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TECH TIPS
with Mary Lou McNatt

Learn tips and hints to use a variety of electronic and technical equipment to enhance work with volunteers.

~ October 2005 ~ Topics


Playing Safe, Avoiding Sorry

When was the last time your computer system crashed while you were working on an important document or project? Have you ever been working on your computer and had a power failure? Have there been instances when the program you were working on hangs up and shuts down before you have saved your work? These instances can cause you to loose your data and be a real headache.

Remember to save your work

It is very frustrating to lose a document that you have been working on and forgotten to save originally or regularly. It is always a good habit to remember to periodically save your work. Some of the ways you can save your files are:

By clicking on File on the Menu Bar and choosing:

  1. File Save As
  2. File Save
  3. Clicking on the little diskette icon on the menu bar
    Or by:
  4. Clicking on <Shift> + <F12> (the hot key combination)

Using AutoSave

There is another way to ease your mind about losing important data you are working on and possibly eliminate a lot of time when you have to recreate a lost document. Use the Automatic Save feature with the software program you are working with. Most programs have an auto save feature.

How does AutoSave work?

Software manufacturers recognize that power outages are inevitable and unpredictable and most office applications incorporate what is known as autosave features. AutoSave automatically and temporarily saves your document in a file it creates. At set intervals, the documents you have open are saved to a cached file. They remain in that cached state and should be accessible once your power is restored. You can’t actually access these files yourself because they are set to work with the auto recovery feature which is part of each individual software program’s operating system.

Why is an automated save system important to you?

  • Saves you time. When you lose a document you can spend more time just trying to recreate it.
  • Eases your mind. You have comfort in knowing that there are processes set up to help save part of your data should a problem occur.
  • Back-ups are automatic. Continuous backups are done on the files you are working on. This can help you from loosing your valuable data. AutoSave saves your work periodically every so many minutes.
  • Ease-of-Use. You don't need expensive tape drives or complex software programs. Most programs contain their own AutoSave feature.

AutoSave goes to work backing up your files once you turn on your computer and open the software program to the moment you shut down the program.

AutoSave is not a computer feature or a Windows feature. It is an application feature. MS Word has a type of AutoSave, MS Access has another type, WordPerfect, yet another and MS Excel has an add-in feature. Generalizations cannot be made about "AutoSave." Each will operate differently based on the problem that caused the application to terminate.

To access AutoSave for Microsoft Word:

  1. From the Menu Bar
  2. Click on Tools
  3. From the drop down menu
  4. Choose Options
  5. Click the Save tab.
  6. Make sure the field called "Save AutoRecover info every" is checked in the minutes box.
  7. Enter an interval for how often you want Word to save documents.
  8. When you are finished, click OK to save it.


The more frequently you set AutoSave to save your documents, the more information you'll be able to recover in the event of a power failure or similar problem. When you select the "Save AutoRecover info every" check box, the changes you make to a document will be saved into a recovery file. Automatic Save does not save your file to the disk, but creates a temporary copy of the file. The recovery file is deleted when you save or close a document. The only part of your document that can be recovered is that which was collected on the last AutoSave. If a power failure occurs, or you need to restart your computer before you have saved or closed your document, the recovery file still exists. Once you restart your software application, recovery files will be opened so that you can save them. If you choose not to save the recovery file, it is deleted.

Save yourself time, trouble and headaches by first remembering to save your documents frequently. Secondly, be sure to use the AutoSave function for added protection. Should there be a power failure or system problem and you lose your document using AutoSave can help you recover your work and eliminate some technology headaches for you and your program.


Mary Lou McNatt has many years of experience working with volunteer programs, advancing our profession and has a passion for introducing the advantages of technology to volunteer programs. She was instrumental in obtaining Ivan Scheier’s body of work on volunteerism and putting it online. She can be reached at mlmcnatt@indra.com.

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