Mountain Lion's Save As still a disaster

Mountain Lion's Save As still a disaster

Summary: Changes in the behavior of Save As in OS X Lion and now Mountain Lion make problems for longtime users of Macs.

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Many sites reported the "happy" news that OS X Mountain Lion restores the Save As command, which was removed in OS X Lion. For example, TJ Luoma at TUAW describes how to remap the Duplicate command with Save As. However, these cheers are undeserved.

For reference, the Save As command before Lion and all the way back to the original 128K MacOS meant users could "save as" a new version of a document or a file that would contain all the work done since the document was last saved. The result was the "original" and a new saved-as version with a new name.

The problem is that Mountain Lion's Save As isn't the Save As that we knew and loved. Lloyd Chambers at the Mac Performance Guide tested and described the problem in a recent post.

If one edits a document, then chooses Save As, then BOTH the edited original document and the copy are saved, thus not only saving a new copy, but silently saving the original with the same changes, thus overwriting the original. If you notice this auto-whack, you can “Revert To” the older version*** (manually), but if you don’t notice, then at some later date you’ll be in for a confusing surprise. And maybe an OMG-what-happened (consider a customer invoice that was overwritten).

This is a disaster, of course, for longtime Mac users. It is a great change in behavior of the OS. If you're running Time Machine, you can search and hopefully restore the original version. Maybe.

In a long, thoughtful post, Dave W., a reader of Mac Performance, says the problem is with us.

It doesn't surprise me that "Save As" doesn't work "as advertised". After all "Save" doesn't work "as advertised". In Apple's brave new world, there is no "Save" or "Save As". Everything you do is recorded, and you can always go back to previous versions of your work. There is no real destruction. It's just not working the way we want it to work.

The way forward is to forget about Save As, and go back to "Duplicate" which works with Apple's new saveless paradigm. After all, there are two times I use Save As.

He suggested that we just forget about Save As. If you want to modify a document, duplicate it from the very beginning of editing. And if you aren't sure that you don't want to keep changes, then quit the document without saving or save-as-ing.

Chambers points to Apple as the problem.

And so the sheep will munch away. The truth is that the new way is much more confusing than the old way— the old way required no special dialogs or explanations— which is “better” then? Simple elegance or something provoking confusion and discussion? As evidence I'll point to my own confusion, and the emails I’ve received, which show a variety of understanding and misunderstanding and lack of awareness of how to control the behavior! And why does Apple even offer the “Ask to keep changes when closing documents” setting if it all smells so rosy? Evidence enough that something is rotten. Well, I agree it will settle in over time, just as a bad stomach-ache finally goes away.

Apple is at fault here. As I've written before, the company is rejiggering the interface for its new user base and ignoring the longtime Mac user. This change is another influenced by the iOS paradigm.

Perhaps Apple could offer us a Mac OS setting — as opposed to OS X, the new Lionized name — that would return the good ol' Save As functionality to Lion and Mountain Lion.

Topics: Apple, Operating Systems, Software Development

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88 comments
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  • Apple Should Copy The Journal System

    Nicholas Negroponte's OLPC project includes a custom UI called "Sugar". One of the key features of this is the "journal", which is a record of all the work you have done, organized in chronological order. So if you edit a document 3 times, you automatically get 3 versions of that document saved in your journal. And you can simply go back to any of those versions to load it again.

    If Apple wants to regain its crown as user-interface leader, it needs to abandon its "Not Invented Here" attitude and look at what good ideas others are coming up with. Of course, that in turn means it must stop treating others who come up with similar ideas to its own as thieves.
    ldo17
    • Another nail pounded home because it was hit squarely on the head.

      Here is the point, and never a truer line been written:
      "If Apple wants to regain its crown as user-interface leader, it needs to abandon its "Not Invented Here" attitude and look at what good ideas others are coming up with. Of course, that in turn means it must stop treating others who come up with similar ideas to its own as thieves."

      I have to say, there is so much of what Apple does thats just irking in nature. And a big part of seems to come from the idea that if they didnt invent it, its crap. Well, they are wrong.

      They are plain wrong and they are certainly wrong. At Apple its get rid of this, or we dont need that hardware anymore, or we will not use this or that, and a large part of it comes from Apple thinking they are somehow going to set certain new standards. Well, they can set standards if their idea is better, not when its just different because they want to be different.

      Apple is certainly living in their own world in many ways. And it may work for them in some ways, but not in others. And as we have seen over many many years; when it comes to desktops and laptops it only works in something less than in 10% of the minds of people around the world. Now if only someone could get them to think more responsibly in cases like this they would be asking themselves why and fixing their state of mind instead of simply convincing their already loyal group of devotees to indulge in the Kool-Aid.
      Cayble
      • Yet another in your long history of posts

        ...where you prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you don't know what you are talking about re: Apple, and OSX. First, just agreeing with the OP shows this.
        More to the point, please name some examples of "if they didnt[sic] invent it, its crap".
        So you are claiming that Apple didn't use IDE drives? Or SATA? That they didn't embrace USB (before any other major manufacturer) or DVI? Or PCI/e/x?

        "At Apple its get rid of this, or we dont need that hardware anymore, or we will not use this or that, and a large part of it comes from Apple thinking they are somehow going to set certain new standards."

        Care to name a few examples, and then show how they were wrong? Like when they stopped including floppy drives (that sure hurt them!) and then now, gradually, optical drives? Or when they eliminated their serial ports? So many headaches that caused (not). In fact, in all the examples you can post, I suspect the slower PC industry soon followed suit. And you can copy that to a file and save it to your 5.25 inch floppy for future reference!

        In reality, you make it clear with every post that you make that you get your information on Apple products from stuff you read on misinformed blogs rather than actual experience with the machines in question.
        .DeusExMachina.
        • Troll this

          Example: "Save As"
          beau parisi
    • Err...

      That's almost exactly how it does work. Apple keeps the deltas of every "save" and can present these to the user in a visual way. It doesn't "overwrite". I'll agree the new "Save As" doesn't help, better to educate users in the new paradigm. There are a LOT of advantages.

      "Save As" was ALWAYS a bad idea. The user was encouraged to modify a document they wanted to keep and then remember to not just "command s" as a reflex, but choose "Save As...". Who hasn't inadvertently pushed "command s"? The new paradigm wants you to make that decision right at the beginning AND allows you to defer the actual naming of the file.

      Does that take some getting used to? Yes, yes it does. Is it "better" yes, it is FAR more sensible.
      jeremychappell
    • OMG, REALLY?!?

      "If Apple wants to regain its crown as user-interface leader, it needs to abandon its "Not Invented Here" attitude and look at what good ideas others are coming up with."

      You mean like versioning. Oh wait, that is exactly what Apple did, and what this article IS ABOUT!!!!!

      You have now cemented the truth of my previous comments about the value of your posts.
      .DeusExMachina.
  • You're holding it WRONG!!

    Obviously you're doing it wrong. Just call tech support for the "correct" (Apple) way. Forget that every document producing program since WordStar on CP/M and RightWriter on the C-64 used SaveAs to create a new edited copy of a document and leave the original unchanged. It's simply that "You're doing it wrong!"
    Scubajrr
    • Yes it is

      Because with full versioning support, you don't need to save AT ALL, not save, not save as, nothing. There is NO benefit to "Save As..."
      Please restrict your troll comments to things you can at least back up with a minimum of knowledge about the subject.
      .DeusExMachina.
  • Apple has lost its touch

    "The truth is that the new way is much more confusing than the old way"

    True

    "Apple is at fault here."

    True.

    "This change is another influenced by the iOS paradigm."

    That's an important point. Apple has become a one-trick pony (iOS). One can imagine how the people involved in iOS must have gained ever increasing power and influence in the company as the product gained ground. But iOS is still just a mobile phone OS. iOS was not even particularly revolutionary as a mobile OS, except in terms of UIand UX design. And iOS is old news now.
    Tim Acheson
    • Would you like a little hyperbole with

      your lunch? This is an iOS like feature, and it's a stupid one to be sure for a desktop, but to maintain OS X has become iOS is asinine. If you want to see the monstrosity that truly occurs when an idiot software company makes an unholy offspring between its mobile and desktop operating systems, look at Windows 8
      baggins_z
      • Really?

        Good god it is not even out yet and you know for certain how terrible Windows 8 is, I give you the reviews have been mixed but that's it. And having both systems at home now, I have noticed how OSX has gone the way of iOS. Is that completely bad? No but nor is it great, incredible, earth shattering, yada yada yada.

        And frankly the fact that people need to explain, duplicate, save, save as, duplicate and save etc is ludicrous. The whole point of a Mac was that it just worked, the interface and how it operates all makes sense. Well it sure as .... doesn't any more in this particular instance. In fact, if you need a dictionary and detailed points to explain how to save 2 versions of a document, then your UI has gone very, very wrong indeed.
        chinashaw
        • You can download Windows 8 right now and

          use it. Everyone was saying that Metro wouldn't be in the first public release. Then they said it wouldn't be in the Preview Release. Well, guess what, it was in both. And it's in the RTM. And it will be in the final one in stores and shipped with computers. So, all your wishful thinking aside, the interface you got in the Preview is the one you're stuck with in the shipping product. My original point stands.
          baggins_z
          • OSX Mountain Lion is a mess

            If Windows 8 is bipolar, then OSX is schizophrenic. Windows 8 has desktop and the environment formally known as Metro. OSX Mountain Lion has some UI from the 80's, some skeuomorphic crap design for several of it's apps, some iOS apps that work partially with their true iOS counterparts (e.g. Messages is a disaster) and lots of problems with what is intuitive. It is not hyperbole to say that iOS is getting the attention and OSX not so much. Spend a few hours watching WWDC 2012 sessions and that will confirm that even at the most technical level iOS is infiltrating the OSX foundation.
            drivellc
          • And yet all that mismash is divided into an interface

            oriented around touch and an interface oriented around pointing devices, and the twain never shall meet. That's the point.
            baggins_z
          • Not hyperbole, just B.S.

            "Windows 8 has desktop and the environment formally known as Metro."
            How convenient you neglect to mention that it also has the classic desktop environment formerly known as Aero, and that the two are NOT interoperable in any meaningful way in the UI.

            "OSX Mountain Lion has some UI from the 80's[sic]"
            So? The elements worked then, and work now. Are you claiming Windows doesn't? Please name another major OS UI which does not use the WIMP interface. Good luck with that.

            "some skeuomorphic crap design for several of it's apps"
            Get your opinions fed to you from bloggers much? Their is a very good reason that "skeuomorphic" design works. Because it allows a zero learning curve. As to it being crap, I see no attempt on your part to justify this opinion.

            "some iOS apps that work partially with their true iOS counterparts (e.g. Messages is a disaster) and lots of problems with what is intuitive"

            Um, what? Seriously, try to at least SOUND like you know what you are talking about. What iOS apps are you claiming are running on OSX? Messages certainly is not one of them. Clue: Messages is NOT from iOS, it is the new version of iChat, which was developed before the iPhone even came out.
            Oh, and please list these "intuition problems".

            As for your nonsense about iOS infiltrating the OSX foundation, the foundation of both is already EXACTLY the same. Both are XNU at their core, so WTH are you talking about?!?
            .DeusExMachina.
      • Really?

        Good god it is not even out yet and you know for certain how terrible Windows 8 is, I give you the reviews have been mixed but that's it. And having both systems at home now, I have noticed how OSX has gone the way of iOS. Is that completely bad? No but nor is it great, incredible, earth shattering, yada yada yada.

        And frankly the fact that people need to explain, duplicate, save, save as, duplicate and save etc is ludicrous. The whole point of a Mac was that it just worked, the interface and how it operates all makes sense. Well it sure as .... doesn't any more in this particular instance. In fact, if you need a dictionary and detailed points to explain how to save 2 versions of a document, then your UI has gone very, very wrong indeed.
        chinashaw
    • The truth shall set you free

      So you are claiming that no longer needing to save at all is confusing? Speak for yourself. (Then again, having read your blog, I can see where you are coming from.)

      Influenced by iOS? Where are you getting that nonsense. iOS does NOT have a working versioning model in their current iOS apps. By contrast, OSX has had it since Time Machine, several OS versions ago. It is merely made more pervasive in ML. Your statement is simple 100% factually incorrect. Hardly a shocker.

      And claiming that iOS was not revolutionary, when compared to WM and Symbian and the others of the time is simply absurd. There is a reason Eric Schmidt chose to copy it.
      .DeusExMachina.
  • So Save As is still Duplicate?

    so Save As is really Duplicate and Save? Save What I Have and Let Me Experiment? That would be more useful if it didn't overload a term with an expected meaning.
    mary.branscombe
    • No, What you have is a Save and Duplicate...

      The distinction is subtle but important. With a "Save and Duplicate" the original document is updated and then duplicated resulting in 2 documents with the same contents. This is how it currently work in Mountain Lion. With a "Duplicate and save" the original document is duplicated and the current sessions edits/updates are saved in the duplicate, the original document is unchanged.
      Scubajrr
      • And there you have the key to this whole problem.

        Simply renaming the function to Save and Duplicate would go a long ways to fixing this mess. Apple needs to remember the old wise saying: When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.
        baggins_z