Should the Save Icon Still be a Floppy?

Floppy Disk

Have you noticed that the default Save icon in almost every single application out there is an image of a 3.5″ floppy disk? When was the last time you have used a floppy? Do you even own any floppy disks? Does your computer even have a floppy drive?

Most of the kids born in the last 4-5 years probably won’t ever see a working floppy drive. Maybe their computer science teacher will bring a floppy to class to show them the archaic storage devices. Or maybe they will find a stack of dusty, demagnetized disks in grandpa’s cupboard. That will be their whole experience with that technology…

So as the floppy becomes more and more obsolete by the year, is it’s symbolic relevance also fading? It used to be a very literal symbol of “write to disk” but that’s no longer the case. No one saves to floppies anymore. Do you think the new generations will phase out this symbol and replace it with something more relevant? Or will they keep it, treating it as a more or less intrinsically meaningless abstract glyph akin to the RSS symbol?

Note: This topic was shamelessly stolen from inspired by Ubuntu Blog. Carthik should get the credit for making me think about this.

[tags]save, save ico, floppy, floppy disk[/tags]

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39 Responses to Should the Save Icon Still be a Floppy?

  1. Massimiliano ITALY Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    The floppy icon is obsolete, no doubt about it.
    I think the GNOME devs are doing well:
    http://bp3.blogger.com/_rb1DKkFZLMo/RpaN11yMiAI/AAAAAAAAAEQ/r6yz5OPL6S A/s1600-h/fat-toolbar.png
    Bye

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  2. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Nice! I like the HD with an arrow icon. Although it might become harder to identify at a glance when you shrink it to a regular “application toolbar” size.

    Also, it might be easily confused with popular “mounted drive” icons. KDE uses a very similar graphic – only the green arrow is in a corner.

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  3. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I think a very similar icon could be made out of a picture of a hard drive in profile. That way it keeps it similar enough to not confuse folks who are used to the old one, but still moves with the times.

    All that really needs to change is to swap the label for a logic board, change the colour of it and possibly put a little circle in the middle to be suggestive of the spindle inside.

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  4. Carthik UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    It is amazing that you should think of this a day or two after I did :) or did you happen to read my post, or the article I link to in my post?

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  5. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Ah! So it was you. I read that post the other day, and it did make me go hmm… So I decided to blog about it today but I completely forgot where I found it originally. :oops:

    Side note – isn’t it ironic that Google Reader does not have a search feature?

    Anyway, I added a link to your post in the post. :)

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  6. Carthik UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    :) I use greasemonky and this script to enable search in reader. Vital – considering the number of feeds we all probably read!

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  7. Carthik UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    The “Anti-spam word” I got when I posted the previous comment, was, interestingly enough, “grep” :)

    Also, Lars Wirzenius posted the article that got me thinking.

    It feels good to comment on a blog I only usually read in my feedreader. Keep on posting, Luke.

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  8. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Hehe! It is nice to see a blogger who I regularly read to post on my blog. LOL

    Oh, and thanks for the greasemonkey script! It’s awesome. Not the prettiest thing I’ve seen but it works!

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  9. Fr3d UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Heh, I was thinking the same thing as this a month or two ago; funny that it should crop up again so soon :)

    And thanks for the link to that script Carthik ;)

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  10. Luis UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    1. Yes
    2. Two years ago
    3. Plenty
    4. Yes
    5. No
    6. No they won’t. Just like an envelop image is used for e-mail, and anyone hardly sends letters anymore.
    7. Yes, they will keep it.

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  11. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    [quote comment="5787"]6. No they won’t. Just like an envelop image is used for e-mail, and anyone hardly sends letters anymore.[/quote]

    Hardly anyone sends letters anymore? What? How about bills? Invoices? Business mailings? Junk mail? Advertising? Holiday cards?

    O don’t know where do you live, but here I get 10-20 envelopes in my mailbox every day. And don’t tell me you never sent or received birthday or Christmas card via snailmail.

    Sorry man but envelopes are anything but obsolete. I can go to about any supermarket and buy box on envelopes with no problems. Can you do that with floppies?

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  12. Luis UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I wouldn’t need to, I have a million floppies lying around. And I guess I edited my comment after using the “1. 2. 3…” because I originally had something like “besides for business…”

    And no, I have never sent or received a holiday card, or postcard.

    And I strongly believe the floppy image is here to stay.

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  13. No, I do not believe it should be but what *SHOULD* it be… how many things are really saved to CDs anymore? most people EMAIL their stuff or upload it.

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  14. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    [quote comment="5789"]And no, I have never sent or received a holiday card, or postcard.[/quote]

    Really? I do not send that many cards, but I do get them from family members. Several of my co-workers both former and current also send cards to me every Christmas. Also my mom and my dad, and both of my grandmothers do not even own computers and they still do correspondence the old fashioned way – via snail mail.

    So while people might send less of actual personal letters, the greeting card market doesn’t seem to be shrinking. Sending actual physical card is still considered more considerate and thoughtful than an email or some crappy e-card.

    But yeah, I personally don’t see a reason to change the symbol. I’m just wondering if it will still have meaning to computer users in 20 years or so. I strongly believe that envelopes are not going to go out of use in the next 30-40 years. Floppies on the other hand, are mostly a fading memory these days.

    Travis – yeah I noticed that. That whole “let me email this to myself” think kinda irks me. Using email as online storage just seems wrong. But, for some reason that’s the most intuitive method of making your files available to you from anywhere we have right now.

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  15. STop DENMARK Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Well… when have you last seen a steam locomotive crossing the road? This sign is still used in Europe (at least):
    http://www.trafikken.dk/imageblob/image.asp?objno=/4162.gif

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  16. Luis UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    [quote comment="5795"]Well… when have you last seen a steam locomotive crossing the road? This sign is still used in Europe (at least):
    http://www.trafikken.dk/imageblob/image.asp?objno=/4162.gif/quote
    There are plenty of railroad crossings around my city, but no steam locomotives. The steam locomotive is just more memorable of a shape than having people confuse modern trains for large Volkswagen vans. I think this is exactly what will happen to the image of the floppy.

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  17. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Yup – the steam locomotive logo is more of a symbolic glyph now – we hardly ever see steam engines other than in the movies and TV. But like the floppy the symbol seems to be alive and well.

    The question is – will someone at some point in the future decide to update that road sign?

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  18. vacri AUSTRALIA Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    the steam locomotive logo is more of a symbolic glyph now

    And there you see the why the floppy icon is still in vogue. It’s a distinctive shape, unlike the playing-card-packet shaped hard drive which could be anything (besides which, most users never see one), or the doughnut/disc shaped CD/DVD which could be anything, and for the most part isn’t used for multiple edits. Ubiquity wins out over accuracy when making something for the masses.

    Anyway, by the time the icons all change over to hard drives, we’ll all have moved onto flash…

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  19. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Good point. Users hardly ever see hard drives – and the primary association of the rectangular shape is usually “the C: drive” in Windows.

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  20. Craig Betts UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Solaris Terminalist says:

    It changed to a 3-1/2″ floppy? When did that happen?

    LINKY

    I am getting so old . . .

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  21. STop DENMARK Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    [quote comment="5799"]The question is – will someone at some point in the future decide to update that road sign?[/quote]
    Probably… but not before we move from transportation to teleportation! (but why bother about road signs then :-))

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  22. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    LOL! True.

    To tell you the truth, I don’t think I would ever use a teleport. For some reason I do not consider recreating a perfect copy of me, molecule by molecule at a remote location and then disintegrating the original such an appealing idea. It goes back to out consciousness interruption discussion.

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  23. ;) Hopefully for you some of the genes that controll how you look will get mutated on the journy ;)

    I am just being an ass hole. :D

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  24. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Wouldn’t really matter though. From my point of view I’d be dead.

    Also, according tho current research in the field teleportaton would be done via quantum entanglement. In other words, it’s a low level copy in which each molecule in my body would be “copied over”. So the DNA corruption would have to happen for every single cell in my body. And even then it would probably take years to see any effect other than maybe my skin getting better, my hair getting shinier and maybe I’d get few inches taler over the years etc. Nothing drastic though – It’s unlikely that my bone structure would change much because that happens mostly in the womb and in infancy.

    Of course that’s assuming that quantum entanglement could have “transmission errors” which I don’t think it does.

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  25. STop DENMARK Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    [quote comment="5852"]Also, according tho current research in the field teleportaton would be done via quantum entanglement. [/quote]

    Well, I’m not sure about this one, but Wikipedia has the following:
    “In June 2007, Ashton Bradley’s team at the Australian Research Council Center of Excellence for Quantum Atom Optics in Brisbane, Australia, proposed a technique that avoids quantum entanglement entirely”

    …Never say never??

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  26. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Sigh… It seems that I’m out of the loop on my theoretical super-science. Now I have to go and learn what the new method is so that I can continue making smart-ass comments about stuff I have no clue about… :mrgreen:

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  27. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I feel pretty attached to the body I’m in too – if teleportation means messing with my molecules then I’m steering clear.

    I know that the molecules I’m made up of constantly change, but that’s a gradual process – I’m never going to completely disintegrate and then reappear out of different pieces as part of the natural course of things.

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  28. Teague UNITED STATES Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Mild Spoiler Alert!

    Have you seen The Prestige? What did you think of it as it relates to the discussion here?

    Reply  |  Quote
  29. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Nope, haven’t seen it. I may need to see it now. :)

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  30. Dorian Gray UNITED KINGDOM Safari Mac OS says:

    Actually, on Microsoft Word 2004 for Mac OS X, the save icon is not a floppy. It is an Iomega Zip Disk.

    Here is a cropped screenshot (small image so easy to miss).

    Zip Disks are also obsolete, but at least Microsoft is trying to keep up-to-date. :) I imagine this icon is also used on recent Windows versions of Word – have a look.

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  31. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Hmm… That’s actually even a weirder choice. I’m pretty much the only person I know who actually owned an Iomega zip drive and some disks. The zip format never really became as ubiquitous as floppies, CD’s or USB flash drives.

    I can kinda see the resemblance to the zip disk in this picture, but if asked random people about it, they would probably say it’s a floppy.

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  32. Dorian Gray UNITED KINGDOM Safari Mac OS says:

    Continuing my point above about the change of the Save icon to an Iomega Zip Disk in Microsoft Office 2004, it turns out that Microsoft changed it back to the 3.5″ floppy icon in Office 2007 for Windows, and also in the upcoming Office 2008 for Mac.

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  35. Steve UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    It should become Jesus, then Jesus really does save.

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  36. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @Steve – LOMAO! :lol:

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  37. cloud9ine UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    The floppy will always be ‘save’ to me. The icon has now come to mean more than the object it represents. I wouldn’t make it an hdd because, what next? SSD? a cube to show a holographic storage unit? a memristor?

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  38. TheFinalBob CANADA Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Although it seems inevitable, I don’t see why it needs to be replaced. It’s finally a universally understandable icon and now we need to change it? It’s almost an instinct to click it, and with everyone deciding they need new, unique, glossy, big-easy-to-read icons, it’s just confusing everyone. I don’t need a 100×100 button to save, I’m sure most of us just CTRL+S anyway.

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  39. yelinna PERU Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    What about the “B” drive? That character was used for the 5″ floppy disks. Why can’t a hard disk have the “B”?

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