Do You Use It? Versions

macOS 14.4 Sonoma suffered from a bug that caused iCloud Drive files evicted from the local drive to lose their version data. Howard Oakley broke the news, and it made the rounds in the blogosphere, including a discussion here. Apple fixed the bug in macOS 14.4.1 last week.

Without in any way defending Apple because the bug did cause data loss, I had a hard time believing the problem would affect many people because it required that you:

  • Run macOS 14.4
  • Use apps that support Apple’s versioning system
  • Store files in iCloud Drive
  • Enable Optimize Mac Storage
  • Have files with versions evicted, either automatically or manually
  • Care that version data was lost

The last requirement is what triggered this week’s poll question.

I use macOS’s versioning a few times per year in Preview to recover from an undesirable edit in an image file. (Once you save and close an edited image in Preview, it’s “flattened,” so you can no longer change your edits. That’s not true of PDFs.) In such situations, using File > Revert To is faster than retaking the screenshot.

But I have a hard time believing that most Mac users even know that they can revert to previously saved versions of documents in some apps, much less use the feature regularly. Let’s find out, and for those who don’t know about the feature, use this as a chance to explain it more thoroughly.

One note. “Occasionally” is intentionally vague below—it could apply to anything between once a month and once a year. My intent is to identify people who know about and use the feature but don’t rely on it heavily. The problem with more specific time periods is that they depend on you finding yourself in a situation that requires the use of versions, which is unpredictable.

And if you use versions frequently, tell us more!

How often do you use macOS’s versioning feature?
  • Frequently
  • Occasionally
  • Never
  • I don’t know about versioning
0 voters
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I checked ‘Occaisionally’, but that means almost never (I.e,. maybe 1 or 2 times a year for Pages).

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No problem—Occasionally is the correct answer for you, then, because it shows that you know about the feature and do use it when it’s necessary. There’s no way to predict how often you’ll find yourself needing it, but it could be once a month or once a year.

Frequently is for people who have somehow built versions into their workflow such that they’re regularly reverting to older versions.

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I selected Never. At least never intentionally.

I have turned off Auto Save in the System Preferences (Mojave) but cannot turn off versioning. Onyx has a feature to remove versioned files and I use that from time to time.

(Anyone remember versioning in VAX/VMS? Now that was really cool!)

This one’s easy - never.

I put in never as well, but I just used it for the first time a few weeks ago, just once, when I was trying to create a single jpeg of my license front and back from scanned copies of each, and I accidentally saved when I shouldn’t have.

I have also, long in the past, once or twice restored an older version of a file from Dropbox’s web site.

I’m glad the feature exists, though.

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I remember well VMS on a VAX and loved versioning since it was both useful and obvious (the version numbers were after the filename preceded by a “;”). I voted occasionally since I was aware of the feature and might have used it once or twice, but it was certainly less obvious than in VMS.

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When it first came out, you had to go out of your way to not use it. I did (go out of my way.) Fortunately, now I don’t have too. I just don’t.

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Out of interest, why would you want to turn it off or spend the time and hassle of removing versioned files? I can understand not using the versions, but why not just ignore the versioning system?

It does? I can’t find it in the Monterey version. Is it in Ventura or newer?

I turn versioning off because I don’t use it – and don’t want it to save versions. I use Onyx from time to time so I simply enable the check box for removing versions. No hassle at all.

I’m still using Mojave. Here’s a screen shot.

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At work versioning doesn’t play nice with our servers or removable media, which precludes its use. At home its function is handled sufficiently by ‘undo’ or a backup

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Thanks, David,

That option is no longer available in Monterey Onyx. The other five “Misc. options:” are still there. I was curious because as I understand the “System Preferences” Help, for Monterey, I have versioning turned off. I can certainly find no trace of the files. But the “Help” is vague, and never really even mentions “Versioning.” It just seems to be what they are talking about.

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I use it rarely because undo works for my purposes. Losing work just doesn’t seem to happen. I can happily do a system update without saving work, and files just reopen where they were.

I know i shouldn’t do that, but i love that I can!

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The one place I want it is for Notes. And Notes does not support versioning.

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I have used versioning rarely (once or twice in 10 years maybe) in DropBox, I never knew Mac had this. I have also occasionally used the Microsoft OneDrive versioning on my work Mac (again, may be once or twice over years). I prefer to manually manage my versioning by saving the old copy with a date-time suffix if I think I might need the older version for something. The minor clutter this creates if worth the effort for occasional use.

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I think the last time I used versioning was on a Univac 1108 where it was built-in to the operating system, Exec 8 (that’s back in 1978 for you young folks). Haven’t used it since and haven’t missed it.

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Perhaps, a more useful response:

Long before Apple put out versioning, I had developed my own, more subjective, but less resource wasteful, “versioning,” ironically, based around “File / Save As…” Basically, if I had made a significant deletion or reorganization that I wasn’t entirely convinced of, I did a “Save As” that tacked a description of the change on to the file name. Then rather than some meaningless version number in a difficult to find (root) folder, I knew why I had saved it, and whether I still wanted to save it. If Apple had actually removed “Save As” as originally planned, I would not be participating in an Apple forum.

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I checked “Never” because I use High Sierra.

I like the way BBEdit has implemented versioning and I’ve occasionally found it very useful. In BBEdit: Search > Find Differences > Compare Against Previous Version…

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