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There are situations where I opened up a photo or graphics file, and made 81 modifications to it (crop, adjust color, brightness, contrast, etc, etc), and when I am ok with that file, I use

File -> Save As

to save the file as a new file. But since File -> Save and Save As are so close to each other, there are times that I chose

File -> Save

instead. And my original file is gone. For this

1) Is there a way to bring back the original file easily?
2) I can immediately "Save As" new_pic.jpg and then undo all those 81 steps and then "Save As" again using the original file name.

But are there better ways to handle it when it happens? I think a better way is to first make a copy of that file, and then edit the copy, but usually I don't know I truly want to keep the new file and use Save As, so usually I won't make a copy first.

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For Windows, see "Versioning files in Windows XP" at – Arjan Feb 26 '10 at 13:30
Well, in windows, it does give you an option to overwrite the file if it exists already. So, you just have to make sure you know if that's what you really want. If you still proceeded to overwrite the file then that's what you wanted :). You could also try to 'UNDO' the changes and then save, so you get the file back. – SoftwareGeek Feb 26 '10 at 18:01
Since you don't mention which OS/Version you're using this may (or may not) be useful... – James Snell Jul 28 '14 at 8:23
up vote 16 down vote accepted

When you know from the start that you are going to save your file under a new name afterwards, then do "save as..." immediately because then it's taken care of already. When you later save, it'll be in the copy as you intended.

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The habit to get into with any document, if the new one is to be substantially different from the old one, that you need both, is to always use the sequence: File Open, Save As, then edit, then you can Save. Also some programs autosave, so this will help there. – Martin Feb 26 '10 at 12:46
I kicked myself a couple times for opening a document, changing the entire thing and then doing a Ctrl+S and then :-O! I now ALWAYS save the document under the new name immediately and then start making changes. – rodey Feb 26 '10 at 13:31

A simple solution might be to make the original photo read only. If you do this as part of the routine you use when you upload from your camera it shouldn't be too onerous.

Then when you come to save you should at least get a warning that the file is read only which will remind you to use save as.

Unfortunately there's no simple way to bring back the original once it's been overwritten on the hard drive. Your approach of undoing your edits and resaving is the one I'd use too!

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If you use Linux there is copyfs that does automatic versioning and wayback-fs which claims to be able to add this to any other filesystem, though unfortunately both of these currently appear to be unmaintained.

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Likewise, for what I've heard, Shadow Copy on Windows Vista Ultimate, Business, and Enterprise, and all versions of 7 -- – Arjan Feb 26 '10 at 13:23
ShadowCopy (and similar features elsewhere) would save you if there was a length of time between the original being saved and the new copy being saved on top, but "creates copies on a scheduled basis of files that have changed" from that link implies that it won't necessarily save you from wiping a recent version. – David Spillett Feb 26 '10 at 14:18
Ah, running at schedules, that's no good indeed. – Arjan Feb 26 '10 at 14:36
I wouldn't say no good - my daily snapshots have been a godsend before now! It is a trade off between safety and how much resource (space, I/O bandwidth, CPU time, ...) goes into creating/maintaining/using the snapshots. If you save regularly and the filesystem (like copyfs) keeps absolutely all saved versions, you could end up with many intermediate versions stored that you'll never care about. – David Spillett Feb 26 '10 at 17:48

Some online services like Dropbox will try to save a new revision whenever you hit Save (if the document is in the Dropbox folder).

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You don't mention the software you are using, but if it is a recent version of Adobe Photoshop you should have "VersionCue" available, that is supposed to give some kind of version control to Adobe documents. Might be tricky to setup.

Another alternative would be something like Adobe's Lightroom, where versioning takes places automatically -- changes you make in Lightroom are always reversible and if you makes changes to an image outside Lightroom, you can always go back to the original. Apple makes a similar product called Aperture and then there is Google's Picasa -- although I'm not sure how it handles edits made in an external application.

I actually use a combination of Photoshop and (of all things) Apple's iPhoto. The iPhoto program keeps the original file, makes it easy to share and review images, and I can still use Photoshop for the heavy lifting.

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Best chance would be Recuva, other than following the solutions above, this is the only software solution that might prove useful if you exit the program and open it up and realize the problem after doing so, i.e. no ctrl+z or remembering to save as.

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Nice, but sounds more like damage control, and certainly one cannot rely on that? (More undelete software in "Best undelete tool for NTFS/FAT?" at – Arjan Feb 26 '10 at 14:14

An application specific method: if your app supports enough levels of undo and you realise what you have done before closing the document, you could just undo until you get back to the old version (if you opened it fresh before editing then undoing all the way will do this, otherwise you'll have to try judge how far back to go) so you can save it under another name, then close it and rename the resulting two files to reflect their current content.

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