Matt Gemmell

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Save sheet shortcuts in Lion

guide, interface, software, tech & user experience 1 min read

The standard and thus ubiquitous save sheets (document-modal dialogs) in Mac OS X have for years supported keyboard shortcuts for triggering the main buttons. With the release of Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion” yesterday (read my review of it at The Guardian), there are a few changes to those shortcuts. This brief article describes them.

Here’s how the standard save sheet (provided by the NSDocument architecture) looks on Snow Leopard:

The standard save sheet in Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard

The buttons can be triggered via the keyboard as follows:

  • Save can be triggered with the Return key.
  • Cancel can be triggered with either the Escape (Esc) key, or by pressing Command-Period (Command-fullstop).
  • Don’t Save can be triggered with Command-D.

Things are slightly different in Lion. Here’s the new (combined) save sheet, as used by TextEdit:

The new (combined) save sheet in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion

The new keyboard shortcuts are more logical, more convenient, and safer.

  • Save can be triggered with either the Return key, or by pressing Command-S.
  • Cancel can be triggered with either the Escape (Esc) key, or by pressing Command-Period (Command-fullstop).
  • Don’t Save can be triggered with Command-Backspace (the ‘delete’ key above the Return key).

Since the user will probably associate Command-S with saving (it triggers the Save menu command, after all), it makes sense to also assign that shortcut to the Save button within the sheet. However, that creates a problem: the previously-standard Command-D shortcut for “Don’t Save” puts two opposing commands on adjacent keys (since S and D are adjacent on a QWERTY keyboard).

It would be unacceptable to invite the inevitable physical slips this would cause, so “Don’t Save” is now triggered by Command-Backspace (which is an excellent shortcut, since not saving means your document’s contents will be deleted, in a sense, and hitting Command-Backspace is slightly more difficult than hitting Command-D).

Here’s hoping that apps which roll their own save dialogs/sheets will adopt Command-Backspace for “Don’t Save” soon. As I’ve said before at conferences and elsewhere, dangerous actions should be a little harder to perform than safe ones.

(I’ve also been tweeting extensively about Lion recently; you may want to follow me (@mattgemmell) on Twitter.)