Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Say NO to Autosave



There are two very serious reasons why there must not be an autosave function in Pages or, indeed, in any other application. Thank goodness Apple stands fast against the numerous internet wailings of MS Word fellow travelers and even some serious reviewers.

- First, consider the following situation.
You are in a breezy mood and put all sorts of light-hearted or rude comments on your bosses memo. Of course, you will delete them later and work on the document in a serious manner. But someone calls you, you walk off to get a glass of water or a colleague asks you to help... And horror: your comments are autosaved and the boss sees them, over LAN for example. You might get into real trouble.

It is much easier to train yourself to press Command+S to save as you go along. Work never goes on from start to finish without natural breaks when you pause, look at your document to see if you are satisfied so far and decide what to do with it next. This is the point when you should save your draft. Yourself, rather than letting the machine do it at set intervals.

- Second, autosaving disrupts one of the most important functions in Pages: the UNDO option.
While you work on a document you can trace back all your changes by typing repeatedly Command+Z - undo. And come back to where you were again by typing Command+Shift+Z - redo (it's easy to type with a thumb, little finger and index finger). Or choose either from the Edit menu.

But, you can only bactrack to the last Save. So, autosaving breaks the UNDO chain, and in fact, takes away the possibility of going step after step after step through all the changes you've made - to find the point where you may have weered off on the wrong course or made an error (say, in table calculations). Once saved, the document won't allow you to do this. You can of course, back up previous copy - but only the one that you have saved.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Current versions of iWork/Pages allow Undo past the last save, not just up to the point when the document was last saved. Unfortunately, it made redundant my second argument against building Auto-Save option into Pages. 


Send feedback to Apple's Pages team if you agree with me. This option is under Pages>Provide Pages Feedback menu.

Read more on the importance of the Undo function in this previous article:
My top Pages shortcut

and a comment on the Wall Street Journal columnist Walt Mossberg's review of iWork/Pages here.

UPDATE: there is a discussioon on the German macfix web forum. Join in if you like, or post comments here.

19 comments:

  1. Hamish10:00 pm

    Totally agree

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous6:12 am

    your fist point is dubious. first, how often does one put "light-hearted or rude comments on bosses memo"? I use pages to type term papers and it sucks to have the last few minutes of your work vaporize - especially after you've just typed some beautiful argument. I hate pages for that reason. How about creating an on/off button so at least you have the option to autosave.

    your second point does have some credibility, but autosave could save the file as a duplicate, leaving the original untouched. in case of a crash, one could revert to the duplicate file and recover work. moreover, an on/off option would at least give people a choice and right now, there isn't any.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous12:57 am

    Your first point is ridiculous.

    Your second point is also ridiculous.

    The first is essentially saying that the user should not be protected against a technical flaw so that they can protected against their own stupidity.

    The second is saying that rather than come up with an elegant solution to the problem, the developers should simply not attempt it.

    I would suggest that instead you ask them for an autosave feature that takes your issues into consideration. That is called progress.

    ReplyDelete
  4. well,
    normaly i would agree, BUT i was working on a paper for a view hours today and then, without any logical explenation, my macbook decided to restart itself.
    -> i would have loved a autosave or SOMETHING

    :-(

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hazza1:17 am

    I accept both sides of this argument - although, having lost a considerable amount of work on one occasion, I'm inclined to lean towards the pro-Autosave position.

    However, doesn't Time Machine overcome the Autosave dilemma?

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have found a little app that someone has made to implement autosave functionality if you want:
    http://tristanchadwick.com/worksaver/

    You can even choose to have it turned off if you feel you don't need it for the moment, or change the time interval - seems quite nifty.

    Hope this helps some people :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. Thanks for this. It does look nifty, but have you actually tested it with iWork? Does it do what it says it can do?
    Alex

    ReplyDelete
  10. I have used it, although not for any huge length of time. I fiddled with all the settings and it seems to do everything it says.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Neisha,hi,
    what operating system are you using?
    I couldn't launch Tristan's WorkSaver on my OS 10.4.11 Mac.
    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi Alexander,

    That's a shame. I am using Mac OS X 10.5.6, on my 2007 MacBook Pro. Haven't had any problems so far. Hope the developer can fix it for you, although it does say it's for Leopard, not Tiger so maybe that's the problem?

    ReplyDelete
  13. I see, Tristan thinks it could be OS4 vs OS5 problem.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I just read your post, and respect your point of view.
    Nevertheless, I strongly disagree:
    Cmd+S is not the best solution to me, and I use an autosave on Pages & Al
    So, why not an Autosave option?
    If Autosave was an option, people like you or me could be pleased by both.
    -Yours would be de-activated
    -Mine would be activated
    just a simple way to please everybody

    ReplyDelete
  15. I have to disagree with the blog post here - autosave needs to be implemented, and will be implemented in the future, as it's a valuable professional tool.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Anonymous3:50 pm

    Iworks is the best argument for using MS office for the PC... Iworks is total crap. I'm starting to regret buying a mac... No wonder they've never achieved market share above 10% with such crap as Iworks - a total amateur program. It reminds me of programs I used back in the windows 3.1 days.

    ReplyDelete
  17. As for reason 2, Pages '09 lets you undo past the last save point.

    My view? I found this post looking for the autosave program, I had it on a past mac, but want it on this one. Thanks for the link Neisha.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thanks for this important note, Kyle. I have meant to post an update about this, but just never got round to it.

    By the way, it's not only Pages'09, but '08 as well. '08 version was updated to allow undo past the save point sometime after the release of '08 and before '09.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Don't most word processors have this as an option in the "preferences"?

    So big boys and girls can choose if the want it or not.

    For those who make breezy rude comments that also mysteriously got on the LAN in your example, keep 'autosave' turned off.

    For the apparent vast majority who are worried about losing a their work and have migrated to newer program like Pages from processors that have autosave(probably from MS Word), give an option.

    This is a silly discussion from a silly post.

    It's not about your preferences. Nor is it about mine. It's about the individualization of the program to a specific user's needs.

    With software, we both should be able to get what we want.

    ReplyDelete

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