Urgently seeking recovery help!


I’m having a huge problem with one of my Scrivner projects / files, and am seeking suggestions on how best to fix or recover it.

In short, I was finding and replacing text – replacing periods for something else – within a selected text file. Actually, that’s where the problem started: I realized that I had selected the parent folder for my main draft instead of the selected text file, and that meant Scrivner found and replaced tens of thousands periods for a document that’s hundreds pages long. At first, it took time to process the find & replace, and once it was done I (naturally) clicked Undo.

Unfortunately, however, the undo-ing didn’t fix the problem, and huge parts of my document remain wrecked with indecipherable syntax: missing words, misspelled work, and periods everywhere (those mostly confined to certain text files within my Scrivner project), etc. In short, it’s a total mess.

I’m relatively new to Scrivner, so I’m not sure what the best way is to recover / fix the text. As I said, I first tried selecting the undo command several times, but that didn’t work. I’ve tried to go into the Backups folder under preferences, but have noticed the last back up in nearly a week old (which might just be a function of how Scrivner generates back ups). I’ve even tried to retrieve an earlier version of my Scrivner project. (I saved my Scrivner file within Devonthink Pro, and was able to retrieve an earlier versos of it, but that didn’t work, either.) There might be some kind of corruption that has happened in which, it appear, that such earlier versions of the Scrivner project still revert to the accidental find & replace fiasco version of the text files.

In short: Help! I’m desperately to trying to figure out how I can best revert back to a recent back up or some way to recover the text files before my accidental find & replace fiasco. How can I do this??

Thanks so much!!!

Go to the menu Scrivener->Preferences, then to the Backup section of the preferences window. It should have a button that will take you to a folder where automatic backups of all your projects are stored. There should be a backup of your current project from the last time you closed it. If it has a .zip extension, copy that file to your desktop, extract it, and if it doesn’t have a date in the name, rename it to something so it’s easy to distinguish from your main project file.

Now you can open it and locate the files you accidentally modified in the backup copy. Drag those from the backup copy’s binder to your working project’s binder. Or you can individually copy and paste the text of each document if you prefer to do that.

Once you’ve got all that sorted out, you should definitely explore the “Snapshots” feature, and employ it liberally throughout your project before you do any search & replace.

Thanks so much for your help. I tried this approach, but unfortunately it did not work.

Basically, the back up file keeps reverting back to the changes of the error, and doesn’t provide pre-error files. And then the preceding Scrivner back up file is nearly a week old (I honestly thought Scrivener’s back ups ran much more frequently than that).

Any other ideas / suggestions?

Many thanks, again…

Do you have any system-wide backups running (Time Machine, for example)? I’d browse back in the folder with the main project file until before the issue occurred. Restoring that copy would work.

BTW, the automatic Scrivener backups happend by default when you close the project. If you leave it open for days at a time, it won’t back up automatically. But if you look through those Preferences, and the General preferences, you’ll find that you can trigger automatic backups with the “Save” menu & keyboard shortcut, which is handy if you leave it open for long periods and can remember to occasionally use “Save” to back up your work. You might want to increase the number of backups it keeps (5 by default), if you do this kind of thing compulsively, so you don’t wipe out a good backup with 10 backups that are nearly identical in content.

Thanks for your reply. Answers below…

So, I store my Scrivner files within a Devonthink Pro database, and my Devonthink Pro database files are stored on an encrypted disk image. In the past I was able to effortlessness select the file within Devonthink Pro, click Reveal in Finder, and then launch TimeMachine – whereupon TimeMachine would navigate to an earlier backed up version of the file (e.g., the Scrivner file I’m seeking to recover). Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to do that now. I’ve already contact tech support for Apple and Devonthink Pro. So far, I haven’t made any progress getting anywhere.

I didn’t know that about the auto-backups only working by default when you close the project. I actually do hit Save quite a bit, and thought that worked. But alas, it did not. Yes, I’ve already increased the number of backups for Scrivner.

But what else I can do?? – That is, both to ensure this never happens again! – and to to fix / recover my file?


I’m not clear on how you’re encrypting your DTP database. I’ve never looked into the inner workings of the DTP database format, so I don’t have any advice regarding that, especially when you’re throwing encryption into the mix.

As for the “Save” feature; note that when you pause for 2 seconds without interacting with Scrivener, it saves any changes since the last 2-second pause. So you’ve probably not been accomplishing anything by using the File->Save functionally before now. If you set the automatic backups to be triggered by saving, then it will actually do something useful. Be sure you have the option on (I think it’s in the General tab of the Preferences window?).

You could use a cloud storage service to store your Scrivener backup files; in the Backup preferences, you can relocate that folder to wherever you like. That gives you more redundancy. Be sure to use the .zip compression option if you store backups in a cloud-synced folder–many of them don’t play nice with Scrivener projects, so don’t edit any on a Google Drive or iCloud. Zip compressed files are safe to store on any such cloud storage solution though.

Because there’s such a big gap between Scrivener backups, I’d focus on trying to get a Time Machine restore of the “live” project, but I can’t help there; the encryption might mean you’d have to restore the entire DTP database to a previous state, but that’s just a guess; I rely on FileVault to secure my data instead of encrypting individual files or folders, so I have little insight. I wish you luck with the Time Machine restore, however you end up going about it.

Thanks very much for all of your generous help, and I’m sorry for my late reply. In the end, all of my back ups failed me, and I had to manually re-do all all of the work in my Scrivner file. It was ugly, and cost me weeks of work (and money). Not. Good.

Honestly, I thought that Scrivner’s auto-saving features meant that…it was automatically saving the document! Live and learn – the hard way. I honestly don’t understand why the Backup preferences aren’t set up in the way you suggested as the default preferences. Anyway, I’ve now set my Scrivner saving & back up preferences exactly as you advised me to do (w/ the max. amount of backups), so thank you for that – it was very helpful.

I’m actually trying to figure out how to redo how / where I save my Scrivner projects (i.e., within DropBox versus in Devonthink Pro To Go 2.0), to provide for better back up assurances – while maintaining better security / encryption. I’ve just created a new a post about that on this forum (seeking guidance), and would welcome and further ideas / suggestions.

Thanks so much, again! Really appreciate it…