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'Save a Copy As' is my new favorite command

Every time I talk to Mitchel Stangl, I learn something new. Mitchel’s a mechanical engineer who uses SketchUp Pro to build massively intricate models of processing and manufacturing facilities. On his last visit to SketchUp HQ, Mitchel helped me improve my workflow by telling me about the File > Save A Copy As… command (which we apparently added at his suggestion).

When I’m working on a big model in SketchUp, I like to save a new copy of my file every few hours. Doing so lets me easily go back to a previous version in case I’ve accidentally deleted something I need — this happens more often than I care to admit. It also provides a measure of protection against file corruption, which isn’t common, but can be devastating.

For the last eight years, I’ve been choosing File > Save As… and creating a numbered copy in the folder that contains my project. The result is a long, long list of sequentially numbered files. The most recent is the one with the highest number appended to the end, as you can see in the screenshot below. Simple, no?

Using File > Save As... to create a sequential archive of files is straightforward, but there's a more efficient way to work.

There are two problems with this system (as I’ve come to find out the hard way): First, when I come back to a project after a hiatus, I’m never 100% sure that I’m working on the latest version of my file. Maybe I saved a newer version somewhere else? Second, when I’m working on a set of drawings in LayOut, the linked SketchUp file always needs to be the most recent one. Every time I change the name of the SketchUp file (three or four times a day), I need to manually re-link the new model to my LayOut file. Yech.

If you periodically "Save As" your SketchUp model with a new version number, the workflow with LayOut is awkward. You'll spend a lot of time relinking your current model to your LayOut file.

Using the Save A Copy As… command (instead of Save As…) takes care of both these issues. It lets you save a version of your model as a new file without renaming the one you’re working on. The saved versions can be numbered and archived, but the “master” version is always called the same thing. There’s no confusion about which is the latest, and working with LayOut is twenty times easier. Presto.

Choosing Save A Copy As... allows you to save "snapshots" of your model while continuing to work on the same file. I like to keep an archive of old versions in a separate folder, just to keep things tidy.

I love it when answers to complicated problems are so simple. Thanks Mitchel!

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Unknown said...

And it was right there in front of me all the time!
This is a great tip, thanks.

Mox Fulder said...

excellent, depuis le temps que je cherchais cette astuce

thank you



Anonymous said...

I knew about this ages ago... (insert evil laugh) Well worth blogging about though. :-)

Unknown said...

If you save your copy in a folder managed by DropBox or similar, your work will be safe also if your PC suddently burns, of a metheor hits your office (even if you will be probably death :D )

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jeff hammond said...

old school..

google needs to hook sketchup up to osx versions

Peter said...

Mitchel, you are a god!

jeff hammond said...

i guess i should elaborate a little on that so the comment is less snarky looking :)

i basically work the way you do.. a project folder which has all the different 'along the way' saves and whatnots.. (and some projects will have over 50 skps )

so, everything seems good and i feel safe etc..


you actually have to go looking for something in one of those files.. it becomes a nightmare finding which file was saved at which step.. to further complicate matters .skps have no preview thumbnails so you have to open the files manually to find what you're looking for..

sometimes a project has multiple ideas and at some point, the master may split off into one direction then later on, you might want to go back to that fork and bring in the other option.. finding that point in your copies can be such a daunting task that i'll often just redraw the other idea in the latest master version..

with Versions however, all the different snapshots etc are included in one single file.. you can browse through all the versions/save points very easily, at large size.. you can easily copy/paste between an old version and the latest version etc.. it just makes things way easier/faster.

and a bonus is that you have a single project file instead of a folder full of .skps that you'll more likely than not never open but for whatever reason, keep them hanging around.. clogging up space and making things confusing to find further down the road..

Bruce said...

I do similar method, but use the date. I just add a _040612 to the file name if I save on April 6, 2012. Details does show a date but this seems to be easier for me.

SnowTiger said...

I use "Save a Copy As" whenever I'm working on a 3D Geo-Model. I find it easier to save versions (as described in this article). I always have a working drawing; a copy of all model parts, bits and pieces and textures; a final copy of the model in which I remove the GE Image/Terrain Layers prior to uploading my model(s).
The latter ensures that I always have a master working file where the GE Image/Terrain Layers remain so I can return to it to make any changes/corrections.
"Save a Copy As" is an extremely useful command.

Andy said...

This is all very helpful. Now I'm curious to know how to use the "Versions" function.

A note on file naming... if you want to add the date to the end of the file name, do it in reverse order (i.e. year-month-day)then your files will list in cronological order. (e.g. April 6th, 2012 would be 120406)

J H Long said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J H Long said...

I've been doing this years before Google was even a company. Let me make one helpful hint. Instead of naming the file with numbers like file1 file2 file3 etc. try naming it file01 file02 file03. The zero at the beginning allows the files to be listed properly when you get to numbers above 10. otherwise it would be listed as file1 file10 file11 file2 etc.

jeff hammond said...


the Versions I was speaking of is a feature available in OS X..
the developers have to hook their software up to the feature in order to make use of it.. sketchup developers haven't tied into it yet though.

another 3D cad app I use (rhino) has it hooked up and it's a real sweet way to keep track of everything.

August said...

I use both 2012-0405 as a date format and the v01, v02 after the main filename as sort indices, depending on what I am working on, what the process timeline is like other collaborators, etc.

AFTER that sorting index I had a note on why I made that copy, e.g, "v03 input works", "v06a trying to get X to fit", etc.

The pattern is then:

DavidXJ98 said...

Man... I have been struggling with this issue myself recently. This is especially important when brainstorming ideas with a customer who second guesses their decisions a lot.

Thank you VERY much for posting this tip. It will make organizing myself a lot easier and less risky.

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jeff hammond said...

this post inspired me to make a little sketchup service which sort of gets at what osx Versions is doing…

a vid showing it in action:

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August said...

This venue apparently has no mechanism for identifying a post as spam. I believe the above post is spam. At least they said "thanks for leaving the door wide open", or words to that effect.