Posted by: txtincorporated | May 18, 2010

The Dark Art of Version Control

The Web designer was being as polite as she could.

“A word of advice,” she urged.  “You need to use spell check before you send your clients a final draft!”

I asked her to send me what she had, and spelling was far from its worst problem.  I hardly even recognized the piece.  Seemingly parts of my work had been cut and pasted into my client’s original rough notes and then overlaid with changes I had never seen, to nobody’s credit.  After a few deep, centering breaths I called the client.

He protested “I just gave her what you sent me!”

In a way he had.  Just not the way I’d intended.  This wasn’t my first lesson in version control, only my most painful.

You may not know what that is if you haven’t written much.  Even if you have you may not always bother; either way you risk damage to your image, if not your ego.

Each time anyone working on a document changes it, it must be renamed sequentially to show the version and who changed it.  All versions should be synchronized to the same folder on everyone’s hard drive so people can see the most recent one last.  Ideally, everyone shares the same folder via the Web or an office network.

Complicated?  Yep!  That’s why so many people just let their writer handle it all.  I now send those clients drafts in .pdf form to discourage free style “tinkering” until I’ve distributed a file clearly marked “FINAL”.  For the others, I ask the designer to use final versions only from me.  Even the most hands-on clients like smooth sailing.