Version numbering files 14:04 on Friday

How to manage file versions of Word documents, Excel sheets, PowerPoint presentations, ZIP archives, audio files… basically any file that lives partly or fully outside some kind of a version control system?

I still have not found a better version numbering system than yymmdd. For example, a Word file could be called Basics of version numbering 060526.doc, indicating a version created on May 26th, 2006. Every new revision gets a new filename. This is important, because two different versions of a file with the same version number makes the version number detrimental rather than useful. Keeping the filename constant apart from the version number results in the added benefit of having the filesystem keep the files in order automatically.

If documents need to be sent out review, the system can be expanded by having the reviewers add their initials on the filename and return the renamed file. The file Basics of version numbering 060526jd.doc, sent by Johan Doewolff, goes neatly in the same folder with the original file and the reviewed versions automatically stay next to the original in the file list.

Sometimes more accuracy is needed. For example, when finishing a Flash client project I often end up making lots of quick and minor modifications, fullfilling final customer requests, and I keep sending new versions to the client all through the day. For these cases I usually add time (yymmdd-hhmm) or a running number or letter (yymmdd-n) to the filename. So the packages I send to the client could be called ClientProject060526-0915.zip or ClientProject060526-B.zip. Not too neat, but it works.

Of course you don’t always need to save under a new name, only when a given version is “locked”. Simply put, a version should be locked when it is shared with others. All this means is, after sharing a document, no further changes will be made to that given version of a file. If you modify a file after sharing it, you save a new version.

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