Between technical writing and fiction, I spend about nine hours a day with my head buried in Google documents. This has been going on for years, and during that time I’ve come across several instances where something went horribly wrong in a document. For a while, I would depend on CTRL-Z or saves to save me from such a dilemma. Most often, one of these two options would work.
But not every time. I’ve had instances where a document has gone haywire, only to find that undoing everything that happened was ineffective and there wasn’t a backup recent enough to be really useful.
Fortunately, Google had my back with the version history feature.
Once you realize how useful version history is, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.
How do you use version history?
Using Google Docs version history is very simple. Let me show you how it’s done.
1. Open a Google Doc
Let’s start from square one by creating a new Google Doc. Open Google Drive and click New > Google Docs. Once the new document is open, start writing.
2. Check Version History
Once you have created part of the document, you can check the version history by clicking File > Version History > View Version History (Figure 1).
Since you’ve just started with this document, you can click Name Current Version (in the Version History submenu) and then, when prompted, type something like “ORIGINAL” in the name (Figure 2).
Click save and your new named version is ready. To check the complete version history, then click File > Version History > View Version History. This will open your document in the Version History window (picture 3).
3. Choose the version you want to view
In the right navigation, you can select the version of the document you want to view. Click on a version and it will appear in the main window. Keep searching through the version history until you find the version of the document you want to restore.
When you find the correct version, click “Restore this version” and then you will find it open in the main window, ready to be edited, shared, printed or whatever you need.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that you cannot edit a version in the version history.
The only things you can do in version history are:
- View each iteration of the document.
- Rename versions.
- Make copies of versions.
You wouldn’t want to edit documents in the version history anyway, as that defeats the purpose of the feature.
And that, my Google Doc-loving friends, is your crash course in version history. The feature is actually quite easy to use and will soon become your best productivity friend within the Google ecosystem.
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