Data File Management

This guide discusses the best practices of data file naming, file formats, and file versioning and control

Data Services

For more information or for assistance, please contact Data Services at


Benefits of Version Control

If a file will require a lot of revision and redrafting, version control can make your life easier. Version control is extremely important for documents edited in a lab setting with a number of contributors and frequent revisions. When done correctly, all collaborators could go to the current and earlier versions. Version information should be included as part of the file name.  When versioning is accomplished, it provides:

Traceability - allows the user to identify and view drafts and final documents over a period of time.

Identifiability and Clarity - it is possible to link the documents to decisions, contributions and editors over time.

Reduced duplication - Old/multiple and potentially out of date/misleading copies can be destroyed and final versions identified clearly.

Reduced errors - readers and editors will be less likely be confused and work on multiple and conflicting versions at the same time.

Simple Versioning

Simple file versioning

One simple way to version files is to manually save new versions when you make significant changes. This works well if:

  • You don't need to keep a lot of different versions.
  • Only one person is working on the files.
  • The files are always accessed from one location.

Saving multiple versions makes it possible to decide at a later time that you prefer an earlier version. You can then immediately revert back to that version instead of having to retrace your steps to recreate it.

This method of versioning requires that you remember to save new versions when it is appropriate. This method can become confusing when collaborating on a document with multiple people.

Using software to version

Faculty and Students at the University of Arkansas have software options to assist in storing and creating versions of documents.


Box creates and tracks versions of your files for you.

  • Any type of document can be stored and versioned with Box.
  • The comments feature lets you indicate changes that have been made between versions.
  • Documents can be shared with others, and Box will track who uploaded or updated each file and when.

Pros: Box allows you to automatically sync folders on your desktop to your Box account. Microsoft Excel, Word, and PowerPoint files, as well as Google Docs and Spreadsheets can be edited directly within the Box interface.

Cons: Does not have real-time editing like Google Drive.

Add-on: The Box Edit add-on allows you to launch local editing of any type of file from your Box account. Saving the file automatcially creates a new version back on your Box account.

Campus Information on Box


  Google Drive

Students receive 30 GB storage space on Google Drive. Drive's word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software automatically create versions as you edit.

  • Any time you edit files created on Google Drive, new versions are saved as you go.
  • Version information includes who was editing the file and the date and time the new version was created.
  • You can also see what changes were made from one version to the next (or between the current version and any older version) and revert back to a previous version at any time.

Campus information on Google Drive


Advanced software options

If you have more sophisticated version control needs, you might consider a distributed version control system like git. Files are kept in a repository and users clone copies of the repository for editing and commit changes back to the repository when they are done.

Version control systems like git are frequently used for groups writing software and code, but can be used for any kind of files or projects. Many people share their git repositories on GitHub.