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Currently, the save icon in almost all applications represents a 3.5-inch disk from the 20th century. An example from Microsoft Office 2010 is shown below:

Save icon

As we move towards more advanced technology, this "disk" save icon now seems obsolete. Kids born in 21st century might not even know what a disk is.

Is there any good alternative save icon out there that can replace this "disk" save icon in applications? Or, probably we can design a new save icon here and make it a standard? Ideally, the icon should not represent any hardware, because it will become obsolete again as technology evolves.

Very IMPORTANT Note:

This question is NOT to discuss whether we should change the "disk" save icon or not. I know the icon is still perfectly OK and friendly to the end users. There are questions on Stack Overflow and ui.stackexchange.com that discuss this.

I just want to look for good "save" icon that does not look like a disk (or hardware). Just take this question as a brainstorming or a design challenge. :)

At least one save icon image per answer please.

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Correction: Kids born in the 21st century do not know what a floppy disk is: youtube.com/watch?v=gdSHeKfZG7c –  Can Berk Güder Jan 8 '11 at 18:55
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It should be a picture of Jesus because everyone knows that Jesus saves. –  John Jan 9 '11 at 1:06
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I'm wondering if the notion of 'Save' in the sense we use it now will itself become outdated, superceded by an elegant implementation of undo/redo, version history etc. Perhaps something along the lines of 'Tag milestone version' might become more relevant in time. –  e100 Jan 9 '11 at 11:04
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@zzzzBov, @muntoo: I was kidding! It was a joke! –  John Jan 9 '11 at 17:51
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@e100 Not everyone's a programmer. –  muntoo Jan 9 '11 at 20:53
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23 Answers

I am really interested in the graphical solution of this question, but I really believe that when a standard is globally accepted, you will never lose that standard even if doesn't mean anything anymore (or at least until a better standard takes over).

Example: Qwerty keyboard VS Dvorak Keyboard. The Dvorak Keyboard it is more eficent for typing, but the Qwerty keyboards are the ones that we use and we'll keep using.

The preference is for something that we are used to using; it can be decisive in our choice between "what we want to use" and "what is best to use".

Another example could be the term SPAM. I think that in the future as well people will keep using the word without needing to know from where it originated. (Monty Python Sketch about Spam)

Anyway, a possible icon solution could be to use a different visual metaphor. We are saving currently on hard drives and not anymore on floppy disk. So I think that using hard drive instead of floppy disk it could make the difference. The problem now is, how to represent an hard drive?

Tango Desktop Project has an example, even having a repository of textual visual metaphots for various icon defining saving as: "Hard drive with an arrow pointing onto it".

alt text

I personally would emphasize that it is an hard drive by adding the abbreviation "HD" as graphic text nearby the iconic graphic of the Hard Drive, not many people have open a PC, but many more know what HD means when they buy a PC.

The idea is solid, you have just to find a good icon style that fits your needs.

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@Littlemad, that icon is good. However, I would oppose the idea of adding "HD" abbreviation, because users might be saving the file in thumbdrive/other hardware. To me, it is good enough and depicts the meaning of "save". And thanks for the Tango link by the way. :) –  Gan Jan 10 '11 at 6:33
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Also, in regards to the HD graphical text, that would not benefit users who speak other languages. As far as I understand, good icons shouldn't rely on a given language. Otherwise, localized software will also need an additional set if icons for each locale. I like the graphic though. –  Andy Groff Jan 11 '11 at 22:35
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@Andy Groff it is true what you say, but some technical terms comes from other languages and are naturally implemented in the current language. I am italian, and if I talk in Italy in italian or in Spain in spanish (I am living in Spain) they know what it is an Hard Disk at the shop of computers. Yours anyway it is more than legitimate point. –  Littlemad Jan 12 '11 at 1:09
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Depending on what I do, even saving to a hard disk is not always true, either. Any "artifacts" I am working on, whether it be documents, code, etc., they all live in "the cloud", in one form or another. Not saying that I dislike the concept, but even saving locally may come to be what a floppy disk is to us today. It lacks that "timeless" aspect that I think a replacement should encompass. –  joseph.ferris Nov 30 '11 at 15:14
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Follow up: To the average person, nowadays, HD means High Definition. –  dkuntz2 Jan 7 '12 at 1:09
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Quick & dirty mockups:

save mockup saveas mockup

  • Retains the resemblance of a floppy disk (but doesn't have the identifying "slider" in bottom)
  • Has the idea of downloading i.e. saving to a bucket
  • Because symbol is abstract the writing pen metaphor wouldn't work for save as
    • + hints the user that button will save a new file i.e. "save as".
  • Works with one colour*
    • Not necessary for technical reasons, but icon should be identifiable by its shape, not colours (exceptions apply)
    • Leaves the styling for app's GUI designer
  • Could use the same description from Gan's entry (designers are usually lazy so this is a big plus):
    • New timeless symbol This new save icon embodies our current use of the term "save". No longer restricted to any physical media, rather focusing on the action of storing something for future use.

Criticize the idea, not the implementation.


*) Made a mistake with +'s first stroke — it is white not transparent — but as said: these are quick & dirty mockups.

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@JAG2007 For someone who hasn't seen the floppy disk icon, though, can see it as a bucket with an arrow (at least that is more likely than interpreting it as a vintage removable media). –  koiyu Jan 12 '11 at 8:46
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As in putting something into a bucket, aka. saving. –  Gan Jan 12 '11 at 10:17
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didn't give me the impression of a floppy. Rather, that of a box, or an inbox. But I'm worried these icons could collide with: Download, Insert, Add –  FOR Jan 22 '11 at 1:46
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Nice! @ JAG2007 - it's a bonus not a bad thing that it's familiar and understandable to people familiar with the old icon. @ FOR - true, but saving and downloading are pretty similar: taking something from the thing you're interacting with on your screen and putting it permanently on your computer. Only problem: if a web-based tool had 'Save (to cloud memory)' and 'Download (to disk)', how could they be distinguished? –  user568458 Mar 12 '12 at 17:32
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This looks more like Download than Save. –  Bennett McElwee Mar 3 '13 at 22:42
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"Save" now means more than "saving to a hard disk," since there's no (obvious) hard disk when you save on the cloud (e.g. Google Docs). When software isn't saving as you type, pressing the "Save" button basically means "Yes, I'm okay with my edits. Commit them."

A pencil with a checkmark.


"Save as" is probably too hard to explain to put into an image. "Yes, I'm okay with my edits, but don't commit them; actually, make a new document and write it there and keep my original file as it is." While we're breaking standards, we might as well dropping "Save as" and get "Make copy" instead: "Okay, I am done with this document. Make a copy of it."

Well, Balsamiq has an excellent "Duplicate" button, which is more or less like this:

A document (A4-shaped-liked-document) with another on top and arrows from one (the original) to the other (the copy).

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Pardon my Powerpoint. CW because this is essentially an icon-rec. –  badp Jan 11 '11 at 20:44
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Just the typical V shaped "Accepted" sign should be enough. Typically colored green. We use text based buttons for every other action that requires "Accepting" anyway, because they need to inform the user what do we accept. (+1 for the first idea there, tho it looks rough and the pen is too much to be standard.) –  Ars Magika Feb 1 '11 at 18:51
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The first icon assumes we'll still be using pencils in the future. :p –  Johannes Feb 2 '11 at 0:55
    
@Johannes They're today still the best way of writing in space :P –  badp Feb 2 '11 at 0:56
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@Johannes: Pencils are quite ancient, but they are still widely used (although it is quite common to use the modern re-fillable versions). If we are to use a more modern technological icon for it, you would have to use a keyboard or something, but that is too complex to use in combination with other icons (as the pencil often is). Also, the pencil has become a common symbol for edit in computer icons. –  awe Apr 13 '11 at 8:47
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My thinking is instead of the save icon alone, why not treat all the tool icons as a set. Consistent =)

enter image description here

I wrote more on this here.

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Nice icons, but my feeling is cut and paste should be swapped :) –  Scott Apr 9 '13 at 20:52
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The Paste icon means more like Cut action to me. –  Gan Apr 10 '13 at 5:43
    
Nice... but 'Load' looks a bit like 'Share' - like you're pushing it out into the wider world. Maybe if the arrow was straight up or up-left, it would be more like you're loading it for your own use? –  user568458 Nov 22 '13 at 16:41
    
I like the idea, but the execution is not quite right. I agree with the other comments here. –  awe Feb 5 at 14:21
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Save Save

Personally, I am familiar with the floppy disks, and I have used them in the old days, but now, when I see the floppy-disk icon, I don't think of a floppy-disk, I think of the "Save" function. See this answer to a related question on UX.


Floppy disk Floppy disk

The floppy image is well known symbol for save, and even though new generations don't know what a floppy disk is, they do know that the symbol means "save".


Hard-disk Hard-disk

A modern data storage like a hard-disk is not so visually recognizable ( hard-disk ), so it would not be so useful as an icon. It is a piece of hardware that is hidden inside the computer box.


Memory storage Memory storage

And now, some computer have started coming without a hard-disk, they come with only large memory storage, using the same technology as we have in memory sticks etc.


Donut Future...

And who knows what the future will bring...

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mmmm donuts i like the future –  Ryan Jan 6 at 20:51
    
@Ryan: The downside is, if you eat it, it will be harder to load the content into your computer... –  awe Jan 7 at 7:07
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I found this icon created by Goodbye Horses at twitpic:

alt text

The twitpic page stated:

New timeless symbol This new save icon embodies our current use of the term "save". No longer restricted to any physical media, rather focusing on the action of storing something for future use.

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Too bad it's ugly as crap :( –  Matthew Read Jan 8 '11 at 21:58
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This one is plain but a similar concept would work well I think. It looks a lot like the download arrow we see all the time, but it shows the data going into storage instead. Or, how about a button that just says "save"? –  user65 Jan 9 '11 at 0:42
    
@Matthew Read, I agree with you that it's not perfect, in particular I don't like the Y-shaped down arrow. Probably a straight down arrow would be better. –  Gan Jan 9 '11 at 6:49
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@Matthew Read it looks like it's telling you to drop it in the toilet. –  zzzzBov Jan 9 '11 at 7:00
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Also looks a bit like a reference to sex. Just sayin'... –  Joel Glovier Jan 11 '11 at 20:41
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Save it for safe-keeping

Put it in the safe ...or as a small toolbar icon:   Save for safe-keeping

Maybe the arrow is not needed:

Safe without the arrow

This is visually not too far from the floppy icon so it still feels familiar as related to the save function. Because it is not computer related hardware, it will not get outdated so easily.

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it looks like a "state" icon rather than an "action" icon. –  Gan Feb 11 '11 at 10:37
    
@Gan: No more than the traditional floppy icon. Most buttons perform some kind of action, so it is not necessary to include an action metaphor in the icon. –  awe Feb 11 '11 at 10:59
    
read through all your edits, I can go with this one now. :) –  Gan Feb 12 '11 at 17:48
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This looks more like a backup icon than save. Backups are used to put your volatile data in a safe... –  Robert Koritnik Sep 22 '11 at 18:24
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Not a bad idea, but there are several problems: 1. It's still linked to hardware, a safe, which might change in look. 2. The safe is very heavily used as a metaphor for security, but a standard "save" operation has no security implied. Using a safe to "save" would be confusing. It's not "safe", it's just written to a disk. 3. That small icon without the arrow is a safe only because you have the bigger picture. Taken on it's own, if you ask people what it is, I bet few people can tell. A keyboard key perhaps? With the arrow, the small icon looks like a drive. What's the button on it? –  Sylverdrag Jan 15 '12 at 10:07
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Even though potentially controversial I would say that more and more you will not need an icon for a saving action anymore. It will just be assumed to be happening all the time automatically and therefore no specific user interface hook will be necessary. There will be no user action that triggers saving.

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This might be a good paradigm for some applications, but I can see it being very problematic for others. Unless you have extensive histories (allowing infinite undos/redos), you could create a lot of problems for users who need to revert to specific versions of a file. It's far better to retain the conventional auto-save behavior, which saves to a temporary file rather than overwriting the opened file without the user's consent. And even with infinite histories, users will probably want to create specific savepoints rather than sifting through hundreds of different states. –  Calvin Huang Jan 26 '11 at 13:27
    
but still somewhere you may need to show it, like in settings for auto saving. –  Muhammad Umer Mar 12 '13 at 2:26
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Save to the cloud

It seems that the tendency is to store anything in the cloud and we may use local storage just for temporally editions. If that is the case, then using the "Cloud Up" to "Save", may be the alternative.

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The 3.5" floppy disk has become iconic of save. It's used in the same way the record player has become iconic of audio/sound.

I would say that any attempt to change to a new symbol would add confusion to a relatively stable system.

That all being said, the 3.5 floppy disk was just removable media, so we could update the icon to be a thumbdrive.
Thumbdrive

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Yes, I do understand that the disk has become iconic of save. Thumbdrive would probably be obsolete in the next decade. Please do read and understand my question and note. –  Gan Jan 8 '11 at 19:56
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I did read your question, which is why I'm suggesting the thumbdrive. I'm countering your suggestion about not using hardware, because it's not obsolete as iconography. –  zzzzBov Jan 8 '11 at 23:22
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You have the first part right. The floppy disk now means "save" independently from any meaning it had as a storage device. The USB thumb drive is a really bad idea, however. It doesn't mean "save" for people. When confronted with a USB stick icon, my expectation is that this something to run a mobile function or get data from a mobile device. Most saving is on a local HD, so this would be the last place I would try to click to save on my HD. –  Sylverdrag Jan 15 '12 at 10:15
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I think the whole "problem" with the floppy disk icon is its built-in obsolescence. The same applies to hard drive or thumb drive icons. The thumb drive icon has the added disadvantage of being too specific. What percentage of save actions are actually carried out to thumb drives? –  Bennett McElwee Mar 3 '13 at 22:47
    
The problem with this is that a thumbdrive is not the only thing that can look like this. Many other devices that use wireless connections can have USB connectors that looks similar to this. Examples are bluetooth, wireless mouse etc... –  awe Jun 17 '13 at 10:42
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You save a document when you are satisfied with its current state. So the icon can represent that:

enter image description here

It's a similar idea to OK buttons in dialog boxes (which sometimes include a checkmark icon).

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iOS apps are using a lot of different icons these days for save. Typically it's some form of arrow/document combination.

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As mentioned in the question, could you show those icons in your answer here? Probably could be an inspiration for all of us. –  Gan Jan 18 '11 at 11:23
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I use the save to folder and load from folder icons instead (a file folder with arrow going in or out).
For "save as..." I add an edit text bar to the save icon.

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To a user "save" means "save my new work to the file". I like the one on the left the most; makes it feel like "stuff goes into the file".

enter image description here

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This is what I came up with after reading some answers here...

enter image description here

This is an SD card, work, and arrows all combined.

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on 2nd thought i think future should concentrate less on hardware...i just know it can't be a cloud. I know it cant have plus in it. –  Muhammad Umer Mar 13 '13 at 2:04
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In the future all files will be saved just by thinking about it. No icons will be required.

Edit: I'd post an image, unfortunately the fact that there are no icons, it would be difficult.

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Isn't this exactly Manfred Moser's answer? graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/323/… –  Gan Feb 2 '11 at 3:15
    
No actually. His makes much more sense. He's saying that files save themselves automatically, without a call to do so. I'm implying you'd have to explicitly think about it and the program would read your mind :p --- In other words, his solution is actually reasonably possible, and is already in use in some places. –  Johannes Feb 2 '11 at 3:18
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I like Sid's answer which provoked a "filing cabinet", but not necessarily the graphic. I also liked the "arrow to the safe" idea, but the safe does seem to make me think "retention" (as in back-up) a little more. A filing cabinet elicits a great "save" for later" feel, while using a metaphor that has nothiung to do with electronic 2ndary persistence media/format (hence, limited chance to go "out of style"), and seems good for files, as well as other types of application artifacts that need saving (settings a context, a transaction, etc.) that you want to come back to later. The metaphor's old enough to be "catchy"/"antique" instead of fleeting (at least to last longer), and actually still in use today - physically, as well as in the ubiquitous save-to-the-brain axiom "I'll file that away for later". Can someone play with this and throw something out there? E.g.: - A filing cabinet: - 2 drawers, handles - Blood Orange - Angled (left or right) and down - Top drawer open half-way (or so) - An arrow: - Light/cheery green? - Pointing into the half-open top drawer above

Oh yeah - and WITH THE WORD "SAVE" ON IT!! Sometimes we can't see the forrest for - the icon

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A save icon (quick & dirty image) of something even older than a diskette. A scroll/diploma might be understood universally. See @sharpras on twitter.

enter image description here enter image description here

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S

How about the letter "S"? The word "save" (in the context of 'to keep data on a computer') starts with an "s" in many languages (http://translate.definitions.net/save). I know this is a 'Murican! kind of philosphy, but English is kinda the base language for much of the programming world. And yes, this is more of a user experience type of question - one of which simply can't be answered in one discussion.

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A life ring is recognized world-wide as used for 'saving'. However, I think the floppy icon won't be going anywhere anytime soon.

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I think it would be much simpler to teach a history class on computers and educate the youth on what a floppy disk was for. They will get the concept quite easily I imagine, since it's 'the old flash drive'.

Speaking of which, if I saw a flash drive icon I would make an educated guess and think it's for saving.

enter image description here

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"Holy light", based on John's comment.

I have two different versions of this "light that saves":

Holy Light 001

Holy Light 002

The first one may look nicer at first glance, but someone more skilled could probably transform the "beveled" gradient in the second to something that looks better. Perhaps even change the angles/shapes/colors of the gradients, etc. Perhaps a halo, for Bungie fans out there.

You get my basic idea, though? Of course, this may not work well on screens with limited colors, but I don't think anyone uses monochrome/256-color anymore.

EDIT: Combining Gan's answer, I get this for my first image:

Holy Light 001 With Gan's answer

And since the second image looked terrible, I made a better background white light/diamond yellow version:

Holy Light 003 With Gan's answer

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The 'light' element has some potential for confusion with the one that's often used on 'new document' icons, though. –  e100 Jan 9 '11 at 11:10
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@e100 New document can stay as it is (paper). Or, of course, you can have different angles of light. Maybe this can become the "light theme" ... or not. –  muntoo Jan 9 '11 at 20:48
    
The added background adds too much complexity. The original simple version proposed by Gan is better. –  awe Feb 10 '11 at 13:40
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This answer answers my question when I see some oddly designed UI and ask myself what the hell have they been thinking. This answer here just answers this question: Nothing! They've been high on dope most of the time, while occasionally writing a line of code or two. :) Imagine Microsoft Office programs having these kind of icons. I bet toolbars would extinct in favour of menus. –  Robert Koritnik Sep 22 '11 at 18:28
    
ok so i am going to leave constructive criticism. Doesnt Show what is this suppose to be. Too much contrast, will mess up the whole design. Color choice, Shape, contrast, size, and the theme none of it make any sense in terms of "an icon for saving". So yea. –  Muhammad Umer Mar 12 '13 at 23:51
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Presenting before you... The Save Man :

enter image description here

Automatically saving it for you when he can!

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Not really sure how this is supposed to work as an icon for saving. –  kontur Dec 3 '12 at 14:39
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