Between technical writing and fiction, I spend about nine hours a day with my head buried in Google Docs. This has been going on for years, and over that time I’ve seen several instances where something has gone horribly wrong in a document. For a while I would rely on CTRL-Z or backups to save me from such a dilemma. Most of the time, one of these two options would work.
But not every time. I’ve had a few instances where a document has gone haywire, only to find that undoing what happened was ineffective and there wasn’t a backup recent enough to be really helpful.
Thankfully, Google had my back through the version history feature.
Once you realize how useful version history is, you’ll wonder how you managed without it.
Likewise: How to Add More Fonts to Google Docs (And Why You Might Want This)
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 scratch by creating a new Google Doc. Open Google Drive and click New > Google Docs. Once the new document is open, start typing.
2. Check the version history
Once you have created part of the document, you can check the version history by clicking File > Version History > View Version History (illustration 1).
Since you’re just getting started with this document, you can click Rename Current Version (from the Version History submenu), and then when prompted, type something like “ORIGINAL” in the name field (figure 2).
Click save and your new named version is ready. Then, to check the full version history, click File > Version History > View Version History. This will open your document in the Version History window (figure 3).
3. Select the version you want to view
In the right navigation you can choose which version of the document you want to view. Click on a version and it will appear in the main window. Keep browsing the version history until you find the version of the document you want to restore.
Once you’ve found the right version, click “Restore this version” and you’ll see it’s open in the main window, ready to edit, share, print or whatever you want to do with it.
Note, however, that you cannot edit a version within the version history.
The only things you can do within version history are:
- View each iteration of the document.
- Rename versions.
- Make copies of versions.
You don’t want to edit documents within version history anyway, as that would defeat the purpose of the feature.
And this, 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 friend for productivity within the Google ecosystem.