What Would We Do Without Undo?

Undo button

Undo Button by David Singleton, CC-BY-2.0

Like the much-advertised Staples’ Easy Button, Undo is a godsend. It’s the taken-for-granted “oops-I-made-a-mistake-and-I’d-like-to-erase-it” command. The Plain Jane in a crowd of Saucy Suzies. Especially in programs like Adobe Photoshop CS, [Undo] is an often forgotten wallflower amidst flashier commands like Lens Flare, Pinch, Craquelure, and well, just about any other command.

Why can’t we have an [Undo] button on the keyboard eludes me–after all, we already have programmable gaming keyboards with built-in memory, and computers built into keyboards!

One of several versions of the painting "...

The Scream (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[Undo] is [Ctrl]+[Z] in Photoshop, Office, and many Windows applications. It’s the one shortcut that I can never forget, although why it’s not [Ctrl] + [U] is semantically and mnemonically puzzling.

Photoshop is king for empowering designers with multiple Undo capabilities (Step Forward [Shift]+[Ctrl]+[Z] and Step Back [Alt]+[Ctrl]+[Z], to be exact). Photoshop will even let you perform an Undo on an image that you’ve just saved — provided said image is still open in the current session of Photoshop.

For designers, having to save under a different filename every single time a change is made would be akin to waking up to seven days of Monday mornings. The absence of [Undo] would be a death knell to experimentation with digital imagery. Designers would have to be extra creative with their, um, creativity.

In Gmail, it’s the command that, once set up, can also save your life (or career) if you’ve accidentally sent out an email to the wrong party, or wrote something you’ve regretted to the right party, and want to take it back to preserve hide and dignity (provided you execute the “Undo Send” command within 10 seconds of sending out the email). In Outlook, the Recall Email command serves the same function. Sadly, there is no such command for Hotmail.

And so I sing the praises of Undo. You survive as the [Back] button on many a mobile app and gaming console, but may you always find a place in every desktop software program to ever be written in human history. It’s just a shame that there is no [Undo] button for reality. 🙂

Copy and Paste: The Runner-Ups

Angel with trumpet.

Hallelujah! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let’s not shortchange [Copy] or [Paste], either. You can’t have one without the other. The ability to duplicate pixels, or copy and paste huge chunks of data elsewhere (thank you Microsoft for blessing Excel with absolute and relative referencing capabilities) with eye-blink efficiency and speed is indispensable.

Photoshop has also created second-cousins-once-removed commands to these twins — like Image Duplicate, recordable Actions (think of them as more complex Macros), and executable scripts. Just so the task of performing batch post-processing on 1,000 different images a gazillion times doesn’t drive me past the certifiable threshold.

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3 thoughts on “What Would We Do Without Undo?

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