Understanding Document Versions

When you work with documents in macOS, each time you save you are saving a new version of that document. You can revert to a previous version of that document, or grab some items from a previous version that you may have deleted in your current version. This feature works in all Apple apps and many third-party ones as well.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Understanding Document Versions.

A feature that's been around in Mac OS for a long time now but a lot of people still don't know about. Something called Versions. This is something that works in apps. Particularly works in all of the Apple apps, but a lot of the third party apps do it as well.

As a demonstration let's run Pages here. Create a new pages document. In this Pages document, I haven't saved anything yet. You can see it just has a temporary name up there at the top. I'm going to just type a line and I'm going to hit Return. Now at this point I've done some work and I'm going to Save it. So I'm going to do File, Save or just Command S. Since this is the first time I've saved it, it's going to ask me what I want to call it, where I want to save it, and all of that. Just so we can see what's going on I'm just going to save it to the desktop and I'm going to call it Test. You can see here it appears at the upper right on the desktop, test.pages. Great.

So now I'm going to go and continue working. I'm going to type another line and hit Return. Now at this point there's a couple things that I can do. I can Save again or I can Quit. Now what happens if I Quit without saving. You would expect, back years and years ago, that if I were to go to Pages, Quit it goes away but I hadn't saved so I must have lost everything I did since the last save. But in fact that's not true.

I'm going to run Pages again and, in fact, it's going to pick up right where I left off. Notice it has that second line there. It saved what I was doing even though I didn't specifically save. So let's type again. Another line three. Now you might ask what's the point of the Save thing here. So I'm going to use it again, Save, and I'm going to type four and I'm going to Save.

Now the Versions feature saves multiple versions of the file you are working on. So you could go and say File, Revert To.....Browse All Versions. You enter this interface. It looks a lot like Time Machine if you've ever used Time Machine to recover files. You see the current version of your document here and you see all the ones that you've done when you hit Command S. Here's the current version. I can use this arrow to go back one version and you can see there's only three lines in that file, two lines, and one line there.

I can revert back to any one of these at any time. I can just basically stop here and say this is the one I want, hit Restore, and it'll revert to this version. So if you've made changes to your document and you realize that the old one was better you can use this restore function to go back to that version.

You can do other things with it as well. So let's say if I type line five, six, seven. I'll hit Save here. Type eight and nine and let's say I get rid of five and six. Okay, maybe some paragraphs I wrote and I think I don't need them anymore and hit Save. Then I think, oh you know what there was some text in those paragraphs I needed. Well, you can go to Revert To.....Browse All Versions. Go back to a version that had those. So let's go back to a previous one, I jumped a little too far. There we go. There's the five and six there. I can actually click there and I haven't restored anything. I still have the original version here. It just enlarges this a bit so I can see it. I can select that text, copy it, and then I can hit Done without restoring. It goes back to this file here that doesn't have those and I can paste five and six in.
So you can actually grab content out of old versions.

The key is being able to use that Save command, Command S. Every time you do so it will save a new version of the file. So say if I was working in Pages, every paragraph or couple paragraphs or so, just get in the habit of hitting Command S to save a version of it. Now it does this in a way that's only saving changes. So it's not like it's saving a complete document every time. If you do a hundred pages and you hit Command S a bunch of times after typing some text it's not going to save the hundred page document over and over again. It will save what has changed. So you're not really going to add that much to the space that the file is using.

This is handy. It works with Pages, Numbers, Keynote. A variety of different apps. You can just, in that app, look for that Revert To command right there and you can see whether or not that happens. A lot of people don't know that you can do this and you can actually go back to previous versions of stuff. It doesn't rely on Time Machine. It's not using your backup drive. It's storing all this information in the file itself and it just works perhaps automatically and it's been doing this for a long time so you may already have multiple versions to go back to in documents that you've been working on.

Comments: 4 Responses to “Understanding Document Versions”

    2 years ago

    Another helpful hint is: Pressing the Option Key and Restore will save both to the desktop.

    2 years ago

    I’ve read about Versions but never appreciated their usefulness enough to try and use until I watched your video.
    Good job.

    2 years ago

    Oh boy, another great tip to add to my collection. You’re just full of helpful information, Gary!!!!

    2 years ago

    At last I have been given an answer. Thank you for the information and your presentation was so easy to follow

Comments Closed.