Lost changes mystery

I have many small, recent edits that are missing in my Scrivener manuscript.

I know some of these edits were made in the last week or so. I have done a few Save As on the manuscript in the last week or so, and of course I looked in the previous versions for my changes in case I somehow “branched off” in error, but they are not there. I don’t see them in my last week of backups, either.

Scrivener has hung on me once in the past week or two, but I don’t remember the timing of the hang vs these changes, which I make every day. Could the hang account for this? Under what circumstances can edits not get saved? I keep the files in a folder synced to Dropbox. Maybe a sync error on Dropbox’s part?

Yes, there is a very high risk that changes will be lost if Scrivener quits unexpectedly or is forcibly closed because of a hang.

If Scrivener is otherwise functioning normally, the two most likely causes are:

  1. You have more than one copy of the project, and are looking at a version that wasn’t actually changed. This can happen with careless use of the ‘Save As’ command, for instance. Use Finder to search for .scriv files to find all projects on your system.

  2. Synchronization error. If the changes were made on Computer A, but are not present on Device B, a synchronization error is the most likely cause. There are also scenarios in which an older version on Device B can overwrite the newer version on Computer A, but they are less likely.


It wasn’t a Save As problem, unless the Saved From project somehow disappeared. Not a computer A/B problem. So that points to a hang.

I had the impression that Scrivener auto saved more or less continuously. So why would I lose work that must have occurred over at least a few hours (based on what I’ve noticed missing) because of a hang? Should I save manually frequently because Scrivener’s autosave acts differently than a manual save? Or does a hang doom me to losing all work completed since the project was last opened, regardless of manual saves? (Maybe because saves aren’t permanent until Scrivener “zippers up” upon closing a project.) Losing work is every writer’s nightmare.

As I recall, the hang (or maybe it was a complete crash) happened during a routine change of viewing the entire MS from outline to scrivenings mode. Maybe memory related? MS is 120k words, and prob same count for all my ancillary docs. It’s only happened once.

The autosave is the same as a manual save, except that you can configure Scrivener to create a backup on manual saves.

Without knowing the specifics of the crash or the specifics of the lost changes, it’s hard to say exactly what might have happened. Maybe material hadn’t been saved yet. Maybe file moves hadn’t been saved yet. Maybe whatever it was that caused the hang also caused earlier save operations to fail. Maybe the changes are still there, but the files in question have duplicate copies and you’re looking at the unchanged duplicate.


The mystery remains, but I’m not clear what the takeaway is. If I understand you, frequent manual saves won’t necessarily help, like they would with an ordinary computer file (as with Photoshop, which likes to crash, and I’ve learned to save frequently). I assume a Scrivener project has a complex file structure and a manual save doesn’t lock anything in until the project is properly closed.

So it sounds like backup is the only solution. I guess I could backup every hour and delete at the end of the day. Then I’d only lose an hour of work, not a full day’s worth.

The real takeaway is that Scrivener shouldn’t be hanging, and if it is you should figure out why.

I would recommend setting the “backup on manual save” option in the Scrivener -> Preferences -> Backups pane.