Vivek Haldar

Abolish the "Save" icon

Aza Raskin on the ubiquitous “Save” icon :

It’s a floppy disk. There is only a tenuous connection between saving and a floppy disk even for those of us who know what a floppy is (and at the moment most of us remember them), but floppy disks are on their way to becoming as unknown as Charles Yerkes. Don’t know who I’m talking about? That’s my point.

Floppy disks were a stepping-stone medium — once ubiquitous, they have given way to larger, faster, and more convenient forms of storage. Soon, nobody is going to remember floppies, except for those of us re-living the good old days when we used to replace their magnetic sheets with sandpaper as a practical joke. When the new generation of users takes over, they’ll have no idea of what a floppy is, and the icon will have lost all meaning.

His larger point in the post is about using words rather than symbols for icons, but I want to come back specifically to the idea of “saving” documents.

The idea of creating a digital artifact on a computer and it being ephemeral until one remembers to “save” it to a more persistent medium has caused countless people untold misery since the dawn of the computer age. I haven’t met anyone who does not have their own personal story of loss. Inspiration strikes, you heave a thousand words into the computer, and in the heat and fluidity of the moment forget to save your precious words. And then, the computer crashes. Noooooooo….

But, progress happens.

In most web apps, the concept of saving has simply gone away. You type your stuff, and the cloud captures it for posterity. You do not have to remember to save anything. At least, Gmail and Google docs work this way. This, of course, is how it should be.

I’d go as far as to say that if an app made today has the concept of saving work, it is fundamentally broken and does not belong in the 21st century.