Missing files

Hi, this is my first post to the forum.

I’m using Scrivener to write a non-fiction book and have about 50,000 words already divided into chapters, plus research folders organized by themes and a notes folder of material . After months of working on a desktop computer, I decided I needed the flexibility of also working on a laptop, so I followed the File > Sync >External Folder guidelines, using my Dropbox account. I logged on to the laptop and imported the Synched folder, did some work, then went back to using the desktop, and re-synched to the Dropbox folder. But when I looked in my book binder, it was a disaster: some chapters are duplicated, others have been listed in a completely different sequence, and the entirety of my notes folder was missing.

I’m not sure what happened or how to fix it. I opened a month-old backup of the book, which loaded in Scrivener, but it’s missing my last four weeks of work. I’ve heard great things about this forum, and I’d be grateful for some advice on how to proceed. Thanks.

Welcome to the forum!

First suggestion: since you are using the new version of Scrivener, you might very well have a backup that is more recent. Check your Preferences:Backup pane, and click the Open Backup Folder... button. By default, you get a new backup every time you close the project, and the last five are kept before the oldest is rotated off.

Second: what was your precise method for importing and exporting with folder sync? It sounds like you were attempting to do something that is technically possible, but you have to be really careful about it and as such we don’t even mention the trick in the documentation. Basically, to do this correctly you need to treat one project as the master copy, and on the second computer treat the project copy as secondary. On the secondary computer, all you ever do with the Sync Folder feature is drag RTF files from the sync folder into the Binder, each time you switch to that computer, and then use the File/Export/Files feature to get them back out, removing those files from the binder once they are exported. For this to work best, you want to export the files into the sub-Draft folder in the sync folder so that they overwrite the originals. Since Scrivener writes out files using the internal modification date, only those files you have actually changed will be scheduled for sync on the master project copy.

Never attempt to plug two separate projects (even if they started out identical) into the same sync folder and run sync. You get a warning when you try to do this, and ignoring that warning can cause a royal mess. From the manual:

By far, the safest way to do this is to not use Scrivener on the second computer to edit the RTFs. Use a word processor that can handle comments and footnotes for the best results (unless you use neither of those features). It can be safely done with Scrivener on both ends, but you know, when I do this—I don’t even use the original project for external editing. I create a new blank project and import the sync folder into it, then after I export I trash that project. That’s just a psychological step to protect myself from error (like accidentally running sync on the secondary computer without thinking about it until a second too late).


Welcome aboard. When you say you logged onto your laptop and imported the synced folder, do you mean you imported that folder into a new project (or tried to sync an existing project with it)? And then you tried to sync that project with the same external folder? If so, that’s the problem. When you chose to sync with the same external folder from this other project, you should have seen a warning message that tells you that you can run into problems if you try to sync two projects with the same folder (click on the “?” in the Folder Sync sheet for more info). Scrivener keeps track of documents internally using ID numbers. These ID numbers are placed at the end of the file names of the files in the external folders. So when you sync two different projects with the same external folder, the only way Scrivener has of knowing that such-and-such a file should be synced with such-and-such a document in the project is that ID number. In your case, the following will have happened:

  1. You had a project. Inside that project each document had an internal ID.

  2. When you synced with the external folder, each exported file that that special ID number appended to the file name. This is so that when you re-sync with the original project, Scrivener won’t just re-import them but will be able to find the original documents and sync them. (Folder sync is not intended for syncing between different Scrivener projects, but for allowing you to edit files in an external application and then bring them back into your original project).

  3. You then imported this folder into a different project. Now, in that project, each of those documents will be assigned internal IDs for that project. These will differ to the original project, because these IDs are generated as needed.

  4. You then synced this project with the external folder (as I say, you will have received a warning at this point). The files will now be exported with their new IDs after them.

  5. You then synced it with the original project again. The IDs are different now because of the previous steps, so they won’t sync with their original documents but will get re-imported. Moreover, some different documents might have the same ID in those two projects, so you might find completely different documents being synced with one another.

In short, pay heed to the error message. :slight_smile: You must never try to sync two different projects with the same external folder as it will mess up your project.

The only way to fix things is to go through each document individually in the project. Snapshots will have been taken of documents overwritten during the sync process, so you may want to check the snapshots too. It might be a good idea to start with the backup and drag in what you need from the messed-up project. You can drag from binder to binder.

I strongly recommend reading the instructions on how to use Folder Sync (by clicking on the “?” button in the Folder Sync sheet, or reading the section in the Help manual).

If you want to access the project on both your laptop and desktop, you should instead just put the actual .scriv file on Dropbox (and make sure you have automatic backup set up to make backups locally).

Apologies if that wasn’t explained very clearly - it’s midnight here and I’m a bit tired.

All the best,

Thanks to Amber and to KB for their elaborate replies.

I’m still doing triage on what I messed up, and I’m confused about how to patch things back together. I have a backups folder with multiple .zip and .scriv files. If I open one a .scriv, the contents open in the application. What I need to be able to do is toggle back and forth between the binder I currently have open (let’s call this Binder A), which I’ve partially restored, and a backup from last week, so I can compare them side by side and see what’s still absent in Binder A. How can I do this?

To explain the question: My understanding is that if I double-click a .scriv, the backup will open in the application and replace what I’m now calling Binder A. I want to keep Binder A open, but A/B it with the backup, in separate windows. Is that possible?

It won’t replace it; you can have multiple projects open at the same time. Open Project A, then unzip Project A-Backup to another location and open the Project A-Backup .scriv file. (If the file name of the backup project is just “Project A” and you want to make things easier on yourself, you could rename the .scriv file before opening it, so that the two windows in the application will not have the same project title.) Resize the two project windows so that you can have them both visible on the screen and then just drag and drop from one binder to the other.

Another thing you can do is disable automatic backups on the copy you don’t want backed up (probably the messed up one). Just exclude it from the backup system in the File/Back Up/ sub-menu.

For restoration, what I would do is disable backups on the broken copy, and use the backup copy you found as your new master. In other words, drag a copy of it out of the backup folder and rename the broken one so it is clear that it shouldn’t be the one you use going forward. Integrate the changes you made since this backup was created and then proceed from there.