How to restore previous versions of documents in Mac OS X

From quite some time, we’ve been using ‘Save as‘ feature to create an edited version of a document without being worried about throwing away a possibly better version of it. To make the process more convenient, every modern operating system comes with file versioning feature that provides you an effortless way to go back in time. It can be a real lifesaver when you have found yourself having changed a document content by mistake, or found out that recent modifications to a file needs to be reversed, especially when you working with some type of office document.

Versions feature has been part of Mac OS since the release of OS X Lion. It creates a new version of a document automatically every hour, and whenever you open, modify, duplicate, save, rename or restore it to previous version. At any time, you can flick through file versions and restore the one you want on board. You can find this restore feature in many applications that are specifically designed for it, which includes Text editor, Pages, Keynote, Numbers and so on.

How to Restore, Duplicate and Delete a version

For an example, lets say, you have been working on a document using ‘Pages’ application and found out that recent changes you made on it should be reversed. In that case, you can restore the original version of the document by opening the document, go to File Menu > Revert To > Browse All Versions. Then it will take you to a Time machine like interface, where you can flick through various file versions.

View of previous version documents in Mac OS X

To restore one of your previous versions of the document, select the version you wanted to be restored, and click the Restore button.

When you do that the document once again becomes available to edit in the previous version you prefer. From there you can even duplicate any particular version, press the Option key and click the Restore a Copy button, which will turns up by replacing the ‘Restore’ button when you press the Option key.

In case, you need to delete any particular version, select the version, move the mouse pointer to the top of the screen to display the menu bar, then go for File > Revert To > Delete This Version.

Note: OS X uses Versions feature cache and necessary revision control data to recover previous version of a file or document, which means this feature doesn’t work on files that are not generated on your own Mac. If you happened to have removed the versions history or caches from the system, then there will be no version control either.


Of course, the Version feature is a welcome addition in Mac OS X. Even though, this feature has been around in Mac OS X from quite a while, not all application developers have incorporated the version support in their own applications yet. If you are using the Microsoft Word for editing documents, sadly, the ‘previous versions’ feature in Mac OS X doesn’t work directly with it, though you can make use of its native feature to restore the previous version of your document.

Post Comment