“Project not in a recommended save location” error

If, upon opening a project, you see a "Project not in a recommended save location" error (such as the one below), this means that you are trying to open the project from the automatic backups directory.

Screenshot: Backup location warning

It is recommended that you do not open a project directly from the automatic backups directory because it is possible that another automatic backup could overwrite the project while you are working on it. To elaborate:

  1. When you create a Scrivener project, you are asked where to save it. You then choose a location on disk where that project's file (with the extension ".scriv") should be stored. For instance, you might choose to store it in your "Documents" directory, or somewhere on Dropbox. This is exactly the same as when you create and save a Word document, say.

  2. Scrivener has an "Automatic Backups" feature that is turned on by default. This can be controlled from the "Backups" section of Scrivener's Preferences. (You can also override backup options for a particular project via Project > Project Settings if you want different backup settings for only one project.)

  3. The first time you launch Scrivener, you are asked to choose its automatic backups location - the folder in which automatic backups will be stored. You can check or change this location at any time via Scrivener's Preferences.

  4. By default, every time Scrivener closes, it will make a backup of the project - that is, a copy, usually zipped up - into the automatic backups folder.

  5. Also by default, Scrivener only keeps around the latest five copies of any given project, and deletes older ones.

So, with automatic backups turned on, you have the "live" version of the project that is located wherever you chose to put it when you first created it, and you also have up to five backup copies of the project in the automatic backups folder.

This way, if anything ever happens to your project, you can retrieve a backup from the backups folder. (It's a good idea, therefore, to have the backups folder somewhere that is safe, such as on an external hard drive or on Dropbox.)

You can probably see the problem with trying to work on a project that is stored inside the automatic backups folder: it can end up getting deleted or overwritten by another backup, because of (4) and (5) above.

Restoring Backups

If you ever need to restore a backup of a project, then, what you should do is this:

  1. Navigate to your automatic backups folder. (If you can't remember where it is, open Scrivener's "Backup" Preferences and click "Open backup folder...".)

  2. Find the latest backup of your project.

  3. Copy or move it to another directory (e.g. your ~/Documents directory or wherever you store your writing).

  4. If necessary, unzip it.

  5. Open the project in Scrivener.

Refer to "Restoring from Backups", in the "All About Projects" chapter of the user manual for further and more detailed advice.

What Not to Do

But:

  • Do not choose as your automatic backups folder to a directory into which you store and work on live projects.

  • When you restore a project from the backups folder, do not open it while it is still in the backups folder..

If you do the latter, that's when you will see the "Project not in a recommended location" error. To give an example of what could go wrong here:

  1. Suppose you have a project titled "My Project.scriv" saved in ~/Documents.

  2. When you close the project, an automatic backup gets made at "My Project.scriv" in the ~/Scrivener Backups folder (or wherever your backups folder is located).

  3. Now you open "My Project.scriv" from the ~/Scrivener Backups folder and start working on that (a bad idea).

  4. But then you open another project called "My Project.scriv", or the original project saved in ~/Documents, make some changes, and close it so that it also gets backed up as "My Project.scriv" in ~/Scrivener Backups. At this point, all of the changes you made in step (3) will be lost because you were working from the backups folder.

What to Remember

The most important things to bear in mind are these:

  1. Always know where your projects are located on disk. You choose this location when you create a project, and you can check it at any time for a given project by going to File > Show Project in Finder.

  2. Be aware of where your automatic backups are located. You can check or change this at any time via Scrivener > Preferences > Backup.

  3. Keep (1) and (2) separate: don't work on projects while they are stored in the backups folder.

Follow these simple rules and you will not run into any issues or see the "Project not in a recommended location" message.