Best practices for version control (revisions)

My content editor has suggested several major revisions on the book manuscript.

What are the best practices when using Scrivener to track versions (revisions to a document)? I’ve toyed with the use of the Format > Revision Mode > First Revision & etc., which is handy for small changes. But how well is this system going to work when, say, I have to move three or four paragraphs from one chapter to another chapter? And is it possible to “roll back” major revisions like this at a later date?

I’m used to working with Word in a corporate environment. The version history feature is pretty handy at times.


This is what Snapshots are for. See Section 15.8 in the Scrivener Manual for more information.


Fantastic. Thank you!

One thing that’s going to trip you up if you have to roll back is that reverting one snapshot for one document doesn’t revert the other document you moved the paragraph to, to reference your example.

So when you are using snapshots in this kind of major revision, I suggest you start by selecting every folder and document (expand all containers so they’re all visible first), and take a named snapshot, so that every document has a “Before 1st Major Revision” snapshot.

Do keep in mind that if you want to be sure the entire project is rolled back, you’ll have check every document, comparing the editor’s contents with that document’s snapshot to find changes, and then roll it back. That could be tedious in the extreme if you’ve been working on a major revision and decide to trash it all.

If you think you might want to go back to before you started a major revision, I’d suggest also using File->Back Up->Back Up To… and creating a copy of your project, .zip compressed, with “before1stRevision” as part of the backup file’s name. That way, you just have to archive the active project, unzip the before1stRevision copy and continue from there.

Thanks for the heads up on this. Sounds like this isn’t going to be as smooth and simple as version control in a hosted MS Office environment.

Writing anything out makes it look a lot more complicated than it is.

For instance, if I were to wright a novel in Word, and I’d finished my rough draft, I’d do the following:

  1. Use Save As to create a copy named “My fancy novel-1stDraft.docx”
  2. Close the document (which is my backup that I don’t want to edit now)
  3. Archive the “1stDraft” copy of “My fancy novel.docx” somewhere safe that isn’t right next to the original.
  4. Open the original, turn on track changes, and start my revisions.

If I decide, after weeks of fiddling, to start over at the 1st draft, I’d do the following:

  1. Close the work in progress
  2. Rename it to “My fancy novel-2ndDraftABANADONED.docx” and archive it where I kept the 1st draft archive
  3. Copy the 1st Draft version to my working folder, renaming it to the original “My fancy novel.docx” filename.
  4. Turn on track changes, and start working from there.

Not really all that different from how I’d approach it in Scrivener.

I’d love to see Scrivener have a ‘Compare’ function like Notepad++ has where you can open two documents side by side and click compare and it highlights any character that is different and when you scroll down to see the different areas it scrolls both documents side by side, lined up line for line.

Scriv v3 has a function that compares a snapshot against a document, in case that helps.