Automatically "save as" in Word when starting a new document

7 September 2015, 03:20

I’ve been using Word since around 1992 and in all that time have been unable to train myself to tap Cmd+S (or Ctrl+S on Windows) to save a new file as soon as I start it. Instead, I start writing straight away and an hour later STILL haven’t saved the file.

Well, you can guess what happens on a fairly regular basis. Most recently I switched away from Word to research something in Safari and when I switched back Word had gone. I’m still not even sure if it crashed. It had just vanished. When I started it again there was no attempt to rescue my document.

Here’s how to make Word automatically prompt to save a document two minutes after you create it. It’s a basic adaptation of a macro created by Allen Wyatt (thanks Allen!) taken from instructions for the Windows version of Word. It’ll also save the document every two minutes subsequently. These instructions are for Microsoft Word 2016.

  1. Start Word, and then click Tools > Macro > Macros.
  2. In the Macros In dropdown list at the top of the dialog box, select Normal (Global Template).
  3. In the Macro Name field, type AutoExec and then click the plus button beneath.
  4. The macro editing screen will open. Delete everything that’s already there and paste in the following. Note that you’ll need to right-click and select Paste, because Cmd+V won’t work for some reason:
    Sub AutoExec()
    End Sub
    Sub WordSaver()
        Application.OnTime When:=Now + _
          TimeValue("00:02:00"), _
    End Sub
    Sub Saver()
    End Sub
    This will set the autosave time to two minutes, as mentioned. You can change this in the TimeValue part of the macro above — it should be obvious but 00:02:00 refers to hours:minutes:seconds, respectively.
  5. With the macro editing screen still open, tap Cmd+Q to quit Word. You’ll be warned you’re about to save a change to the normal.dotm template. That’s fine.

Note that there’s NO need to enable macros in the Security pane of Word’s Preferences dialog box for this to work.

The only really really minor downside is that if you choose not to save the file then the macro crashes. This means little and only results in a cryptic error dialog box. Additionally, if you’re doing something for a long time in a Word dialog box, such as finding and replacing text, then the macro will try and run, and then crash when it can’t because a dialog box has focus. This is why setting autosave times of less than two minutes isn’t wise.

Thanks to the way Word works, this will only save the document when the Word window is active. If you’re working elsewhere, the macro will temporarily stop saving until you switch back to Word, at which point the timer will recommence.

Know better?

Hi Keir,

I found your article very helpful. I was wondering if there is any way to adapt the macros so that they automatically save a copy of the document in a separate location (as a document recovery feature) without touching the ordinary permanent file-saving?

It seems like it should be possible. The macro could be set to save the file as “autorecovery1,” etc., in a specified autorecovery document. But then that would change the name of the document you are editing to “autorecovery1,” so you would just have to explicitly use the save as function from the file drop-down every time you wanted to save the base version of the document.

The other concern that I have is whether using auto-save macros will interfere with the ability to use cmd-z to undo errors that occurred before the last auto-save…


Peter · Mar 6, 11:45 AM · #