Be careful what you make defaults

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Victor Frost
Posts: 5
Joined: 2005-07-16 12:11:00

Be careful what you make defaults

Post by Victor Frost » 2005-07-16 12:16:51

I can't believe this has happened. I also can't believe that I am the the first person this has happened to, and that there hasn't been a storm of protest.

I had NWE open a Word 6 document. (I wanted to see how it would do. I have a later version of Word, I just never had occasion to update this particular file.) I noticed some of the formatting was off, and went to try to fix things. At a certain point, I went to do a SaveAs, changing the name slightly. (I used Word format, even though I knew it would be readable only from 97/98 on up thenceforth.)

I looked in the folder and the program had overwritten the original file (AutoSave after 5 minutes) with the same name in the same folder in RTF (I assume; it's certainly not any kind of Word). My original document is permanently gone!

How could such a potentially dangerous feature be a default? Can't there be some newly created folder, can't the name be changed slightly so the opened file stays intact? Yes, I knew about the AutoSave feature, but it never occurred to me that it would overwrite the original file with the same name in the same folder.

I am currently downloading the NWE update, but I looked at the list of release modifications and don't see any sign that this issue has been addressed. Even so, most people will use the product before updating. That means that every NWE CD that's out there (2.0.1) has the potential of destroying people's files right and left before they figure out what can be done about it.

Either: 1, include a clear warning when opening a file that doing nothing will overwite it permanently in 5 minutes if the Preferences are not changed; 2, change the functionality so that that can't happen (different name or different folder); 3, don't make this the default, so that people are really clear about what they're doing if they select this feature.

I was looking forward to this program as an alternative to the hegemony of Word, but somebody didn't think this aspect through.

I want NWE to be my word processor, but that means it has to be able to handle my existing files. I only wanted to look at that Word 6 document from within Word one last time to see exactly what the formatting had been, so I could replicate the paragraphing and other details in the NWE file I was planning to live with. Now I'll never know.

Victor Frost
Posts: 5
Joined: 2005-07-16 12:11:00

Post by Victor Frost » 2005-07-16 15:26:49

When I finished dowloading 2.1.3, I went to open the converted document. The program couldn't do it. Great, I thought, if I hadn't done the SaveAs, all my information would be completely lost.

Ironically, Word *can* open the NWE document created by the AutoSave, whereas NWE can't.

I looked at the SaveAs file and thought, well, I'm going to have to live with this. I noticed a widow line, I went in Help to look up widow. No such topic. Surprised, I thought, that's an aspect to paragraphing, so let it search for paragraph. No such topic.

I give up.

Tacitus
Posts: 96
Joined: 2004-02-12 00:11:45
Location: UK

Re: Be careful what you make defaults

Post by Tacitus » 2005-07-17 01:46:44

Victor Frost wrote:..........

I looked in the folder and the program had overwritten the original file (AutoSave after 5 minutes) with the same name in the same folder in RTF (I assume; it's certainly not any kind of Word). My original document is permanently gone!

How could such a potentially dangerous feature be a default? Can't there be some newly created folder, can't the name be changed slightly so the opened file stays intact? Yes, I knew about the AutoSave feature, but it never occurred to me that it would overwrite the original file with the same name in the same folder..........
Whilst your experience is unfortunate 'autosave' does just that - it keeps saving the file. I know of no wordprocessor that does not have the same behaviour.

Having said that you make some fair points that the Nisus folks may like to consider.

1 Ship NWE with autosave 'OFF' by default. If a user then switches it on, it must be assumed they know what they are doing.

2 Create an option for timed backup files. These would be saved as ~blah.rtf in the same folder as the original. Nonetheless the same problem would apply, each would overwrite the previous file. If you intend to have ~1blah.rtf; ~2blah.rtf; etc created every five minutes that is going to be an awful lot of files created. If you then finish your writing session would these be saved on quit or would they remain? if they remain would they be overwritten at the next session, or would a new folder be created each time, leading ultimately to large numbers of possibly redundant files? Not as straighforward as it might appear, so for me the simplest would be option 1.

Tacitus
History is a nightmare from which I am trying to escape.

Victor Frost
Posts: 5
Joined: 2005-07-16 12:11:00

Post by Victor Frost » 2005-07-17 14:45:04

As long as it has a name that's different from that of the original file, a single backup file that gets overwritten every five minutes would be fine. Don't touch my original, and let me decide at the end of the session whether I want to incorporate any changes. Or perhaps keep both, using a SaveAs feature.

Writing is a spiralling process, and often you change your mind and want to go back to what you had before, or at least want to refer to it so as to collate and make a choice. Think of a yellow pad....

I can't imagine anyone's having the hubris to assume that each five minute block of their career as a writer is better than the five minutes before! But even so. Have you ever selected text so as to format it, and accidentally deleted it? What if in the millisecond before you undo, the AutoSave does its thing (how would you know, if it works in the background?), and then the car hits a pole a mile away and your power goes out? Seriously, this is foolhardy stuff. Is there any experienced user who leaves that box checked?

When I wrote above, I assumed that NWE had created a new file that had overwritten the old one. That's not quite true: its creation date is still in 1997. It simply updated it, but with a vengeance, adjusting the format to RTF (why do they say this is preferred, particularly when the original document is Word?). Now, in Word, you have to do a SaveAs to go from Word to any other format. And the SaveAs file (even if one named it deliberately so as to overwrite the original file) would have a creation date from that session.

cchapin
Posts: 419
Joined: 2004-02-25 18:28:40
Location: Maryland, USA

Post by cchapin » 2005-07-17 16:36:21

I agree with Victor that the autosave feature is not ideal. (See an earlier posting of mine.) I would much prefer Nisus to save to the original file but autosave to a different file. This is what I was used to with WordPerfect for Windows, and it seems to be a better, safer solution.

WordPerfect for Windows kept its autosaves in a relatively inaccessible folder (equivalent to ~/Library/Application Support/Nisus Writer) and deleted them when the user exited the application or closed the document. If the app quit unexpectedly, the autosaved files would be retained. When you next launched the app, it would inform you that there existed an autosaved version of each file that was open at the time of the crash and would let you delete, open or save each of them.

Nisus wouldn't have to duplicate this arrangement exactly, but I think the general approach makes sense. If autosaves weren't deleted automatically when the user closed the document or quit Nisus Writer Express (which would be ideal in my opinion), I'd prefer to have the autosaved versions kept in a special folder, perhaps ~/Documents/Nisus Backup. It would then be a relatively simple task for the user to delete the contents of the Nisus Backup folder periodically.

A new file for every autosave wouldn't be necessary. Just one for each document. That file could be modified with each autosave. Having the autosaved file's name reflect the original's ("Original name backup.rtf"?) would be helpful.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to duplicate important files before opening them in Nisus Writer Express.

--Craig

JBL
Posts: 167
Joined: 2003-04-25 14:33:59

Post by JBL » 2005-07-18 12:40:57

cchapin wrote:WordPerfect for Windows kept its autosaves in a relatively inaccessible folder (equivalent to ~/Library/Application Support/Nisus Writer) and deleted them when the user exited the application or closed the document. If the app quit unexpectedly, the autosaved files would be retained. When you next launched the app, it would inform you that there existed an autosaved version of each file that was open at the time of the crash and would let you delete, open or save each of them.
I think Word does something similar, leaving an invisible file as a backup which is erased if the program exits normally. If not the next time word opens it opens the backup and gives you some message about whether you want to save it. Anyway, I don't care about how it is implemented, but I agree with the others that Autosave should save to a different location from Save.

Talisman39
Posts: 21
Joined: 2003-04-26 13:37:00

Post by Talisman39 » 2005-07-19 09:00:07

It's been a long time since I used Nisus Classic, but didn't it autosave to a temp file with a different name, in the same folder as the original?

Adam

Victor Frost
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Joined: 2005-07-16 12:11:00

Post by Victor Frost » 2005-07-19 11:09:59

That's not what it did with me. 2.1.3 Nisus Express running on OSX 10.3 updated the open, existing file. Although it's ruined, I know it's still the original file, because of the creation date. I of course tried a different Word 6 file to see if the same thing happened again, in case anyone said, is it possible you saved it inadvertantly. (This time, of course, I backed up the old Word 6 file first.) At first, nothing. Then, after 5 minutes, the same thing.

charles
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Location: San Diego, CA
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Post by charles » 2005-07-19 15:37:02

Hi:

Two things I want to say:

1. This is how autosave works on most word processors. (That does not mean it is best, it just is.) However, we will make some changes to autosave to deal with the situation you are describing. For starters, autosave will no longer trigger if you have not modified the document. That way you can open files without worrying about them being overwritten. We will eventually implement something more along the lines WordPerfect did it.

2. Using RTF in the Word format is completely accepted. Word itself will do this, in fact, some times.

Thanks for your feedback on this issue!

Cheers,
-Charles
Charles Jolley
Nisus Software, Inc.

dshan
Posts: 333
Joined: 2003-11-21 19:25:28
Location: Sydney, Australia

Autosave Issues

Post by dshan » 2005-07-19 17:51:17

charles wrote:Hi:

Two things I want to say:

1. This is how autosave works on most word processors. (That does not mean it is best, it just is.) However, we will make some changes to autosave to deal with the situation you are describing. For starters, autosave will no longer trigger if you have not modified the document. That way you can open files without worrying about them being overwritten. We will eventually implement something more along the lines WordPerfect did it.
Autosave doesn't trigger now unless you update the file. In this case it has already been established that the file was updated, that's why autosave kicked in. It seems the issues in this case are really:

a). Autosave every x mins is the default behaviour rather than something that the user enables manually with knowledge of it's consequences. Against this must be balanced the users who expect their files to be autosaved by default who would be upset if they lost stuff due to a crash having not realised they had to manually set autosave on.

Autosave more along the lines of WordPerfect might well be a better approach than either of the above options as they both leave open a window of error.

b). Once the Word file was updated and autosaved by NWX it could not be opened again by NWX (but could be opened by Word). That's a bug, and I guess Nisus tech support would really like to see that file so they can figure out why it couldn't be reopened?

--
David S.

Victor Frost
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Joined: 2005-07-16 12:11:00

Post by Victor Frost » 2005-07-19 21:28:46

I find it hard to see how anyone can equate the prospect of new users (the ones, like me, most likely to get scared and bolt) suffer the loss of irreplaceable data with the tiny inconvenience of one time only having to go to a Preferences window and checking AutoSave, once you know what it is and exactly how it functions. My most important point, the one most corroborated by other users on this thread, and the rationale for this thread (hence its title) is being ignored. AutoSave should not be now, and never should have been, a default.

dshan
Posts: 333
Joined: 2003-11-21 19:25:28
Location: Sydney, Australia

Autosave

Post by dshan » 2005-07-19 22:13:44

Victor Frost wrote:I find it hard to see how anyone can equate the prospect of new users (the ones, like me, most likely to get scared and bolt) suffer the loss of irreplaceable data with the tiny inconvenience of one time only having to go to a Preferences window and checking AutoSave, once you know what it is and exactly how it functions. My most important point, the one most corroborated by other users on this thread, and the rationale for this thread (hence its title) is being ignored. AutoSave should not be now, and never should have been, a default.
That's easy, this actually happend to my sister -- she spent several hours late one night writing a document in a wordprocessor that shall remain nameless and does not autosave, never saved it (didn't know she had to) and then had a system crash. Rang me in a panic asking where her document had gone... She was even greener than you, this stuff happens to people more often than you would believe and it really upsets them (understandably). The goal has to be to minimise the potential for data loss/damage and to ensure that in closing one hole you don't open another.

Simply changing the autosave default might close your hole but it risks opening another, possibly worse, one. There are valid arguments why "autosave on" should be the default behaviour (though I think we all agree a more flexible autosave to another filename/location would be better still) and I'm sure that's why NWX defaults to autosave on. The key point is that NWX should be able to reopen any file it has previously saved. If that had happened in your case you would probably never have even realised it had been saved and no harm would have been done. At least you could recover your file using Word, my sister had to start from scratch. You were (comparatively) lucky.

--
David S.

charles
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Location: San Diego, CA
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Post by charles » 2005-07-21 22:42:55

Hi Victor:

To the point of your thread, the way we would like to solve this problem is to make Autosave non-destructive so that it is safe to have this feature on no matter what.

-Charles
Charles Jolley
Nisus Software, Inc.

cchapin
Posts: 419
Joined: 2004-02-25 18:28:40
Location: Maryland, USA

Post by cchapin » 2005-07-22 07:59:38

That would be the ideal solution. I'm looking forward to it.

--Craig

Mark XM
Posts: 51
Joined: 2003-01-23 18:54:50
Location: Xiamen, China

Autosaving

Post by Mark XM » 2005-07-22 17:51:48

I too, even as an experienced user, have lost hours of work by having autosave turned off for the reason Victor gave. On several occasions, I have been having to work hard and fast editing chapters of a book in mixed Chinese and English and so intent that I have failed to save what I was doing. Then when NWE crashed on me--there were problems with mixed languages of that type--I lost hours of work.
I now try to remember to do an immediate "Save as" on every file of which I might want to keep the original, but sometimes forget and lose the original when I save my work.
There is another possible solution. When you use "Open" in NWE, rather than any other way of opening a file, it has a button to "Open as new file". Could this not either be on by default, no matter how you open the file with a preference to switch, or else come up as an alert asking the user to select new file or work on the original?

Mark

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