Inspired by “How to Save a Life” by the Fray:

“Step one, you say we need a doc
He walks, you say sit down; it’s just one doc
He smiles politely back at you
You make a version, maybe two

Where did I go wrong?
I lost a file
Somewhere alone in the Google Drive
And I would NOT stay up with you all night
Had I known how to save a fileeeeeee”

Yes, these are spoof lyrics to the popular song “How to Save a Life” which was one of my middle-school era anthems.  Here’s the funny part:  When I started to do some google searching to make this pun/spoof come alive, my first video hit was “The Fray – How to save a Life (New Video Version)” (I kid you not!) which is EXACTLY what I’m here to write about.  We all have those files in our data “junk drawer.”  You know what I’m talking about… the “Final Final Final 2.0 SJS edits January 2018” etc docs.  And if you’re like me, you might save copy after copy of files, and then a year later, all you do is sort your folder by “last updated” and go with the most recent one anyway.  So why have so much clutter?  Or, worse than clutter, straight up confusion about the most correct version, causing you to make decisions based on out of date information.  What a nightmare!

screen-shot-2012-09-12-at-08-38-56

Google Docs has partially solved this problem for us.  We no longer have to save multiple versions of Excel spreadsheets or Microsoft Word docs to solicit multiple perspectives, because we can actually COLLABORATE in one, shared doc… in real time!  So, why do I still see versioning (the old fashioned way) in Google Sheets?  Let’s brainstorm some reasons:

  • You want to compare current data to last year’s data
  • You have deleted some confidential information, and you want to share that version of some data with a broader audience, and keep a detailed version for you
  • You don’t trust your collaborators, so you want to keep a version to revert back to in case they destroy your data  (by the way, you usually CAN un-delete data in Google Drive!, or you can grant “read only” or “suggestions only” privileges to protect your data from meddlesome collaborators)
  • You are required to keep copies of your data for compliance or regulatory purposes
  • You don’t know about the awesome versioning feature of Google Drive!

“Some browser window to your right
your screen is left and glowing bright,
Between the lines of fear and blame
You begin to wonder, WHICH FILE?!”

Luckily for us, we are NOT stuck in this private file purgatory of “final this” and “final that!”  Because we can use Versioning in Google Drive to pinpoint “complete drafts” in a document, then make more changes, and go back and see multiple draft versions without having the file clutter, and subsequent confusion, of multiple independent versions.  Learn all about it at his handy-dandy documentation from Google!

Ooooh and here’s a gif/video!

version_history1

In addition to reverting back to previous versions, you can also identify and name key drafts or milestones in the history of a collaborative document.  Check out this screen capture below, borrowed from this Google Site with lots of great resources about sharing and collaborating on files.  After doing the research for this post, I want to start using Version History to memorialize my weekly edits to my meal planning spreadsheet!

version_history5

“As he begins to raise his voice
You lower yours and grant him one last choice
Show me the final document
And break with the ones you’ve followed!”

Before you “make a copy” or “save as” a Google Doc, or upload a “new version” of a pre-existing Sheet (say, for example, you downloaded a sheet, made edits in Excel and want to upload the new version), consider checking out this Versioning feature.  I’m pretty confident that it won’t let you down.  Promise.  Final.  Promise!

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