Sep 11

Apple’s occasionally annoying need to change

Apple has always been terrifically good at changing things. Their list of firsts in hardware and software is as impressive as it gets.

Sometimes, change feels awkward. Then the more you live with it, you realize it’s a better idea and you need to just get with the system.

Other times, the more you live with it, the more you want to find the guy who dreamed it up and slap him around a bit.

Natural Scrolling had the potential to be annoying in this way, but Apple had the good sense to make it optional. Personally, I turned it off. “Natural” is whatever feels natural to you. The old way felt natural to me, so I unchecked the option and never looked back. (Or is it that I never looked forward?)

But there’s one change in Lion that I can’t turn off, and it frustrates me every time I use it. Which is often. I’m talking about the death of Save As… and the emergence of Duplicate and Save a Version.

The problem is, now it takes me twice as many steps to accomplish the same thing.

My needs are simple. I write. I assume there are a lot of people out there like me. Oftentimes, before I perform radical surgery on a document, I’ll want to make sure I keep the current version intact. In Snow Leopard, I’d use the Save As… command. I’d give the document a new name and continue writing. Two steps. Fast.

With Lion’s “improvement,” now I have to choose the Duplicate command. This opens a new document with the word “Copy” appended to the title. I hit Save. Give it a new name. Then I close the original document, which hangs around hoping I’ll pay attention to it. Four steps. Not fast. Annoying.

This perplexes me on two levels. First, I don’t understand why a company that lives to make things simpler would choose to make something more complicated. Second, I don’t understand Apple’s thinking about where this fits into computing in general.

Do they intend to create a new standard that will become ubiquitous? Will Adobe and Microsoft follow Apple’s lead? I wouldn’t hold my breath. So now we’ll just have to remember that when you’re in iWork, you’ll have to think different.

I do understand that there are some reasons why this might be a good idea for certain types of users. You can find a long, intelligent discussion of the facts here.

I also get the argument that the new Versions feature negates the need to ever use Save As… again. Versions works fine if you’re looking for one image or one paragraph you used previously. But most writers make tons of small changes throughout their documents. To find these types of changes, you’d be searching Versions forever. It’s vastly easier to just save a new version of a document with a name that will help you find it later. Which you can still do under the new system — it just takes twice as many steps as it did before.

Versions, by the way, may not even solve your problem, should one ever arise. It saves a Version only once per hour. So unless you’ve manually saved a Version of something you’re looking for, it’s possible that it won’t be there. (You won’t find this little fact in Pages Help or in the iWork section of apple.com — it’s buried a few levels down in the Lion section.)

To me, these types of things are more evidence that Steve Jobs has been pulling back on his involvement in certain areas, probably even before his medical leave. One of his greatest talents was his ability to take one look at something people have been working on for months and say, “Kill it.”

The elimination of Save As… strikes me as change for change’s sake. It’s not better than what we had before.

Can I have it back please? Let’s call it “Natural Saving.”


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  • K Zeise

    Guess what you are missing is the ability to save a named version that:
    a) will not automatically be purged
    b) and that you can find back quickly by name

    I believe that would be more natural to work with, as these duplicates do not stand on their own, they are versions kept for reference, but not as work products.

    On the other hand, it would be nice if holding down the option key would change “Duplicate” into “Make Named Duplicate”.

  • Charles Jenkins

    Thank you for this. After news reports surfaced of various ways Versions can fail — meaning that you could lose the last-known-good version of your document thanks to Auto Save — I’ve been hoping developers will be convinced to support Auto Save ONLY as an optional feature.

    I will hate to give up on Pages, though. I only just recently switched to using it for all word-processing projects because it can work with Word documents that track changes and include comments. The latest version of Microsoft Word for Mac is a true disaster in that respect, and nothing else I’ve tried works at all.

  • Noibs

    Couldn’t agree more.

    The people that like the new autosave and versions are the people are not naturally organized about their work flow and who constantly forget to save and sometimes forget to “Save As…” and instead save over changes where they didn’t mean to.

    The bottom line is Apple is succeeding by dumbing down the operating system so that the more clueless and less-focused people now feel good about Apple.

    Some may take exception to this, but it’s the truth. Most of the changes in Lion that are driving people like me and you crazy are because of dumbed down user-interface features. I call it like I see it.

  • ken segall

    I agree with you agreeing with me. I prefer to think of it as “simplifying” instead of “dumbing down,” but we’re talking about the same thing. I’m all in favor of Apple making it easier for ordinary people to enjoy the benefits of their technology, but I bristle when they cut the features that make life easier for the pros. It’s one thing when it’s “either/or” (like scrolling). It’s quite another when you’re forced to work in a less efficient way.

  • David Best

    Apple is clearly dumbing down the UI in several areas to gain quasi-UI compatibility between Lion and iOS. I’m guessing their strategy is centered around the notion that there is a big untapped market for the computer illiterate iPad user wanting to acquire a Mac, and this group of people need the UI dumbed down on the Mac to make it more comprehensible. I put several of the Lion “improvement” in this category including the elimination of “Save As” (not an intuitive concept to a novice computer user) and the highly modal full screen application concept (Mac Mail in Full Screen mode behaves more like an iPad for instance). I question the the size of this untapped potential computer user market. Versions is nice, but why does Apple want to turn the existing users negative by removing functions that are already ingrained in their daily workflow. IMO, there should be a preferences somewhere that brings back “Save As.” I find the lack of it very annoying.

  • John Young

    This same scenario is playing out in Final Cut Pro’s demotion to version X. Change for change’s sake, and simplifying the program to widen the base of users. Very frustrating.

    A side note: I switched to the new way of scrolling when I installed Lion and for some reason, I haven’t given it a second thought after a week or so. And I go back and forth quite a bit. The only scrolling issue I have is with iCal when swipe-scrolling between months.

  • ken segall

    @John Young:
    FCPX is an odd duck, because the simplification was both good and bad. The new simplicity lets people like me use features I could never quite figure out in the old version (or they weren’t there). It’s a terrifically powerful app. But at the same time, they stripped out those high-end features that the pros absolutely need. (Though some have just been added back in.)

  • Patrick

    To add a dissenting voice:
    1. I like natural scrolling. I’ve discarded my mouse and moved to the MagicPad. If you’re wedded to the mouse, don’t use natural scrolling.

    2. It’s cute that you think Apple will leave the natural scrolling on/off option in future OS version. I’m guessing 10.7.6 will remove the option, but leave it available as a command line option. It’ll be gone completely by 10.8.

    3. Your workflow was created by the existence of “save as”. Stop thinking about your tools and your old ways. Embrace the new.

  • Lion is a complete disaster in every way imaginable. Especially the elimination of the 3-panel Address Book, which was CRUCIAL for our productivity on a daily basis.

    This is why Bertrand Serlet, former head of Mac OS X, resigned from Apple long before Lion came out. He couldn’t stand this new direction that Apple’s OS was heading in, so he left.

  • David

    OH MY GOD! I almost tossed my Macbook Air out the window yesterday as I went thur the steps of saving a copy to my desktop and then renaming it. “How could it not be available anymore? What happened? Why did we take 3 steps back” UGGGGHH!!!

  • Jorge Carvalho

    Although i don’t suffer that much with versions , i can see them as a good idea , implemented the wrong way.
    What we all should be doing is using the give feed-back button for Lion. Apple cares , so make them know what many people considers “mistake” :)

  • Riz

    Ken, you are a pro. Men on the street do not need ‘Save as…’

    Apple does not sell products for pros and they are certainly not a computer company. Didn’t you get the memo, when they dropped the word ‘computer’ from their name?

  • Ken, you’re missing out on the scrolling. Give it a week. If you still hate it, go back, but if you use iOS devices, I’m betting it will become so natural you’ll never go back. That’s what’s happened to me.

    As for saving a duplicate, I guess I don’t get the big deal. I wouldn’t have an issue with “Duplicate” being the same as “Save as…” and ask for a new name, but most of what passes for “productivity issues” seems to me to be an unwillingness to shift workflow in a way that may actually be more productive over time.

    I’m willing to give the “Save as…” issue some time, but I definitely find the new scrolling as much more intuitive now that I have given it a chance.

  • ken segall

    I hear ya. It’s clear that Apple is on this path becoming less “pro.” But then there are conflicting signs too. Final Cut Pro X being one big one. It’s true that there was a huge outcry from the pros who thought it was a deal breaker without key pro features. But if you get into FCPX and look below the surface, it has tons of pro features that are probably way beyond the scope of mere mortals. And now Apple has begun folding back in the missing features.

    I’m sure I could get used to the scrolling. I only gave it 2-3 days, then used the “I’m really busy now and don’t have time for this” excuse. But I think “Save As” is a different kind of issue. There’s no measurable difference in scrolling, just a change in orientation. “Duplicate” literally takes extra steps to accomplish the same thing. That’s why I shake my head whenever I use it. I really can’t remember Apple ever adding a feature that makes something take longer.

    One of the things I love most about Apple is its ability to push the world forward, even when people resist. So I’m not used to being on this side of the argument. I just think that if you’re going to ask people to change something they’ve been doing since the beginning of time, something that’s common to all computers and all apps, there should be an advantage that is easily verbalized — as opposed to “You’ll get used to it.”

    Apple can now make a really compelling case for the “new way” with Pages to a new customer: “With Pages, you’ll never lose a document again. It automatically saves as you work and when you close a document. And, with Versions, you can even go back in time to pull things out of previous version of the document if you choose.” That’s huge. Perfect. Wonderful. A boon to every user, casual or pro. But that has nothing to do with replacing Save As with Duplicate.

  • Riz

    Ken, it is the over-all usability of a tool that matters for professionals. It should do the job, if it cannot then it is useless.

    FCP X was almost useless when launched and it is still not suitable for majority of editors. Many still needs capturing from tape with TC. Take that, what many thinks the most basic function, away and you got a useless tool.

    No company who is supplying tools for the pro would even dream of releasing FCP X at that state of readiness AND remove FCP from the shops. THAT proves to me that Apple is no longer a pro company.

    I don’t blame them. No company selling pro products could have been as successful as Apple has become. There are not that many pros out there.

  • ken segall

    I’ve just read your comment three times and I can’t find a single thing I disagree with. FCPX was useless for those pros who make a living using the features Apple cut out. And it still perplexes me why Apple would release this product as replacement for the last FCP, knowing full well what the reaction would be. But my point was that if you use FCPX, you’ll see that it does have some very high-level pro features and capabilities, and they’ve just added some missing pro features back in (with multiple camera support promised). So if Apple really is abandoning the pros, I can’t really explain the existence of FCPX. It’s not enough pro for the pros, and it’s too much pro for the enthusiasts. But it’s going to be good for the pros soon. Like I said … perplexing!

    If Apple is still serious about high-end video editors, I stand by my original reaction to FCPX. It should have been released as the new Final Cut Express, and the previous FCP still supported. That way, the pros would still be happy (though they’d grumble about not having a 64-bit FCP), and they would have been given, in effect, a “sneak preview” of the new FCPX that would be released when it was ready for prime time. But that’s just me.

  • Riz

    Ken, it’s not just you, many, me included agree with your plan: Replace Final Cut Express with FCPX, develop it till it becomes usable by the pros then kill FCP. Nobody complains and Apple wows everyone yet gain.

    That would have been what Apple that we know would have done. But, Apple is now huge. The top brass has a plan to dominate the consumer market. They have become not only the largest consumer electronics company but the largest one ever. Their plan is working.

    But, as it is with any mega company, there are factions within, who fight for their turf. They are too small for their actions to affect top brass’ plans, hence they have relative freedom to do things by themselves. FCPX is the result of a turf war and it shows.

    If you notice, once the top brass heard the out-cry, they reversed the deletion of FCP and controlled the damage, but the message was already out by then.