Twenty Years Later, we're still losing data to crashes

Twenty Years Later, we're still losing data to crashes. It happened again. I lost a whole bunch of unsaved work due to a crash. This time, I was converting some scribbles to lovely design documentation in OmniGraffle when my G4 suddenly shut down. (It's been doing that lately; this time I reset the power manager to see if that would help. I had been working for maybe 45 minutes, without remembering to save once. (Shame on me?) Other times, the program I'm running will crash or the Mac will freeze up, while I've been working on artistic masterpieces, programming source code, diagrams, letters to the editor, term papers, and so forth. I know it has happened to you, too. And you probably felt like an idiot for not having saved more often. … … Twenty years ago, Apple came out with the Macintosh, and part of its user interface was the Save item in the File menu. Why was there a menu to save? Because back then, Macs had only one floppy drive and there wasn't enough space on them to store both programs and data. So when you were ready to save, it was a manual process that involved disk swapping. You only saved once in a while. … … But that was a long time ago, and now we have fast hard drives. It would be a piece of cake for programs to continually save a snapshot of what the user is working on onto the hard disk in case, heaven forbid, something unexpected happened. So why are we still forcing users to manually save their work? … … Some programs deserve credit for automatically saving. HyperCard was one of them — in fact, its lack of a 'Save' menu was disconcerting. But when you used HyperCard back then, you didn't lose data except in rare circumstances. … … For a while, it seemed that Apple was going to make things better. I remember a WWDC when they were introducing the aborted “Copland” OS. Included in its document model and UI specification was auto-save. It would have been glorious. (The auto-save feature, not Copland!) If Apple had standardized on a methodology and user experience for auto-save those many years ago, think of how developers would have adapted it, and how many hours we would have saved. … … Computers are supposed to enhance productivity. Forcing users to remember to periodically save every few minutes to prevent a loss of data is just plain nasty. … … In a future article, I'll talk about some specific ideas as to how this work work from a user interface and user experience point of view. But for now, I hereby pledge that all future software programs that I write will not force the user to manually save, so that if there is a crash, at most a few seconds' or minutes worth of work will be lost. I urge readers of this weblog to consider doing the same. … [Meerkat: An Open Wire Service]

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