be located inside of a package format like .scriv projects. There may very well be hundreds, but since Scrivener creates a new RTF file for every bit of text you type into the main editor, finding where the RTF files are with your more recent work should, by dint of the full path to the RTF, reveal which “.scriv” they came from by clicking on the magnifying glass icon in the search results, and using the Preview pane to read the RTF.