The old technique for disabling autosave and re-enabling traditional text editor behavior (i.e., NOTHING get saved unless one saves it EXPLICITLY) of

defaults write com.apple.TextEdit ApplePersistence -bool no

that worked at least up to and including El Capitan, no longer works in Mojave!

Does anybody know of a way that does work? Or know of a text editor that works the way TextEdit used to work?

Note: Since my original post, I've tried Bean (it seems to do a lot of formats other than plain text), a Mac port of GEdit (as clunky as I remember it), and TextWrangler (it works, but doesn't appear to do anything but plain text; RTF capability would be a plus).

An early (since deleted without a trace) reply indicated that rather than an auto-save, the current TextEdit acts directly on the file contents. This is rather disturbing, if true, but it would certainly explain why, with the "Ask to keep changes when closing documents" flag set in System Preferences/General, the "delete/cancel/save dialog" on a saved file becomes "revert/cancel/save."

  • TextWrangler is able to do other stuff, but has been replaced by a more advanced application (check TextWrangler's website to download it)
    – Sam
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 3:37
  • This has been really annoying to me lately. I can't even revert it because it's on a network volume! Thanks Apple, this is why I'm planning on switching to Linux (not that there are any good rtf editors for linux). Commented Aug 28, 2021 at 21:41
  • SublimeText has an RTF plug-in, but it's not WYSIWYG, it's highlighting the RTF code. Sublime is a generally great text editor though, since you asked for recommendations on text editors in general.
    – Alex
    Commented Feb 4, 2023 at 2:25

2 Answers 2


It is possible.

It's the "Ask to keep changes when closing documents" system setting (when enabled).

Ventura: System Settings > Desktop & Dock > Windows & Apps > Ask to keep changes when closing documents

Monterey: System Preferences > General > Ask to keep changes when closing documents

  • 1
    Thanks. Of course, my new M2 Mini is so fast, this is no longer a speed issue (my old 2017 iMac, on Catalina, can take up to half a minute for the dialog to even come up). So I'm marking your answer "Accepted" even though I probably won't actually use it. Commented May 11, 2023 at 17:58
  • "System Preferences > General > scroll down" - Scroll down... to what? Seems like you forgot to finish typing before posting...
    – Thinkr
    Commented May 11, 2023 at 17:59
  • @Thinkr To the "Ask to keep changes" system setting listed above. The setting is the same in both cases, but in Ventura it's under a section. I'm open to better ways to phrase this. Screen shot: discussions.apple.com/thread/8396738
    – TrueWill
    Commented May 11, 2023 at 18:48

There is no longer a way to do this; the functionality has been removed from TextEdit.

Until the document is closed, you can still use "Browse All Versions" on a network volume; it will still work. In fact, it will even warn you that you'll lose the old versions if you close the window, but not if you quit the app.

CotEditor is a great, free, open source plain text editor in the mac app store. It doesn't have RTF support exactly, but it does have syntax highlighting for RTF control codes, so if you want to memorize stuff like

here is some
\i italic 
\i0 text

then you can still probably manage it.

It does have an "enable auto save with versions" preference which defaults to true, but you can disable it.

Alternately, you could put the RTF files that you care about on your network share into a Git repository, so that you can at least commit them only when you're ready.

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