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With 10.8.2, Mountain Lion Saves Even Better

In “The Very Model of a Modern Mountain Lion Document” (7 August 2012), I noted the many improvements in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion over 10.7 Lion in the document-saving behavior of those applications that have been updated to use the built-in Auto Save architecture. One nice touch, I mentioned, was the return of File > Save As, which had been suppressed in Lion. But the behavior of File > Save As in Mountain Lion, I went on to say, left much to be desired. Although it does allow you to give the current document a new name and location, and although it does cause the current document window to switch to editing the new document rather than the old one, it also saves the current document as the current document closes, behind the scenes. This is counterintuitive and possibly dangerous behavior, especially since a common reason for choosing File > Save As has always been to shift unsaved changes from an open document to a copy without affecting the original.

The good news is that this problem is solved in the recently released OS X 10.8.2 (see “OS X 10.8.2 Eases Notification Center, Messages Frustrations,” 19 September 2012). And the even better news is that it is solved ingeniously, in a way that makes everybody happy. Once again, Apple has, to my astonishment, shown a willingness to listen to user complaints and to resolve difficulties, tardily to be sure, but with a decided degree of insight and elegance.

When you choose File > Save As in 10.8.2, a Save dialog appears. This has always been the case; I stress that point, because I want to impress upon you that Apple’s solution involves no new dialogs of any kind. The change is within that Save dialog. If the current document contains unsaved changes, the Save dialog now offers a checkbox, “Keep changes in original document.” Moreover, that checkbox is unchecked by default, meaning that if you do nothing, you will not keep the changes in the original document — thus restoring the expected behavior of Save As. And this checkbox can appear regardless of your settings in the document management checkboxes of the General preference pane.

(Some users report finding that the checkbox is checked by default. I do not know what causes this difference from my own experience, but it hardly matters, as you only need to change the setting once. If, when you first choose File > Save As after updating to Mountain Lion 10.8.2, you see the Save dialog with the checkbox checked, and if, like me, you prefer it unchecked, then simply uncheck it and proceed to save, and the checkbox will remember that setting the next time.)

This simple expedient puts paid to the entire matter. With the checkbox unchecked (either by default or because you unchecked it the first time you saw it), if you subsequently ignore the checkbox and proceed simply to save the new copy of the document, File > Save As will behave exactly as you expect: the new document will be created and you will find you’re editing it, while in the meantime the unsaved changes in the original have been retracted, reverting to the state of the original either when it was opened or when you last saved it manually.

If you’re like me, you will in fact ignore the checkbox, and thus the addition of this feature will mean no more work than before: you’ll be using Save As just as you’ve been using it since System 6, and with the same effective results. It’s true that under the hood there’s a major difference: in 10.6 Snow Leopard and before, not saving changes in an edited document meant that the changes never reached the disk and just vanished into thin air, whereas, in Mountain Lion under Auto Save, changes are being saved to disk all the time, and the document on disk must be reverted (using the Versions database) if those changes turn out to be unwanted when the document closes. In general, however, you won’t be conscious of this; the ultimate surface manifestation is that the changes are not saved.

The really nice thing about this checkbox is that, for those people or those occasions when you explicitly do want to save the unsaved changes in the original document, you have the option to do so. Apple could have restored the original behavior of Save As, plain and simple; instead, they went further, letting you set a default behavior and making it easy for you to change that setting if circumstances warrant. I can only applaud. This is exactly the sort of thing I’d like to see more of — excellent default behavior along with freedom of choice to override those defaults — in contrast to the “Big Brother knows best” quality that resulted in my reluctance to use Lion.


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Comments about With 10.8.2, Mountain Lion Saves Even Better
(Comments are closed.)

Alan Forkosh  An apple icon for a TidBITS Supporter 2012-09-20 12:03
One odd thing (at least to me):

Even if you follow the default behavior, the changes will show up in the versioning of the original document. To wit, if you ask that all versions be displayed, the original document will display on the left, while the changed document will be on top of the stack on the right.
Matt Neuburg  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-09-20 14:36
Sure, because as I explained in the earlier article (, Autosave is still saving the document as you work, no matter what you say. So the document without the changes was then saved with the changes and then without them. (It's just like how in a version control system like git you can check out an earlier commit and commit that.)
Kendall  2012-09-20 21:00
Only Apple could make something simple and longstanding utterly confusing like this. I'm still confused. Which changes is it "not saving" (but resaving an older version)? Doesn't autosave happen as we go along? So does Save As (don't check the new box) pick from the last time I opened the doc, or from some random point since then, because it's autosaving at random intervals?

Or do I totally misunderstand the word "autosave" and it doesn't really save while it's open, only when I close?

Yes, I'm still using Snow Leopard. ;-) Thanks.
Matt Neuburg  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-09-21 12:15
It does exactly what you expect: it reverts to the document when it was last opened or *explicitly* saved. Do you think I should have been clearer about this in the article? I sort of assume we're all on the same page at this point...
Kendall  2012-09-23 15:31
Thanks. Obviously Apple hasn't been on the same page as some of its users, soooo...I just wasn't sure. Plus, as I said, I'm still on Snow Leopard, so all these articles about the Save/Save As/Auto-Save/etc. stuff is all theoretical to me.

Now I feel comfortable upgrading (once I re-check that all my software is ML-compatible.) Thanks!
Matt Neuburg  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-09-23 18:52
I revised the article in light of your question (and some other comments), so thanks for asking!

I'm sure you're aware that PowerPC-only applications and plug-ins won't work in Lion and Mountain Lion:
Kendall  2012-09-24 22:00
I remember the article and that change, but thanks for the reminder. Mostly what I found was a few old games I like but haven't played in eons. I gave a few of them a quick play out of nostalgia. ;-) Fortunately the one real app I use daily that showed has an Intel version (yay!).
Adam Kuhr  2012-10-08 12:51
I wish it was as intuitive to everyone as it is to you.
First, I get from your explanation that Save As renames the doc I'm seeing and also keeps a copy of the old one. But "keep changes in original doc" alone REALLY doesn't indicate *which* changes (e.g. changes made since last Cmd-S) are retained in the old doc. So when I open the one I'm not currently looking at (which now can be described as both a copy AND the original doc) it'll have what? Ok, it'll have everything up until the last Cmd-S. Wait, no, it'll have everything since the last time I opened the doc. Whoa. But did my opening the app with the Resume feature having brought into view the doc I worked on yesterday actually "open" it or just "resume"??
Bottom line, this is all *needlessly* confusing. Save As should behave either:
A] as it did for decades prior to Lion, or
B] it should bring up the two (old & newly created) docs side-by-side — with Undo & Redo infinitely enabled on each.
Ronald Lanham  2012-09-20 14:18
Now if we can get Apple to let us completely disable Resume... I'd be even happier.
Matt Neuburg  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-10-03 19:11
Check "Close windows when quitting an application" to turn off Resume globally, as explained in my previous article at
NOW, I can finally seriously consider the monumental hassle and costs of upgrading from Snow Leopard. Small stuff like this really matters for designers who do many variations and copies of work using save as… to show clients, art directors, or even as part of the iterative design process. This was one big thing holding me back. I need absolute control of how my documents are saved, copied, or duplicated.
Now if Apple would just stop its horrid use of skeuomorphisms on the interface and applications. Users no longer need kitschy fakery to work. Be more Swiss with the interface Apple, not Downton Abbey!
Leo Revzin  2012-11-17 06:04
Thank you,

Couldn't agree more!
Nicholas Barnard  2012-09-20 16:15
Pray tell, what does "This simple expedient puts paid to the entire matter." mean?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-09-20 16:23
"puts paid" is an expression that means "finish off" or "puts to rest." It's perhaps more common in British and Australian English, but I liked the alliteration of it, and we enjoy exposing our readers to unusual words and phrases. :-)
Matt Neuburg  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-09-23 09:14
I don't believe there's anything unusual or British about it. Trudy Rubin uses it at about minute 3:45 of this week's On Point:
Matt Neuburg  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-09-20 16:26
What does "pray tell" mean? I mean, hey, we can play that game forever.
Michael Wenyon  2012-09-20 18:09
No Matt, its already had a good innings.
Nicholas Barnard  2012-09-20 19:45
It means "please tell" I couldn't ask for clarification using Modern American English could I?
Ex2bot  2012-09-21 04:19
Quod non probatur. Utendum est Latin.
Clive Oliver  2012-09-20 19:46
Using 10.8.2. Not seeing the "Save As" option. Created a text-edit doc., and "Save". Altered same doc. and only get the "Save" option. No "Save as" option.

What am I doing wrong?
Matt Neuburg  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-09-20 22:04
See the earlier article, Save As appears when you hold Option and choose from the File menu, replacing Duplicate.
Ex2bot  2012-09-21 04:27
. . . Though there is clever a way to make Save As show up. I think TUAW was the original source: Assign keyboard shortcut to Save As in "All Applications" as explained in the link.

Here's the link:
Not working for me either, I'm on 10.8.2 + holding alt to get the " save as" dialog which is fine but when the save box comes up theres no "keep changes in original document" option.

Matt Neuburg  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-09-25 12:42
You won't see the checkbox unless there *are* changes, though. You have to open, edit, do not save, and choose Save As, if you want to see the checkbox.
Sorted, thanks
Seth Lewin  2012-09-20 21:30
Very interesting. I wrote to Tim Cook a while back and told him the Save-As business was a dealbreaker for me. After 25 years of being a major Mac customer and advocate my family and I would buy no new ones requiring 10.8 till it was changed. Guy from Apple in Texas called me in response and said it would be fixed in an upcoming release - and it was. Very interesting and very out of character for Apple to respond to customer complaints. Now let 'em fix the maps in iOs 6.
Dave G  2012-09-21 14:09
This whole area has always been a source of pain for me.

I think the functions needed are:
make a copy of the file ( with a new name/ location) - but do not open it.


rename this file (and keep editing it)

Those two (plus make a save, which we do not need now) I think cover the functionality more simply and more clearly.

The duplicate s almost this…

The only program I ever used with 'save a copy of this file' was Notepad++ on windows.
Lawrence Rhodes  2012-09-22 10:44
One additional question -- does TextEdit (for instance) write to your original file even if changes aren't saved? My situation is that I use TextEdit (also Preview) as a viewer of custom RTF (PDF) written from another text editor (TextEdit will display some things that it can't create). In Snow Leopard I can fearlessly experiment in TextEdit's window, but if Mountain Lion's TextEdit writes on my file and then reverts it, my custom changes will be destroyed. So... anybody know the answer?
Matt Neuburg  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-09-23 08:02
As you work in TextEdit, your changes are continuously being saved. That is what Autosave means. However, you can give a command-line incantation which turns off Autosave, either globally or for a particular application such as TextEdit; I have not tried this.
David S.  2012-09-22 19:25
I tried the new behaviour in TextEdit and found that the first time I selected Save As... the “Keep changes in original document" checkbox was checked by default.
Once I unchecked it it has remained unchecked on all subsequent save as, even with new documents.

And the same behaviour using Pages. First time you Save As... the option is checked, uncheck it and it remains unchecked. Presumably if you check it again it will remain checked for all subsequent Save As... operations.
Matt Neuburg  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-09-23 08:06
Thanks; I think I'll work that into the article.
Tommy Friedmann  2012-09-24 19:47
Where are the "autosave" documents saved?
Doesn't it bloat after some time?
PeterP  2012-10-01 05:18
Now that ML is fixed, wouldn't it be nice if they also applied the same fixes to Lion.
My 2008 Macbook can upgrade no further than Lion, which I have had to install to get upgrades to Apps that I need.
Three different op systems in major use: ML/L/SL, all with different Save As behaviour!
Definitely not what I have been used to from Apple over past 20 years.
But when I upgrade machine (soon) to go to ML, at least this will not be an issue.
Oh! My Macbook will go to my kids .... I still have to deal with this :-(
Matt Neuburg  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-10-01 11:33
Very good point. I had forgotten that there are people who can use Lion but not Mountain Lion. Maybe for the kids the best option is to clean the machine and install Snow Leopard again.
William McKelvy  2012-10-07 10:56
You're providing a great service to the community on this Save As issue. In your last comment suggesting going back to Snow Leopard, I'm in that situation with several of our family's 9 Mac's. The quandary for these older Intel Macs is that you must go at least Lion to get iCloud functionality. Going back to SL means giving up iCloud.
Orest Kawka  2012-10-23 20:58
I started using ML about a month ago, and have recently started reading these type of threads in order to make sure I understand how the new document model works and how to get back to the older "normal" behavior.

One thing that I find a bit disconcerting, perhaps since I am not sure if this model distinguishes between explicit save and autosave versions, is this -

1) If this document versioning actually uses the Time Machine model (ie. hourly for 24 hours, daily for week, weekly for a month and so on), then isn't it possible that opening your document many times, editing, but not saving it, could conceivably cause you to lose one of your explicitly saved versions or your original version since it could be culled from the versioning repository?

2) Does anyone know if the explicit saves and autosaves are treated differently during the culling from 24 hour versions to monthly versions and so on?

3) Has Apple clearly explained how the versioning and culling decisions are made?