Low-tech fix for the PowerPoint autorecover problem

Back in July, I wrote about an unbelievably frustrating bug in PowerPoint 2004 for Mac. I got burned back in July and lost a very productive several hours of work. Tonight I’m banging away late at the office because I’m back in the classroom tomorrow at BYU and I’m not quite ready for prime time. For reasons that I’ll refrain from explaining fully, I needed to do some work on PowerPoint again. I started in, shocked anew at how inferior the Mac product is to PowerPoint for Windows (which I consider an excellent product, by the way), but that’s a side note. Just a little way into my renewed PowerPoint adventure, I remembered the painful episode of death from last summer, and decided to protect myself this time. The answer of course, is to manually save often, but my problem is that I get into flow and suddenly an hour or so has gone by and I haven’t saved anything.

The answer is my handy dandy Pyrex kitchen timer. I actually keep this thing in my office for various situations in which I want to manage my time, remind myself when some time period has passed, or wake myself up after an uncomfortable nap in my chair, whatever.

Pyrex timer

The Pyrex kitchen timer has one simple but cool feature that I’ve come to value. If you set it for a particular time (say 5 minutes), it will beep when the time runs out (naturally, so that’s not the cool part). If you press the “Start/Stop” button just one time, the timer will stop beeping and launch the timer again. So in practice, here’s what I did. I set the Pyrex timer for 5 minutes. As soon as it beeps, I press ‘Apple-S’ to save, and press the button on the timer. Then I keep working until it beeps again. Repeat until project complete. It turns out to have been fairly non-invasive in terms of my flow, and an emotional lift in terms of my sense of well-being while using PowerPoint for Mac.

Punch line: Just about 15 minutes ago, after spending a very productive hour working on some slides, and literally about 30 seconds after the last time I had manually saved, PowerPoint 2004 for Mac puked its guts out just like in July, offered to restart and fix everything, and then came back devoid of prior content, happy and lobotomized. Other than having to manually reopen the file (of which PowerPoint 2004 for Mac disavowed all knowledge), I’m back and productive… In a sort of “my software package hates me and wants to ruin my productivity” sort of way.

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