Project will open on iPad, but will not open on Mac [Rebuilding search indexes]

I cannot open a project that I originally created on my Mac, because of an error. But I can open still open it on iOS, despite the error. I’d like to find out if I can repair the project so I can get it open on my Mac. I will note that I’m using the Catalina beta, so maybe it is the culprit for the problem I’m about to describe. My tale of woe follows.

I have a projected that I created on my Mac. It is stored in my Dropbox-Scrivener sync folder. I follow L&L’s guidelines on how to properly use Dropbox for syncing and have had no other troubles to date.

Today, working in this project, I dragged and dropped a copy of a file from Finder into the research section of my binder. For some unknown reason, Scrivener became unresponsive. The file was a pdf, and was not that large at about 1.4 Mb. I had to force quit Scrivener.

When I relaunched Scrivener, I tried to reopen the project. It gave me a dialog box asking me to wait while it rebulit search indexes. That dialog box never changed, no progress was indicated, and again, Scrivener seemed unresponsive.

I looked for a back up, but my backups all generate the same behavior. (All of my other Scrivener projects open and behave normally).

I tried opening the problem project on my iPad. It opens fine. There is not a bit of data loss. I tried generating a back up and archive copy from my iPad and then opening on my Mac, but the project behaves the same.

Has anybody come across this? Since this file is clearly intact enough for the iOS version to open, is there anyway I can work within the package file to fix this?

Any help is great. Since I didn’t lose data and can open this on my iPad, I’m not panicked. I’d rather not recreate anything, but I know that I have not lost anything…except perhaps time in fixing this!


Yeah, you’ve got the right intuition on the matter—chances are very high the project is perfectly fine, and not even structurally damaged or anything of that nature. You’re most likely just going to need to remove a broken file in it—that looks very likely to be the problem since it all started with importing a PDF. Those are one of the top sources of corrupted media causing crashes. Sometimes these things will crash the indexer as well—since it does attempt to scour text from it, so you can search for PDF content.

First thing to do is right-click on the project itself and compress it. That will create a zipped backup of it in its current state. You’re going to need to go into the internal files of the project itself and remove the PDF—and while that is relative safe to do, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a copy to return to (even if it doesn’t open—it’s almost certainly perfectly fine) in case you accidentally delete the wrong things.

  1. Now right-click on the project again, and select “Show Package Contents”.
  2. Navigate into the Files/Data subfolder. You’ll be faced with a wall of gibberish subfolders. These are what contain the actual content in your binder. What you should be able to do here is add the “Modified” column to your Finder window, and then sort by that so that the new stuff is at the top. Expand maybe the top 10 folders and look for your PDF file. If you have the size column enabled as well, it should be an easy spot since you know how big it is. If you don’t see it, dig a little deeper, it should be in there somewhere.
  3. Once you find it, drag the PDF out of the project entirely; the Desktop is fine.
  4. Launch Scrivener and try to reload the project.

If it works, you’ll find an empty binder slot where the PDF was, feel free to trash it.

Following these instructions did the trick. Project is repaired. Turns out there was something Scrivener did not like about the PDF I was importing. But the problem was not isolated to Scrivener. While the PDF opened fine in preview, it would also not open in PDF Expert. PDF Expert would become unresponsive just like Scrivener did. In any event, thank you for your guidance. Problem solved.

Glad to hear it was an easy fix. And yup! That’s to be expected. Scrivener uses the macOS PDF viewing engine, and so 99 times out of 100 if a PDF breaks your project it will probably crash everything else on the Mac that uses the core viewer, from Finder’s Quick Look to Preview, to even dedicated programs like Skim. In fact using Quick Look can be a good way of figuring out which PDF is broken if you have no idea which one it is. You can just open up all of the subfolders and down-arrow through the PDFs until Finder crashes. You were lucky in your case because it crashed on import—so you could sort. Some people have to find a file from seven years ago among thousands. :slight_smile:

If you have Acrobat Pro, it might be able to repair it.