Just lost my project!

Three days work has just disappeared. It was saved as a .pclx file, and I was saving it periodically while working. There is now no trace of it. I followed some advice on another question and checked the %temp% folder: nothing. (Luckily I do still have most of the PNG files, but still a lot of drawing, many hours’ work has been lost.)

I’m using v0.6.5.

What seems to have happened is I opened a previous project to check something. It didn’t load - stopped at 1% and a “not responding” message appeared. It did eventually open - but when I went to re-open the project I’d been working on: nothing. (I’m not sure, but I think my current project may have been open when I tried opening the old one. I’m guessing the software didn’t like that…)

In fact, it seems everything I created since downloading this version has gone.

To explain: I first used Pencil2D a couple of years ago, made a couple of short films, then left it. About a week ago - after my Windows 10 crashed (I did manage to save all my old files) - I decided to download the latest version and start another project.
I can still open my 2-year-old project, it works fine (touch wood…). But everything I’ve done in Pencil2D over the last week - all the latest pclx files - has disappeared.

I’ve looked briefly at your FAQ on the topic but I don’t fully understand it, and it seems it’s something I needed to do beforehand, or perhaps even before installing the software.

I’m not working professionally, but this is still damned annoying. I wasn’t aware that this kind of thing was a possibility - I don’t recall warning messages before downloading and installing.

If there is any way of recovering the pclx files, I’d obviously love to hear it. If not, is there anything I can do to stop it happening again?

@JonR Hi. Sorry to hear about your issue. While there are special cases where Pencil2D project files (PCLX) can become corrupted (interrupting the save procedure, blackouts, etc), AFAIK it’s not possible for the software to completely erase dozens of projects randomly. There are a few possible explanations however if you’re using Windows10:

  1. The files are still in the computer, however they are not accessible from the current Pencil2D interface because the settings were reset. For this I recommend making an exhaustive search by using the *.pclx and *.pcl search keyword filters in your C:\ drive
  2. The crash you experienced was so severe that Windows automatically sent you to a restore point where you didn’t have your Pencil2D files copied.
  3. The files were deleted by Windows after a recent update as in this case (yes this also happens :pensive: ) https://www.howtogeek.com/658194/windows-10s-new-update-is-deleting-peoples-files-again/

We certainly have this updated guide Pencil2D Project File Corruption Prevention / Partial Recovery Guide on how to recover files, where you can see prevention tips practiced BEFORE a file is even saved as well as actions you can take AFTER the files are corrupted or “lost”.

Looking in the %TEMP% folder is a first hand technique for recovering projects that you were working at the moment of the crash, no other projects that were closed previously on days before will be found there, only the one that crashed or were not properly closed in the editor.

But everything I’ve done in Pencil2D over the last week - all the latest pclx files - has disappeared.

You can try the final section of the guide and use a third party recovery software. Usually files deleted by normal means will linger on the hard drive data surface for a while.

Note that RECUVA is suggested but not endorsed, as there might be better free options out there but I personally don’t know any with a decent % of success. Of course when using these kind of software time is of essence as your hard drive will be actively allowing your OS and other apps to overwrite deleted files so at some point they will truly be unrecoverable.

I’m not working professionally, but this is still damned annoying. I wasn’t aware that this kind of thing was a possibility - I don’t recall warning messages before downloading and installing.

I’ll be really honest with you. This happens all the time with any software, even commercial ones, unfortunately. I work professionally and recently I had to use Adobe Animate CC 2020 and 2021 enterprise edition ($$$). Suffice to say that me and a crew of other 10 people experienced multiple daily crashes on various platforms (both macOSX and Windows10).

We even lost work (unrecoverable) on a very difficult deadline before christmas eve that could have costed us a fine from the client due to contract clauses. This also has happened to me personally with Autodesk Maya, and Toonboom Harmony, which are by no means “simple” software packages like Pencil2D.

So this is more of a general tip: never save thrice on the same file. Always make extra backup files you can fall back to, so if one corrupts or gets deleted, you can prevail. Also consider using a file versioning system either on a distributed free service like github.com or using your own OS file versioning system (this is also mentioned in the guide above)

@JonR On the other hand, and this is my personal opinion, if this has happened before to you more than once, there may be other issues at hand in your particular environment that we are not aware of and can’t fix directly.

Honestly we’ve seen everything with this program. Some people have never ever experienced a crash and have worked on 4K stuff with up to 7 thousand frames in a single file (please don’t do this), while others are literally getting “blue screens of death (BSoD)” just by opening the software because of drivers.

I personally believe that while the software is not necessarily the main cause of as many of these issues that we get reported (which strangely mostly happen under Windows), the issues it does have tend to align themselves with other faults that end up piling up for any given user.

As such if the app fails you repeatedly, just consider stop using it and test another one. We really don’t want people to accumulate bad experiences with the software and it’s quite frankly impossible for us working as “pro-bono” volunteers, to give a 100% guaranteed bug free app for an heterogeneous user base (the license even states that it is released “as is” without warranty).

In that case I can only provide you with a list of alternative animation apps that we have in case Pencil2D is simply not accommodating to your workflow or just plain failing.

You’re more than welcome to post your work with other apps as well in the #your-stuff section.

I second everything @JoseMoreno has brought up, and reiterate the importance of making backups regardless of what program or type of work you’re doing on a computer. If you’re files are really completely gone rather than just corrupted, there is one additional explanation I would like to add. I don’t think any of our team have directly observed this, but we suspect there may be some cases where pclx files have been deleted by an overzealous antivirus program. If you have a third-party antivirus program, it is worth checking its logs to see if it has deleted or “quarantined” any files recently.

Thanks for your comprehensive reply - sorry if I sounded angry before, I posted too soon after it happened. In fact, because I have almost all my layer sequences saved as PNGs, I’ve managed to get back to near where I was before it happened, in only an hour or two.

However, I think there may be a misunderstanding about the issue. Just FYI:

  1. The windows crash had nothing to do with the loss of my file. That happened a couple of months ago, and I did manage to retain all my old Pencil2D projects from two years ago. I downloaded the latest version of Pencil2D (v0.6.5?) about a week ago.

  2. After losing my recent project, I did a search for *.pclx and *.pcl files. All I found were the 2-year-old ones. (I just did another check: again, the only ones found are those older ones, and the newly saved version of my now re-created one, saved last night.)

  3. I haven’t had a windows update for some days (as far as I know), in fact since before downloading the software a week ago.

  4. I looked in the %temp% folder immediately - I mean as soon as I found that advice on your site: less than 15 minutes after the project disappeared. As I said, no files resembling the project were there.

  5. I wouldn’t describe this as a crash of Pencil2D - apart from the oddity of the “not responding” message, where it failed (briefly) to open one of my 2-year-old files. But I’ve not had anything like this with any other software - the (seemingly) total disappearance of a saved file, even from temp or backup folders.

  6. “never save thrice on the same file”. I’m not sure I understand this. Can you explain in more detail? Surely you don’t mean I should never save more than twice during the time I’m working on a file? As it happens (if it’s relevant), I didn’t have Autosave checked, and I was saving at random moments during the time I was working on the file. That would certainly have been many more than three times!

With my re-created project, I am saving a backup copy (as a pclx file), although I’m not sure how that will help if pclx files can simply disappear. What I will do in future - belt and braces! - is export sequences (periodically) as PNG files, as that’s what saved me in this case.

I will certainly check out the link you gave about prevention tips before a file is saved.

Thanks again for your helpful response, and hopefully my detail here has been helpful to you in some way. I will say I like Pencil2D (now I’m getting used to it again) for its simplicity and transparency - I did try Adobe Animate some while back but didn’t get on with it as much. I’ve come to understand what Pencil2D won’t do (is not designed to do), and that’s fine. I work with drawings (and scans) on PhotoShop too, and import and export PNGs between the programs as necessary.
There are a few little irritations with workflow in Pencil2D which may be due to my misunderstanding, and what seem to be a bug or two as well, but I’ll open another post on those.

Thanks! I did notice a warning about antivirus programs elsewhere. I’m using Windows Defender. It’s not done a scan since before I lost the file. According to Protection History, there are no quarantined files, in fact no recent action.

@JonR Hey, thanks for answering as well :slightly_smiling_face: Sorry for the wall of text, just wanted to address some of the points :sweat_smile:

The windows crash had nothing to do with the loss of my file.

I see. I understood that Pencil2D “stopped working” and you lost the project you were working on, but I did mean that the Windows crash could have deleted the files. However if you have already ruled out this possibility then that’s fine.

I haven’t had a windows update for some days

Right. The Windows update I cited was back from February 2020, but of course it doesn’t mean necessarily that it was this specific issue that afflicted your computer, so if no other kind of files have been deleted then that also rules out this possibility.

I looked in the %temp% folder immediately

This is what worries me the most to be honest. It almost sounds as if Pencil2D considered that either the file was never opened or that it as successfully closed.

Just in case it helps you understand why we ask people to visit the %temp% folder, it’s because when Pencil2D opens a PCLX file, which is basically a zipped project folder, it will extract all the internal files and dump them into a uniquely named folder that will exist until you close the program or create a new file. Afterwards it will be deleted normally. However if Pencil2D crashes distinctively, this folder will remain.

If you saved the file and something interrupted that in any way, like an antivirus real time scanner, Windows permissions guardian, or in this case perhaps a bottleneck in the CPU processing due to heavy calculations (hence the “not responding” message) that could make the project become corrupted.

However in a few cases that we’ve been investigating, users have been able to save their files normally (no visible problems). They close the program, the TEMP folder is deleted but their file ended up corrupted (since the save operation was interrupted, files end up missing, including the main.xml file).

For your file to simply have vanished, Pencil2D back in the old days (nearly 6 years ago) did have an issue where it would crash (with flying colors) and then delete the file entirely, sometimes even saving normally would delete the entire file, but this only happened to the working file and the issue was fixed a long time ago. So far no Windows user has reported this from happening again after using the latest versions, and even so I seriously don’t think your problem is the same as that, because it had a very distinct way of happening :thinking:

“never save thrice on the same file”. I’m not sure I understand this.

Take it like an old saying. What I meant was, never save the entirety of your work on a single file all the time. I personally create backups per milestone in my projects. when adding new characters, backgrounds, lineart, coloring or difficult motions so I can roll back to a clear point in case I end up losing work. I’ve gotten to a point of saving nearly 100 files per scene to avoid losses under strict deadlines. I suffix all my files with a number sequence from 0 to 100, or more if i need to (i’ve gotten up to 300 at one point).

(…) although I’m not sure how that will help if pclx files can simply disappear

I don’t want to ascertain that it won’t happen, of course technology can and will fail and Pencil2D is under heavy development but… while I’m not exactly a developer but a user that volunteers as part of the Pencil2D team, aside from what I mentioned above, I’ve never had a Pencil2D file disappear in the past 4 years or so.

is export sequences (periodically) as PNG files, as that’s what saved me in this case.

That’s fine, as long as it works for you :slightly_smiling_face: :+1:

Perhaps to avoid any unforeseen PCLX issues, you could try saving as PCL, it works the same but it’s basically an open project folder style, lke how Toonboom Harmony uses (PCLX is more similar to Adobe Animate).

Note that using PCL files won’t leave traces on the %TEMP% folder though, since it will be reading everything directly from the data folder on the place you decide to store it on your HDD.

So any backup copy has to be made by literally copying both the PCL file and the DATA folder which contains the images and other elements, but this style of file is very friendly if you intend to use a File Versioning System like GIT or SVN.

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