There are probably no two commands in the menus of modern computer applications that have confused more users than Save
and Save As
. What's the difference? When would you use one vs. the other? The quick answer
when you're editing an existing
document and you want to preserve your changes to it as you work. Save replaces
the original file. A typical editing session for a given document might look like this: Open existing document, make changes, Save, make more changes, Save, Print, Close.
Use Save As
when you want to create a new
document based on the one you've already got open. This is useful if you want to "clone" an existing document into a new one rather than starting from scratch. Save As
leaves the original file unchanged
. A typical sequence might look like this: Open existing document, Save As, choose the folder where the new document will be created, type in the name of the new document, click the "Save" button. The original document will close and you'll find yourself in that new document, so you'll probably then start editing it as described above. Save As examples
Cloning an existing document can be a real timesaver compared with starting from scratch. For example:
- When I start each month's newsletter, I open the document in which I wrote last month's issue, use File->Save As to create a new document with the same initial content, and then proceed to edit that new document to become the current month's newsletter. In addition to writing the main text of the newsletter, this document also reminds me to write the subject and abstract, and to update the name of the month and the links to my website.
- When I want to write a letter, I open my "Letter Template" document ("Dear NAME"), do File->Save As to create a new, specific document ("Letter to Joe Smith"), and then edit this new document accordingly ("Dear Joe").
You'll probably use Save much more often
than Save As. For example, in the course of writing this newsletter I used Save
178 times and Save As
only once. The more detailed answer
There are actually 3 distinct situations where you might use Save vs. Save As:
- Case 1: A brand-new document window into which you've entered some information but haven't saved yet (the window title is probably "Untitled," "Untitled1," "Document1," or "Workbook1," etc.): In this case, Save and Save As will do exactly the same thing: Open a dialog to prompt you to choose the folder where the new document will be created, type in the name of the new document, then click the "Save" button. The window title will change to the name you entered, and you'll then find yourself in that newly saved document.
- Case 2: An existing document which you've opened but have not modified: In this case, Save won't do anything (there are no changes to save), but Save As will open a dialog to prompt you for the name and location of the new document you want to create. After you click the "Save" button, the existing document will close and you'll then find yourself in that new document whose contents are initially identical to the old one, but whose name and location will probably be different.
- Case 3: An existing document which you've opened and modified but have not saved yet: In this case, Save will store your changes back into that existing document (replacing it without asking any questions), but Save As will open a dialog to prompt you for the name and location of the new document you want to create. After you click the "Save" button, the original document will close without storing those changes (leaving it unchanged), and you'll then find yourself in that new document which will already be saved with those latest changes.
Note that these documents could be word processing files, spreadsheets, presentations, photos, drawings, sound or music files, videos, or documents of any other type.
Save and Save As are standard commands you'll find in document editors
, i.e., programs designed to let you edit documents. Not all programs have "Save" or "Save As" commands
Other types of programs may not have Save or Save As commands at all, or those commands are present but may not do what you'd expect:
- Some email programs (Outlook, Apple Mail, etc.) have a Save command that would more accurately be called "Save this message as a Draft," and some have a Save As command that would better be called "Export."
- Bookkeeping programs (Quicken, QuickBooks, etc.) usually don't have a Save command at all, since they save each transaction as soon as you've finished entering it.
- Web browsers don't have a Save command since they can only let you view web pages, not edit them. Some web browsers have a Save As command that lets you save a copy of a web page onto your computer.
- Use Save as often as you can in the course of editing a document to store your changes and keep them from getting lost in case something goes wrong.
- Use Save As to take an existing document (a good example of something you want to build on, a template you've created for this purpose, etc.) and create a new document based on that original. Save As will ask you for the name and location of this new document.