Project has become un-synced with... itself?

I have been using Scrivener since 2007. I have a “main projects” project, in which I do everything. My PhD dissertation was in there; letters of recommendation for my students; grant proposals from 10 years ago… everything.

Recently I purchased an iPad, and naturally I wanted to see if I could use it on the road for writing and have everything sync with my computer at home. I discovered (through my hunting and pecking through forums and whatnot) that the only “certain” way to do this was to use Dropbox.

So, I took the entire Scrivener folder, which includes the draft and notes folder, and moved it from where I had been storing it in iCloud into its new home in Dropbox.

The result was unexpected. I can open my main project, and all of the files are still there in my binder… but there are no words for any of those files. It is as if the binder has lost link with the actual text files somehow. Same situation for all of my research items (pictures, video clips, etc). They all show up in my binder, but they are empty and have no substance. Ditto for my Scratchpad notes.

I can see all of the .txt files in the notes, draft, and scratchpad notes files, but I cannot open them as .rtf files with Text Edit like I normally would be able to do. Out of desperation I moved the entire Scrivener folder back to iCloud drive, hoping that I would be able to magically restore the link between the binder and its contents, but that has not worked.

Does anyone have any ideas of how I could reestablish things to the way they were without having to go through almost 20 years of files one-by-one?

Thanks in advance.

I don’t know Mac, so can’t give you any detailed guidance, except:

  1. This is where your zipped backups will save you. They are the simplest, easiest way to restore a Scrivener project. On Windows Scriv, the folder where your zipped backups are stored is determined by the Scriv setting found at File > Options > Backup.

  2. If zipped backups don’t work out, restore your project from your Time Machine backup. I have no idea how easy or hard that is, not knowing Mac.

Best of luck.

There are some points that may require a little clarification, as it sounds like what you’re working with at the moment isn’t actually a project:

So, I took the entire Scrivener folder, which includes the draft and notes folder, and moved it from where I had been storing it in iCloud into its new home in Dropbox.

No project in any version of Scrivener would match that description. I’m not sure which version you are using, but in the original version there would just be a flat folder with a bunch of files in it, mostly RTFD files. You probably aren’t using that though, because what you are describing here sounds more like a sync folder (first introduced in version 2), which would have one main folder with a Drafts and Notes subfolder (and maybe a Trashed folder). These would each have within them a number of files in some format, depending upon your sync folder settings. In this case it sounds like plain-text files.

So if this folder was moved or renamed, it will no longer be attached to the project (as as safety precaution), and so it is of no risk to your actual work, whatever happens to it at this point. It was always just a duplicate of the content of your project anyway, meant for editing in external tools only. So unless you’ve done extensive editing to the contents of it that you want to save, it’s probably disposable.

The result was unexpected. I can open my main project, and all of the files are still there in my binder… but there are no words for any of those files.

Now this on the other hand sounds like something else. You wouldn’t be able to open a sync folder as though it were a project, even if you manually renamed the master folder to “My Sync Folder.scriv” to try and fool it, it would throw an error. Now I suppose if you opened up the package contents of an actual project in Finder, and moved its .scrivx file into the sync folder, and renamed the main folder to something.scriv, you could maybe get to something like this. The .scrivx file is just the binder information, not the content, so the result would be much like you describe. That there are a bunch of .txt files in “random” (to Scrivener anyway) subfolders would mean nothing, it has no way to connect with any of them because that isn’t how a project is organised internally (into Draft and Notes folders).

But that’s an awful lot of very intentional messing around that you don’t describe, so it’s probably unlikely you did all of that, but if it sounds somewhat on target, maybe that’s what is going on.

In short, I think your best bet is to set aside this sync folder for now, as it’s not your project and you’ll never recover your project from that. There isn’t enough information in it to do that—as you note, it’s just a bunch of .txt files without any “glue” to hold them together.

Next, in Scrivener, go to your “Recent Projects” list in the File menu and look for an entry in here, other than whatever you tried to load last, that looks promising. If you use one project for everything, there shouldn’t be many options.

If nothing in that list works, or you have nothing in the list, then in the File menu (assuming you’re using version 3) you should see a command to “Find All Projects in Spotlight”. Hopefully that will track it down. Worst case, you may need to restore your project from a recent backup—if indeed you were shuffling files around in the master project and it is now too damaged to easily repair. (You’ll find information on how to recover from a backup in the user manual, under §5.2.3, for Scrivener 3 anyway).

Once you do manage to load your project successfully, however you do so, then use the File ▸ Show Project in Finder menu command to open a new Finder window with the project selected.

At this point I would close the project, and in Finder, hit Cmd-D to make a duplicate of it so you have a backup. Then move the project to your Scrivener sync folder in Dropbox. By default that will be ~/Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener. Give Dropbox enough time to finish uploading that, it may take a while since this is a large project, but don’t do anything with it until the Dropbox activity indicator up in the menu bar shows that it is done.

Now you should be able to go into Scrivener on your iPad, and tap the sync button to download it. Now they are both linked to this project. You should probably go through the tutorial in the iOS version, with regards to syncing, as it has some good tips on how to keep things working smoothly.