Apple apparently fixes some of the shortcomings in AutoSave/Versions

by David


TidBits has a great breakdown:

In particular, under Lion, Apple added features called Auto-Save and Versions so that, if an application author takes advantage of them, the user no longer needs to remember to save files.  The application automatically saves the file continually and allows the user to “roll back” to an earlier version any time.

While great in theory, in practice, this has some very unfortunate consequences.  Obviously, this is intended to keep people from quitting apps or closing files without saving them – thus keeping people from losing data/work.

However, this very feature may cause people to lose work in a whole new way.  Since every time the file is opened, the auto-save starts up, if you make some accidental or temporary changes to your document, those changes are *saved* – right on top of your last good copy of the file.

Now, in theory, one could just (a) notice the changes; (b) crank up Versions and find the last good copy; and (c) roll back.  In practice, this is a huge pain in the butt, and very unlikely.  Instead, what we have now is people saving screwed up copies of their files without intending to.

So Apple set up Locking.  Under Lion, if you haven’t changed a file in two weeks, it Locks.  Then, when you open the file up, if you start to change it, Lion warns you that the file hasn’t been changed in a while, it’s been locked, and do you want to unlock it or duplicate it?  Great!  That solves the problem of accidental edits being saved — only in files that have been locked.

So Mountain Lion adds another option, finally, to help keep this from happening – a system-wide preference to “Ask to keep changes when closing documents.”  If you’ve checked this preference, and you open up a document, the document still starts doing the auto-save dance.  But when you close the file, or quit the app, the system now takes note of this fact and offers you an opportunity to roll back those unintended changes.

It’s not quite as secure as simply locking the document, but it’s a major step in the right direction.

Auto-Save and Versions are the first wave of a great step towards improved document handling.  Lion brought them out, and we quickly discovered some of the problems.  Mountain Lion is starting to address some of these problems.  It’s still not a finished solution – but it’s getting better.  I’d have called Lion’s version only a beta, and Apple really should have made it optional – it is for some third-party apps, but not for Apple apps.  Mountain Lion gets it closer to right.  I’m not sure if I’d call it a full ready-for-primetime release, and it’s still not optional for Apple apps.  But Apple is clearly hearing some of the complaints and trying to get it right.  We should be glad they haven’t given up on it – it is going to make things better for a lot of people in the future.  It’s just not quite ready yet.