Save As Replace Trick

While repeatedly saving a file to overwrite an already existing one, I found a cool little timesaver that’s built into OS X’s Finder. I’m sure this is old hat for most users out there, but for those like myself that didn’t know about it — it’s worth mentioning.
Save As dialog boxWhen saving a file, if you’d like to replace an existing file using the same fileneme, just click the file you’d like to replace from the dialog’s column view (they will be grayed out) — and the filename will auto-populate the “Save As:” field. No need to retype the name. It will even append the file extension, based on what file you click.
A small timesaver, but cool nonetheless. And yet another example of the subtle features that Apple builds into the OS. Too subtle though? It sure took me awhile to discover it — and that was by chance. Then again, I’m not putting much effort into seeking out tips and tricks on a regular basis.


  1. eric says:

    That is pretty handy. I think Windows does that too, actually.
    I do really like the fact that I can drag an open, saved file’s icon (next to the window title) straight to the desktop to make an alias, or right to the Mail dock icon to attach it. Now that’s slick!

  2. I can’t wait to here what you say when you discover UNIX! LOL

  3. Jason says:

    Yes I had been waiting for that feature as many years ago when I used Windoze it was always a great feature and it annoyed me that OSX didn’t have the same functionality. I happened to try it one day in 10.3 and it worked…wow! :)
    It’s only available with 10.3 and up as far as I am aware.
    PS – Not sure if anyone knows that if you want to create a new email with an attachment, you can drag the attachment on to the Entourage (and possibly Mail) icon in the dock and it will open a new email window with the dragged file as an attachment. Handy!

  4. I too think that it is a 10.3+ feature (if it can be called a feature). In fact, I had given up on being able to do this with OS X until I read this post. I had just resigned myself to typing the filename again, which was obviously ridiculous, but until now it was really the only option.

  5. Jared – been using UNIX for quite some time, although maybe it’s interesting that I don’t use it nearly as much as I could/should while in OS X. Mainly when I connect to external servers.
    Interesting that the “save as click” was already in Windows. And I love the drag icon to Mail tip!

  6. This is in every major OS I have ever used.

  7. dayvin says:

    I use Windows at work and Panther at home. Windows save boxes are far superior — for one, you can rename files other than the one you’re working with. I do that all the time. There are a lot of little things like this missing from Panther, for no seemingly other reason than Apple’s desire to be different.

  8. I remember back in the OS9 days I found this feature rolled into DefaultFolder and it was such a time-saver for me. But when OSX came out it was gone, and it also mysteriously disappeared of Default FolderX too! but alas there it was cunningly rolled into Panther.

  9. Eric TF Bat says:

    It’s freaky to think there are features in Windows that are missing from OSX. What’s going on there? Surely the OSX developers should be using the (very short) list of good things about Windows as a checklist: “make sure our OS is never worse than theirs” should be the motto. They’re not worried about being seen to be copying other people’s work without attribution are they? That horse bolted a LONG time ago…
    Granted the Open dialog is Windows is pretty damn good. Even the late lamented Interface Hall of Shame agreed with that, I think. Sometimes, MS does OK.

  10. Lea de Groot says:

    Oh, thank god – they finally added it!
    Not having that in 10.2 was really annoying me.
    Thanks for letting us know, Dan – I’d finally lost the habit of clicking on filenames to get a prototype, so I dont know when I would have found this.
    Mind you, it begs the question of why the filenames are greyed out now that clicking them does something – thats non intuitive!

  11. dotsara says:

    Actually, this is back in DefaultFolderX for 10.2 — but you don’t just click, you option-click and voila!

  12. Josh says:

    I’m pretty new to the mac world so I never really new it didn’t used to do that. I’m glad I switched when I did since I use that often.
    Speaking of good tips, check out this article at
    – Josh

  13. I find it a pain – it means having to be careful when you click, in case you change the name by accident.
    So not sure if it is a great interface enhancement – but an option click would be!

  14. Hmmm I am waiting for GNOME’s new file open/save dialog. It’s modeled somewhat after OSX, but introduces breadcrumbs(!) into the deal.

  15. Ric says:

    Being a life-long Windows user it hadn’t even crossed my mind that this feature might not be part of OSX. Hell, I hadn’t even realised it was a feature, it’s just something it does.
    I think if I had to retype the filename everytime I wanted to overwrite a file it’d put me off doing it.

  16. lo says:

    this is funny, last week my friend reported this “feature” as a possible bug to
    we thought it was so annoying, and you have to be carefull for a miss-click, resulting in an unintended overwriting of a file.
    turns out it’s a feature everyone loves!

  17. Cam says:

    Being a Windows boy, I had no idea that Mac OS didn’t do this.
    The Widnows ‘Save As…’ boxes seem to be far superior in that you can do pretty much anything in them that you can do in Explorer – cut, copy, paste and rename files, create new folders, and they even have the Explorer context menus. This is a feature I use a lot, and it’s sort of disappointing to see that this sort of thing didn’t make it.
    I am still a firm believer that Mac OS is the better overall though – plus it looks so much nicer – and my next computer (when I can afford one!) is going to be a 12″ iBook.

  18. ColetasSoft says:

    What, you mean to tell me that this has not been available in Mac OS till recently? This has been in Windows so long as to take it for granted… go figure ;-).
    And as has been said before, you can do pretty much do anything within the “save boxes” as in Explorer (to the point of actually opening the folders from within a “save box”)… because they *are* Explorer.
    Hey, not everything was going to be bad from Explorer being so far emebeded into Windows. ;-)
    Windows has some great features… though you can probably count them without the need to take your shoes off!!

  19. Denis says:

    Pimp…windows has it also, although the feature sometimes declines to do it, but hey its a Microsoft Product… you know what that Means.
    Go linux !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. Ben says:

    As long as we’re making a list of operating systems that have this feature, anyone still have an Amiga lying around to try out?

  21. Ben says:

    Mac most be slow, that feature is in all the OS’s I use (win98, mandrake9, redhat9, fedora1). Mac will never live up to fedora, fedora 0wnz you all! :p

  22. web says:

    Awesome tips, I’ve got one for those Commodore 64 users like me.
    LOAD”*”,8,1 will run most applications. That you have inserted into you 5.25 inch floppy drive!!

  23. Sadish says:

    Yeah, I too was amazed to see this entry…As a person from windows background, these things are almost like a piece of cake !

  24. Rob Crowther says:

    Speaking of Commodore 64 (I still have both of mine, plus my Commodore 128), I miss being able to just pop something in and type one command to run whatever it was. Now we either have it run automatically, out of control, or we have to find the damned file.
    Anyways, I always took this feature for granted.

  25. Yeah, I too was amazed to see this entry… As a person from windows background, these things are almost like a piece of cake!
    Remember, it’s just me discovering it now. For all I know, this “feature” could’ve been in Mac OS for years. ;-)

  26. greggers says:

    I think that more features like this will pop up as the OS “matures”(With the UNIX back end it is already mature, but they will not shove all that in the users face right away). Although some users will be wierded out by it as show above, it looks like Apple is slowly leaving the philosophy of protecting the user from themselves at all cost. At some point power and versatility come at the expense of being able to muck things up more than before.

  27. Bob says:

    Yeah.. Windows have this feature since Windows95 actually.

  28. Darrel says:

    I can’t believe this was just added. This has been in windows for YEARS!
    Oh…wait…that’s already been said some 30 times in this thread. Oops.

  29. I can confirm this “feature” was in Windows 3.1… but open/save dialogs in Windows where quite ugly at that time. Windows 95 redesigned them right with the explorer pane we still have today on Windows.
    I have to say that I’m quite impressed by the new open/save panels in Panther. It’s a mix of the old Navigation Services of the OS 8 days, the previous Mac OS X panels and the Windows panels.

  30. Gordon says:

    “I am still a firm believer that Mac OS is the better overall though – plus it looks so much nicer”
    Ahh the benchmark of every great OS – as long as it looks good eh? Mac and Windows user here, functionality wise I think Windows still shades Mac, so that’s enough reason for me. As for how it looks? Have you seen what people are doing on the skinning scene with Windows? (Ohh yes, making PCs look like Macs… dammit.. ;-)

  31. Dustin says:

    I really do need to get a Mac one of these days. I love my iPod so much and the desktops can only be better. Grr.

  32. I was forced to use a Mac OS 7 machine when I joined a graphic firm years ago. I was the only person at the company who violently complained daily about hating Apple. I begged for years for a PC, and was refused because of the minor problems that used to crop up from editing AI, Freehand, and especially Quark files on different platforms.
    I then went back to my first love Application Development. My first day on the job at my new web application development company they handed me a G3 PowerBook with OS 9. NOOOOO!!!!!
    I was also issued an HP which I tried my best to use exclusively, but team workflow made that difficult.
    And then there was the OS X Beta release… I was amazed. By the time BBEdit was released as OS X native, I had eradicated all Windows machines from my life. Now even my 2 Compaq iPaq PocketPCs are sitting in a drawer.
    I am a changed man.

  33. Davezilla says:

    Isn’t it cute when Windows users find one or two small features that they’ve had longer than Mac and jump all over them in mock surprise?
    Seems to me that major features Macs have had for over a decade have STILL not made it to Windows, like true gamma control, proper font aliasing (this is getting better), ligatures, complete font sets (no, you don’t have them), full drag and drop of everything including dropping files onto the Terminal…
    I could go on and on but I need to reboot my XP box. Dreamweaver MX on XP = bad. Constant freezes.

  34. Well, if I wanted to “repeatedly save a file to overwrite an already existing one” on Mac OS X, I’d just write a shell script to do it. But I’m weird like that… I suppose you could do it in AppleScript too, if that’s your thing. ;)
    Oh, I just tested this ‘feature’ with a Java app running on Jaguar, and it seems the Java folks have it too…

  35. Dan, try this: Start dragging a file from, say, the desktop. Hit Cmd-tab and switch to your email app (or move the mouse onto the app in the list that pops up), then hit the shortcut for making a new message, and NOW release the mouse button and drop the file in there. Cool, huh? Works with Expos

  36. Eric TF Bat says:

    Yeah, Davezilla. I hear you Apple guys have a command shell now too. Cool! At this rate, by the end of the decade you’ll be discovering binary toggle switches and vaccuum tubes…
    (And Longhorn STILL won’t be out… <sigh>)

  37. Davezilla says:

    OK, that was hilarious, Eric! I just spewed my Coke all over my screen.

  38. Snake Eyes says:

    I personally love this feature, but some of my clients do not. They complain that they are accidentally overwriting important files, and would liek to remove this feature.
    Does anyone know of a way to disable this feature in Panther?

  39. You can also attach an image straight from Safari into a “new message” window in Mail. No need to save and then attach.