Time Machine though has some limitations. It only performs backups about every hour that your Mac is awake, and it only takes responsibility for archiving previously saved documents. But in the new OS X release of Lion, Apple integrates a Time Machine-like feature called AutoSave, which automatically saves and backs up versions of documents in supporting applications like TextEdit, Pages, and Preview. It is fairly easy to use, but it has some hidden options you should know about.
The first productivity aspect of AutoSave is that it is supposed to automatically save a document, say in TextEdit, that you have been continuously working on for five minutes. However, that didn’t work for me, after trying twice. I had to manually save the documents using Command+S. After I performed a manual save though, AutoSave kicked in as I worked.
AutoSave automatically saves documents in supporting applications when you open and close them, make any changes to your existing work, and any time there’s a pause in your typing. If you accidentally quit a supported application, AutoSave also has you covered.
Apple introduced an automatic save feature in the previous version of TextEdit, but that feature just made a copy of the original and saved it in the hard drive next to the original one. With AutoSave, all the saved versions of your document are saved in the background, where you can review and retrieve them like you do with documents and files in Time Machine.
AutoSave currently works in the TextEdit, Preview, and the Pages versions of Lion. Down the road, 3rd party developers will add the feature to their document applications.
Now let’s see how to use AutoSave in TextEdit. Nearly all the options associated with AutoSave can be found in the title bar of a saved document. When you put your cursor to the right of the title, a little triangle icon appears giving you a drop-down menu of options: Lock, Duplicate, Revert to Last Opened/Last Saved, and Browse All Versions.
Different from Time Machine, AutoSave saves document versions within the application itself. You don’t have to open Time Machine to retrieve your saved versions, although the document itself will still be backed up there.
Locking a document prevents inadvertent changes to it. This means that after the document has been saved for two weeks, Lion will automatically lock the document, similar to how you can select to make a document a Read-only file. You can change this Lock time in Preferences in the Lion version of Time Machine.
Duplicating a document does just that. It’s works sort of like the “Save As…” option you get in most content-producing applications. When you choose Duplicate, AutoSave will make a copy of your current document version and open that copy alongside your original document. You can of course give the copied version a completely new title.
Revert To Last Saved
If you’re writing a story or essay, and at some point you’re not happy with the additions or changes you have made, you can select “Revert to Last Saved” to take you back to your previous version.
Revert To Last Opened
If you reopen a document and work on it some more, but you decide you don’t like what you came up with, you can select the “Revert to Last Opened” option to get you back to your original version. This option disappears if you manually save the document. It will reappear when you open the document again.
Browse All Versions
The Browse All Versions option is the awe factor of AutoSave. When you select it, a Time Machine-like interface opens and presents you with a cascade of all the saved versions of your document. You can use the timeline to scroll back through your versions, the same way you do in Time Machine.
You can choose to restore a copy of a selected version, which replaces your most current version, or you can simply copy and paste snippets of text from any of the saved versions.
Save A Version
With AutoSave in effect, you might not notice at first that in the applications, TextEdit and Preview, the “Save” option has been replaced with a “Save a Version,” which is basically is the same thing, but in this case Apple is reminding you that you’re now saving versions of your document instead of saving over the original.
AutoSave works in the background, so you really don’t have to think about it until you actually need it. But it is useful to understand its options and how they can be incorporated into your workflow.
For other MUO articles about Lion, start with these posts:
- Preparing For & Installing OS X Lion [Mac]
- Apple’s New Mac OSX Lion: What You Need To Know [News]
- How To Install OSX Lion On An External Drive To Test It Out [Mac]
Let us know what you think of AutoSave and how it works for you. I’m personally looking forward to it finding its way into a few third party Mac applications.