Move of Scrivener project from Dropbox resulted in text files emptying

(As accurately as possible, bearing in mind I was not expecting to have to record it step by step)

  1. Dragged Scrivener project from Dropbox to Finder sidebar (having forgotten a Scrivener project isn’t a normal folder)
  2. Mac treated it as moving the file (not just bookmarking it). I got a little noise and a ‘moved file’ message,
  3. I dragged it back to Dropbox again.
  4. I could no longer open it. I got various error messages about it being corrupted, and looking in Package contents for a scrivx file (there wasn’t one) was there, Searching the forum, it looked as though the main project file existed, but not all the gubbins inside it.
  5. My phone was open throughout my attempts to recover my work. It looked OK, all the folders were there, only one document was still populated (the one I was working on), The others turned into ‘Untitled Documents’.
  6. I originally posted about this here viewtopic.php?f=2&t=66432 in regards to trying to recover my data, so there is a bit more detail there (not included here, as not necessarily related to the bug - if bug is what it is)
  7. Katherine from the Support Team said “I’m a little surprised that Mac OS didn’t move the entire .scriv folder as a complete unit.”
  8. I then spent three days recovering a month’s work from old Word files, searching my Mac and finding then re-naming content.rtf files, and fruitlessly asking for more help in my post.
  9. Just now: out of curiosity, I clicked on the original project file on my Mac (in a different folder - apologies, I cannot remember the exact sequence of why I moved it there) and hey presto, it opened! (I.e. no error messages about corruption)
  10. Initially I was really excited, and thought I had miraculously found my lost work (much of which I have not recovered, as I don’t know the file names or where they are stored on my Mac), but no. All the folders are there, as they were on my phone, but almost every single one is empty, Many have turned into ‘Untitled Document’, and those that have not still have their title (both folders and text files) but no content. A couple of files randomly still have their content.
    11.The content is still available on my Mac, because I found the content.rtf files
  11. The bookmarks are still there, but the links have broken.
  12. All your Novel Formatting content, Templates, etc are also empty.
  13. It’s also a bit weird that not all the content.rtf files were there. I searched in Finder, and imported them all, but some were not there.

I am pretty sure it must be a bug, partly because of Katherine’s surprise, and partly because I did nothing to delete or overwrite the content. All I did was move the project, then move it back. Hence my other post title “A catastrophe, far too easily created”.


I would want to know more about step (3). On my Mac you cannot drop a Scriv project in the finder sidebar and have anything happen unless you drop it into a folder (alias) that is stationed there. So, I am thinking part of the story has to do with where that scriv project got dropped and how your grabbed it back.

Knowing, from the other thread, that you use four or five cloud services and store /all/ of your files in the cloud, I am guessing where you dropped that project was some other cloudy place.

This leads me to wonder if the underlying snafu has something to do with moving a scriv project bundle from a dropbox synced folder to a folder synced with some other service (which?) and then back again — all in short compass. I am not sure why this would make things go kaflooey, but if this is what was happening it might be relevant to diagnosing the problem.

Hope this is helpful.


I would worry about that as well. Since any “cloud” operation involves uploading/downloading from the appropriate service’s server, and since those uploads/downloads take some finite amount of time, my suspicion is that the double moves left some of the project’s content behind.

From Scrivener’s point of view, you just moved from one local folder to another local folder and back, which should be completely innocuous. (Hence my surprise.) The issue almost certainly derives from whatever the cloud service(s) involved did behind the scenes.


Just to make sure, I too tested this. You can’t.
Finder allows neither single files nor packages to be dragged to the Finder sidebar unless you drop them into a folder already residing in the sidebar.

So I tried to repeat what you did. Dragged a project from a Dropbox folder over to another cloud service folder (in this case Mega) and then back again without waiting for syncing to finish. No problem whatsoever.

What does this mean? Did you have Scrivener open on your phone and sync at the same time you were moving things around on your Mac?

To establish it as a bug you need to retrace your steps, repeat the procedure, and get the same result. Otherwise, it is just a mishap, caused by moving the project between cloud-synced folders. I managed to screw up a project by first making it “online-only” in my Dropbox folder, waiting for it to disappear from my HD, and then moving it out of Dropbox and back again to another Dropbox location, without waiting for Dropbox to download the whole project from the server before moving and before moving back from the other cloud service.

So I agree with previous posters: This is not a Scrivener issue but a “MacOS in combination with smart syncing cloud services”-issue.

Yes. No. it can’t drop into the sidebar. I did it instinctively, in error, treating it as if I was bookmarking a folder. That was why I was doing it, for quick access.

What actually happened was that it dropped into the adjacent folder.

I didn’t know which folder until I did a search for it, then once I located it, I dragged it back to dropbox.

Yes, OneDrive. It’s for university, and we are expected to store our work on the university OneDrive/

It wasn’t super-short compass. Just normal speed, really. I do stuff and move stuff all the time, including from one cloud storage folder to another, but I’m normally juggling almost full storage rather than doing it by accident, so I guess it could be slightly quicker than normal. It doesn’t normally result in leaving me with a shell of folders and empty untitled documents.

Anyway, if no one thinks it’s a bug, and that it’s me, and just something I should allow for, then it doesn’t really matter any more.

Not a Scrivener bug, no.

You had a fully functional project package.
You moved it around using Finder, i.e a MacOS app.
When you then tried to open the project package with Scrivener it turned out to be corrupt.
How could that be a Scrivener bug?

Because everything vanished, leaving empty but named folders. This has never happened to me in 28 years of computer use, with any other program. Yes the whole thing can vanish, or be overwritten, but it turning into a shell is a Scrivener thing.
Because I am not enough of a tech to identify and classify whether or not something is a ‘bug’, or to know the precise, technical definition of ‘bug’ and it is better to be on the safe side
Because it happened so, so easily, whether or not it is initially caused by human error, and whether or not it is classified as a ‘bug’. It is still something that needs to be brought to the developer’s attention, and from there to users. I can tell you, I went overnight from telling everyone how absolutely amazing and transformative and good value and conscientious Scrivener is, to… well, I could never recommend it to anyone now, with out saying “But be really, really, really careful. It is very easy to lose all your work.”

But as I said, if it is not a bug (which had already been made clear) then it doesn’t matter. As far as I am concerned, that is the end of the conversation. Maybe Admin can move my post somewhere more relevant so no one else is niggled with me or feels the need to keep telling me something I have already been told.

No, it’s not, which you should understand if you have been using computers since the early 1990s. But maybe you haven’t understood that a Scrivener project is a package, i.e a folder looking like a file in Finder?

A Scrivener project is a folder with sub-folders and files inside. The .scrivx file holds a ToC of the content inside the .scriv folder (package). If you move things around between different cloud services, making your OS remove part of the files inside the .scriv folder but leaving the ToC .scrivx file intact, Scrivener will read the .scrivx file and display it in the Binder, but won’t be able to find any accompanying text files. So you end up with empty documents in the Binder. You assumed that you could make mistakes when you moved projects around between cloud services and that this wouldn’t in any way affect the content of the project folders. Based on your 28 years of using computers, is that a reasonable assumption?

The error was caused by you, not by Scrivener. If Scrivener had informed you that “I haven’t found some of the text documents that should correspond with the document structure in the Binder, so you have probably done something stupid with the project package outside of Scrivener”, would that have made you happier? Scrivener is actually designed to have safeguards for user errors - the backups. With a functioning backup setup, all you would have had to do would have been to copy the last zipped backup (created last time you closed the project) to somewhere on your HD, unzip it, and open it. That’s all.

I have accomplished this myself, many years ago, rearranging things in my dropbox folders. What I think happened was that when I moved a project (consisting of a folder + files & sub-folders), is that the move from one folder initiated a delete on the Dropbox servers. Something that’s super quick. The destination folder triggered an upload of hundreds of files and several folders. Before the upload of all of that was complete, I dragged the project elsewhere. Dropbox interpreted that interrupted 2nd move as only happening on the files it had recieved from the first move, and only synced those files to the 2nd location.

I bet what happened to you is similar. If you do this kind of thing all the time, it’s equivalent to dragging an entire tree of hundreds of files and folders from one cloud service to another and back. Surely you’ve found files missing if you do that kind of thing frequently. One folder with 20+ files isn’t going to be a problem. But a tree 4-6 folders deep, with files in hundreds of sub-folders (potentially… I don’t know what your project(s) look like). Keep in mind that ever binder entry in Scrivener can have 3 files (aside from the .scrivx XML index file that contains titles and other metadata): the main text of your document, a synopsis plain text file, and a rich text document Notes file.