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Apple Mac OS X tips and tweaks

Date: 10th August 2011

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OS X Lion: Lock and duplicate files with Auto Save

Auto Save in OS X Lion is an interesting new feature and at first sight it is simply a way of automatically saving your document without you having to manually go to the menus and click File, Save. There is actually more to this feature than you might think and it has functions that you may not have discovered yet. Here are some tips that show how Auto Save works and how to make the most of it.

To try the new Auto Save features you need to use an application that has been designed for it. Applications written before Lion was released don't use Auto Save. TextEdit is a good one to experiment with because it is an Apple app that has been updated for Lion.

Start TextEdit and type in a few words. You don't actually have to save your work and you could simply quit. It will reopen the file when you next start TextEdit. However, to use Auto Save properly you should click File, Save. Once you have done this, Save is removed from the File menu and replaced with Save a version.

Auto Save saves your work every five minutes or immediately on quitting the application. One thing I often do is to load a document and use it as a template for another document. To create this web page, for example, I load the last web page written, delete the body text, type in new text and save it under a new name.

This won't work in Lion (at least in Lion apps that use Auto Save). If you make any change to a document, it gets saved. So the original document is replaced by the edited one. There is also no Save As on the File menu. You can't work this way any more in Lion apps with Auto Save. Here's what you do.

Click the filename in the title bar of TextEdit (it must have been saved once to get a fiename), and you'll see a drop-down menu. Select Lock and no changes can be made to the file. It stops Auto Save from saving a new version if you accidentally or unintentionally overwriting the file with a new version.

Also on this menu is Duplicate and this creates a new document that is identical to the original. If you go to the File menu you'll see that there is now a Save option and you can save it as a new file with a new name.

So if you want to protect a document from changes, lock it. Instead of using Save as, duplicate it and save it.

Time machine automatically backs up new and changed files every hour and it is possible that it could automatically back up a file you accidentally or unintentially changed. There is a new setting in Time Machine to prevent this. Go to System Preferences and click Time Machine. Click the Options button and then you'll see Lock documents 2 weeks after last edit. Click 2 weeks and you can choose a different time period. This stops Auto Save from changing files backed up.

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