Versioning In macOS

Posted by

Everybody is all into backups these days and rightly so! I have several different backups of my iMac including an hourly one. I am pretty much protected from losing files or just plain messing up a document I am using. However, there is another way to recover work that is lost or missing within a specific document using the macOS Versioning feature.

macOS Versioning

Most Mac applications use the Versioning feature which is built into macOS. Basically, Versioning remembers various saved versions of your documents. The bottomline is not many people really use Versioning to restore documents or even portions of documents. We all seem to gravitate to a version contained in a backup of our Mac. But, Versioning works quite well most of the time and is just plain handy. 

Here is a sample document I created using Nisus Writer Pro word processor:

Sample Document

Lets say the text in red was deleted accidentally or perhaps the document just became corrupted and lost that section. Whatever the reason, there is an easy way to restore that text. All you have to do is click on the File Menu, navigate down to Revert To and select Browse All Versions:

Browse All Versions

You will be taken to a full screen Versioning window with your original document on the left and the Versions on the right. This is an image of the Versions portion of my test document:

Versioning Window

When you first get this window that button down there says “Restore”. The idea is to scroll back in time to the version that has the information you need. Pretty much the same as the Time Machine interface. Once you find the document you can click on that “Restore” button and it replaces your current document. However, if you only want to copy some missing text just hold down the Option ⌥ Key and the “Restore” button turns into “Restore a Copy”. This places a copy of the document next to your original on your Desktop:

Document Copy

 Then, copy the missing test from the copy and paste it into your original, Delete the copy and a way you go. So, you can use “Restore” and replace the whole document, but you do not need to do that. You can use “Restore a Copy” and just replace what needs fixing. 

There is one caveat here. I do not use Time Machine for my backups. I have not used it for many years. I believe if you use Time Machine for backups you can copy the missing text while you are in the “Restore” window. In other words, after you navigate back in the Versions to the one that contains the material you are missing, you can just select and copy the text right from there. You do not have to “Restore a Copy” like I have demonstrated. I am not totally certain if this works like this in Time Machine so if any of you can confirm it, that would be good. Just try it and see, then let me know in the Comments Section

I want to mention one more factor here. I am doing this is macOS High Sierra. YMMV may vary in other versions of the macOS.


I keep really good backups of my mission critical stuff on my Macs. However, I think I will be using the Versioning Feature in the macOS more often, especially for minor fixes to documents.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *