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Opening and Saving: Saving Files

When you are done working with a document, you will want to save it. To do so, simply choose Save from the File menu. If you want to save an already-saved document as a new file with a different name, choose Save As.

If you are choosing Save for an untitled, not-yet-saved document (or whenever you choose Save As), a sheet will drop down from the document's window; this sheet will be similar in format to the Open dialog box. In this sheet, you will have a chance to name the document and the location where you want to save it.

For the location, you will have a pop-up menu of common destinations. If none of those destinations matches where you want to save the document, click the disclosure triangle to the right of the menu. You will be presented with a full list of locations; just as you did when opening a document, you navigate to wherever you want to go.

If the application permits saving documents in more than one format, you will also have the option to select a format. Microsoft Word, for example, can save a document as a Word document, as text only, in Rich Text Format, and so on.

When everything is the way you want it to be, simply click the Save button.

The Save sheet is attached to the document to be saved. In Mac OS 9, Save was a separate dialog box. This arrangement in Mac OS X makes it easier to track what document you are saving, if multiple documents are open within the application. A few applications that are Carbonized from Mac OS 9 versions may still use the old Mac OS 9-style Save dialog box.

A document with unsaved changes will have a black dot in its close button. If you try to close the document without saving it, you will be prompted to save the document first.

Losing track of saved files

When you're choosing Save (for a new file) or Save As, and you let the application select the location in which to save the file, be sure to note the name of the destination folder. The location will often be the Documents folder but may be something else. If the file was not saved in the expected location, and you are having trouble locating it, use Sherlock to track it down.

Occasionally, due to a bug in the OS, a newly saved file does not appear in the Finder immediately, because its Finder window is not updated to show it. Locating the file with Sherlock and double-clicking the file name in the Sherlock Results window usually forces the Finder to update and show the file.

Also note: If you have multiple partitions/volumes mounted, be careful when you save a file to the Desktop. If the application is located on a non-startup volume, the document may be saved to the Desktop folder of that partition, rather than to the Desktop folder in your Home directory. In this case, the file will not appear on your Desktop. The solution is to open the non-startup volume's root window, locate the folder called Desktop Folder, and open it. The file will be in there.

Figure 6.4Figure 6.4 A document with a Save sheet dropped down (top) before and (bottom) after the disclosure triangle is clicked.The dot in the close button indicates that the document's latest changes have not yet been saved.

Export instead of Save

If you want to save a document in a format other than the application's native format, but the format you want is not listed in the application's Save dialog box, check if the application has an Export command in its File menu. For example, Preview's Save dialog box has no options to convert formats. But if you select Preview's Export command, you'll be able to save a file in a variety of graphic formats, including TIFF, JPEG, PICT, and Photoshop.

In one case, I opened a PICT file in Preview and selected just to Save it to a new location. Preview created a new file that, according to the file's icon, was now a TIFF file. But when I tried to open the newly saved file, the contents were gone. All I had was a blank screen. If I instead chose to Export the file and selected the TIFF option, all went well.

TextEdit can't save files in SimpleText format

Some operations that you do in Mac OS X may save text as a SimpleText document. If you select text in Internet Explorer and drag the selection to the Desktop, for example, the selected text is saved as a SimpleText document. If you double-click this document, however, it opens in Mac OS X's TextEdit by default. If you make any changes in the document, the following message will appear when you try to save the modified document: "Please supply a new name. TextEdit does not save SimpleText format; document will be saved as rich text (RTF) instead, with a new name."

If you prefer to keep the document in SimpleText format, one workaround is to drag the file to a copy of the SimpleText application (either the version included with Mac OS 9, which opens only in Classic, or the Carbonized version included on the Mac OS X Developer Tools CD). Alternatively, you can open the Show Info window for the file, choose Open with Application, and select SimpleText as the application. Now double-clicking the file will launch SimpleText. If you want all SimpleText documents to open in SimpleText by default, click the Change All button.


If the document has been saved in RTF format, it will still open in SimpleText, but it will display all the RTF code in addition to the text.


  • "Open with Application," in Chapter 3, for more information on using this feature.

  • "Take Note: TextEdit: Plain Text vs. Rich Text format; Other Format Options," in Chapter 4, for related information.

    Figure 6.5Figure 6.5 The message that appears when you're trying to save a SimpleText document in Text Edit.


File Name Extensions

I discussed the significance of file extensions in Chapter 3 (see "Take Note: Type and Creator vs. File Extensions"). Here, I review and extend the preceding information as it pertains to opening and saving files.

Showing vs. hiding extensions. In the Save dialog box of most applications, you typically see an option called Hide Extension or its opposite, Append File Extension. (The exact wording will vary from application to application.) This option most often duplicates the effect of toggling the Hide Extension setting in the Name & Extension tab of the Show Info window for that file.

Briefly, here is how the Show Info window's Hide Extension option works:

  • If Hide Extension is enabled, a file's extension will not be shown in the Finder unless you enable Always Show File Extensions in the Finder Preferences window. That preferences setting overrides the Show Info setting.

  • If Hide Extension is disabled, a file's extension is always shown, regardless of the setting in the Finder Preferences window.

  • In general, if you keep Always Show File Extensions disabled, the option you choose in the Show Info window or the Save sheet will determine whether the file's extension is visible in the Finder.

  • In some cases (Microsoft Word works this way), if you do not choose the Append File Extension option in the Save sheet, the Mac does not merely hide the extension; it does not add one at all. Thus, you create a file with no extension. In this case, the Hide Extension option in the Show Info window is checked, and the option is dimmed so that you cannot uncheck it (because there is no extension to show). Even in this case, you can choose to add your own extension in the Finder after the document has been saved. For the Word document, you could add .doc to the end of the document name. Now the Hide Extension option in the Show Info window will be unchecked, and you can enable it again if you want.

What do file name extensions do? A file name extension is one method that Mac OS X uses to determine the type of a file. For documents, this type can determine what application opens the document, should you double-click its icon in the Finder. The type also can determine what icon the document displays.

If an application can save files in more than one format, it may assign a different extension to each format. Thus, when Word saves a document in its own Word format, it uses the extension .doc; if it saves in plain text, the extension will be .txt; if it saves in Rich Text Format, the file will have the extension .rtf.

Here's a file name extension tip: Any sound file in the aiff format that you place in your ~/Library/Sounds folder can be selected to be an alert sound from the Sound System Preferences pane. However, this will only work if the .aiff extension is included in the name of the file. It has to be exact. Even .aif will not work.

File name extension confusion. File name extensions were largely irrelevant in Mac OS 9, and many longtime Mac users find them confusing to use. For this reason, Mac OS X gives you the option to hide them. As you have seen, however, even when they're hidden, extensions are still there.

The fact that an extension can exist even if it is not visible can be a further source of confusion. Suppose that a file has its extension hidden, and you try to add one on your own, such as changing a file named sample to sample.txt. If the .txt extension was already there but hidden, you could actually be changing the file's name to sample.txt.txt and not realize it.

In one case, I had an HTML file with the name reports.html, but the .html extension was hidden in the Finder, so all I saw was reports. I added the .shtml extension to the name. It looked correct in the Finder, listed as reports.shtml (as I had the Always Show Extensions option disabled), but its full name was reports.shtml.html, which was not what I wanted. I received no warning message when I made this name change. After I realized what had happened, however, the solution was simple enough: I went to the Name & Extension tab of the file's Show Info window and deleted the .html extension. I got a warning about possible problems that could occur from changing the extension, but I permitted the change anyway, and all was well.

In other cases, if you try to change an extension in the Finder (such as from .doc to .txt), you may get a message warning that this action may change the application that opens the document. Changing the extension does not really change the format of the document (changing a document from .doc to .txt, for example, does not really change the document to a plain-text document) but it can confuse the Finder into thinking that a format change has been made.

On a related note, Sherlock searches for file extensions even if they are not visible in the Finder. Take a screen shot by pressing Command-Shift-3; a file called Picture1.tiff will appear on your Desktop. If Always Show File Extensions is disabled in the Finder's Preferences window, the file name will appear as Picture1. Now, if you do a Sherlock search for the expression tiff, Sherlock will report Picture1 as a match (listing it as Picture1.tiff), even with file extensions disabled.This arrangement makes sense overall (Sherlock is searching for the true name of the file), but it can be confusing, especially to casual users of the Mac. Suppose that you decided to do a search for all files that end with 1, figuring that Picture1 would be among the matches. You would be wrong.

It is hopeless to try to offer every possible permutation of how all this can work. Extensions are not among Mac OS X's most logical features. To make matters worse, the file name extension is not necessarily the only method that Mac OS X uses to determine what document goes with what application. The OS can also use the type and creator information used by Mac OS 9, if that data is present in the file. In fact, if a creator is present, the Mac will use the creator setting in preference to the extension.


  • "Technically Speaking: How the OS Selects a Document/Application Match: Using XRay," later in this chapter.

  • "Take Note: Type and Creator vs. File Extensions," in Chapter 3, for still more details.

Figure 6.6Figure 6.6 Show Info window's Name & Extension tab.

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