The mysterious disappearing file

Someone told me mercury is in retrograde, which probably explains everything:

Yesterday I closed a Scrivener file and shut down the computer. This evening I got back to it - except it wasn’t there. It wasn’t in Scrivener under Recent Projects (which is where I usually retrieve it), and it wasn’t in my OS X smart folder, and it wasn’t anyplace in Finder, and it wasn’t in the Trash. I tried Spotlight, finding it fairly useless (I use QS on the other computer, but it says it doesn’t work with Leopard). I know Leopard is buggy. I investigated the L&L forums, I googled, etc. No, I didn’t panic. I’m becoming very blase.

Anyway OS X help said to look in Apple Recent Items. I found my file there, but I am perplexed because it wasn’t anywhere else. I spent a couple of hours looking for it.

Is this a Scrivener problem, a Leopard problem, an operator problem, or an astrology problem? How likely is it to recur? What can I do to avoid a repeat?

Any help would be gratefully received.

Were you then able to open the file from the Apple Recent Items menu?

If so, click on the title of the document while holding down the command (open-apple / figure-8) key on the keyboard, and you should see a menu that represents the path to the document in the Finder.

Apologies if you’ve already tried this or it’s not relevant because you can’t open the file.

And FWIW, Quicksilver works perfectly fine on Leopard.

Thanks for all the suggestions and help.

I checked the file path and it is in a folder that I searched exhaustively, several times, when I looked for the file. It was not there then. It is there now. I can’t explain it.

Yes, it opens perfectly normally and there is no problem with it.

I will look into Quicksilver again. Last time I visited their website they said Leopards should hold off.

Thank again for the help.

May be that the Spotlight Index has corrupted. OSX now depends heavily on Sotlight and yet there are some shortcomings and “gremilins” I have seen, especially dealing with files on Network Volumes in Tiger.

SOmetimes the spotlight “index” of your HD may become inaccurate or corrupt and cuase really weird things to happen, like not being able to locate a file…


(Do this right before you are going to bed, Have your computer plugged in and under the energy saving preferences make sure you uncheck Put the hard to sleep and also make sure the computer will never go to sleep.)

Ok once you are ready.
(2) Under spotlight go under the PRIVACY tab.
(3) Now DONT CLICK the + sign at the bottom.
Instead drag your Hard Drive Icon from the desktop into the center of this window.
(4) Close the system preferences.
(5) Restart.
(6) Go to SYSTEM PREFERENCES - SPOTLIGHT - to the privacy tab.
You should see your Hard Drive in this list.
(7) Highlight your Hard Drive and then at the bottom left of screen click the - sign to remove your Hard rive from this list.
(8) Close your system preferences and leave your computer on and go to bed.

What happens is when you select your Whole Hard Drive in the privacy tab and restart, Spotlight is told NOT to index your HD at all so the index is removed. When you go back and delete it from the list you are telling Spotlight to re-index your Hard drive. This creates a brand new index that is without corruption and gremlins that may have either been carried over from upgrading from Tiger or from extensive use.

I tell you to leave your computer on overnight so Spotlight is given plenty of time to rebuild the index, now if your computer is quite full of a lot of files this may take longer than one night so if you notice a “slow down” over the few days that is because Spotlight is still trying to complete the index of the HD in the background. So you may wish to leave it running more than one night.

This also happened to people when they first got tiger and everyone was like “Why did my computer run slow for about a week?” SPotlight was making the magic index.

This is not something you have to do often (I suggest about every 6 months or if you have moved a ton of files around, like a major backup) or if you start noticing "gremilins like unable to locate files you know you created or strange find responses.

PS: For those that find they wish to “search” the old way try
Easy Find
Really a great search tool that to me is much better than Spotlight for actually searching for a file or folder by name.

Hope that helps?

This may be the same issue, but on steroids.

I am using Scrivener ver. 2.2 15858 on Lion ver. 10.7.2.

This happens only in certain conditions, but has happened enough I think I can say this is how it happens for sure.

If Time Machine is making a local backup to disk (but not w/ an external drive) and if the Scrivener project is closing during the local backup, but Scrivener is also backing up to file, the search index for the Scrivener project corrupts. I keep my files in Dropbox, but this happens whether or not DB has a connection.

Now for the odd bit. If I open the Scrivener project package contents and navigate to the folder where the files themselves reside they are invisible! I can move them via Terminal only. They then appear.

I am a heavy TM user, and I can’t control when TM backs up, nor Scrivener, AFAIK. How to avoid this?

That’s odd… Time Machine should be smart enough to figure out when a file is in use, and to give the file owner – Scrivener in this case – priority.

With that said, letting TM backup to the main drive strikes me as risky in lots of ways, for more programs than Scrivener. Perhaps not the best choice of destination.


If your external drive is inaccessible, Lion’s TM stores a temporary backup (increments only, I assume) on the main drive. When it sees your external drive again, it runs a proper backup and removes the local temp backup. That’s the default behaviour, although it can be turned off.

I don’t know whether that’s the same as jcarman’s situation.

Being able to turn off TM’s local backup might do the trick. I’ll try. Thanks.

Please keep us posted. I haven’t upgraded my circa-2006 macbook pro to Lion just yet, but the incremental backups while I’m away from my TM volume was one of the perks I was looking forward to. If I have to turn it off to avoid this behavior, then that’ll be yet another reason to put off the upgrade.

Hello! I’m new at this, so let me know if I’m not providing all of the required information.
Last fall I created a project in scrivener. It was saved and I worked on in during numerous sessions. At some point I upgraded my software to Snow Leopard. I don’t know whether this caused the problem I’ll describe, but I suspect it did.
Now I can’t find the project in scrivener. It’s listed on apple-recents list, but when I click on it, it won’t open. It’s not in my word documents list anywhere. I believe it was there under a different heading than what I use in scrivener, but that file pane is now blank.
I KNOW it has to be in this computer someplace, so I’m trying not to panic.

Can you help?

  1. In Finder, click on the Spotlight icon at the extreme right of the menu bar.
  2. Type in “name:.scriv” – just for clarity, that means type the letters inside the quote marks but not the quote marks themselves. Note also that there is a colon followed by a full stop – you are looking for a file extension of .scriv.

This should bring up a list of all the Scrivener projects, unless you have done something unusual, like telling Spotlight not to index, or not using file extensions when naming your Scrivener projects.

Cheers, Martin.

Thanks, Martin. When I typed in my document name in spotlight, nothing was found, not even the files that I was able to find in Scrivener yesterday.
When I created documents in Scrivener, I didn’t realize I needed to use that tag. My impression from the tutorial was that documents were saved under the file names automatically. And because I was able to work on those documents for months before I lost them, I think my impression was correct, yes? Do you think there is something about Snow Leopard that created this problem or is there something else?

I wanted to try the solution posted above (hit open-apple/figure 8), but I don’t know what you mean. I know what the control button is. Is that what you mean by open-apple? I don’t know what you mean by figure 8.
By the way, I just opened up a different project in Scrivener and it is there. I wanted to figure out what it was saved under to see if that would help me find a different project, but I can’t figure out how to open that file name.

Forgive me Joy (and Martin) if I’ve got this wrong, but what Martin has suggested is that you type into the Spotlight search exactly what he wrote i.e. not the name of your document, but the words “name:.scriv” (without the quotes). This will find all the projects on your computer (I’m assuming they are on your computer, not on a memory stick or a network server) with a “.scriv” file extension. Your work should be amongst them.

By the way, you shouldn’t manually add “.scriv” to the names of your documents or projects.

Good news! I stumbled on my backup Scrivener file. I don’t know why I never found it before. My projects are all there.
Now my question is: How should I save them so that they won’t disappear from Scrivener?


It sounds from what you wrote that you are panicking somewhat :slight_smile: Try to take things calmly. I didn’t, in fact, write some of the things you refer to! They were posted by someone else.

Read all of this post before your try to do anything!

I get the impression (forgive me if I am wrong) that you are not too familiar with the way the whole computer operating and file-saving system works. If that is the case, I would strongly advise you to get a book on the basics, or run through some sort of tutorial if you can find one on the internet. It will save a lot of angst and grief.

Different people have their own preferences for how they organise their work, but I like simplicity. I save all documents (including Scrivener projects) in the Documents folder, and I even have a sub-folder inside that which is merely called “Projects”. If you save all your Scrivener projects in that, you will never lose them.

And my advice: don’t rely on the “Recent” menu item – know where your documents are in the Finder. It’s a much better way of working. Use the Finder to navigate to your document or project and open it by double-clicking on it. Don’t open the program first and then go looking.

I get the impression that you are also somewhat confused over terminology – if so, that would be another reason for looking at a book or a tutorial. It’s difficult to explain to people what is going wrong if you are using the wrong terms, and it is difficult for them to help you, as well. “Project” has a particular meaning in Scrivener – it means the file on your hard drive that has “.scriv” as the last part of its file name. Any documents created inside Scrivener are not projects in that sense (though you might think of them as projects). Hugh is quite right: I did not mean you to type “the name of your project colon dot scriv” – I meant you to type exactly what was inside the quotes. That tells Spotlight to search for items that have “dot scriv” as part of their filename.

Sorry it this is all a bit terse and “instructional”, but I’m trying to cut through the confusion.

And as they say in aviation, the first thing to do in an emergency is nothing. Make sure you understand what the problem is before you act. And establish a working practice in which all your material goes in appropriate folders in the Finder. I was always told “put together what goes together” (that was for essay writing, but it makes sense in just about everything else I’ve ever done).

Apologies again if anything here is a bit over the top or superfluous :smiley:
Best, Martin.

PS: ignore all the instructions in the posts before yours – you will only confuse yourself even more. First concentrate on finding where your Scrivener projects are on your hard drive so that you can navigate to them using Finder.

You should just make note of what folder they’re in. I’m assuming it’s the Documents folder, which is the default location when you first install Scrivener, but it can change if you tell it to save a new project somewhere else.

There are a number of ways for the recent projects list to be emptied or for a file to disappear from it:
You reach the maximum number of recent projects, after which the least-recently opened project is removed from the list.
You upgrade to a new computer and move your files over to it.
You upgrade your operating system on your computer.
Scrivener has a major (probably paid) upgrade that resets your recent projects list.

So it’s important that you keep all your writing organized in a place where you know to look. If you have hundreds of files in one folder or if the documents are all over the place, then you’ll have more problems finding what you’re looking for.