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Reduced duplication - Old/multiple and potentially out of date/misleading copies can be destroyed and final versions identified clearly.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 file versioning
One simple way to version files is to manually save new versions when you make significant changes. This works well if:
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.
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.
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.
Students receive 30 GB storage space on Google Drive. Drive's word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software automatically create versions as you edit.
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.