Google Docs Revision History Can Save Your Tail


Get Shift Done: Tips and Tricks

My dog Terri and I were writing a story for the (fictitious) “” website, when she accidentally wiped out half of the text she had written while she was working on her second draft. We (by which I mean I, because I have opposable thumbs) were using Google Docs because of its vaunted collaboration features. And it has auto-save, so even the dumbest puppy can’t forget to save his work.

Auto-save is a great feature most of the time, but when you inadvertently delete half your story with a single pawstroke— suddenly that auto-save feature is not so good.

So, for instance, imagine that the first draft looked something like this.

With a few errant clicks, half the draft is deleted. Oh no!

All is not lost. The text is recoverable!

The solution is the Google Docs revision history. It’s hidden in plain sight, so if you don’t know what it does you might never notice it.

From the Google Docs menu, choose File, then See revision history. Click that line. You are there!

The revision history displays all versions of the document at the upper right corner of the Docs window. It shows a list of revisions going back to when the document was first made, with the newest one on top. Pick the one you want, and choose, “Restore this revision.”

In most cases, you discover the “Oops!” rather quickly, and simply want to restore the previous version. That can be done in a few mouse clicks; it certainly brought back Terri’s lost text and picture. If that hadn’t been the right revision, we might have tried a newer one or two, and an older one or two, until we found the one we wanted. (You can learn more — and more about Google Docs in general, on the Docs Help page.)

In any case, we now had our original draft back. Terri wagged her tail, finished writing the story, and turned it in to her editor, who growled (as editors are prone to do), “You barely met your deadline.”

Terri’s finished story:

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