It’s happened to all of us. You are busy writing, entering data, or working on a slide deck and all of a sudden something freezes and then the application crashes. If either we recently saved the document all is well, otherwise the inevitable explicative follows. It is 2011 and there is no excuse for not having autosave, but there are still a depressing number of applications that do not automatically save documents. Blaming the user who lost work to an application or operating system crash is blaming the victim. People are far better served by applications that automatically name, save, and version their files without requiring manual intervention. This way users can easily undo or revert to an older version after application crashes, machine hangs, and power outages, no swearing like a sailor necessary.
Tool Force Software’s ForeverSave ($15) largely solves this problem for Mac OS X applications. ForeverSave allows you to configure the application to automatically save documents from many applications including Apple’s iWork, Microsoft Office, and most Adobe products. The configuration process is quick and straightforward. You simply select the applications that you want to enable autosave. There are options to save after a fixed time interval or when switching to another application.
ForeverSave can also automatically create backup copies of your documents. You can set the maximum number of backup copies and a maximum size for the backups overall. One advantage of multiple backup copies is that it is that you can quickly preview old versions of the document with QuickLook. Restoring an old version is a one click operation. One interesting feature is database sharing. This allows you to share all the historical versions of a document, which is useful to show a colleague how a project evolved over time.
If you use any of Apple’s iWork applications including Keynote, Pages, and Numbers, then you absolutely want to use ForeverSave. The applications in iWork are well designed and I use them often, but unfortunately, as of the most recent version iWork ‘09, Apple has not seen fit to include an autosave feature. Each of the applications crash periodically, It also means that you have lost any work form the last time you remembered to manually save. If you have not named and saved the document at all yet, then everything is gone.
When an iWork applications crashes, all remnants of unsaved work is gone. After a recent crash with Keynote, I decided to experiment to see if I could find any traces on my file system. I scanned my temp files and the swap files and found nothing other than the images in the document. This is a terrible oversight and I expect better from some of Apple’s high-profile applications. Judging from the many complaints I found on the Apple discussion boards and elsewhere online, I’m not remotely alone.
Overall I highly recommend ForeverSave, the price is well worth the insurance against lost work. I experience two annoyances when using the application. First, saving is a blocking operation in the iWork applications, so if you have a large document such as a Keynote slide deck with many slides it will force you to wait each time it saves the document. This is technically the fault of iWork and not ForeverSave, but it is still a detractor. The second annoyance is that ForeverSave requires you to name the document the first time. This typically comes up when I start to work on a document and right when I get into a flow, then the save window pops up asking me to name the file the first time so it can save. I would rather the application not interrupt me and simply pick a reasonable name and let me rename it later.
ForeverSave is $15 and has a 30-day trial. ForeverSave Lite is a stripped down version that offers autosaving only, without backups, versions, QuickLook, or database sharing.