Why Microsoft Excel’s new AutoSave feature may cause you to lose work

If you’re a user of Microsoft Excel 2016 at work or home then you may have noticed in the past few weeks the new AutoSave feature that appeared in the top menu bar.

Excel 2016's AutoSave feature is enabled by default for files stored on SharePoint and OneDrive.
Excel 2016’s AutoSave feature is enabled by default for files stored on SharePoint and OneDrive.

I want to specifically caution individuals who store Excel files on SharePoint or OneDrive that there is a situation where you may find this feature causes you to actually lose work!

My day job in the IT project management and governance space requires me to work in Microsoft Excel daily.  The spreadsheets I use are moderately complicated containing thirty or more columns and several thousand rows.

There are times throughout the day when I open an Excel file and perform some quick manipulation like applying sorts, deleting rows and columns, and pasting the results into an e-mail message for a target audience.  When I’m finished, I close the file without saving to preserve the original.  There lies the problem!

In this instance I open Microsoft Excel to perform some ad-hoc manipulation, but I don’t actually want to save any of the changes I made.  Had I not disabled AutoSave before performing any manipulation, Excel would have committed those changes to the file.

The problem gets compounded in an office setting when multiple users with various experience levels begin modifying the same files.  Questions will arise like:  Is our SharePoint library configured to support version control?  How do I find and roll-back a file version in SharePoint?  AutoSave is good, right–should I turn on that setting?  Is this really the last known ‘good’ file we all want to be editing?

While the AutoSave feature in Microsoft Excel may be a blessing for the casual home user managing their personal address list or home maintenance checklist, this feature will be the death of many business professionals with years of experience managing files locally.

Those of you opening and saving Excel files locally to your PC’s laptop will find that the AutoSave feature is “greyed out” and disabled.  For now, anyway.

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