Tuesday, April 18, 2023

“Duplicate” Safari Downloads Replacing Files


Not sure when the feature started in Safari wherein duplicate downloads, within close proximity in time, would be replaced by the latest download…

But I have noticed a bit of a flaw in that feature.

Example: When downloading zipped music files at Bandcamp a zip archive of the same name can replace a previous version of the same name: even though its contents are different.

For my example the following can occur: A zip file with my preferred aiff files was deleted when accidentally downloading the same album in a different file format not preferred (mp3)

I’ve been seeing this happen for years when testing downloads of my apps and sometimes when downloading photos. Coalescing identical files makes some sense, but it’s confusing and could delete important data if the files are not actually the same.

Marc Z:

This has definitely been a problem for a long time. I see it frequently. For instance, every year about this time I go to download all my past year’s bank statements to go through for my tax preparation. At least one of my banks names the downloaded file “stmt.txt” with no indication of which month it is. If I click on several months to download each statement, I will only end up with the most recent one as the others get downloaded and then overwritten. So instead of clicking 12 times (once for each month) I have to click, go to the Downloads folder, rename the file with the appropriate month number, go back to Safari, and click on the next month. It’s annoying.


That’s just one example: I’ve had the problem with downloads on other sites, too. (Like a clipart/stock photo site where I painstakingly went through to find and download thumbnails of a dozen possible graphics I might want to use, and when I went to the Finder there was only a single file saved, called preview.jpg – the site named all the thumbnails the same. 🤦‍♂️

Safari also checks for “duplicates” when asked to open links from other apps. If you click a link and there’s already a tab open for that URL, it will activate that tab instead of opening a new one.

Update (2023-04-21): This tab coalescing can lead to data loss, e.g. if you have typed into a form and then click a link that has the same URL as the form it will reload the page and discard what you entered.

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I haven't run in to this, probably because I file my bank statements automatically when they are downloaded.

However I would definitely suggest Keyboard Maestro (or Hazel) could automatically rename any downloaded files named "stmt.txt" to a unique name immediately after the download which would resolve Marc’s issue. Personally, Id set it up so that it actively renamed each one I downloaded to successive months so that I could just click each of them and have them all come out with the right names (and move them to the correct folder while the macro is at it).

But even so, that's a terrible behaviour that should be disableable.

I completely agree that this is a terrible behavior that effectively leads to data loss. That said, when I go to my parents' computer, I often find the downloads folder filled with duplicate downloads. It seems to me that a sensible middle ground would be to download the file and then, if it was a true duplicate, leave only the latest copy.

There are a lot of edge cases and race conditions to consider, but I bet it could be implemented in a reasonable way such that the worst case failure mode is what you would have gotten anyway: two identical files.

Would make more sense if it looked at more than just the file name. Combine file name with size, for example, and it would solve the issue. Baffling to see these sorts of unfinished features see the light of day.

I'm surprised by this behavior, because I use Safari to aperiodically check a site with ease-of-play add-ons for World of Warcraft and download new versions. I can't speak for zipped files, because I always delete the archives after expanding them, but for the contents, usually folders, I end up with 2, &c. if I haven't removed the previous version(s) yet. I don't recall ever having had a new version stomp on an old one.

For what it's worth, I use a folder other than Downloads for my Safari downloads (force of habit, been using the same folder name and location since Netscape days). Are these problems being seen solely in files downloaded to Downloads, or to other folders as well?

mac OS 13.3.1, Intel architecture — but never saw the described behavior on earlier versions of the OS, either.

So annoying when helpful features are anything but - and on top of that there is no way to toggle them off!

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