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Solving the "Save As.." WTF in Mac OS X Lion - why'd they kill Save As?

Mac OSX Lion has arrived and I eventually got around to installing it yesterday.  It seems to contain some goodness, along a few things that make me go "goodness gracious".  Well, the words I'm using aren't always so kind as "goodness gracious" but this is a family oriented blog, so we'll not write the words I actually am saying sometimes.  One issue is that Preview is crashing (often) while performing some simple tasks (resizing an image) that I haven't found a cure for.  Another is that the trackpad and wheel mouse are operating the opposite direction from the way trackpads and wheel-mice have worked for the decade or so we've had them.  The new orientation sorta makes sense, so I'm working on getting used to it rather than seek out the hack to make it work the old way.

The most alarming thing is that "Save As" has gone away and been replaced by something entirely new that might actually be wonderful.

My workflow for publishing images online has been

  • shoot pictures
  • remove SD card from camera, insert into slot on Mac
  • Copy pictures from SD card, return card to camera, format the SD card in the camera
  • On the Mac possibly use Picasa to do image improvements - it's a limited program, that's free, and has a few nice things in it
  • Then use Preview to resize the image to 500 pixels wide
  • MAKE SURE TO "Save As …" and specify the new filename being different from the old

For me "Save As.." is the way that makes sense.  However it seems the user experience people at Apple decided that Save As is dangerous because of the chance to overwrite your original.

My photography workflow is meant to prevent the original from being overwritten.  Even if it's a picture I'll never print out or think I'll never use elsewhere, I want to preserve the original .. just .. in .. case.

This morning editing a couple images with this workflow - I ended up overwriting the original file due to the lack of Save As.  Fortunately the image in question was one provided by a news website, and I was able to re-retrieve the original for my records.  If, however, it had been one of my images shot on my camera it would have been a disaster.

While hunting around for clues on fixing the Preview crash (don't know the answer to that) I came across this loooong discussion thread on the Apple customer-self-support-discussion-boards with plenty of others complaining (to put it mildly) about the death of Save As.

Think about it:- Save As has been with us since the original Mac, if not before.  It's a habit many of us ingrained in the nearly 30 years this feature has existed in all sorts of software.  And now Apple has a brilliant idea that we've had it all wrong all along and they'll change this now - after 30 years of training users to use Save As?  WTF?

In other words - just as their infinite wisdom decided to make our trackpads go the other way around, they also decided to remove Save As.  If you're concerned about this, want to see it changed, want to rant about it, the Apple discussion boards are a great place to go … .. if instead you want to find out about how to live with this, read on.

It turns out it's been replaced by what might well be an absolutely delightful wonderful feature that probably couldn't have been conceived of in 1984 when the original Mac was created.  Visit the knowledge base for more on this:-

Basically, Apple wants us to learn a new pattern of working that eschews Save As for a supposedly safer method that involves Auto Save and automatically created versions.

Auto Save–Auto Save in OS X Lion saves during pauses in your work and, if you work continuously, it will save after 5 minutes. It saves in the background, so you can work without the distraction of having to remember to save, or being interrupted by progress bars.

Versions–Versions automatically records the history of a document as you create and make changes to it. OS X Lion automatically creates a new version of a document each time you open it and every hour while you’re working on it. You can also create snapshots of a document whenever you like. With an interface similar to that of Time Machine, Versions shows you the current document next to a cascade of previous versions, allowing you to do side-by-side comparisons of your working document with past versions. You can restore entire past versions, or bring elements from past versions such as pictures or text into your working document.

This means that when you "Save" (the only option now available) it writes a new version of the file, and the original version of the file is still there under the same file name.  It means you haven't overwritten - that I did not overwrite earlier today - the original file.  That the original file is still there but not intuitively obvious how to get to the original file.

Everything is done now with the file name in the title bar.  Hover your mouse over the file name (the one in the title bar) and a downward pointing arrow appears, then clicking on the arrow gives you access to a menu.  On the menu are a few important choices:-

  • Lock:- Prevent changes to the file
  • Duplicate:- Makes a new copy of the file; this is the intended alternate to Save As
  • Revert to last opened version:- If you don't like the changes you made, simply revert and they'll go away
  • Browse All Versions:- Opens up a time capsule space travel exploration of the history of this file.  Unfortunately it doesn't show you future versions of the file, only the past versions of the file, so they haven't discovered the TARDIS mode in time capsule yet

The new preferred method instead of Save As is:-

  • Open file in application (in my case, Preview)
  • In title bar perhaps click the Lock choice to prevent changes to original
  • In title bar choose the Duplicate option:- This causes a little window dance and you have a second window with the same document.
  • Perhaps close the original document
  • In the new window, make whatever changes you like
  • Now choose Save in the File menu .. and you'll get a File Save dialog somewhat similar to the old Save As dialog .. and you can most importantly chose a new name

Unfortunately the new Save dialog wants to save the new file on the desktop.  This is wrong behavior in my opinion - and goes against what's said on the knowledge base page.  What it should do is save the file in the same folder as the original.  Instead it wants to save the file in Desktop.  WTF?  Especially as the knowledge base says this:-

Duplicate–The Duplicate feature creates a copy of your document and places it next to the original. So you can start a fresh version using the original as a template.

The phrase "next to the original" should mean in the same folder as the original file.  Right?  Sheesh.

Anyway, I just went through that method and it seemed pretty rational, makes sense once you know about this magic menu in the title bar, and perhaps it will reduce the chance of overwriting originals.  I'm not sure.  I'm pining to have Save As returned to us from the trash can, but maybe Apple has already clicked Empty Trash on this feature?

In the meantime ...


Changing the scroll direction isn't a "hack" it's a check box. On my macbook pro, under System Preferences -> Trackpad, it's the very first check box.

They did this to mimic touch screen devices, but the logic for a mouse or track pad is that you're moving the scroll bar. It's also hilarious that they made such a big stink about this since it's been a simple "reverse y axis" check in mouse settings on every other operating system.