I have a Windows desktop application that can handle multiple files open on one canvas (in one instance of the program). You can modify and save each file individually, or all in one go.

If a user has multiple files open on this canvas and chooses to close the program, normal behaviour from other programs (Adobe Fireworks, Microsoft Word etc.,) shows a separate dialog box for each file that is unsaved. So if there are three files, three dialog boxes are displayed for "Do you want to save file xyz?"

Do you know of any other programs that handle this situation a bit smarter? Like a single dialog box to save multiple files? Or is that too smart, and should I stick with the default behaviour? There is no real limit to the amount of files a user can have open; it's only limited by your hardware memory.

3 Answers 3


The great Aptana Studio has this kind of multiple choice prompt when closing several unsaved files.

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Love the way how you can Select All and Deselect All to swiftly select only a selection. Also the default of having all unsaved files checked by default is reasonable - most likely users will in fact want to save before exiting.

(I am not affiliated with aptana, just love the IDE :) )

  • that is a great example. Are you able to access that dialog any other way? The OPs use case was only about closing the program however having the ability to save multiple files at once within the normal workflow of the app could have value, too. Dec 10, 2012 at 18:10
  • There is a Save all option under the file menu, but it does not bring up this prompt, but just saves all open files. (In an Aptana project, you automatically create a file into a project location, thus there is no need to prompt where to the file(s) need(s) to be saved.)
    – kontur
    Dec 11, 2012 at 8:02

I recommend not doing away with the typical exiting behavior without a good amount of user testing the new proposed behavior.

For many editor type applications the typical one-dialog-per-open-file on exit is hard to improve on. The exiting behavior of Photoshop (which I happened to be using at the moment) brings to the top each unsaved image with the dialog on top of it allowing me to save it, not save it, or cancel the exit.

If this were condensed into a single dialog I probably wouldn't be able to see all the files/documents in question. In some cases this could be very distressing and I'd be inclined to cancel the exit and "manually" close all my open files, thereby foregoing any convenience the new behavior promised.

And is it really that desirable to facilitate a quick exit with 4 or 5 or more files unsaved?

  • +1 for testing and reviewing changes. I do really want to review the changes I made before quit sometimes. You may also look at OS X Auto Save feature which will allow you to exit while keeping all the changes and let navigate through them to restore from an accidental save or edit. Dec 10, 2012 at 17:09

I like the idea that it is smart. But you have to give an option to choose file-by-file as well. I think you should definitely go with it, unless your users are old, or not good users.

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