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Help, InDesign Keeps Reverting My File and Won’t Save Changes

G. writes:

I’ve tried to make changes to a .indd document 4 times now, even saving it with another name. I can export to pdf successfully, but the actual InDesign file reverts to its original version after closing.

This sounds super frustrating! And I hate to say this, but in the majority of cases when this happens it comes down to one of two things:

User Error: A surprising number of people are confused when they use the Save As dialog box, and don’t save the file where they think they’re saving it. I’ve seen a number of instances where people do a search on their computer for a file name and the same file (different versions) show up a half-dozen times, each placed in a different folder.

So, most of the time when people say “I saved the file and later opened it and my changes were gone,” it’s a case of user error. For example, say someone emails you an InDesign file. You double-click on it in the email and it opens. Then you make changes and try to save the file. Because the original file may have been created in a slightly different version of InDesign, InDesign will force you to use Save As to save it. You save it with the same name and in whatever folder shows up in the dialog box. Then, the next day, you try to open that file from the email again, and… it’s the original file, not the one you saved! Oops.

Server, Software, or OS Overwrites: It’s also possible that you’re saving your files in a location that is being overwritten by some backup or mirroring software. For example, let’s say you’re saving your files on a server, and the server is trying to mirror the folder with another one. It’s possible that something is going wrong and it’s wiping out any changes you make. Similarly, I’ve seen this happen (not with InDesign, but other apps) when saving to Dropbox. I save a file that a colleague is also working on, then he saves it, and my version is overwritten by his.

In my experience, I’m sorry to say that this kind of problem is almost always a case of user error. But you definitely need to look at your environment to make sure some other software glitch may not be causing you grief.

Readers, what other causes for this behavior can you think of or have you seen?

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6 Comments on “Help, InDesign Keeps Reverting My File and Won’t Save Changes

  1. I think those two cover it pretty well. Another one might be when someone might inadvertently open the file from the server instead of their local drive. They do all the corrections and changes but it’s saved on the server directly, instead of their local drive.

    I caught myself doing that a few times in the past. I’d have both the server and my drive open and copying the files from the server to my machine to work on (the windows side-by-side). But when I started working on the job, I accidentally clicked the server file. Thankfully I caught it in time, and didn’t back my “old” file on my drive over it.

    Used to work with a gal who always had “operator error.” She would swear her machine was broken or InDesign was broken, because she could never find her saved files. So we had to have IT (which was me and the owner’s son) prove to her she was wrong. It was a fun couple of years :(

    But I can see why there are such issues. InDesign normally saves to the last place you saved a file to. And if packaging a job, it will save that entire folder to the last job folder you packaged.

    I guess folks just have to pay attention a bit more.

  2. +1 for G’s experience — i can confirm that what G has described is not necessarily user error. i have had files revert many times, losing critical client changes. it has not been consistent enough to be reproducible, and it has always happened when i didn’t have the time or wherewithal to track down the cause. i would create a PDF, save the file, close out for the day, and come back the next day to find none of my final changes made to the indesign document. one thing i noticed but have never followed up on is that there would often be a new indesign file in the same folder with a long, all-numbers name. i never went back to check if that’s where the changes got saved. fortunately the problem has not occurred for me in a while.

  3. i use Default Folder, which overrides a lot of the stupidity of apple’s and other developers’ file management practices. but i also avoid Save As to rename a file. (whenever i plan to do that, i forget and overwrite what i wanted to keep.) instead, i duplicate the file in the Finder, rename it, and open it. to reduce the bloat that InDesign causes from resaves, i periodically Save As keeping the same file name.

  4. I had this issue when I first started using CC. It may be because I use a Wacom Bamboo tablet. I haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact cause, but doing this (whether you use a tablet or not) stopped the issue for me:

    Turn off all sync settings
    Turn off the ‘touch’ capability on the tablet

    Annoying and it means you’re not getting the most out of the tablet or InDesign, but much less frustrating than not being able to undo or save your InDesign doc.

    However, a quick fix, just in case is to export to an IDML file and reopen it in InDesign – that way you’ll at least retrieve something!

  5. I’ve just had this problem!

    When I’m working I regularly hit the save button incase it crashes or something. I did a load of work Sunday and today it’s gone. I think what happened is when I opened up the app it showed an earlier version of the doc, I made a change and clicked save, it then overwrote my latest version… I ignored a warning pop up because there shouldn’t have been a problem but think it was telling me that it would be saving over a newer version or something like that. Very annoying, if only I was doing auto time machine backups!

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