Managing the Resume Feature in OS X

Gain Control Over the Resume Function of OS X

Resume option when closing Safari
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Resume, first introduced in OS X Lion, is meant to be a handy method to quickly return you to what you were doing in an application the last time you used it.

Resume can be very useful; it can also be one of the most annoying of OS X’s new features. Apple needs to provide an easy-to-use interface to manage how Resume works with individual applications, as well as the overall system. Until that happens, this tip will give you some control over Resume.

What's to Like About Resume

Resume will save the state of any application windows that were open when you quit an application, as well as any data you were working with in the application. Say it's lunchtime, and you quit your word processor and the report you were working on. When you return from lunch and fire up the word processor, you'll be right back where you left off, with the document loaded and all of the application's windows in the same places.

Pretty cool, right?

What's Not to Like About Resume

What if before you leave for lunch, you're working on a document that you don't want anyone else to see; perhaps your letter of resignation, an updated resumé, or your will. What if your boss stops by your office right after lunch, and asks you to show him the proposal you've been working on for a new client. You launch your word processor, and thanks to Resume, there's your letter of resignation, in all its glory.

Not so cool, right?

Controlling Resume

  1. Resume has a system preference that lets you turn the function on or off globally. To turn Resume on or off for all applications, click the System Preferences icon in the Dock, or select System Preferences from the Apple menu.
  2. Select the General preference pane, located in the Personal section of the System Preferences window.
    • In OS X Lion: To enable Resume for all applications, place a check mark in the "Restore windows when quitting and re-opening apps" box.
    • To disable Resume for all applications, remove the check mark from the same box.
    • In OS X Mountain Lion and later, the process is reversed. Instead of enabling the Resume function with a check mark, you remove a check mark to allow Resume to work. To enable Resume for all applications, remove the check mark from the "Close windows when quitting an app" box.
    • To disable Resume for all applications, place a check mark in the same box.
  1. You can now quit System Preferences.

Globally turning Resume on or off isn't the best approach to managing the feature. You probably wouldn't mind your Mac remembering some application states, and forgetting others. There are several ways to accomplish this.

Using Resume Only When Needed

If you turn Resume off globally, you can still use its saved state feature on a case-by-case basis, by using the option key when you quit an application.

Holding down the option key when you select "Quit" from an application's menu changes the "Quit" menu entry to "Quit and Keep Windows." The next time you launch the application, its saved state will be restored, including all open application windows and the documents or data they contain.

You can also use the same case-by-case approach to manage Resume when you turn it on globally. This time when you use the option key, the "Quit" menu entry will change to "Quit and Close All Windows." This command causes the application to forget all window and document saved states. The next time you launch the application, it will open using its default settings.

Disabling Resume by Application

One thing I wish Resume would let me do is to enable or disable it by application.

For instance, I would like Mail to always open to whatever I was working on last, but I'd prefer that Safari open to my home page, not the last web site I visited.

OS X doesn't have a built-in method for controlling Resume on an application level, at least not directly. However, you can achieve nearly the same level of control by exploiting the Finder's ability to lock files and prevent them from being modified.

The locking method works like this: Resume stores the saved state of an application in a folder it creates for each application. If you lock that folder so it can't be altered, Resume won't be able to save the data it needs to recreate the saved state the next time you launch the application.

This is a bit tricky, because the folder you need to lock isn't created until Resume actually saves an application's current state information. You must launch the application you wish to prevent Resume from working with, and then quit the application with just the default windows open. Once the application's state is saved by Resume, you can then lock the appropriate folder to prevent Resume from ever storing the saved state for that application again.

Let's work through an example. We'll assume that you never want the Safari web browser to remember the last web site you viewed.

  1. Start by launching Safari.
  2. Open a specific web page, such as your home page, or have Safari display a blank web page.
  3. Make sure no other Safari window or tab is open.
  4. Quit Safari.
  5. When Safari quits, Resume will create the Safari saved state folder, which contains information about what Safari window was open and what content it held.
  6. To prevent the Safari saved state folder from ever being changed by Resume, follow these steps.
  7. Click on the Desktop, or select the Finder icon from the Dock.
  8. Hold down the option key, and select "Go" from the Finder menu.
  9. From the Finder's Go menu, select "Library."
  10. The Library folder for the current user account will open in a Finder window.
  11. Open the Saved Application State folder.
  12. Locate the saved state folder for Safari. The folder names follow this format: com.manufacturers name.application name.savedState. The Safari saved state folder would therefore be named com.apple.Safari.savedState.
  1. Right-click on the com.apple.Safari.savedState folder and select "Get Info" from the pop-up menu.
  2. In the Info window that opens, place a check mark in the Locked box.
  3. Close the Info window.
  4. The Safari saved state folder is now locked; Resume will not be able to save any future changes.

Repeat the above locking process for any applications that you don't want Resume to affect.

Resume needs a bit of attention from Apple to become a really useful feature. In the meantime, to get the most out of Resume you're going to have to be willing to manipulate apps a bit by using the option key when closing or locking Finder files.

Published: 12/28/2011

Updated: 8/21/2015

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