DIY Version Control for Office Documents

DIY Version Control for Office Documents

So here’s a funny story for you: One typical Tuesday morning, Anne threw together an ad copy for the new online holiday campaign catalog which offers free shipping for 3 months when you sign up for a subscription. She thought it looked solid enough to get sign ups but she wanted to get her co-workers’ creative input before sending it out to her editor. Anne thought she’d share the files up in the cloud for others to take a look at.

Bob thinks the copy should have more calls to action and needs a design update, so he tweaks the document and saves off a copy in the same folder.

Chrissy takes a look at a copy (there are 2 now) and immediately thinks of 100 images that can go well with it, so she inserts the images and saves off a copy in the same folder.

Dan thinks the paragraphs are too long in this version he’s reading (there are probably 3 versions floating around now), so he edits the ad and saves off a copy in the same folder.

Anne opens the folder to see a mess of multiple copies of the same document not knowing which ones have been edited and who did what. It is now up to her to organize the edits and update one final document with the inputs and changes her colleagues provided. This proves to be harder than actually writing the damned ad copy in the first place. Also, if she’s not very careful, her editor might publish the wrong version.

In an office setting where collaboration is the norm, there is bound to be a problem with duplicate versions or having multiple copies of the same documents. When you can’t find the original version or (more horrifyingly) when you can’t find the FINAL version for publishing, this small dilemma can turn into a big nightmare.

So how do you this stop this nightmare from occurring? Systems, people, systems!

The first system that you must have in place is an online collaboration system. You can use Google Drive or Microsoft Office Suite but you have to have a standard workspace. Although Google can open MS Word files as Google Docs, version should be compatible to start with to avoid having to download, convert, and rename files. Getting rid of the extra steps saves everyone from saving over other people’s work, working on a legacy version, or losing the files completely. So keep everything in one cohesive workspace.

The second system to have is a naming system. Many employees have used the v1, v1.1, v1.2 etc… file naming conventions. This is how software version is named. But you might have to develop a standard one for your company or team. Keep it short and concise. You don’t want to end up with a filename such as:


Other tips:

  • Acknowledge that there is only one project and instruct everyone to work on only one
  • Save the original copy in a local folder first (preferably somewhere only you can access) before you upload the working copy to the cloud for online collaboration.
  • Don’t clutter your collaboration folders with unnecessary assets. Only include relevant images or resources in the collaboration folder.

Hopefully, these tips could help keep your office files from exploding with multiple versions of office documents. What are your office’s adaptations of version control? We’d love to hear your tips in the comments! Stay humble and hustle hard!


Written by: Jaie O. – The Help