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.


  • Dawn Kerswell


    Such a simple task I have overlooked for as long as Ms Word has been around. Thanks for reminding how easy it is to save on the go.

  • Gwmunn

    Why not just use autosave?

  • Autosave is mindless; that is, it saves at a pre-determined interval, regardless of how much effort just went into the last phrase you wrote. The autosave may not come in time to save your work.

    You could set autosave to save every minute in File -> Options -> Save (the default is every 10). But I find that sometimes I don’t want my document to be saved automatically, because if I make a monumental screw up and an autosave occurs while I’m in the process of making that screw up, the screwed up version of the document is saved.

    Finally, not all programs have an autosave feature, but Ctrl+S works in almost all of them.

  • Gav

    That reminds me of the days when i was  learning how to use computer; it takes me a half hour just by saving ‘coz i really dunno  where  to. When that memory flashed it makes me smile and laugh aat my own foolishness. lol

  • crystallized

    Great article.

    I have this habit but it seems that I’ve taken it too far. I find myself occasionally pressing Ctrl+S where I don’t need to use it such as in Firefox while browsing which brings up the “Save As” dialogue for saving the whole webpage. It happens a few times per week. Either way, it’s better than not using Ctrl+S at all.

    You simply “can’t live” without keyboard shortcuts.