OS X Lion: About Auto Save and Versions

Learn about Auto Save and Versions in OS X Lion.

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Auto Save–Auto Save in OS X Lion saves during pauses in your work and, if you work continuously, it will save after 5 minutes. It saves in the background, so you can work without the distraction of having to remember to save, or being interrupted by progress bars.

Versions–Versions automatically records the history of a document as you create and make changes to it. OS X Lion automatically creates a new version of a document each time you open it and every hour while you’re working on it. You can also create snapshots of a document whenever you like. With an interface similar to that of Time Machine, Versions shows you the current document next to a cascade of previous versions, allowing you to do side-by-side comparisons of your working document with past versions. You can restore entire past versions, or bring elements from past versions such as pictures or text into your working document.

Auto Save

Apps developed with Auto Save such as Preview, iWork, and TextEdit can automatically save changes to your document as you work. Because Auto Save saves all changes in the background, you can work without the distraction of pauses or progress bars. Auto Save in OS X Lion adds the changes directly into the file so there’s only one copy of the document on your Mac.

This Auto Save in OS X Lion saves during pauses in your work and, if you work continuously, it will save after 5 minutes.

Clicking the title bar displays its menu.

Lock–You can lock a document at any time to prevent inadvertent changes. Two weeks after the last edit, OS X Lion automatically locks the document for you. Tip: You can set the interval for OS X Lion to automatically lock your documents by clicking the "Options…" button in the Time Machine System Preferences then choose what interval you want from the "Lock documents" pop-up menu.

When you try to make a change on a Locked file, OS X Lion asks if you want to unlock or duplicate the file.

When a document is locked you will see a dimmed message of "– Locked" just to the right of your window title. A lock icon appears in the bottom left of the proxy icon and also on the document icon in Finder.

To unlock your document, click "– Locked" in the title bar and select "Unlock".

Duplicate–The Duplicate feature creates a copy of your document and places it next to the original. So you can start a fresh version using the original as a template.

Revert to Last Saved / Opened Versions–You can easily undo recent changes. If you’re not happy with the changes you made, choose "Revert to Last…", then click the confirmation sheet and your document reverts to its state when you last saved or opened it. So you can experiment freely, knowing you can always start again from the top.

Browse All Versions–When selected your document will enter the Versions browser.  See the "Versions" section below for details.


Each time you open a document, OS X Lion automatically saves the current version. It also saves a new version every hour while you work, building a history of the document as you go.

You can manually create a version of your saved document at any time by choosing File > Save a Version or press Command-S (⌘-S).

OS X Lion saves only the information that has changed since the last version, making efficient use of space on your hard drive. OS X Lion manages the version history of a document, keeping hourly versions for a day, daily versions for a month, and weekly versions for all previous months.

When you share a document–for example through email, iChat, or AirDrop–only the current version is sent; all other versions remain on your Mac.

Elements of the Versions browser

  1. Current version–The current version of your document.
  2. History–A cascade of past of versions for your document. Tip: You can copy and paste elements of past versions, like graphics and text, into your current version.
  3. Restore button–Click it to restore, replacing your current document with the version at the forefront of your history (item 2).
  4. Timeline–The timeline of past versions of your document. Click a date to see how your document looked on any given day.
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