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I love being able to continue to work where I left off, but not if I explicitly told an application/OS to stop or if it crashed.

Sometimes I choose to restore what I had opened before, but I am not asked most of the time.

It is difficult and sometimes impossible to change that setting and it seems like more and more things adopt this pattern.

Wouldn't an actual choice be the best solution?

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  • Windows 10 added this as a feature for after a restart, but they give the option to disable it. I know most popular web browsers (both on mobile and desktop) provide this as an option. I've don't normally see document editing software doing this. My email clients do not do this. What kinds of applications are you talking about? Feb 21, 2020 at 14:51
  • IntelliJ (IDE), SourceTree(VCSUI), macOS, SublimeText, Firefox on linux, they all do it. For firefox you can not disable it, and macos does it whether you deactivate it or not. Those programs also wont ask, they just do it
    – Iser
    Feb 24, 2020 at 9:23
  • You do not want to recover your previous state in the event of a crash? I think most users would want the opposite. One problem with presenting a choice is that it makes it easy for users to accidentally choose not to continue, and if that happens, you end up with accidental data loss. It's better to err on the side of not losing data.
    – jamesdlin
    Aug 16, 2021 at 2:39

2 Answers 2

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They are just preparing for the worst. Imagine having written a 2000 words page article or filling a form and suddenly the power goes off or the computer crashes.

I agree that the option of disabling this feature should exist and should work, however the developers of the applications you just listed probably believe that it is worth annoying the user for a few seconds and have them close some tabs rather than have them sending angry emails that they lost a ton of progress.

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The key concept here is that of a workspace. A workspace is a persistent environment where your tools and assets are ready to hand in predictable places, so that you can get to work as soon as possible.

Some environments are clearly workspaces. Most complex authoring tools support workspaces. In Photoshop, for instance, you have a set of tools and panels at standard locations. You can rearrange tools and resize panels, activate or deactivate, etc. as much as you want, or you can go to a dropdown and select a preset for photography, illustration, 3D work, animation, etc. The key insight for your question is that when you close and reopen the program, your workspace has not changed.

A typical IDE is also set up to use workspace logic. That is, you're assumed to be working on one project or set of projects for an extended stretch, during which you'll probably need the same tools, windows, and locations accessible. It takes time to open and arrange them all on the screen and hook up the connections if you're doing live views or whatever.

If we look closer, though, there are two different types of workspace logic going on. The difference is in how content is treated. In Photoshop, usually the last image you opened does not persist. It stays in the recent files list, but it doesn't come up when you open it. So the tools remain, but the material changes. In an IDE, often the material does persist. When I open a given project in PyCharm, it opens the set of files I last had opened. The tools in this case are linked to the material. If the project were different, I would need a (somewhat) different workspace.

This brings us to browsers. How do you use your browser — as a set of tools or as the material?

One of my family members is a lexicographer. She primarily uses her computer for email and work. Her work requires her to have 2–3 organization-related tabs and several more tools of the trade at various URLs. When she logs on, therefore, she tends to open the exact same set of sites. For her, the browser provides a set of tools. It's the workspace.

In my case, I wear many hats. My workspace is not the tabs I have open, but my bookmarks. I have them organized into a number of folders and subfolders depending on which task I'm working on: teaching-related materials, programming, music, translation, various hobbies. If any of them were to persist when I reopen, it would be weird, like Photoshop showing me the last image I worked on. If and when I want to save a particular "project", I use a session saver extension. By contrast, this other family member uses very few bookmarks and a session saver only to restore the workspace in case she accidentally closes something.

As you can imagine based on this description, she wants persistence. Why would things close when she'll just have to open the exact same ones? Whereas I'm like you and don't want persistence. Why would old things open when I'm about to start something new?

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