How To Use Versioning Control in Mac OS X Lion

Mac|Life – All Articles
by Cory Bohon

versioning_teaser.pngWith Lion, Apple has included a way for developers to implement versioning control in their apps. So when you’re saving files like documents you’ll have access to both the past versions and current version. With a Time Machine-like interface, you’re able to view all of the changes in your documents and restore past versions if you accidentally delete something in the current version.

Note: not all applications currently support this function. But fortunately, it works in TextEdit.


To begin versioning a file, you must first save it. The save process in Lion is the same that you’re used to in previous versions of OS X. Once you’ve saved, an application that has file versioning will begin autosaving your documents at intervals (or you can press Command + S to save manually).



To access the versioning features, hover your mouse to the right-hand side of the document title in the titlebar of the window. Click on the small triangle that appears. This menu gives you access to Lock, Duplicate, and Browse All Version.


You can duplicate a file by selecting the duplicate button. This will create a new, unsaved document with the same text in the application. In TextEdit, this feature replaces the Save As command that was used in previous versions of Mac OS X.

Browse All Versions


The magic really happens when you select "Browse All Versions". This will bring you do a Time Machine-like interface with the most current version of the document on the left-hand side of the screen and previous versions of the same document on the right-hand side of the screen. Just like in Time Machine, you can navigate through the previous versions of the file and restore them by clicking on the Restore button.

If you just want to restore a portion of an old document, you can use copy and paste commands on the previous version to grab just a chunk of the older document and paste it into the newer version while in this interface.


When you finish your document, you may want to lock it to prevent editing in the future. To do this, click on the Lock item in the menu.

Once a document is locked and an attempt to change the document and save is made, you will get the error message above stating that you cannot make changes unless you unlock the document or duplicate it.



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