Document Version Control in SharePoint

Posted: July 9, 2017

Susan CarlowThere are pros and cons to using version control in SharePoint. I see a lot of clients successfully using their own manual versioning methodology, which can be effective if you have a small number of staff editing the doc and a small quantity of documents to control.

SharePoint doc libraries come with an in-built version control that take away all the pain of manual methods, even if you only need to control a few files.

Version Control Features

You can take advantage of features like alerts that notify you when a document has been edited or needs approval, and check in and out to stop others from changing a file when someone else is in the middle of editing.

Tips and things to consider

Like anything, quality training for staff in what to use (and when) will help your organisation to get the most from version control. Here are some other considerations:

  • Create document libraries specifically for files that need version control – if you only need to control the versioning for some documents, set up libraries for those files and separate libraries for files that don’t need versioning.
  • Utilise alerts to let you know when someone makes a change to a file you care about – you can even set an alert to notify you when someone deletes a doc. How very dare they!
  • Use check out (and in) features to avoid accidental overwrites – really handy if you want to control multiple users of one document as it means only one user can edit at a time, everyone else just views the doc. However, it does mean users have to remember to check the document in when they’ve finished editing, otherwise everyone is looking at the last best version of a file, not the newly edited version. Add the ‘Checked out by’ column to your library view so everyone can see who is working on the doc.
  • Don’t use check out (and in) if you don’t need it – this process can be cumbersome to users, so if your file doesn’t require a lot of frequent edits by multiple staff, save your staff time and use version control without the check in and out feature.
  • Version control can be like Tracked Changes on steroids. You can see who has changed a doc, and the changes they made. Administrators can easily revert back to an earlier version, if necessary.  Keep in mind that versioning applies to the entire document, each time an edit is made (even if minor) the whole document is given a new version number.  You can choose to track minor or major versioning, so if you have a complex review process or frequently edit your file, you can keep track of each and every little change in a draft format, e.g. v2.17 means that 17 minor edits have been made by the authors, but users are only seeing the last good true version (v2) that’s been published. When you are ready to publish the doc with those 17 edits, you publish as a major version, and the document automatically becomes v3.
  • Set up templates as content types – this forces users to use the latest version of a template. Setting content types takes a bit more effort than turning on version control, but it means general users don’t have to look for the latest version – they just click on the New button and start working on a document that’s based off your company template.  This helps stop staff working off their own personal last version of a file and not the shiny new version of the sales proposal that you’ve just spent hours creating.

For more information on how we can help you with SharePoint training and intranet development please contact me.

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