Mountain Lion's Save As still a disaster

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

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.

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