Full disclosure: I'm yet to come to terms with the Versions feature and that saving ain't saving anymore. I've had no shortage of dramas losing work and losing track of files since the feature was introduced, so maybe "I'm Doing It Wrong"TM.

The latest drama comes about when using file syncing applications. In my case, Box. I have a regular workflow that looks like this:

  1. Open a file stored in my Box Sync folder on one computer, do some work, save it.
  2. Open the newly synced file on a different computer, do some work, save it.
  3. Return to the original computer, where the file is still open...

At this point I'm faced with a challenge. The open file doesn't have the changes from the other computer, which is normal - I haven't re-opened it from disk. However, there is no longer any way to close the file without saving the current contents! I can either close and revert (which replaces the file on disk with the last saved version on that computer) or I can close and save (which replaces the file on disk with the current version on that computer). Either way, I lose the changes I made on the other computer.

The best workaround I've come up with is to force quit the application (which is risky), or to duplicate the open file in Finder, close the open file (choosing revert or save - it doesn't matter), delete the just-closed file and open the duplicated file instead.

Pretty convoluted right?

It gets worse when I'm sharing my Box folder with a second person - in that case I need to be mighty sure to close the file after every editing session, or risk overwriting the other person's changes.

Is there any way to rescue some sanity before macos descends completely into iOS-banality?

  • Unfortunately simple file operations don't sync well you have to write the application to deal with possibly shared files. As you note they can change on anopther machine. Welcome to multi user issues even with one user. Apple now provide ways to do this with iCloud and also there is dropbox API. As for real multi user - have fun I would look at version control systems - you don't edit the same file but a copy of the one synced .
    – mmmmmm
    Jan 29, 2018 at 0:05
  • I use lots of version control systems, but they are for a different purpose. I just want Box to work like it always has. Box already knows how to deal with shared files - that's what it is designed for and it was written for that purpose. And it's not just Box - anything that can change a file on disk while it's open will lead to the same problem, despite the fact that this has been a solved problem for at least a decade. It's macos Versions that is now causing the strife. Jan 29, 2018 at 0:11

1 Answer 1


Good news. After some prompting over in the Apple support forums and experimentation, I've discovered that the "close and revert" option does not do what it says. In fact it closes the document without touching the file on disk - exactly what I'm after!

To recap, when closing a modified file that supports Versions, this dialog appears:

enter image description here

There does not appear to be an option to close without changing what's on disk. However, the Revert Changes button actually behaves like a Don't Save button, leaving the file on disk untouched.

This is precisely the behaviour I need to support the case where the file on disk has been modified by another application and I want to preserve those changes.

As made clear in the Apple thread, this is all probably subject to change and may be fragile, but for now I have a solution.

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