Lord, Save (As) me!

Although reader Ann Cornell hasn’t invoked the phrase “at my wits end” in her missive regarding how the Mac OS saves files, a read between the lines hints that she’s frustrated by Panther’s Save dialog box. I’ll let her explain:

I open a file, let’s say in Appleworks or Word or Quark. Doesn’t matter; the problem doesn’t seem to be program specific. Then I make some changes and want to Save As. In the Save As dialog box, the folder that the original file was in is never the option to save the new file into. It’s not even one of the alternate choices. And yet that’s almost always where I want it to go! I’m in Panther now; yet I had the same problem in Mac OS 9. OS X hasn’t improved it. I don’t use the Documents folder to save into; I have way too many files for that.

I hope it’s something obvious that I’ve missed; it would be so nice if this could change.

That it would, but I’m afraid there’s not an obvious answer. For the not-so-obvious answer, I turned to Jon Gotow, the creator of St. Clair Software’s $35 Default Folder X. He tells me:

Long answer:

This behavior is actually application-specific. In Carbon applications, the Navigation Services API has no notion of a “document,” so there’s no way for it to default to the right location when you choose “Save As” for a particular file. The best it can do is go back to the last folder you saved to. Some applications, like Microsoft Word, set the folder correctly so that choosing Save As shows you the folder containing the document you’re saving. Microsoft Excel, however, doesn’t do this—the Save As dialog defaults to whatever it was showing the last time you saved.

It’s also a bit hit-or-miss with Cocoa applications. In Panther, Preview always defaults to the Documents folder when you choose Save As. Safari used to default to “/”, but was fixed in Panther. If an application uses the Cocoa document model, it will work as it should, but not all apps use the NSDocument class, or don’t use it correctly.

Short answer:

It depends on the application—some do it right, some don’t. Default Folder X 2.0 actually forces this behavior by looking at the topmost window and determining the location of the document in it, if possible. So it’s a reasonable solution if you just want it to work as expected in all applications.

And now aren’t you sorry you asked?

With that, I’ll provide my short answer: If you’re frustrated by OS X’s Open and Save dialog boxes, you owe it to yourself to search the cracks of the couch for the cash necessary to purchase Default Folder X. It’s anything but flashy, but it will make working with Open and Save dialog boxes a breeze.

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