Document Management

Document version control—How to do it with examples

November 1, 2023
Urooj K

Urooj K

12 min read

John is working on a document with 7 other collaborators. He had already made his share of changes and left the rest to other folks. 

At the end of the day, when he looks at the document he doesn’t know who added or changed what. There are so many iterations to go through. This wouldn’t have been the case if there was document version control in place. 

In this article, we’ll see what document version control is, why to use it, what are its best practices, its use cases, and more. 

So let’s jump into it.

What is document version control?

Document version control is the process of managing different versions of a document so you know which iteration is the current one.

This is generally used in collaborative work like preparing a contract, working on a research paper, writing a landing page, etc.

The whole idea behind version control is to track the changes, keep a history of revisions, and ensure that all the collaborators are working on the most up-to-date version.

We’ll get into more detail in the next section.

Why use document version control?

Here are the main reasons why you should use document version control:

  • Traceable: Using document version control you can follow a document’s progression from creation through to conclusion.
  • Improves collaboration: It eliminates any confusion by making sure that team members are always working on the latest version of a document. Document version control also lets you revert to a previous version, if needed. 
  • Helps with compliance: Suppose you’re in the health industry. It has extremely rigid compliances. There’s tons of paperwork, permissions, signatures, etc. They have strict laws and guidelines governing the handling and storage of documents. By using document version control, you keep a fully visible audit trail of document modifications.
  • Removes duplicate work: It removes duplicate work by letting you and your team work on their own copies of the document at the same time and merge the changes later. This prevents duplicate work caused by overwriting or undoing each other’s edits. This also promotes parallel development and you might end up liking what others have created.
  • Provides clarity in case of multiple users: Suppose you’re working on a PR document and you are collaborating with your CEO and investors. Your CEO has made some changes to the write-up. Your Investors also added a few lines of their own. But you have no idea who did what. Here’s where document version control does its job. It helps you identify the users and the changes they did. It also helps if there are any conflicting changes to merge them or choose which version to keep. This ensures that changes made by different users are properly reconciled.

Document version control on Google docs and MS Word

How Google Docs does document version control

Here’s how Google Docs does version control:

  1. Auto saving: Real-time changes to a document are automatically saved. As a result, any changes you make are immediately saved and synced across all devices and users who are working on it.
  2. Revision history: Google Docs maintains a chronological record of all changes made to a document. To access the revision history, go to File > Version History > See Version History. This opens a right-side panel on the screen showing a list of all the revisions.
  3. Viewing revisions: You can view a list of revisions in the revision history, along with the time stamp and the user who made each change. You can click on any revision to view the document as it was at that specific time.
  4. Restoring to previous versions: From the revision history window, choose the revision you want to restore. You can “Restore this version” or “Make a copy” of that version by clicking on it. When a version is restored, the current document is replaced with the chosen revision.
  5. Collaborative editing: Google Docs lets multiple users work together on a document at once. Since each user’s changes are recorded in the revision history, it’s easy to determine who made what revision.

How MS Word (web) does document version control

Moving on to MS Word, it’s not that different from Google Docs. Note that collaboration and document version control is only possible on MS Word web. Here’s how document version control there works:

  1. Compare versions: It lets you compare different versions of a document. This can be helpful for determining conflicts between several versions of a text or for observing how a document has changed over time.
  2. Branch documents: This feature lets you create a copy of a document and make changes to the copy without affecting the original document. This can be quite useful in case you want to experiment with different changes without risking making changes to the original document.
  3. Version history: This is a list of every variation of a document that has been archived. The version history can be accessed from the document’s properties.
  4. Restore previous version: MS Word lets you restore earlier iterations of a document. If you have made a change you don’t want or you need to go back to an earlier version of a document for reference, this can be helpful.

The problem with Google Docs’ and MS Word’s document version control

Google Docs and MS Word are the two most used tools when it comes to collaboration. But because they are the standard fallbacks when it comes to document collaboration, folks tend to oversee their faults. 

Here are a few problems with Google Docs and MS Word document version control:

  1. Multiple editors at the same time
    Multiple people can edit a document at once in Google Docs and MS Word. This can create chaos leaving the creator with little to no control over the document. It can also be difficult to resolve the various inputs and merge changes, especially if the changes are substantial.
  2. Limited review and commenting features
    Their review and comment features are not as effective or reliable as dedicated version control software. When dealing with tons of revisions or feedback, keeping track of and handling comments and suggestions can be difficult.
  3. Innumerable versions at the end
    Both tools create a new version each time a change is made to the document. This can eventually result in an excessive number of versions, making it difficult to find and maintain the most recent version. Users may unintentionally work on older versions, which might result in mistakes and inconsistent data.

So far, we have covered definitions, benefits, how document version control and document management are different, and how other popular tools handle version control. 

Now it’s time to dig into best practices to make this more practical.

Document version control best practices

Document version control best practices

The following are a few of the best practices for document version control:

Establish a naming framework

Using strict naming frameworks is one of the best ways to guarantee document version control. Anyone who accesses your files should understand it, and it should be consistent.

If you want to version your files primarily using naming conventions, you must make sure that this is stated so that staff members follow the right procedure. 

When there are fewer papers to maintain, using naming standards works well for smaller businesses.

Use version numbers and the letter ‘v’

The most basic method of version control for documents is to use ‘v’. For example, featurelist_v1, featurelist_v2, etc

This works when you have a small number of documents and multiple collaborators working on them. It’s also important to change the version number in the header and footer of the documents to avoid misunderstanding later on.

Set up a document version control table

When doing it manually, maintaining a version control table is your best bet for document version control. The following table is an example of how you can do it:

VersionDateCollaboratorComments (if any)
v17th May 2023BrendanNo comments
v28th May 2023AnthonyAdded a feature in the third section
v310th May 2023BlakeCorrected a typo in the last section

In case new collaborators are added, they can simply look at this table to understand what all was changed and which is the updated version.

Use a document version control software

Doing version control manually is tedious. “Just don’t forget to update the version table”, is what you might have caught yourself thinking whenever doing any edits.   

Using a document version control software makes your work a lot easier.

It provides full visibility and is highly organized and most software comes with an auto-update feature. You don’t have to worry about manually updating it.

Talking about software, in the next section you’ll know why using a software is the way to go when employing document version control.

How to choose a software with good document version control

Ideally the software you use to manage your documents should:

  1. Allow only one editor at a time to avoid the confusion and mess of multiple, simultaneous edits from different people. 
  2. Create versions only at meaningful intervals and not with every keystroke. For instance, at DocuX only one person has edit access at a time, and a new version is created only after that person is done editing and the document moves to the next editor. 
  3. Store everything in one place. This repository can be easily accessed by authorized users by being hosted locally on a server or in the cloud. Also, using parameters like date, author, or keywords, you can quickly find and search for particular versions.
  4. Be highly secure to ensure that the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of your documents are maintained.
  5. Allow strong access control at a document level so you can who can view or edit your documents.
  6. Provide long-term storage and rapid search capabilities. 
  7. Integrate with other tools and services you commonly use in your document lifecycle. 

Examples and applications of document version control 

Examples of document version naming conventions

  • Consecutive numbering – you can number your documents on a set numbering framework. For example: ‘v1’, ‘v2’, ‘v3’ or ‘v1.0’, ‘v2.’0, ‘v3.0’, etc.
  • Timestamp and dates – For instance; ‘12:38 PM, Tuesday’, ‘4:37 PM, Friday’ 
  • Version history and annotations – These could look like ‘Version 1.1: Incorporated feedback from the marketing team regarding tone and language. Version 2.0: Removed section 4.2 based on legal recommendations.’


  • Project management – for documents like project plans, requirements gathering, specifications, and feedback
  • Content creation – for writers, editors, and publishers collaborating on creating and editing documents such as articles, books, reports, scripts, ad copies, etc
  • Product development – for product teams collaborating on documents like PRDs, user stories, design documents, wireframes, release notes, etc.
  • Legal document management – for collaborating on contracts, legal briefs, agreements, NDAs, compliance documents, due diligence documents, legal updates, etc.
  • Research collaboration – for working on research proposals, consent forms, data collection instruments, theses, board review documents, etc.

How DocuX helps you with document version control

DocuX is an AI-powered end-to-end document and contract lifecycle management platform that allows you to create, collaborate, control, eSign, manage approvals, store, and analyze all your documents and contracts in a single place. Whew! We know that’s a lot, and we do all of this. 

Work in HR? Collaborate super easily with your team on policies, contracts, offer letters, etc., with its end-to-end HR solution.

Part of a legal team? Work effortlessly with your team on all legal documents and contracts, on-doc reviews, negotiations, eSign, NDAs, and agreements using its legal solution.

Want your team to achieve their sales quota quickly? Create, control, manage, and close more deals faster with an end-to-end platform for sales teams that also integrates with your CRM stack.

Here’s how versioning works on DocuX:

  • You create a document and add collaborators.
  • Added collaborators can only view and comment on the document. They cannot edit the document unless specifically asked to.
  • Edit access lies with only one person at a time. As the creator, you can release the document for edits to a collaborator. Once done editing, the collaborator releases the document back to you.
  • A new version is created only when the document exchanges hands. So, when it moves from the creator to the collaborator, a version is created. When it moves back from the collaborator to the creator, another version is created with all of the changes made by the collaborator. This ensures super clean, referenceable document versions.
  • Versions are also created when a document is concluded or when a concluded document is reopened. 
  • All collaborators work on the most current version. No need to hunt around any more.
  • You can compare any two versions and restore a previous version, if needed. 

The video below illustrates how collaboration and versioning works on DocuX.

If you want to experience DocuX’s document version control firsthand, sign up for free:

Frequently asked questions

Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions related to document version control:

  1. What is document version control?
    Document version control is a systematic method of managing changes to a document throughout its lifecycle. 
    It ensures that multiple versions of the document are properly tracked, and users can access, review, and revert to previous versions when necessary.
  2. How does document version control work?
    Document version control typically involves using version control software or tools that keep track of changes made to a document. 
    Each time a user edits and saves the document, a new version is created, and the changes are recorded. Users can access previous versions and compare changes between versions.
  3. Can I revert to an earlier version of a document with version control?
    Yes, one of the primary advantages of version control is the ability to revert to a previous version of a document. Users can easily access older versions, compare changes, and restore a specific version if needed.
  4. Can I see who made specific changes in a document using version control?
    Yes, version control systems typically record metadata, including the author of each change, the date and time of the modification, and the comments provided by the author. This information helps users track and attribute changes accurately.

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