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When I click save or hit Command + S what appears to be a new version of the document is created. So if I save 2 times, I get 2 documents, filename.blend1 and filename.blend2.

What exactly are these files and why is Blender creating them?

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These are backup files created by Blender and are fairly normal.

Excerpt from the wiki

Save and Auto Save

...To reduce the chance of losing files when those events occur, Blender can use an Autosave function. The File tab of the User Preferences window allows you to configure the two ways that Blender provides for you to regress to a previous version of your work...

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  • $\begingroup$ Okay, that makes sense. Thanks for the quick and knowledgeable reply! $\endgroup$ – DGB Jun 20 '13 at 17:09
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    $\begingroup$ As an addendum, you can change the number of saves in the file settings (you can completely turn them off if you want to). $\endgroup$ – CharlesL Jun 20 '13 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ It doesn't make sense to me. Why would blender need to create a backup, when you are saving right then? Also, is it safe to delete those files because my OCD doesn't like them. $\endgroup$ – OneStig Feb 7 '17 at 2:04
  • $\begingroup$ @OneStig Feel free to delete them but know that anything can go wrong regardless of how often you save, a powercut or the application crashes and suddenly the last hour of work is gone, a vital imported asset is missing or worst case scenario your file gets corrupted. Any professional in any tech related industry knows how crucial backups are. Error is uncertain and can come from anywhere so better safe than sorry. $\endgroup$ – iKlsR Feb 7 '17 at 16:55
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The other two answers have covered this already, but I just thought I would go further and show you the preference concerning this feature.

If you go to File→Preferences→File, you will have a box that says "Save versions #" (Where # is the number of versions to save).

enter image description here

If you want it disabled (if for example, you use a cloud service for backups), set it to "0".

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These are backup files, saved and incremented every time you make a save. Unless you really know what you are doing and aren't creating giant files I would leave this setting as it is. One day you will want to retrieve critical blend information after an unexpected crash by loading one of those backups, and wish you hadn't disabled it. This can be an extra 'fail safe' in the unlikely event that 'recover last session' doesn't work.

These days storing data is so cheap, the only problem you might face is the organization of so many files. These files are fine to delete after a while if you really don't need them, or won't be working on a .blend anymore.

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    $\begingroup$ The blend1, blend2 etc. files are not saved on a timed basis, they are only saved when you make a manual save. Autosave files are saved to /tmp on a timed basis. See the wiki $\endgroup$ – gandalf3 Dec 2 '13 at 9:07

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