Duplicate vs. “Save as” in Lion: How to set keyboard shortcut

Some of you might already have noticed that beginning with Lion, Apple’s started getting rid of the the “Save as…” functionality. Found on every major desktop operating system, it allowed for basic manual revision control. Apple revamped the whole save-system with Versions and the automatic save state feature.

You can use the new “Duplicate” feature to mimic the old functionality to some extend, although, you will have to adapt your workflow a little. When access duplicate from File ⇢ Duplicate, your current window is cloned, duplicated. You can then save it using ⌘S or from the menu bar like you used to and save it under a different file name.

By default, there’s no keyboard shortcut in place for “Duplicate”. You can access it from the menu bar or the small down-pointing arrow next to the window title of an already saved document. You can, however, choose to set a keyboard shortcut.

  • Go to System Preferences ⇢ Keyboard ⇢ Keyboard Shortcuts
  • Select Application Shortcuts
  • Click +


Set it to All Applications and enter “Duplicate” as Menu Title, it’s case sensitive, so make sure it’s written with a capital D.

Now enter your desired keyboard shortcut, but make sure you’re not using any existing global or application specific keyboard shortcut. This setting will have a higher priority, so don’t go for ⌘P or you will no longer be able to print with that shortcut.

You could go for the old “Save as…” shortcut ⇧⌘S. I think it it’s likely to be reused in the future or already in use in different Applications, so I recommend something like ⌃⌥⌘D.

Update: Problems with iWork

This doesn’t work with the current version of iWork as there are two menu items called “Duplicate”. If there are multiple entries by the same name, OS X uses the bottom most, right most entry and in this case, it’s not the one we want.

There’s a workaround, though. You can make an Automator service that makes use of some basic AppleScript actions and assign a keyboard shortcut to it.

I made a service, you can download it here. You need to put in in ~/Library/Services.

Then you can assign a keyboard shortcut in
System Preferences ⇢ Keyboard ⇢ Keyboard Shortcuts ⇢ Services (Scroll all the way down)

For those of you who want to see the code rather than downloading it:

tell application "System Events"
    set activeapp to name of first application process whose frontmost is true
    end tell

tell application "System Events" to tell process activeapp
    tell menu bar 1
        tell menu bar item "File"
            tell menu "File"
                click menu item "Duplicate"
            end tell
        end tell
    end tell
end tell

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8 thoughts on “Duplicate vs. “Save as” in Lion: How to set keyboard shortcut

  1. Either I’m getting old and this is the first sign of aging inflexibility, but to me this is just useless. * thinking hard about returning to Snow Leopard *…

    • I think system wide revision control can be useful, especially if it’s well implemented and easy to use. Novice users and computer illiterates, couldn’t set up or use things like SVN and Git, it’s just too complicated. Now with Versions, they can take advantage of this “pro” feature, without being a pro.

      Wht I don’t like about it is that you don’t have a choice, you have to use it. You have to adapt your workflows and your TimeMachine-Backup fills up pretty quickly as there’s a revision history of every duplicate you create.

      I would appreciate the option to activate it for files created and stored in specific folders, by default this could be the Documents folder in your Home directory, and the option to turn it off alltogether. But as we know, Apple’s not really about choice, they’re about ease of use and they make the decicsions.

      Well, time will tell, I guess.

  2. I do not understand why Apple has supressed the save as… utility. Very often I think that people designing software seems not to have seen a program.

    I am really thinking to dowmgrade to Snow Leopard. This afternoon I spent almost 1 hour to guess what can I do to save a document. Finally I had to check the Internet

    • Hi, Peter

      You’re absolutely right. Engineers and UX-folks at Apple clearly messed this up.

      Duplicate followed by a save is essentially the same thing as save as but with one additional step. No idea why they didn’t just keep it the way it was, it worked perfectly fine that way.

  3. Thanks for the info…question though. I often use the Edit < Duplicate command in the iWork apps. If I assign the shortcut for the Duplicate menu item, it assigns it to the Edit menu (when available) rather than the File menu. Do you know of a way to distinguish between the two when you assign keyboard shortcuts in System Preferences?

    • Hi, Brian. Unfortunately that’s a problem, as I said in one of my other posts: Apple got sloppy.

      There’s a workaround. You can use an Automator service using AppleScript and then assign the keyboard shortcut to this service.

      I’ll update the post.

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