How to Manage File Versions in Excel
What version did I receive from you? Oh, I have modified the previous version. Did the board make a decision based on that version? Many nightmare has arisen because of confusion about the correct file versions of Excel documents. In the file itself, it is often difficult to see what the latest version is. And is the latest version the right version, or was it a “temporary break” to try something?
A Consistent Naming System for File Versions
Our first advice: Use a consistent and clear naming system. Do not just trust the modify date of the Excel file, nor trust a folder structure that distinguishes old and new. The modify date is already modified if an old version is opened and saved “accidentally”. And the folder structure is useless when colleagues send Excel files to each other per e-mail.
Learn From Software Programmers
What is the best consistent and clear naming system? Let’s take a look at how programmers of software (i.e. not Excel) do that. Often they use a three-point edition system with points in between, starting with 1.0.0. The first number goes up 1 with big changes, the second one with small changes and the third number is reserved for bug fixing. For very large spreadsheet projects, it is a good idea to use this system. For smaller projects, it may be a bit over the top, there 2 numbers suffice, and maybe even 1 will.
We believe the system with version numbers (“Exploitation 2017 V1.3”) works great, better than an edition system where, for example, the date is used as key (“Exploitation 2017 D20170412”), but that is also okay. Do note the date as yyyymmdd, so the versions in the explorer can be sorted properly.
Guideline 1 was about documenting your work. Good version numbers make documenting changes a lot easier.
The Absolute No Go
Finally, we strongly advise that you never, never use terms like ‘new version’, ‘concept’, ‘final’, and so on. Another train may pass! We have seen countless Excel files with imaginative names like “BudgetDepartment17 Final Concept Def Version2.XLSX”. That can’t possibly be the intention.