OneDrive and AutoSave

If you are using the latest version of Microsoft Office and you store your documents to OneDrive then you may have noticed the “AutoSave” feature.

This is a useful feature to ensure that you never lose any unsaved data but there are a few elements to this which should be understood to ensure you get the best from it.

What is AutoSave ?

AutoSave is a feature available in Word, Excel and Powerpoint that will automatically save the file you are working on every few seconds, as you work on it. No user intervention is required – the save is completely automatic.

AutoSave continually overwrites the current file and acts as if you click on the File – Save option every few seconds.

AutoSave is enabled by default when you store a file to a OneDrive location. You can tell if AutoSave is active by looking at the top left corner of Word, Excel or Powerpoint.

The AutoSave control in Word, Excel and Powerpoint

The AutoSave slider appears at the top left corner. When this slider is set to “On” then AutoSave will be active. You can override the default AutoSave setting for an individual file by manually moving the AutoSave slider to “Off”. Note that this will only affect the current document.

The current “save status” of the file is also shown to the right of the AutoSave slider –

Current status shown as “Saving” while the file is being saved

This will show as “Saving” during the save process or as “Saved” when the file is currently up to date.

Current status showing as “Saved” when file is up to date

If you close Word, Excel or Powerpoint before the current file has been saved then a save of the current file version will automatically take place so that the latest version of the file is always the one saved.

Sounds Good – What’s the Problem ?

So far this all sounds good – anything that prevents you from losing your file changes if you forget to save a file is a good thing. This is an excellent feature but there is one particular set of circumstances in which you will need to be aware of AutoSave and be able to work around it.

Suppose you have “Master Template” document and you use this document as a starting point for, say, creating letters to clients. The template has the layout you want with generic details which you amend when you want to create a document for a particular client.

If you open this document and start to change the client details, AutoSave will immediately save these changes, overwriting the master template, and now your master template will have been replaced with a specific client letter.

Before AutoSave you might have modified the master template and then used the File – Save As option to save the changes to a new document. The difference now is that AutoSave starts to save changes immediately, and these changes are made to the original document.  What’s more, File – Save As seems to have disappeared from the menu !

Use “Save a Copy

The solution for this is quite simple. A new option File – Save a Copy will be available when AutoSave is On. To resolve the “master template” issue described above use the following steps –

  1. Open your “master template” file as normal
  2. Immediately, select File – Save a Copy and enter a new document name
  3. Now you can edit and AutoSave will save the new document, not the master

As long as you use the File – Save a Copy option first, before editing the document, your master template will remain unchanged.

Where is the “Save As” Option ?

When AutoSave is on, the original File – Save As option is replaced with File – Save a Copy. Both options do the same thing but this is another reminder that AutoSave is working.

If you switch AutoSave off for a particular file, then the File – Save As option will return for that file.

Version History

Another feature made available by AutoSave is automatic Version History. This can allow you to retrieve an earlier version of a file – either to replace the current version with that previous one, or to store the two versions separately.

If you feel that you have lost work previously saved in a file then it may be possible to retrieve that work by opening a previous version of the file. This should NOT be used for backup purposes but it may help resolve certain issues, especially if a file is modified by more than one person.

To use Version History on a document click on the arrow immediately to the right of the word “Saving” or “Saved” at the top of the window. In the popup window, select “Version History”

Click the arrow at the top, to the right of “Saved”

Now look at the window that opens to the right

The “Version History” window showing available versions of the file

Here you will see a list of the available versions of the file, along with information on when the version was modified and by whom. Click on Open version to open a previous version in a new window.

Once open you have the option to Compare with the latest version or to Restore this version in place of the current version.

You can also use File – Save As to store the version as a completely new file.

Turn Off AutoSave

To turn AutoSave off you must perform the following steps within each app (Word, Excel and Powerpoint)

  1. Select File – Options
  2. Look for the  Save  section of the options
  3. Uncheck the  AutoSave OneDrive and SharePoint Online files by default…
The option to switch OFF AutoSave

Now restart the app, open a file and confirm that the AutoSave slider at the top left corner is set off.

Note that even with AutoSave switched off, OneDrive still has the means to restore previous versions of a file. This will be described in a separate article or you can information from Microsoft at the link below –

Previous Versions

Author: Plus1Support

Owner of Plus 1 Computing - IT services for businesses and home users

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