Freeform corkboard - arranged index cards now completely jumbled

Help, please! I have a full novel 99% outlined via index cards on the Freeform Corkboard (Windows, v3.1.1.0). Today, I opened the file to find the cards looking like someone picked them all up and threw them on the floor in a pile, completely out of order. I’m panicking. This is the 3rd novel I’ve written in Scrivener and I’ve never had this problem. I would try to sort out the cards again (which will take hours), but I’m afraid it’ll just happen again tomorrow if I don’t know WHY it happened. Anyone know what has happened and how to fix it??? Thank you so much. I’ll be crying in the corner if anyone needs me.

I sympathize with your pain.

Now I’m gonna ask the obvious question :
Do you have a backup from yesterday ?

Tech support just asked the same thing (which, unfortunately, doesn’t solve the issue of why did the cards jumble in the first place). No, apparently “automatic backups” were turned off at some point. I do not remember doing this - may have turned them off when a previous project was getting large, but I didn’t realize they would stay turned off for the next, new project.

ANYWAY, I thought I was still being diligent. I always save a spare copy of the day’s work to a separate thumb drive, so I do “backup” daily. Of course, that spare copy is also opening jumbled.

Do not open versions of your project from the thumb drive. (!!)

Make a copy of it somewhere else on disk first, so that this “backup” doesn’t get affected by an automatic save of the project.
Then try and see with an even older version of your project.

As for the “why ?” this happened, I’ll definitely leave that to tech support.

Thanks. Unfortunately, any older version is going to be too out-of-date to be useful. I’d made huge outline/story structure changes in just the last two sessions. Once my heart recovers from being ripped from my chest, I’ll be going back to the drawing board.

I guess at this point it would be utterly futile to recommend that you first make sure you have the proper backup procedure in place.

If it may be of any consolation, perhaps something good will come out of this – if you are willing to see the glass half full, and consider this as an occasion to look at your story from a freshen-up perspective.

Wish you the best.

Isn’t most of the binder organized in the proper order for your story. If so and we’re playing with possible different arrangements if open corkboard and go free form not every card will have to be moved and hopefully can reproduce quickly could do screenshots of corkboard as additional backup to capture your flow. Scapple might be another way to look at this as well

When you say it looked like someone picked up the corkboard cards and threw them on the floor—how literal is that statement? Do you mean the grid of cards is out of order, or they are actually scattered all around and no longer in a grid?

If so… you’re fine! Just use the View ▸ Corkboard Options ▸ Freeform menu toggle to switch things back to grid view. Freeform lets you move cards around like you would on a desk, with no limits. And as such that doesn’t do anything to their actual order, it’s just a way of visualising them. You can make a pile over here that represents proofed sections, and throw them on the pile as you work, or arrange them by sub-plot—anything you might do on a chalkboard or with actual index cards on a wall.

Vincent, GoalieDad and AmberV - thank you for taking the time to make suggestions. Unfortunately, I think I’m out of luck.

Originally, the cards were created based on loose scenes, mostly based on where clues needed to be planted (mystery story). I moved the cards around a LOT to get the structure worked out. So the cards/scenes were never listed in the correct order in the Binder. My plan had been to do that today, moving the documents in the Binder to match up with my final outline.

When I said the cards looked like they’d been thrown up in the air, I was being literal. Picture a deck of cards all dumped into a pile at the center of a table - that’s what my “outline” looks like today. No grid. When I switched to the grid per Amber’s suggestion, it just laid them out as they were listed in the Binder, which like I said, hadn’t been properly ordered yet.

I really appreciate everyone’s trying to help me recover the original layout (including Tech Support), but nothing is working. I put some of it back together today, but I know it’s not the way I had it Friday and I’m honestly quite down about it. This story has been fighting me anyway; this really killed the positive momentum I had going into this week.

Thanks again.

Hmm, I’m not sure what could cause them to jumble like that. The way the software stores the position of cards is in such a way that each card knows where it should be (sorta, but that’s close enough to reality to think of it that way). So even if you were to create a brand new folder and drag a bunch of arranged cards into it, realise its in grid view still, and switch it on—you should find they are all where they should be, where they were in the previous corkboard.

There may be some condition that would cause that to fail, but I suspect it would be a bug, as I can’t think of any intentional condition where that would happen. It’s unfortunately probably a difficult one to encounter, but if you do, we could maybe take a look at if you’re willing to send some samples. We could probably do so in a way that involves just looking at the binder settings (where freeform card positions are stored, as well as numerous project settings) from one or two backups as well as the scrambled one, rather than the whole project, but we can advise on that if it gets to that point.

Two things that might help:

There’s an option to place a counter on the Index Cards, but that might be in Binder order.


You can commit the order of the Cards automatically, you don’t have to do that by hand. Of course, you only want to do that when they’re in the correct order…


That’s very helpful! I wasn’t aware that was an option (obviously, lol). Thank you!

The problem does feel very buggy, but of course, if I’m the only one who has had this problem, that says something about me, lol. The reason it feels buggy is because I had been working on this file for a couple days, moving cards around on the corkboard, and didn’t change any settings, etc. All was fine until suddenly it wasn’t. Thank you for trying to help.

Off the top of my head, it is a new problem! That doesn’t mean it is anything you did wrong though, more like you found a unique sequence of actions or settings that can cause it, that is difficult enough for most people to never encounter it. That’s why it would help to see a sequence of backups where it works and then doesn’t work, as we might be able to tease out what is going on from that—if it is settings related.

By “settings” I mean that in a very broad way, not so much preferences or obvious switches. In this sense of the word, even making your window wider is a setting. It is the kind of thing most wouldn’t think about, but the fact that your project loads up the same size you left it at means it is, in a literal sense, a setting.

Anyway, sorry you ran into this, whatever happened!

You are getting the attention of the gurus for this unfortunate situation.

that being said i am concerned how you backup. you do not say exactly how you do so. the best way is to rely on Scrivener’s built in backup that will fire (as you set in preferences) on open and/or close of the project. it is these zip files that would be good candidates to copy to a USB thumb drive, not the whole project. And doing a file/save as all the time could lead to you forgetting what the current version.

Hope this helps.

Okay, I see what you mean by “settings” in a broader sense. Unfortunately, I don’t have the backups that would’ve been extremely helpful in diagnosing.

I really don’t know when I turned off the auto backups, but it was definitely a carry-over from a previous project. Kinda’ wish you had to opt out of auto backups whenever you start a new project - I hope I would’ve realized at that point to turn them back on! I guess I need a better work flow, and to tape said work flow to my forehead.

Yes, I see now that the auto backups would’ve been extremely helpful and are a smarter way to go. That was a lack of Scrivener experience on my part.

They are turned on now, and I’m writing a LARGE note that tells me not to turn them off. Thanks!

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You can’t do this, but you can sorta do the reverse, which is to turn off backups for individual projects.

File > Options > Backup = Global backup settings (applies to all projects)

Project > Project Settings > Backup = Project-specific backup settings (applies to only the specific project)

So next time you want to temporarily turn backups off for one project only, do it from Project Settings for that project.



That is a very handy thing to know. Thank you, Jim!

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If this may contribute a little, here is how I go about my backups :

Inked2022-04-05 17_54_04-Window_LI
is how I handle my snapshots.
(You can also see that my projects auto-save after 5 seconds of inactivity, so I don’t ever have to bother with a manual save per se.)

And as of the backups themselves, rather than having the operation linked to a manual save or to whenever I open and/or close a project, I use the “Back up Now” menu command.
Which I have as a button on my toolbar :

On an average day, I’ll do between 10 and 20 backups for a project.

These manual backups automatically end up in a folder on my desktop, named “Novel backups”.
Whenever I feel like I progressed enough to justify it, I copy the most recent backup to a thumb drive that is connected to my computer through a hub that has switches. (I usually do this when leaving the house for a while. Or whenever, like I said, I feel like my recent progress is worth it…) I switch it back off right after the file transfer. (No need to have it accessible all the time, if something one day goes wrong, might as well spare me the trouble of having my thumb drive messed up as well.)

And finally, as part of my routine, when the day is over, I upload the very last backup of the day (from my desktop backup folder “Novels backups”) of whatever projects I worked on since last upload to my cloud backup.
This or these backups (the local original copies) then go to a folder named “Archived”, located inside the “Novel backups” folder that is on my desktop.
I delete whatever other backups I cumulated during the day from the “Novels backups” folder.
Once or twice a month, I add the content of the “Archived” folder to an external SSD drive, and empty the “Archived” folder from my computer. (That external drive is dedicated to backups and storage, and is also disconnected until next time after the operation.)

So this way, I have a temporary backup on my thumb drive (short term protection), but also, and at all time, at least 2 other places where my real backups (the last one of each day’s work) can be recovered from, if needed.

To be in trouble, I would need :

  1. To lose/break/get my computer stolen ; and
  2. to lose/break/get my thumb drive stolen ; and
  3. to lose/break/get my SSD drive stolen ; and finally, on top of all that,
  4. some hacker to burn Google down to the ground.

All of which in a single day…

I feel pretty safe :wink:
→ And none of that requiring much of my time to handle. (About 3 minutes at the end of each writing day.)