Saving a snapshot of a user’s environment that is then opened when the user logs in again is a great way to preserve continuity. You don’t have to set login items to launch, you don’t have to remember what sites you were browsing, what documents you had open, and on a more general level, what the hell you were doing. With a well implemented session saving feature, the applications you had open and positioned return, the sites you were browsing reload, both of which serve to bring you back to whatever you were working on.
Fast User Switching under 10.3 (thanks for the feature, Microsoft) provides this for the most part, but it of course requires that the user be logged in and all of their applications be open, accompanied by the necessary RAM and/or swap space usage. All continuity is lost as soon as the user completely logs out or the computer is shut down.
After writing the bulk of this entry, I came upon John Siracusa’s OW5b1 write-up at ArsTechnica, in which he details why the Workspaces feature is so useful and why state retention features are so rarely implemented.
Apple implementing a state retention method in OS X would be a great way to improve the perceived stability of the interface.