Scrivener repeatedly refuses to open my files

Periodically (every few months) Scrivener refuses to open my novel, and I nearly lose. my. entire. novel.

If I can retrieve my work from the latest Scrivener catastrophe (preceded by the June 18th Scrivener update), I will never use Scrivener for Windows again. The software is unstable, and I have determined that it’s not ready for serious writers to use with their work. It’s a shame, because the program is really the best out there, in terms of working the way we think. Until I can be guaranteed that I will not lose my work (EVER), I cannot trust this software, however.

When it happened once and I retrieved my work, I could roll with the punches. The second time, I’m cutting my losses and going back to Word. Really, though, I hope they can help me get my novel back. I’ve been working on it for more than a decade. I have backups, but they’re all in Scrivener format, which is useless when Scrivener refuses to open its own format.

Wow, really sorry to hear you are having these problems.

First things first, if you haven’t already, I urge you to contact the support team directly and get them to help you recover your work from the various files and backups:

Secondly, you are right that this isn’t what is expected, and I certainly understand why this eroded your trust. This is an unusual situation so I’m sure the team would love to talk to you to try and get to the bottom of what is causing the problem in your case to make sure that if something needs fixing it is fixed.

Obviously there is no such thing as guaranteed 100% performance, not with Scrivener, not with MS Word, not even with Notepad. Computers are funny things and sometimes they just crash and take things with them. Scrivener does have a lot of in-built backup and safety features to help minimise disruption and protect your work. One of these is that all your text is actually stored in RTF files so should you find yourself without a copy of Scrivener at a later point, it is possible to retrieve and re-assemble your draft in almost any word processing program.

Hopefully the team will be able to get you up and running again, and find out what is causing the problems in your case. I also hope that you do decide to stick with Scrivener - I agree with you when you say it’s “really the best out there” for this sort of thing. Regular compiles to a different format (RTF probably being the most suitable in your case) should give you a little extra comfort as well.

Everything pigfender said, above! I’m sorry this is happening to you—but it isn’t normal and I’d love to help you solve it. Hopefully it’s just a small problem that restores your faith in the software.

As pigfender points out, there really is no such thing as a 100% faultless computer system though, so we’ll never make that promise—and anyone that does is lying through their teeth.

The first thing I would ask is: there is a world of difference between a program not opening something, and that something actually being lost to the point of having to start all over. There are a few known bugs which can cause a project to stop opening, and one of them is a really easy fix of just adding the number ‘16’ to the ‘version.txt’ file and it’s fixed—the project opens again. So that is why I ask. When you say it is lost, do you mean the whole directory structure is gutted? The files within the directories are missing? Blank? Scrambled? In the Recycle Bin? Etc—there are just so many things that can happen—details help us figure out what went wrong.

Another bug came up just today with the new update—did you happen to update this morning, that’s another detail that helps us to know—which it appears causes some projects named ‘project.scrivx’ to refuse to open when you double-click on them—but let you open them once you change the name to ‘something_else.scrivx’ or use the open existing project button in Scrivener to open it, instead of directly double-clicking. You say this has happened before though, so it’s probably not that bug.

Anyway, first thing to do is check that version.txt file in the Files sub-folder and make sure it has ‘16’ in it. Use Notepad (not Word) to fix it if necessary and try loading again.

If it appears to be okay, then please describe the state of your project folder, when compared to a project folder that works, and the precise wording of any error messages (if any) you are getting.

Thank you for this response. It helps to know that I can open my files in RTF format at any time. That eases my mind. I did contact support and hope to hear back soon. Scrivener really is the best for this kind of work. Because I depend on it so fully, I need to, well, depend on it fully. Thank you again for such a quick response. I hope to find a solution soon.

Yeah, I’m over here, too. :slight_smile: I’ll make sure your ticket in the e-mail system has a link to this thread.

A brief note on those RTF files—sounds like you indirectly answered one of my questions regarding whether the folder is intact on not. Great to hear it is—because that’s your life preserver belt. The whole project format is designed so that even in a worst case scenario your writing shouldn’t get lost. But, let’s try to fix the project too, because reconstructing a book from dozens or hundreds of RTF files isn’t fun.

It turns out that when I open Scrivener (the program), it can open my novel (as the last project I was working on). When I did this I was able to do even better than the RTF and make a compilation in Word as a backup. When I click on the project itself, I have the error consistently. I tried doing a “save as” and create a new project (in case there was some corruption in my file), but the problem happens with the new project as well.

I haven’t yet heard back from support, but I see a few post-update emergency messages that might now be more urgent than mine, so I’m guessing everyone has their hands full after the update. I’ll hold tight and will not panic, now that I see my words on the screen again and have a backup in another format (whew!). :unamused: Writers do panic when we believe we may have lost our work–

In the meantime, I’ll keep creating regular compilation backups and will refrain from starting any new projects in Scrivener until I can open and close projects again without a problem.

Thanks for your forum support, by the way. You really talked me down!

Sorry! I have no idea what this means! I know just enough to know that I don’t want to do a thing like this without knowing what I’m doing…

I did try to change my project name from “Project” to “Novel,” but I still got the same error message. Here’s the exact message I’m getting: “The file is not a Scrivener Project File. Please select a valid Scrivener Project.”

This happened after updating Scrivener on 6-18-12. Before then (months ago, now fixed), I had a different error, which caused a different problem that caused me to not be able to open my files. As you mentioned, I didn’t actually lose my work (thankfully!).

All right, before messing with the version.txt file, something to try is to open the project from within Scrivener, rather than double-clicking on the .scrivx file. Simply run it from the desktop icon or the start menu. If the project doesn’t open for you automatically (the default preference will do so), then use the “Open Existing Project…” button in that start window—or once you have that start window up, you should be able to double-click on the .scrivx file. The key is that the program needs to be running.

Give that a try first, the error message you pasted is identical to the one that matches this bug.


I´ve got the same problem. After installing the Update a few hours ago, I can´t open my projects via double clicking the project file.

Error Message: This is not a valid scrivener file, please choose a valid scrivener file.

They open fine when I open them through “Open project” when running scrivener.

I had no problems with the update itself, but I do run into the multi-click issue to get my current projects open. I tried to go in and change the project file name, but am not sure I’m doing it right, and am unwilling to lose my work. Yes, I can get to it, but really want to be able to click in one place, whether a single or double click, and have the project open. If I need to rename the file, please give me more of a step-by-step process for it. Thanks.

Just to clarify, renaming the file makes no impact, that was a red herring. It worked for me once because when I double-clicked the first time Scrivener was not open. Having launched the program in a failed attempt to load the project, it was now open. So then I changed the name of the project in Explorer, and when I tried again it worked—however not because I changed the name, but because it was already running.

The current work-around should not require any extra clicking. I recommend setting the preference that opens the start panel when projects are closed and then just leave that running in the background (it won’t use much RAM or any CPU). Now when you click on things to load them it will work.

I just wanted to chime in and say I have the same problem: double-clicking a project file – any project.scrivx file – gives me the “The file is not a Scrivener project file” error. Opening project files from within Scrivener, however, works fine. The version.txt files all say “16.”

This started happening with 1.2.1 and continues with 1.2.2. Prior to that, I’d been using Scrivener since late last year, with no previous problems.

This problem isn’t a big deal to me, but I figured I’d mention it. :slight_smile:

Me too. Renaming the .scrivx file doesn’t help, & the version.txt files all have 16 in them.
Bummer. Everything opens from the “open existing…” dialog just fine.

Yes, opening through Scrivener works fine for me, too. But I have a couple of my projects on Dropbox so I can stay updated across computers, and I’m not sure how this will work. Any experience with this?

I keep backups of my projects on Dropbox. Just now, I extracted one of the backups into a Dropbox folder. Double-clicking it gives me “The file is not a Scrivener…” error message. But if I open the Scrivener program first, THEN open the project from Dropbox, there’s no problem.

Thanks. I also “found” it when I backed into it while working on another project. It’s just a change, and I guess we all have to work together to figure out how to flow with it. :smiley:

Also, Ctrl-O from within an open project, or clicking the Open Existing Project... button in the start panel will of course allow you to navigate anywhere that Windows Explorer has access to, including external hard drives, USB sticks, mounted networked fileservers etc. Opening something out of your Dropbox folder in Documents is certainly no problem.

I hate to be annoying, but I put through a ticket about this on June 18th and never heard back. I’m still having the issue. Can only work on one project, on one computer. I’m nervous to close the project or do anything with it other than edit, export, and save. If anyone hears back from Scrivener, I’d love to hear news on a fix for this --even a “we’re working on it and we hear you.” 13 days seems like a while to wait to hear from a customer support ticket, no?

I hope everyone over there is okay…