How to Use Version History in Google Docs

281253 How to Use Version History in Google Docs

Version history is a useful feature in Google Docs that allows you to view or restore previous versions of your documents. With version history, you can revert back to an older version if you make a mistake or just want to view how the document looked at various points as you edited it.

Enabling version history is easy and gives you more control over your documents. In this blog post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about using version history in Google Docs, including:

  • What is version history in Google Docs
  • How to enable version history
  • Viewing version history
  • Restoring older versions
  • Deleting old versions
  • Best practices for using version history

What is Version History in Google Docs

Version history automatically saves revisions of your Google Doc as you edit it over time. Each time you open and edit the document, Google Docs creates a new revision or version and stores it in the history.

This allows you to view or restore previous versions from the history. It’s useful if you want to:

  • Undo major changes that you end up not liking
  • Revert to an older version if you accidentally deleted or overwrote content
  • Track changes over time as you and others edit the document
  • Recover lost data after a crash or technical issue

Version history gives you more control, visibility, and reassurance since you have older versions to fall back on if needed.

How to Enable Version History

Enabling version history is simple:

  1. Open the Google Doc you want to enable history for
  2. Click File > Version history > See version history
  3. Check the box for Keep forever
  4. Click Done

That’s it! Version history is now turned on and will start tracking changes in this Google Doc.

By default, Google Docs saves a new version every 5 minutes and whenever you manually save. But once you check Keep forever, it will never auto-delete old versions.

Viewing Version History

After enabling version history, you can view all saved versions:

  1. Open the Google Doc
  2. Click File > Version history > See version history

This opens the version history panel on the right side.

Here you’ll see a list of all versions, with the latest at the top. It shows the last editor, timestamp, and version number for each:

Version history list

Click any entry to see details about that version in a popup:

  • Open – Opens the full doc as it looked in that version
  • Preview – Shows a preview sidebar of how the doc looked
  • Name this version – Lets you give it a custom name for easier reference
  • More > Restore this revision – Reverts the doc back to that version
  • More > Delete this revision – Permanently deletes only that revision

Previewing lets you quickly check older versions without disrupting your current work. The preview shows the content differences compared to your open doc:

Version preview

This way you can glance at previous changes to jog your memory or cherry pick content to restore.

Restoring Older Versions

If you want to undo recent changes, you can restore an older revision:

  1. Open version history and find the version you want
  2. Click the More menu
  3. Choose Restore this revision

This will revert the document back to exactly how it looked in that version.

You’ll be asked to confirm restoring the older revision since it will overwrite content in your open doc. Make sure to preview versions first before restoring to prevent losing work.

Deleting Old Revisions

Over time, old versions you no longer need will pile up. To save space, you can manually delete unneeded revisions:

  1. Open version history and click the revision you want to remove
  2. Click the More menu
  3. Choose Delete this revision

The entry will be immediately removed from the history. This only deletes that specific version, not the whole history.

To delete the full history, you’d have to clear the doc’s version history.

Best Practices for Version History

Here are some tips for getting the most from Google Docs version history:

  • Enable it early – Turn on history as soon as you create a new doc to capture all changes from the beginning.
  • Name key versions – Give distinct names to major revisions to quickly find them later.
  • Review history after big changes – Check the history after making major edits to easily undo if needed.
  • Limit access – Be careful who you share doc access with since anyone can delete or restore old versions.
  • Export backup copies – Download a copy of important docs in case something happens to the stored history.
  • Clear old revisions occasionally – Go through and delete unneeded historical versions to save space.
  • Disable history when done – Turn off history on docs that are 100% complete to stop saving new versions.


Version history gives you more insight and control over your Google Docs documents. By tracking all saved revisions, you can easily view, revert, or delete changes made over time.

Enabling history only takes a click but gives you the power to undo mistakes, rescue lost changes, and better collaborate with teammates. Just be sure to use it responsibly by cleaning up old versions and restricting access when needed.

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