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04/01/06: Save Considered Harmful

Humane Gmail Autosave solved one of the many problems with the so-called text editor in which I spend most of my time these days. Or rather, in which I often type some stuff, then get distracted into a different task or tab and let it sit for hours. Thankfully gmail does autosave by default now, making this extension unnecessary, though it'd be nice to crank the frequency up to once per second or once per keystroke or something.

Why, in this day and age, is there even a Save command in any application? Its very presence implies -- indeed, guarantees -- that the default state of the world is unsafe. This breaks the rule our ancestors learned over billions of years of interaction with the objective world: when you do something, it stays done, until undone.

I have agreed for decades with the following sentiment:

"...[The] user should never have to explicitly save or store work. The system should treat all produced or acquired data as sacred and make sure that it does not get lost, without user intervention. The user may, of course, deliberately delete anything. The ability to delete (or make any changes) means that universal, unlimited-level undo and redo should be inherent to all systems." - Jef Raskin, The Humane Interface
To Raskin's paragraph I would add that for documents, instead of "Save" should be "Mark" and "Revert To Mark". We could also use a "Publish" to allow you to strip out the undo history so your readers don't get to see all your second-guessing.

A dialog box in which you're editing existing data should update immediately, and have a "Revert" 'button which puts things back to how they were when you opened the dialog. A dialog box in which you're constructing brand new stuff is temporary, so in that case there could be a "Save" button (or, better, "Create"). But it'd be great if instead, it made a new, persistent "proposal" or "draft" for the item, so it would still be there if the power went out.

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