OS X Mountain Lion: How Apple Rescued Save As…

| How-To

Everything was great (at least conventional) with saving documents up through OS X Snow Leopard. In Lion, inspired by iOS, Apple introduced what's called the Modern Document Model into its iCloud enabled apps. Apple eliminated Save As..., introduced Auto Save and Versioning, but most importantly, drove long-time users crazy.

Also, the mods introduced a small possibility of data loss after a specific sequence of actions. OS X Mountain Lion fixes 99 percent of the problems, but one has to understand exactly how.

Because the issues are so complex, this article will point to resources and provide a high level view instead of delving into all-consuming detail in one article. As you'll see, that's already been done.

Overview. In OS X 10.7, Lion, Apple introduced the "Modern Document Model." It changes the way the OS handles documents that support iCloud: TextEdit, Preview, Keynote, Numbers and Pages.

Most notably and simply, Auto Save, Versioning and Resume capabilities were added, and the Save As... menu item was eliminated. This caused a lot of confusion, and while it helped eliminate lost work, the change made matters worse for many long-time users who were accustomed to a specific workflow and the operation of the Mac's OS since the beginning of Mac time.

In addition, few developers have embraced Apple's model, and so one has to understand how any other app being used either adopts or does not adopt Apple's Modern Document Model.

Back to Apple's apps. As a result of some backtracking by Apple, the Save As... function has returned in those apps in Mountain Lion. You hold down the Option key when accessing the File menu. However, in order to solve the problems introduced in Lion, new System options have been introduced that are important to understand.

OS X 10.7 - Lion. Let's start with Lion. Back in 2011, right after Lion was introduced, there was much confusion about the newly introduced Auto Save and Versioning. TMO's Jim Tanous and Melissa Holt wrote great articles on that new methodology: Mr. Tanous write: How to work with Versioning and Auto Save. He refers to Apple's support article HT4753, "OS X Lion: About Auto Save and Versions." Ms. Holt wrote: "OS X Lion: Using Auto Save and Versions." Together, they'll give you all you need to work in that environment.

To really get to the heart of the Lion technical issues, however, one must also read the extraordinary article by Matt Neuburg at Tidbits, "The Very Model of a Modern Mountain Lion Document." I recommend the opening section titled: The Lion Situation. There, the author explains the fundamental thinking in the Modern Documet Model introduced in Lion.  Immediately afterward, Mr. Neuburg explains what problems were created and how, in some cases, a user could lose data. So read the next section: The Trouble With Lion to find out what had to be fixed.

All this is good background even if you're a newbie and never used Lion.

OS X 10.8 - Mountain Lion. Confronted with considerable pushback, Apple backed off and made significant improvements to document management in its iCloud apps, those listed above.

Continuing with the discussion, Mr. Neuburg gets to the section called Mountain Lion to the Rescue. There, he focuses on the actions controlled by two important checkboxes in System Preferences -> General.

  • Ask to keep changes when closing documents
  • Close windows when quitting an application

System Preferences -> General

The explanation for these options is as definitive as any human being could make it. The author gives examples; even so, it made my head hurt. Basically, the first box provides a warning for "dirty" (edited) documents and the second box controls whether quitting the app closes a document. But there are important nuances explained in the Tidbits article.

The bottom line is that if you want your iCloud apps to behave like they did in Snow Leopard, check both boxes.

Even then, there is a minor gotcha when it comes to editing a file from a remote file system. You get Auto Save without Versions, "which even Apple has admitted is troublesome" Mr. Neuburg wrote. That discussion is in his Conclusions section.


Save As... dialog box. There is a third and final checkbox that you should be aware of when using these Apple apps -- if you've updated to Mountain Lion 10.8.2 or later. If you force a Save As... with the Option Key, the ensuing dialog box will have a new option: "Keep changes in original document."

After Save As...

Independent of the System Preferences -> General mentioned above, this checkbox will determine whether the original document will also get all the changes you made in the version you're saving with Save As....

You probably don't want that because Save As... is typically a fork or experimental file. Accordingly, this box, if you want to keep things as they were in Snow Leopard, should remain unchecked. The box setting is sticky, so you won't have to change it each time for that app.

However, as Chris Breen at Macworld points out in "When you finally move to Mountain Lion," if you have any other apps that use Apple's Modern Document Model, you'll also have to disable that option for them on the first Save As...


This Save As... adventure is one of the most difficult things to understand about OS X that I've seen to date. Document management, in Apple's apps, works differently in Snow Leopard, Lion, and then Mountain Lion. Apple's captions for the checkbox options described above are cryptic. And so, I have some final recommendations:

  • Have some Tylenol ready. Even though the Tidbits exposition is brilliant, matters are complex. Reading more than once may be necessary.
  • If it suits you, get a piece of paper, draw some schematics of the three checkboxes mentioned here, and experiment with TextEdit and dummy data. Verify how the document behavior matches your expectations.
  • Make sure you understand how any other app you acquire handles document management. For example, BBEdit has, all along, maintained its own predictable and sane methodology by default.
  • If you like Apple's Modern Document Model, be sure you understand how to exploit Auto Save, Resume and Versioning explained in the TMO and Tidbits articles.

Unlike many OS X features controlled by a single checkbox, the adjustments made by Apple in Mountain Lion require one to pay attention to three options and the impact of each. Some methodical experimentation will pay huge dividends down the road.

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Document management is something I’d prefer that Apple not disrupt with every new version of OS X. I’m perfectly comfortable sticking with Snow Leopard while they figure things out.


I have 10.8.3 and I have never seen the “keep changes in original documents” check box. I just looked again in Text Edit and Preview. Is this because I do not have iCloud enabled?

John Martellaro

Josh: I doubt iCloud controls that.  First you have to save a document with a name, then make changes, then do a SaveAs… Then that box should appear.


Ah. That’s why I haven’t seen it. I usually do a save as right after opening before I’ve made changed if I want to create a “fork”.

Ken Heins

The fact that we even have to go through this nonsense is a symptom of the arrogance at Apple——-which we pay for.

Change for the sake of change——something that is afflicting the world in so many dangerous ways.

I own the files I create, I want 100% control of how and in what way they are saved.  Period.

Macuser since 1988.


This is a good example of how trying to “simplify” something too much can actually wind up making it more complex. Apple should have either left well enough alone, or stuck to their guns. The outcome is just horrible: two competing document models, with incomprehensible options that fundamentally alter how the system handles the most basic of tasks.

These check-boxes instantly bring out the sarcasm in me:
“Close windows when quitting applications” No, Einstein, I want to quit the app, but have the windows still open. Who comes up with this stuff?
“Keep changes in original document” Does this mean the changes should STAY in the original document (keep them there?) Changes since when? If I don’t check this will all my changes be lost forever? Scary stuff. Apple, you’ve really screwed the pooch on this one.

Paul Goodwin

Thanks you for the tips. Now I have almost gotten Mountain Lion to look and feel like 10.6.8. Other than Notes syncing between my iPhone, iPad and iMac, I don’t believe there’s anything past 10.6.8 that I’m using. Call me resistant to change; whatever. 10.6.8 was a superlative OS. People with an aptitude for admin and organization can control revisions better than any automated system. They can take advantage of automated revision tracking. I’d like to be able to turn it on or off at will. Others that don’t organize, or save often, or are just in too much of a hurry to stay organized can maybe benefit from this automated abomination.

Ken Heins

“People with an aptitude for admin and organization can control revisions better than any automated system. They can take advantage of automated revision tracking. I’d like to be able to turn it on or off at will.”

YES!  exactly.  Mac people are smarter than average, we are not illiterate boobs. 

Many of my files are part of project folders that are initiated by the particular software application.  Freeway web app is an example,  and the changes that Apple whimsically makes drives the developers crazy. 

If you want an OSX Lite for the semi-literate semi-organized, make one but then Apple needs to make a “Pro” version for those of us who make our living doing content creation.  Without us the iOS “consumers” would have nothing to consume.

Lee Dronick

Eventually I will outwit this, but by then Apple will change it.

What about the settings for the iOS version of Pages?

Paul Goodwin

I love my iPad, but to accomplish any serious document creation in the iOS environment, and control things today is a whole new level of frustration. I’ve created a few documents in pages and Numbers on the iPad. But when you have a computer nearby, the answer is always the same…..why bother? It’s so much quicker and easier on the iMac. If the computer wasn’t there, I’d likely get better and faster at it. As for controlling on the iPad, the rudiments are there. One can only hope the OS Xification of iOS moves faster than the iOSification of OS X, and the iOS features ported to OS X can be turned ON or OFF. Don’t get me wrong about the iPad and iOS, I use it 10x as much as the computer, but just not for any serious document generation.

Lee Dronick

That is just it Paul, I may be out and about and only have my iPad with me. I sometimes escape the house and hide at the local Starbucks or some such place and it is easier to schlepp the iPad than the MacBook Pro. Usually I use Pages on the iPad for writing down notes, though I also use Notes for that. Then I can clean it up when I get home. I also use Pages on my iPad for reference. I have some boilerplate in Pages files and find the synchronization via iCloud to be handy.

Yes we will probably see a merging of OS X and iOS.

Ken Heins

“Yes we will probably see a merging of OS X and iOS.”

I hope not.  With every passing year I have less confidence in Apples ability or desire to put functionality first.

Like the famous flying car that comes up every 20 years as the answer to all of our transportation problems.

A terrible car, and a terrible airplane.


I’ve had ‘Save As” in my File menu for so long, I can’t remember how.  I do know it was something I was proactive about, though. It was probably via Onyx or LionTweaks / MountainTweaks.

Andy Suhaka

Hmmm… It’s not like Apple to push people to Microsoft, but here’s another reason I don’t use Pages or Numbers. Great explanation, though.


This may truly be the one area where Tim Cook doesn’t really know what’s going on.  I can’t recall if Lion came out before Steve Jobs death, but it seems to me if he had tried this “feature” he would have said, “WTF! Why did you change something that worked?”  Have the current software engineers at Apple read the Apple Bible on User Interface Guidelines?

John P

I’ve been using macs since the 80s. I have also used version control as a software engineer (CVS, SVN, git). I embrace the modern document model. It’s great. It simplifies editing. I just open docs, edit them, and close them. I start and quit apps. I don’t think about saving with command-S. Good riddance. Screw the “conventional” model. I don’t need it.

What about backup? How can you discuss document saving and preserving changes without mentioning backup?

I don’t get the anxiety here. I don’t have either checkbox checked in my General prefs pane, and it has never caused a problem for me. There’s a time-machine interface in File -> Revert To that lets me recover previous versions. All my files are backed up with Time Machine. With a good backup, even if you completely mess up the doc you’re currently editing, you can recover. Apple has integrated version control with backup, and it’s a good thing from where I sit.


I use pages and notes alot because of the syncing to all of my devices. I like to write on my imac but edit on the iPad. If i want a “experimental” doc. I just go up to and hover over the doc’s title and Hit the Duplicate on the drop down menu of the doc itself. Hovering over the title is a lot easier than doing the save as and having to “ReTitle” the doc in the Save As workflow. Then the need to find a place to store it, oh, yeah the new system has it auto placed in the cloud for me to access it anywhere. My workflows are in constant flux due to the advancement of the Apps that are becoming available today and tomorrow. I have also not demanded radio knobs on my iPhone nor wish to do “backend” work on my tech stuff.


Now if Apple would bring back the double click on the Window bar to minimize that would be great. Why screw with stuff that has worked fine since OSX first shipped.


Given the total bog pit that Apple created with their Save-As tweaks, I’ve tried to avoid it altogether with avoiding Apple software. Sticking to Microsoft Office keeps life sane, insofar as Save-As is concerned.

According to an NBC interview, Tim Cook uses his iPad/iPhone 80% of the time, so he is ignorant of the suffering his iOS experimenters are inflicting on Apple users that just need to get work done.

Steve Jobs so imparted his arrogance to Apple’s DNA—that Apple know what’s best, and users have no idea—that they are oblivious to how their poor design choices affect millions of users.


Thanks for the well-written article and links for deeper exploring.

I’ll keep this simple
1. I like the new document model for all the reasons @John P mentions and its something I noticeably miss having on my company-provided work PC.
  I. Maybe I just haven’t run into the problems other people are facing
  Ii. For a busy professional with young kids and a PC for work, I don’t have the luxury of being able to jump in front of my home desktop Mac on a whim. When inspiration and time intertwine, being able to whip out my iPhone or iPad for those scant few moments to perform a task and save any results to iCloud so I can pick it up again later is magical.
  Iii. iCloud appears to be taking Mac users to a semantic Web approach and for most of us that’s a good thing.
2. I don’t understand why Apple chose to abandon Save As… considering that willingly forking a document into a new file is a normal workflow activity and really should have no affect on the existing document.

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