We all know the feeling: we have spent hours on a document only to realize that we have worked on an outdated version. Sometimes we even accidentally delete our progress. Unfortunately, what sounds like a beginner’s mistake happens all too often, especially when multiple people work on the same file.
This is where document version control comes into play. In this article, we will show you the best version control software solutions so that this and many other mistakes never happen to you and your team again.
What is version control for documents?
The University of Glasgow describes the term as follows:
“Version control is the process by which different drafts and versions of a document or record are managed.”
This is, of course, not done manually, but with the help of document version control software.
Version control has various use cases:
- Tracking: When working in a team, capable version control software allows you to track and identify changes made by individual contributors.
- Collaboration: Review and approval features allow team members to leave comments and annotations on the file and discuss feedback in the comments section.
- Compare versions: With version control software, you can easily compare two different file versions to see if all requested changes have been implemented.
- Safety: With version control, you don’t need to worry about accidental deletions, overwriting, or other mistakes, as you can easily go back and restore previous versions.
What are the three types of version control?
As document version control takes place digitally, the ways of setting up such a system can vary.
Local version control
Local version control takes place only on your computer. Even though many tools have some form of document version control, having just a local version control is often not enough to efficiently protect your file versions or collaborate with colleagues.
Centralized version control
With a centralized version control system, all documents are saved on a central server. As a result, collaboration is easier, but the main risk stays the same: if the server crashes, all data is lost.
Distributed version control
Distributed version control solves the problems associated with local and centralized version control. Clients copy the full repository, including the revision history with all document versions, and the software copies all the data from the server to your computer. So, should the server crash, you still have all the document versions to restore and copy back once it is back online.
Document management vs. document version control software
A document management system (DMS) is a database-supported software that helps companies store, receive, share and manage their documents.
A document management system becomes increasingly important with the size of an organization. Those with global subsidiaries use document management software as an easy way to search, access, edit, and share documents globally to reduce redundant work across projects while improving collaboration and brand management.
During the pandemic, where more and more team members work from home, proper document management software becomes even more important for working and collaborating efficiently.
The more people that work on documents increase the likelihood of mistakes occurring. Saving incorrect content and distributing it globally can lead to brand inconsistency, wrong product information, and in the worst case, lost revenue.
Therefore, all sound document management systems have some form of integrated version control software. Version control allows members to create, access, and manage multiple versions of a digital asset. This is especially important for documents, which are constantly updated.
Therefore, document version control software rarely comes alone but is part of a bigger system, such as a DMS or cloud-based file sharing, collaboration, and productivity tools.
How to manage version control on documents?
In 2021, document version control systems work pretty much from the outset so that you do not have to spend too much time setting them up yourself. That allows you to concentrate on your project, knowing your progress is safe and secure, although there may still be some important manual settings needed to structure your version control process.
Depending on which software you use, you can set up and manage multiple functions. Taking Google Docs as an example of a popular productivity and collaboration software, its versioning feature contains the following functions:
- Name versions: If you have an important historic file version, you can name your specific version so that you and your colleagues can easily access this particular version later on.
- Copy versions: You can easily make a copy if you want to continue working from a specific version. This is handy if you prepare contracts for different customers with minor tweaks in each version.
- Track changes: You can easily look for changes made in each version. Depending on the software you are using, those changes are visually highlighted.
As we will see in the following section, a good versioning tool has much more to offer than just basic functions.
Versioning can help you safeguard a wide range of workflows, from simultaneous document creation and editing to your document review and approval workflow.
Overview of eight document version control software tools
Document version control is mostly part of document management systems, so what is the best document management software for version control? In the following section, we introduce eight tools that contain strong version control features.
Filestage – automatic file versioning
Version control is an important part of a file’s review and approval process as you need to share a new version of a revised file after each review round..
Filestage manages the versioning of documents and other file types automatically. This makes it easy to keep an overview of all versions and the progress of the document revisions. Plus, you can always go back and view previous file versions, including comments and approvals made by stakeholders, for more transparency and file safety.
Docsvault – user-friendly document management system
Docsvault is a document management system (DMS) to manage paper documents, electronic files, and emails. As previously mentioned, a DMS needs proper document version control software to protect all digital assets.
With Docsvault, it is easy to roll back to older versions to protect all documents, while features such as automatic notifications further increase transparency and security.
SMEs and large companies that work solely with documents, such as Microsoft Word, can certainly benefit from a DMS such as Docsvault. However, as videos are nowadays an essential part of marketing collateral, a DAM system that only supports document files might not be the best solution if you plan to manage and save all your digital assets in one place.
FileHold – document control and revision
FileHold combines document management and review features in one solution. The system can be installed locally on your servers or used as a cloud-based solution.
The FileHold versioning system creates unique copies of each file version, ensuring that your versions are never overwritten. Additionally, each document version contains multiple information, such as the time a change was made and the corresponding user information.
Even though FileHold is a DAM system with online proofing features, it does not offer all features that a fully-fledged review and approval software can offer.
LogicalDOC – flexible document revision and management solution
LogicalDOC is an enterprise-level DAM, which can be integrated in various ways, such as on-premise, cloud-based, hybrid cloud, and even inside network-attached storage (NAS) systems from Synology or QNAP.
LogicalDOC offers companies a wide range of versioning features, including revision history, a modifiable number of historical versions, or double versioning for documents and attached files.
Even though the system comes with all the necessary features a user should expect from a DAM, some, such as digital signatures, or even annotations, are only possible with higher-priced subscription fees.
M-Files – document management to streamline processes
M-Files is a document management platform that allows you to streamline all document-related tasks. It offers multiple customer relation management (CRM) features that enable users to add customer details to documents, which need sharing with clients.
The system offers a wide range of versioning features, such as version control with automatic audit trail: login, logout, and password tracking are just a few examples.
Even though M-Files is a thorough document workflow management software to streamline your document processes, smaller businesses, in particular, may find the setup too complex.
Qualtrax – compliance-related document solution
In comparison to the other solutions in this list, Qualtrax mainly focuses on compliance. With Qualtrax, you can access centralized audit data and manage compliance issues with ISO standards. Automated processes, templates, and efficient data management help you streamline your workflow.
Qualtrax combines a wide range of safety features while maintaining an effortless customer experience. For example, only the most current version of a document is visible so that participants see just the latest information.
Qualtrax is highly specialized software, useful for compliance-intensive businesses such as laboratories or the energy sector.
XaitPorter – document collaboration and revision
XaitPorter is another excellent example of the considerable applicability versioning offers. The web-based software mainly focuses on document collaboration tools, which are primarily used to create project bids. With XaitPorter, your team members can work on the same document simultaneously.
The editing software offers all the necessary features you can expect from a capable document editing tool: different versions minimize risks and increase document control.
XaitPorter offers a valuable toolkit for all sales-heavy companies. However, depending on your individual needs and project goals, other less specific, all-rounding tool kits might be a better choice if you are looking for more business applications.
Intellect – document control management
As a document control management system, Intellect offers a sophisticated versioning system that helps users track document versions, including revisions and approvals. With Intellect, you can create customized review and approval workflows for each document.
Intellect offers numerous compliance and regulation systems for highly regulated industries, such as pharma, life sciences, or aerospace. This makes it easy for companies to meet all required conditions while streamlining document-heavy workflows.
Like Qualtrax, Intellect is also a very specialized solution, which caters only to the needs of specific industries.
As we have seen, document version control is indispensable and included in many software applications and use cases such as approval tools or document management systems.
Reliable document version control software simplifies collaboration, enables better tracking, and adds multiple layers of security in virtually all document file formats. This allows you and your team to concentrate on your projects, work on files simultaneously and switch between older versions without worrying about information loss or deletion.