Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Version control ... oh the humanity!

As some of you know, I am an editor. I work for a big software company and edit everything from press releases, to pop-up window content, to documentation. I like the work for the most part, and it keeps me really busy.

The one thing I have to say though is, version control is mucho important! I seriously just got a document set back (well into the 100+ pages range), and I have at least two versions in here. By versions, I mean v1 is what was handed to me, I edited it, becoming v1_edit or v1.1, they accepted the edits, and it became v2. I have at least one document from v1, which I edited but none of those edits are there, and another document that I wrote and that never saw an editor. Needless to say, it's a mess.

So, many of you here are writers with big novels, and presumably many of you are on your second, third, or fifth edit (that's me btw) of that novel. What system do you use to keep it all straight? Right now, I use dates in the document name (i.e. greatnovel_040407.doc). That is the name I give to my first major revision. I don't really like my system, but it works. Any better ideas?


pacatrue said...

Hi Kelly,

If you are at a software company, they should have some sort of change control / version control software. Our technical writers would use this system as well to keep things on track. It just lets you check things in and out and records when and lets you lock files while someone else has it. So check with quality assurance or someone like that to see what they do. They might be using version control on their own test design docs.

I'm in academic publishing as a part-time editor, and we just use file names (author-a, author-b, etc.), but every once in a while, it gets messed up, and so I was starting to look for open source version control software. But I haven't actually done much on it.

spyscribbler said...

I don't do versions. I keep one main file, one outline/brainstorming file, and one file called "drippings," where I put big chunks that I delete from the main file.

Works for me! Versions would make me crazy, digging through all that stuff!

Nicole Kelly said...


You would think they being a big company would have version control software; that would make sense, but they don't. Or at least they don't for my project. I've heard of these wonderful systems, and I long to work with one ;-)

If you find open source version control stuff, please tell me about it. I know a lot of writers who would love it!


This time around with my new book, I am not doing the same system I did with the first. This time, I have outline (big picture), outline (chapter and scene level), the story, and the edits from my writing group. Let's see if this works better.

Nic said...
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Nic said...

You could use a source control software like cvs to do the job. They are normally used for code, but I don't see why you couldn't use them for version control for any kind of files.

If you are saving to your files in some sort of plain text format you could even do diffs between versions. (Like this in case you don't know what I am talking about here: ) I do this with code all the time

writtenwyrdd said...

I organize versions by the latest date. I cannot track the changes I made that way, but I don't lose the most recent edit, either. Ex: GreatAmericanNovel_17APR2007.doc

I would love to be able to view all the changes separately, but the best I can do is to widen the page and have comments (using word) in the margin. The big flaw? This lumps all changes together.

I remember reading that Piers Anthony had a special software written for him whereby he could track his changes; but that was many years ago-- early 90s or late 80s.

I also have a purple prose file, where I have all the outtakes. Nothing is lost, therefore I can slash sections without being heartbroken. It's my psychological crutch, but it works.