Time Machine Auto Save and Versions

September 12, 2011, By Christian Cawley

Our previous look at the Time Machine backup system for Mac OS X focused on resolving problems, but in most cases these should be pretty rare, due in part to the way the method of backing up data is integrated throughout the operating system.

If you’ve even accidentally overwritten a document or lost it, Mac OS X Lion features a useful new Auto Save feature which allows you to prevent accidental deletion or loss of information. An new extension of Time Machine, meanwhile, is Versions. This tool allows you to check back through the history of a document, allowing you to easily find the version that you wish to work on. Wrapped up in the Time Machine user interface, Versions is very easy to use and should help you to find the right document version within minutes.

Both of these tools are available from the same menu in Mac OS X Lion documents.

Time Machine Auto Save and Versions

Mac OS X Lion Auto Save

Say there’s a document that you have been working on in TextEdit and you’ve already saved it. You might think that it is pretty safe as it is, but remember that all you have done is save your work – as things stand, as long as the document remains open you could make other changes inadvertently and end up with a problem.

Across the top menu bar of the application window, where the name of the file is displayed, you should spot a down-facing arrow. Click this to display the Auto Save menu, from where you can select Lock to prevent further changes to saved data.

But if it’s locked, how will you make necessary changes? Simple – just use the same menu to select the Duplicate option and your document will be instantly copied into a new window. The filename of the new document will have the same title with the word “copy” added.

Reverting to an older version of the document is made extremely easy using this method. If you discover that there is a difference between the two files you can easily address this by returning to the Auto Save menu and selecting Revert to Last Saved Versions and agreeing to the dialog box instructions.

Access Old Versions

Another option in the Auto Save menu is Browse All Versions…, a tool for displaying all possible versions of the document. Versions will open in a Time Machine-esque window, where every version of the document you are working on is displayed, ready for you to make a selection from.

Using the bar on the right you can move through time checking the different versions of the file until you find the one that you want to restore. The next step is easy – simply click the Restore button to make the older versions to new current document, and get to work on making the changes that you want!

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