I was sitting around a fire with a bunch of friends on the weekend and one of them was doing some work on her notebook. All of a sudden she cried out – her battery had died and she hadn’t saved her work.

“Don’t you hit Ctrl-S all the time?” I asked. To my surprise, not only did she not use Ctrl-S, but not one person in the group knew that that’s all it takes to save your work. Ctrl-S. Hold down the Control key and tap the S key. On a Mac, the equivalent is Command-S.

I’ve always assumed that everyone knows this shortcut, but clearly that’s not the case; and if it wasn’t the case for a group of my friends, I assume that some of you reading this are also in the dark.

No need to click the Save icon - use the Ctrl-S keyboard shortcut insteadSaving is effortless

The beauty of Ctrl-S is that it’s almost effortless. No need to take your fingers off the keyboard, no need to interrupt the flow of your thoughts or disrupt your writing, no need to manipulate your mouse and seek out a menu. Just type away, hit Ctrl-S, type away, hit Ctrl-S, and so on.

This keyboard combo works in most applications, including all Microsoft Office apps, Adobe and Corel apps, browsers and so on, so it’s almost always available.

Of course, the first time you save a document, you’ll have to go through the process of naming it and deciding in which folder to store it, but after you’ve accomplished that onerous task, saving any further work is a no-brainer with Ctrl-S.

A safer approach to your work

After a further round of questioning with our fireside group, I discovered that all of them follow this process when working on a document:

  • Create a new document and start working in it.
  • After typing a page or two or working for about 30 minutes, allow the thought “Oh, I guess I should save this” to bubble up.
  • Save and name the document.
  • Continue working until the task is finished or some major interruption, such as the end of the workday, occurs.
  • Save once more and close the document.

This is a recipe for disaster. If you work like this, you are courting misery. A far more secure approach, one which takes not a whit more effort, is this:

  • Create your document and immediately save it, giving it a name.
  • Start working in the document and press Ctrl-S every few minutes.
  • When you’ve finished working, press Ctrl-S a final time and close your document.

Using this approach, the most you can lose is a few minutes of work. Give it a try – it only takes a day or so to turn it into a habit.

How often should I save?

So, what does “press Ctrl-S every few minutes” really mean?

When determining how often to press Ctrl-S, I perform a pain-of-loss assessment: I ask myself, “How painful would it be if I had to reconstruct that last paragraph?” “That last sentence?” “That column of numbers?” The instant I think, “I’d hate to have to redo that”, I press Ctrl-S. Remember, your computer doesn’t mind if you press Ctrl-S a dozen times a minute, so there’s no reason not to overindulge yourself in this little bit of security.