Lions don’t save – or do they?

If you’ve been using a computer for long to create documents and files you probably reflexively press Command (?) S every few minutes to save your work. But that’s a task your computer should be doing for you, and in Lion it does — sometimes. With any luck, eventually all apps will allow this. Here’s what happens when you don’t save.

The first Save.

The first Save.

The first save

While you work, the changes you make are stored in your computer’s RAM, or Random Access Memory. RAM is fast, but it’s also volatile: if the power goes off anything stored in RAM will be lost.

Whatever software you use, if you want to keep your work safe you need to Save it at some to point to your computer, or some other location. When you Save you usually give the file a name, and you often save it in a particular place of your choosing so you can easily find it again.

More than one person has spent hours writing fiction, or programming, or creating music or editing a video only to turn the computer off when they’ve finished but forgetting to save.

When you Save a file the computer makes a ‘permanent’ copy on a storage medium such as the computer’s hard drive. A hard drive is usually capacious, but a bit slow. But it doesn’t forget what’s on it if the power supply is removed.

Of course, it’s not usually really permanent. If you save files to a hard drive it’s possible to remove them again, by taking the right actions.

So, for almost the last 3 decades Mac users have deliberately saved their files to a place where they won’t readily be lost.

Command (?) SCommand (?) SCommand (?) S.

In Scrivener you save a project when you first create it.

In Scrivener you save a project when you first create it. After that Scrivener takes care of saving. Most apps don’t do that.

Sure, one or two apps didn’t have a Save command — they handled the saving for you. But at some point you still had to do a first save. It might have been when you started a new Project before beginning any real work.

Lion-ised apps handle saving for you

Lion Save a Version.

Lion Save a Version.

A new feature of Lion recognises that we spend a lot of time (and sometimes anguish) saving documents (or forgetting to save). The operating system now gives apps a way to not only automatically save but also to keep track of changes we make while working and to recover work we didn’t mean to change.

The screenshot above shows a TextEdit document that I’ve saved for a first time. Now I’ve made some changes and the File menu gives me some unaccustomed choices, including:

  • Save a Version
  • Duplicate
  • Revert to Saved

There is no Save or Save as on the File menu any more.

Document versions in Lion.

Document versions in Lion.

In my TextEdit document there’s an almost invisible arrow in the Title Bar beside the name of the file. Click on that arrow and a menu appears offering the following choices:

  • Lock
  • Duplicate
  • Revert to Last Saved Version
  • Browse All Versions…

You can’t change a locked file

You cannot change a locked file, but instead must Unlock or Duplicate.

You cannot change a locked file, but instead must Unlock or Duplicate.

If you lock a file you can’t easily, or accidentally change it. The screenshot shows that after I locked my file demo.rtf I much choose to Unlock or Duplicate the file before I’m able to make any changes. A dialog box lets me choose what to do, or to Cancel if I prefer.

Versions let us go back to an earlier version of a file

Versions let us go back to an earlier version of a file.

Versions let us go back to an earlier version of a file.

If you make numerous changes to a file and then decide you prefer how it was before you made the changes, or simply want to compare how it was before with how it is now you can Browse All Versions…. A Time Machine style window appears from which you can choose an older version of the file, as the screenshot shows.

The bad news

There’s always a but though, isn’t there. The bad news is that not all apps use this autosaving. You need to check each app you use to see whether or not you still need to manually save as you work. Look under the File menu and in the Title bar of the documents if you’re not sure.

For me, does autosave, but BBEdit doesn’t. OmniOutliner Pro does, and Scrivener always has used its own autosaving system anyway, but it’s a bit special.

Command (?) S doesn’t hurt

I still reflexively press Command (?) S quite often. It’s a habit of more than 20 years and won’t change overnight.

The good news is that it still saves documents that use the old system. For documents that use the new system it simply creates a snapshot, a saved version, so no harm done.