A simple but lifesaving tech tip: recovering an unsaved attachment

I’m pretty meticulous about my IT procedures, and luckily I’ve never had a major IT catastrophe. But here’s a minor IT annoyance that has heretofore sucked up an inordinate amount of my time: unsaved Gmail attachments. And now, there’s a solution!

As I’ve written about before, I use Gmail with my own domain name, to take advantage of the Gmail features without having to use a Gmail address for work. I’m not sure if this oddity is specific to Gmail, but here we go: if someone sends you a Word document as an attachment and it’s in .doc format (i.e. pre-Word 2007), Gmail will not open the document directly, and forces you to save it…so this issue does not occur. But if someone sends you a Word document as an attachment and it’s in .docx format (i.e. Word 2007 or later), Gmail gives you the option to either open the document or save it, and I most often just go ahead and open the attachment so that I can read it right away.

Here’s where you can tell that a key variable in this situation is me: I could simply train myself to *never* use the direct-open feature, but so far I haven’t succeeded at that either. Let’s continue on: you’re happily reading your direct-opened .docx document, and, here’s where I maintain that the issue isn’t just my stupidity, you’re even clicking “Save” periodically and Word is happily appearing to save (actually Word is happily saving, just not where you think it’s saving). Word does not give you the “Save As” dialog box as it would if you were trying to save a previously unsaved document. This most often happens to me when students in my classes send me their homework as a Word document; I want to get back to them right away, so I pop the thing open, type lots of comments, press Save lots of times, and then close the document, and again, there’s no prompt to choose a folder for the document (because Word is stashing it away in an undisclosed location)…the document just closes. Then when you go to reopen it, it’s not in the folder where you fantasize that you saved it (insert an image of me, frantically searching that student’s folder for their Lesson 3 homework that I just spent an hour commenting on…) and the document is not in the “Recent” tab in Word. Where the bleep is the thing?

Well, those of you who are more IT-savvy than I am probably already know that it’s in a deep, dark folder reserved for temporary documents downloaded from the Internet. I promise you, it’s there: but do not muck around and do stupid, panicky things like trying to reopen the attachment from the original e-mail in hopes that your changes will be there (they’re not there, and you’ll only overwrite the copy of the document you’re looking for: don’t ask me how I learned that). Instead, follow the instructions in this post from Oded Ran’s blog “Tech Chutzpah” and breathe a sigh of relief. Seeing that this post has eleven hundred comments made me feel better, because at least it’s not just me. Basically you need to locate the folder where your web browser stores your temporary files, and there you’ll find your meticulously edited Word document, and you can open it and finally hit Save As; Oded’s post will walk you step-by-step through what you need to do to find that folder. Thank you!!!

5 Responses to “A simple but lifesaving tech tip: recovering an unsaved attachment”
  1. David January 13, 2015
    • Corinne McKay January 13, 2015
  2. Morgane January 13, 2015
  3. Shai Navé (@ShaiNavecom) January 16, 2015

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