PDFs will not open

I posted about this in a previous thread on the same issue but haven’t had an answer, which I thought was maybe because it was an old thread, so I’m posting again.

I’m using Scrivener for my dissertation and I have lots of PDF files in my research folders. For the first few times after importing them, they open perfectly but after that I get the error message “Scrivener is unable to load this PDF file. You can try to open the PDF file in external editor”. When I click the Open in External Editor button the programme sometimes crashes entirely.

Does anyone know what I can do about this? I have not moved the original files and they worked fine in the past but now all but the most recent files will not load. If I delete them and reimport them, they work again - but I lose all the notes I’ve made and it’s only a temporary fix anyway.

Are you able to load the file in an external editor using the Documents > Open > in External Editor command as the message suggests? I’m not proposing this as the final solution, but just as a start to check whether the file is loadable from that location. If it does not open, try adding some text to the PDF’s document notes file in the project. Then close Scrivener and open the project’s .scriv folder in Windows Explorer and navigate into Files\Docs. Sort by the modified date to find the most recently modified file–should be #_notes.rtf, where the # will match the number of the PDF file you were trying to load. You can then switch to sorting by name to see if that #.pdf file is in the folder. Is it?

Thank you for the response. In answer to the questions:

The files will not open in the external editor. The button remains grey and nothing happens when I click on it.

The PDF is not in the folder, and indeed only six PDF files are - four of them added in the last three days, and the two least-recently modified files which I probably have not opened since I added them.

Is there a way to stop my PDFs disappearing from the .scriv file? I can’t work out what is causing it!

Sorry, I didn’t mean to leave this one hanging. Have you moved the Scrivener project folder (or any of the contained folders, or any of its parent folders) at any point while it was open in Scrivener? That would cause files to end up saved in multiple locations and so missing from the current Files\Docs folder. Or is the project stored in a synched folder or any other special folder being monitored by another program? It’s possible, for instance, that the files were “cleaned up” for you by a service that moves or deletes older files of a certain type that haven’t been accessed in a certain period.

You could try checking in the project backups to see if you can determine the point at which the files disappeared, which may provide a clue to something that happened to the project or changed on your machine at the relevant time. You can open the backup folder in Windows Explorer by opening Scrivener and going to Tools > Options, then selecting the Backup tab and clicking the button at the bottom of the window. If you switch to “Details” view in Explorer, you should be able to sort by name to view the specific project’s backups together and then also view the date and size information for each–PDFs get fairly large, so if a group of them disappeared from your project at once, you’ll probably see a significant size drop from one backup to another. If it’s not obvious, though, you can open up the backup and take a look in the Files\Docs folder for the PDFs.

Don’t worry, I’m impressed that you manage to answer so many questions! I realised it was getting submerged in new messages. Thank you for helping.

I don’t remember moving the folder, and certainly it wouldn’t have happened more than once, whereas the disappearing act has happened over several occasions. None of the backups have any PDFs in them except the ones which are still opening in the current version - which is four of them, out of several dozen. I’ve been gradually adding to the project as I’m still in the research phase, so the number that are meant to be in there should be growing.

It’s like they self-destructed or something, it doesn’t make any sense! All the other files are there, it’s just PDFs that are vanishing.

Just checked something which might be relevant: in the Dropbox backup, which I originally did manually but I think is now meant to be synched to the Scrivener backup, all the PDFs ARE in the docs folder of the .scriv file. The date it was last modified was December 15th, which is after most of them disappeared. I don’t think Dropbox deletes files it previously held, though, so that might be why. Should I try copying them back into the real .scriv file?