141
votes

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 ux.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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  • 3
    This question is now nearly 7 years old, surprisingly Excel 2016 still uses a floppy... – Digital Lightcraft Sep 25 '17 at 12:07

25 Answers 25

59
votes

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.

  • Interesting! On first look, I thought the save and load icons could be interchanged! Think about it! – Gaurav Ramanan Nov 18 '17 at 16:38
58
votes

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.

52
votes

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.

  • 1
    The common acronym for Hard Drives is actually "HDD", for "Hard Disk Drive", not "HD", which typically means "High Definition" these days. Also, the Qwerty keyboard analogy is kinda invalid, since those are still being used today; floppy disks aren't. – Sandwich Dec 17 '17 at 12:57
39
votes

"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).

  • 1
    and now all the images are gone :( – Luciano Apr 11 '17 at 8:01
  • 1
    @Luciano and they're back! – WELZ Feb 18 '18 at 18:55
30
votes

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...

24
votes

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).

23
votes

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.

22
votes

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.

  • 3
    Unclear why there are multiple incoming streams -- looks like "merge" to me – andybuckley Sep 28 '17 at 8:38
20
votes

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.

16
votes

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.

  • But then you need an icon for "Discard", for if you do not want to automagically save. And how about "Revert", if there is no 'saved' version? – usr2564301 Mar 19 '18 at 18:32
14
votes

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.

13
votes

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

10
votes

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

10
votes

As @Bennett McElwee also points out, the checkmark is something we're getting more and more used to in our interfaces. Also the asteriks is used to indicate something that's not saved.

We might combine the two into one button that changes state depending on the state of the document that it refers to:

picture showing a checkmark and a checkmark with an asteriks

(icons adapted from https://github.com/icons8/flat-color-icons)

5
votes

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

4
votes

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.

3
votes

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

3
votes

I recently discovered Stefan Dziallas suggestion, and thought it was class. Why not think outside the box of the box of the box... perhaps we get too fixated on hardware-ish stuff, to think more about "something that you want to keep". Where we are saving stuff is less and less relevant, as the cloud owns it all. It is about keeping something, not about where, on what gadget, or how.

enter image description here

2
votes

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.

0
votes

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

0
votes

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

-2
votes

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.

-3
votes

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

-6
votes

Presenting before you... The Save Man :

enter image description here

Automatically saving it for you when he can!

-8
votes

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

"Light that saves":

Holy Light 001

Holy Light 002

protected by Scott Jan 6 '14 at 3:26

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