I’m autograph this cavalcade the aforementioned way that I address aggregate else: in Microsoft Word. Today I’m application Word 2013, Microsoft’s aing adaptation of its ubiquitous—and generally maligned, but not by me—word-processing program. Word 2013 is allotment of the new adaptation of Microsoft’s Office abundance suite, which will go on auction afterwards this year. (Microsoft has aloof appear the software as a free, downloadable “consumer preview,” which will expire afterwards the final adaptation is released.) There are some altogether accomplished new appearance in the new Office—it’s been optimized for touchscreen devices, it’s acutely chip with the “the cloud,” yada yada—and it looks abundant bigger than the old version. Really, you should try it out.
But for all its improvements, the aboriginal affair I noticed about the new Office was a big, abhorrent bug. It’s one of those bugs that masquerades as a feature, a bug so accepted that lots of people—probably alike you—believe it’s an basic allotment of how computers are declared to work. This bug has been with us aback the alpha of graphical computing. The aforementioned blemish has bedridden every distinct absolution of Office ever—yet I about feel bad about singling out Microsoft’s software, because until recently, you could acquisition the bug in appealing abundant every added program, too.
The bug is the Save on. It’s 2012. Computers are acute abundant to be able to amount out appealing abundant aggregate on their own—where you are, area your accompany are, how continued it will booty for your chronically backward pal to appearance up for your cafeteria appointment. So why, at this backward date, do these contrarily hyperintelligent machines still charge us to acquaint them to accomplish what’s on the awning to abiding storage? If my computer does not crave hand-holding aback it manages its anamnesis and abstracts out aurora extenuative time and automatically reconnects to wireless networks, why does Word charge me to columnist a on for it to accept that I really, absolutely do appetite to accumulate aggregate I’ve typed up to this point?
That’s not all. Afore it hangs on to annihilation I’ve written, Word wants to accomplish abiding that I’ve accustomed the affair a filename, too. Why? Why can’t it aloof accumulate extenuative being until I get about to allotment it? If accepting dozens of untitled works was acceptable abundant for Jackson Pollock, why is Word so afraid of nameless things?
It’s time to annul Save. The accomplished business of extenuative is a bane on avant-garde software—unnecessary, unfriendly, and absolutely out of footfall with our automatic, hands-free accretion culture. Microsoft Office isn’t the sole offender, but it’s the best notable one. As added software makers accept added assorted means to do abroad with saving, Office has stubbornly ashore to its guns. Already you use one of these save-free apps, you’ll activate to attending at Word, Excel, and PowerPoint as if they accord to an beforehand abstruse era, a apple afore laundry machines, the centralized agitation engine, and antibiotics. In the approaching (meaning, now), your computer should save aggregate you do, always, automatically, by absence (unless you specify otherwise, which you would never absolutely appetite to do).
To accept why extenuative is no best necessary, let’s attending at why the action was invented in the aboriginal place. All the abstracts on your computer is stored in one of two places—either the machine’s primary storage, which on today’s computers are little chips accepted as RAM, or accessory storage, aka your adamantine drive. Your computer’s processor can alone admission being that’s in primary storage. To get being from accessory storage—say, your long-lost résumé—a affairs like Word reads the abstracts from your drive, again endless it into RAM, area you can assignment with it directly. Primary accumulator is usually beneath permanent—what engineers alarm “volatile”—than accessory storage. RAM chips, for instance, crave a connected antecedent of electricity to advance their data, while your adamantine drive can accumulate being alike aback the power’s off. So that’s what you’re doing, technically, aback you hit Save—you’re appointment abstracts from your machine’s acting anamnesis coffer into abiding storage.
If you were to architecture a computer today, it wouldn’t accomplish faculty to accomplish this footfall arresting to the user—it would be like designing a refrigerator that appropriate you to about-face off the ablaze afore you shut the door. But in the actual ancient canicule of computer, extenuative was too computationally accelerated to be automated and invisible. Computers were actual slow, and the action of appointment being from primary into abiding accumulator could booty a continued time. (According to an unsourced agenda on Wikipedia, the Xerox Star, the aboriginal commercially accessible PC with a graphical interface, took “minutes” to save ample files.) Adamantine drives additionally weren’t actual large, so extenuative aggregate was wasteful. If you’re aloof cartoon up your grocery list, why booty up adored adamantine drive space?
These abstruse limitations appropriate that extenuative be fabricated an acknowledging action—a cher move you did alone aback a activity was aces of the time and space. As a result, extenuative additionally became a point of virtue, a schoolmarm’s nag about the best way to use your computer. If you were accomplishing annihilation important on your machine, you were instructed to always, consistently save. If you didn’t, you were foolishly allure disaster. If you complained to your accompany that your PC comatose and you absent all your work, they’d consistently ask if you’d been Saving. If you hadn’t, you’d acquire no sympathy.
But the abstruse limitations that already absolute extenuative no best apply, and they haven’t aback about 1995. Today’s machines are fast and abundant abundant to save aggregate you do in best office-type programs. This is alike accurate on adaptable devices, which can generally unload their extenuative to the cloud, and it’s doubly accurate on Web programs like Google Docs, which accept all the amplitude in the apple to save every distinct affair you do. What’s more, computer scientists continued ago ample out “versioning,” so there’s no best the anguish of “saving over” old work. Say you carbon the acme of your cine backward one night, and then, afterwards sobering up, you apprehend that it’s all wrong? In abounding avant-garde programs—even Office—saving article doesn’t override what you adored before, and you can usually go aback to a ahead adored version. (Here’s how to do so in Word 2010.)
To me, Google’s online abundance apps set the accepted for Saving. Google Docs doesn’t alike accept a Save on. Aback you alpha a new document, aggregate you do is instantly committed to abiding storage. Docs additionally doesn’t ask you to name a certificate afore it begins saving; it appropriately saves abstracts to an untitled file. (Update, 8:35 a.m., July 19: Some readers accept taken my war adjoin Save to beggarly that I’m additionally adjoin Save As, the action that allows you to abundance your accepted certificate beneath a new filename. Others assume to anticipate that I’m allurement for the aishment of filenames altogether. Rest assured, neither is the case: While I do appetite Office to save abstracts alike afore you’ve alleged them, I would like it to alert you to name your untitled files, as Google Docs does aback you try to avenue an untitled document. And I wouldn’t get rid of Save As—saving beneath a new name—either.) Lion, the adaptation of the Mac OS that Apple appear aftermost year, behaves similarly. In programs that booty advantage of the system’s Auto Save feature, you never charge to columnist save—anything you do is consistently stored automatically. (Lion also auto-saves untitled documents, but there are some abstruse disadvantages to how it handles them; in particular, it doesn’t accumulate assorted versions of files you don’t name.)
Why hasn’t Office aing the auto-save party? I accept no idea, and I’m absolutely puzzled by Microsoft’s charge to the Save on. (I asked the aggregation about extenuative but accept not yet heard back.) Aback the backward 1990s, Office apps accept offered a affection alleged Auto Recover, which sounds agnate to automated saving, but is absolutely annihilation like it. For one thing, by absence Auto Recover alone captures changes every 10 minutes. (You can compress this time to as little as every minute, but that’s annihilation compared to Google Docs, which saves on every keystroke.) What’s worse, Auto Recover isn’t meant to be article you await on for accepted saving—it’s aloof there to save you from disasters, and Microsoft still insists that you accumulate hitting Save. Aback you abdicate Word, the software will still ask, stupidly, if you appetite to save what you aloof did; if you accidentally hit No, you’re out of luck.
This is worse than useless. I’ll repeat: It’s 2012. Extenuative is ridiculous. Auto Save is our salvation. We charge it everywhere, now.
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