How to get the old Save As feature in Mountain Lion

Christopher Breen
9 August, 2012
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Reader Edward Bennett is rightfully confused by a Mountain Lion feature that isn’t what it appears to be. He writes:

I’m a long time Mac user and, when I upgraded to Lion, was dismayed to find that the Save As command had disappeared as it was something I used all the time. When the command returned with Mountain Lion I was thrilled but, from what I can tell, it doesn’t work the way it once did. Can you clear up my confusion?

Yes. Like you, I turned backflips when I saw that I could invoke the command in supported applications simply by selecting File, holding down the Option key, and choosing Save As. But that joy soon turned to gloom. For this reason:

Before, when you created a document, banged away on it for a bit, saved, banged away a bit more, and then chose Save As, you created a new document that included all the changes you’d made up to that point. The original file closed and the Saved As document remained. If you opened the original later, you’d find the content it contained up to the point where you invoked the last Save (not Save As) command.

The beauty of Save As from my perspective was that I could work on a story, make a few edits, and then take what I thought might be an interesting departure. If I then determined that departure might be ill-advised I could select Save As and have a greater sense of security knowing that I could always return to the original version.

That is not how Mountain Lion’s Save As command works.

Instead, when you invoke Save As, it saves both the original file as well as creates a new one. So, in the example above, if I’d taken that departure (wiping out old content and adding new) and then chosen Save As, the content of my original file would be saved up to the point of the Save As invocation.

The original version’s not gone, however. With Mountain Lion’s Auto Save feature you can click on the Auto Save triangle in the document’s title bar and choose Browse All Versions (or choose File -> Revert -> Browse All Versions). In the Time Machine interface that appears, return to the first iteration of the document to find the original.

I’ll now give you a little time to wipe the spittle off your display that resulted from your “Are you frickin’ kidding me!? I’m a savvy enough Mac user that I can do that, but what about the poor people coming to the Mac for the first time thanks to their easy-does-it iOS experience?”.

I agree with those who suggest that the original Save As implementation wasn’t entirely intuitive. But it was what we were used to and to restore the name of a command with that kind of history but change its functionality is curious to me.

So, other than choosing to revert the document via the Time Machine interface, is there some other way to approximate the Save As behaviour of old? Not in as few steps, regrettably. Try this:

Launch System Preferences and in the General preference enable the Ask To Keep Changes When Closing Documents option. Close System Preferences. Launch the application you want to work with and do something. Save the document. Edit your document and add more content—delete some words and add a couple of paragraphs, for example. Choose File -> Duplicate (Shift-Command-S). You will now have two identical documents open. Close the original document. Because of the option you enabled in the General system preference you’ll be offered the option to revert your changes, thus giving you a saved version of the original copy.

Fine, fine, another spittle break.

So, what we’re after is a single command that invokes these steps: Duplicate, Close, and Revert Changes. AppleScript might be an option, but not all applications are scriptable (Preview, for example). I’ve solved the problem by turning to Stairways Software’s US$36 Keyboard Maestro. This is a fine macro utility (remember those?) that allows you to trigger a gang of actions with a single keystroke.

Specifically, I created a macro that performs the following actions:

  • Type Shift-Command-S (to invoke Duplicate)
  • Type Return (to accept the name of the copy in the title bar—My Document Copy, for example)
  • Type Command-` (to switch to the original file’s window)
  • Type Command-W (to close the original window)
  • Press Button ‘Revert Changes’ (to revert the original document to the point of the last save)

Yes, it’s a US$36 solution to what shouldn’t have been a problem in the first place, but it works with any application that supports Mountain Lion’s new Save As implementation.


One Comment

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  1. Pablo says:

    When I saw this article I smiled but then realised it was not what I thought it was about.

    I am a long time Mac user, Cmd-Shift-S for Save As is what I grew up with and what I know. What really bugs me – and I mean BUGS me – now is I have to throw Opt into that key combination. In fact Cmd-Shift-S has been Save As since like the first Mac OS I think!

    No, no! I want the old Cmd-Shift-S to Save As, not this Duplicate rubbish! I managed to switch the keyboard shortcuts in System Preferences, except that Duplicate doesn’t recognise Opt-Cmd-Shift-S.

    And while I’m at it, bring back Cmd-Y for the Redo command. Again, as a long time Mac user, changing these keyboard shortcuts smwilly-nilly is REALLY ANNOYING!

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