WYSYWIG Users Don’t Save Their Work

I just figured out why my users just can’t learn to save their work every couple of minutes. It’s not really them – it’s the system they are working in. I personally have my fingers trained to automatically hit either Ctrl+S as I type. Actually it’s either that or Ctrl+[:w depending on the editor. :) Even when I type stuff in a text box on the web - like this very post for example, I still try to save as often as possible. In WordPress I just use the Save and Continue Editing function every few minutes despite the fact that Firefox should theoretically save my text as part of the session. Also my important documents are usually under some sort of version control but that's a whole different story.

But then again, let's look back on what type of things do I type the most. I'm a programmer by trade (and choice, and vocation) so most of the day I write code. And what do you do when you write code? You write 3 lines, save, compile (if needed), run it and check the results. I'm used to saving often because this is the only way I get feedback on how I'm doing.

Next, I write papers and documentation in LaTex which pretty much follows the same routine. Write a paragraph or two, save, compile, preview changes. If I write for an hour without saving, I may make few tiny syntax mistakes (like that time when figure numbers in my whole chapter got screwed up) which may bite me in the ass later on.

Finally, I write here, in a tiny text box with shorter posts or in vim for the longer ones. I don't use the fancy WYSIWYG editor because frankly these things irritate me. So I usually mark up my text using HTML whenever I insert images, format embed code samples or just want to emphasize some words. And once again the only way I can get good feedback on what I'm doing is to stop, save and look back.

I'm essentially forced to save often and as a result I have never really lost any work due to some unexpected crash, brownout or just accidental closing of the program window. Or at least nothing that could not be re-created within 5-10 minutes.

On the other hand, I have witnessed people losing 6-8 hours of work because it never occurred to them they should save the document. It actually kindoff makes sense now. They get instant feedback on their work, and Office and similar programs will let them do stuff like print preview without the need to save. The WYSIWYG mode actually promotes this kind of reckless behavior. This is of course no excuse for stupidity. They should know better than this. But sometimes habits override the reasonable thought. Perhaps this is why I always save like a maniac, and my co-workers avoid that save button as if it was actually causing them physical discomfort to press it. The years of use of Word and Excel simply taught them that saving is just something that you do when you are finished with your document.

In fact, I hit that wall every time when I teach Access which forces you to create a database file before you start working. Most students just click through the dialog and create the file in the default spot (usually either My Documents or Temp). Then at the end of the lab session they go into panic mode because they don't know where the file is and the Save As option doesn't work the way they would expect it to.

Breaking habits is hard - especially the bad ones. This actually gives me some hope for humanity. Perhaps all these people are not to stupid to live, but just unfortunate products of their environment. Perhaps I should cut them some slack. In fact, perhaps I shouldn't really feel bad for them when they loose their work. I should be happy for them - this sort of thing is a formative experience. After they lose a days worth of work 3 or 4 times in a row they might actually get paranoid and start saving every few sentences. And that's precisely what a normal, well adjusted person should do. :mrgreen:

[tags]WYSIWYG, word, excel, office, saving, data loss[/tags]

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14 Responses to WYSYWIG Users Don’t Save Their Work

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

    I normally hit save whenever I reach the end of a chunk of stuff (i.e. when I’ve stopped doing stuff for a minute to think about what’s up next).

    That way it’s not an interruption and my stuff says saved :mrgreen:

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  2. Steve CANADA Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Well, depending on what app I am in, I hit save alot. In the case of games, everytime I do or kill something! Nothing’s worse than getting past a difficult area, forgetting to save, then getting killed! :)

    As for programming, I save constantly. Force of habit…

    For word processing I usually save just after spell-checking/grammar checking…especially to avoid using “loosing” instead of “losing” :) lol

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

    [quote post="2311"]especially to avoid using “loosing” instead of “losing”[/quote]

    That is one of those cases where spellcheck is helpless. Sigh…

    I do it a lot, I know. I’m working on it.

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  4. un4scene UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Hey poodle! Well I can speak to this as an end user (the folks that perplex you).

    I had an old boss who would save version after version of draft chapters but she wouldn’t start off with a save-as when she opened the document. She’d instead put in all her edits and when done do a save-as and name the new document according to the date/time she was done with it. She didn’t know this information until she was done with the edits hence she couldn’t’ name it at the beginning.

    This probably seems bassackwards to you but this is just the way she worked. It only hurt her once in all the time I worked with her when our network went down and her program got locked up. That is when I found out about her document saving logic.

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  5. Aaron UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    The only time I don’t click save constantly is when doing graphics. I got used Gimp’s stability on Linux, so sometimes I won’t save for hours. In Gimp this has only bit me two or three times, and not hard enough for me to learn my lesson, but when I started using Inkscape on my old laptop, I had to try to break the habit because sometimes it would bring the whole system to a halt.

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  6. Ricardo INDIA Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    This reminds me of an old neighbor that one day screamed so loud that I though, hearing from my flat, that someone was dying or something. When I arrived there, he had lost a whole night of work. He hadn’t slept at all and had to deliver the report on that same morning.

    my important documents are usually under some sort of version control but that’s a whole different story.

    I also do that!! Most of my documents that are bigger than a blog post I tend to store at CVS or VSS.

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  7. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @un4scene – yes, people like your boss totally perplex me. Especially since Windows actually keeps that information for you in the file system. Each file has creation date and last modification date associated with it.

    Also, MS Word has a versioning feature since Office 2000 if I remember correctly. I think you can enable it under File Properties – then every time you save, it basically takes a snapshot of the current document state – and you can roll back to any previous version at any time.

    I can see how sometimes putting the date in the filename would make sense, but I never cease to be amazed how far are people willing to go to shoot themselves in the foot with thechnology. :P

    @Aaron – I save especially often when working with graphics. Cause it is usually easier to retype a paragraph than the recreate that cool effect you spent last 20 minutes making in gimp/photoshop.

    @Ricardo – LOL

    Also, I’m a subversion guy myself, but I guess it’s all a matter of taste and habit. :) I must say though that Tortoise SVN client is an impressive piece of software in the way it seamlessly integrates with explorer and how easy and intuitive it is to use. I went through dozen linux or cross-platform Subversion clients and I have yet to find one that would allow me to do in KDE what I do in Windows with Tortoise. It’s trully bizarre that my favorite svn client is windows based. :P

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  8. Ricardo INDIA Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I will check it out, thanks for the tip.

    My thing with VSS is that the company I worked at used it so I was kinda forced into that and never really looked for alternatives or ways to export the data.

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  9. kqrl SWEDEN Mozilla Firefox Fedora Linux says:

    Hmm, I save frequently… Think it’s a thing I learned from programming…
    Even when word processing I have almost after every word. I sort of unconsciously hit ctrl-s when working in OO Writer. Sometimes I’m on a ‘writing spree’ and maybe skip saving for several sentences, but that’s exeptions. When in vim it’s sort of a habit to : w i

    When programming, I also save different versions whenever I’ve made a working change, to be able to roll back to a previous version if it fucks up.

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  10. kqrl SWEDEN Mozilla Firefox Fedora Linux says:

    Also, forgot to add… Just noticed as I sent the post…
    Whenever I need to send some chunk of text through the browser to a server, I put the text in the clipboard, in case the sending fails.

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  11. jambarama UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    This is an easy fix – us coders can protect our users. OO.org has autosave, and Google docs autosaves too. MS Office has an option for it, and there is no good reason it shouldn’t be on by default. OO.org 3 is going to have revision control built in too, google docs already does. Lots of games have autosave, or save points that are hard to miss. There is no reason autosave shouldn’t be built into every app.

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  12. Miloš UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I agree with jambarama…Word 2007 autosaves info every 10 minutes by default I believe. So if developers do more work up front if will save these people’s lives as we all know that most of them will never change. :(

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

    But Word doesn’t auto-save when you open a blank document and start typing. And that’s how most people start their work.

    Also, I knew people who would habitually disable the auto-save feature because it was “hurting their productivity” – he was annoyed that Word would usually skip a beat while Auto-saving (he had an old, slow computer) and he considered that an interruption.

    Users will always find ways to circumvent the measures we devise to protect them.

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  14. Miloš UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Good point, I didn’t think of that as normally saving the file in its location and under a desired name is one of the first things I do.

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