Awesome Features That I Did Not Know About: Version Management In Google Sheets

One of the joys of using technology for me is discovering awesome features that I did not know about. This happens to me every so often and always brings a smile to my face. So I thought I’d blog about this when it happens to me.

This recently happened with version management in Google Sheets. When I work with a big spreadsheet, I always worry about making some change and messing the entire thing up. I have been using spreadsheets since Lotus123 and have messed up many a spreadsheet. So I like to make copies of my work regularly so I have something to roll back to.

Sometime in the last few weeks, I accidentally deleted a row and could not undo it. So I searched for “version management in Google Sheets” and got this one box answer:

This works for all Google apps but is particularly valauble for Google Sheets.

So now I can stop saving my work regularly. Google is doing that for me. Awesome.


Comments (Archived):

  1. William Mougayar

    Google has an audit trail for every digital bread crumb in the world. Scary thought.If we only knew what Google knows …

    1. jason wright

      In Google We Trust.

  2. Matt Zagaja

    Ooh thanks for sharing, I did not know of that one. I will share back that I found Google Apps Script lets you write Javascript (which is more commonly learned than VBScript) to automate your spreadsheet or access APIs to augment data in your spreadsheet:…. I use it for geocoding addresses before throwing it up on maps, but folks might use it for things like sending contact data to an API that updates data (FullContact API) or if you have an email address maybe you’ll query a social media API for information about a user.

  3. kenberger

    …and thus was coined today on AVC the term:AFTIDNKA

    1. fredwilson

      that’s a mouthful

    2. jason wright

      Get the tattoo and i’ll believe.

      1. kenberger

        ooh… startup idea: programmable/editable tattoos !

        1. jason wright

          Tatt ooh! :)Samsung has contact lens tech. I wonder if it could be adapted to skin grafting?

  4. Mike Zamansky

    Back when things came with manuals I used to joke that you should never read them. This way, when you discover a feature that solves some frustrations a year or so later it’s just like getting whatever the device was brand new again.This is a real area that applications can improve on – discoverability or on the other hand, the ability for the application to figure out what features to expose in a “clippy” sort of way.As to the specific feature, it’s an issue in a number of communities I’ve been listening in on – how do you represent meaningful diffs of non-textual data. Wonder if mid to long term Microsoft is going to see about leveraging GitHub in some interesting way on this.

  5. kcverady

    Fred, subscribe to this to find out when Google silently adds functionality – the priority drive feature and workspaces are useful : https://gsuiteupdates.googl

    1. fredwilson

      wow. that’s great

    2. Kirsten Lambertsen

      <iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”…” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen=””></iframe>Couldn’t resist.

  6. Mike

    Nice feature. I still like keeping important files on a local drive. Maybe it is just what I am used to. I think productivity tricks depend on the individual and type of work, but always looking to improve.

  7. jason wright

    Google’s Glue formula just keeps getting better 🙂

  8. JaredMermey

    What’s nice is you can name the versions so you can name them after the analysis or step of a broader set of formulas you just put in

  9. pointsnfigures… and they have ingested the change, the blog and now marketers will target you! Serious link is a good article on privacy

  10. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:One of the most challenging features of software is the spreadsheet. We have gotten better of the years but always surrounded ourselves with people more efficient.Google Sheets has add-ons and following features… Send emails when you comment. … Add heatmaps using conditional formatting. … Apply filters. … Clean up values with CLEAN and TRIM. … Protect data in cells. … Validate data in cells. … Integrate with Google Forms. … Insert a chart from Google Sheets into a a Google Doc.Captain Obvious!#UNEQUIVOCALLYUNAPOLOGETICALLYINDEPENDENT

  11. Michael Aronson

    Great, now why wont google sheets open up where you left off a on tab like every other spreadsheet, this is a major problem as i have large sheets ive been using for years and keep adding to the right and to the bottomI know there are some macros that can added…

  12. Lee-on Pedahzur

    Haven’t seen anyone mentioned it below, so just to save a few clicks/navigation you can access the same feature from within G-Suite docs themselves: https://uploads.disquscdn.c….Furthermore, you can create a copy of a version and thus able to see side by side changes in underlying formulas since the versions view only shows a hard-coded value. That has been extremely valuable to me when I work with several contributors and formulas end up getting messed with



  14. John

    Great feature. Another nice one I just discovered was that you can have it email you a notification when changes are made to a spreadsheet. I’ve known you could script this, but there’s also a checkbox you can do to get emails with updates to a spreadsheet which can be very useful.

  15. sigmaalgebra

    Nearly all of current thinking about user interface (UI) in computing is convinced down to the center of the cells at the center of the bone marrow that there is one (1), just ONE good approach to UI.Computing used to write and print lots of user documentation, manuals. E.g., at one time IBM was the world’s largest printer.Along came some cognitive psychologists relaxing in big bean bag (awful alliteration) chairs at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) ostensibly inventing new design principles for UI for Xerox office machines. They rejected documentation of UI via manuals. Indeed, they rejected documentation of UI at all. Instead they believed in –(1) users doing essentially experimentation and discovery, or using the TIFO method — try it and find out.(2) icons instead of words in a natural language, e.g., English, in the Roman alphabet.(3) on a graphical UI a metaphor of direct manipulation of the work.Then Apple, Microsoft, etc. adopted versions of these principles.So, we are really short on documentation.We have icons that we can’t pronounce, spell, type in text, look up in a dictionary, sort, etc.How the UI works is left to experimentation and discovery which means that only a small fraction of the users actually understand all the features or functionality of the UI.In particular, the designers of a UI don’t have to do what we would expect in any design and implementation of functionality: They don’t have to be careful about their work. In particular, they don’t document their work in good technical writing. So, from conceptualization through development to deployment, the work is sloppy. Or, when the developers click on their icons and that appears to work, that’s enough. Maybe the developers know which icons do what and in what order to click on what icons, but everyone else has to experiment, discover, and use the TIFO method. And as Fred just discovered, for nearly all the users lots of functionality gets discovered late or maybe never.My long held, well informed, carefully considered view is that the biggest bottleneck in computing is the lack of good technical documentation. In simple terms, the developers don’t effectively describe their work. The evidence is strong that the developers are inarticulate.For some of the old applications, e.g., document processing, getting the labor savings of getting rid of the typewriters and desk calculators was so important that people put up with the principles of the Xerox big bean bag chairs.But it is fully clear now that TIFO on icons is from wildly inefficient down to disastrous. I am awash in examples, but maybe one big one will suffice: There is a company that sells software for managing development projects. They are successful and have lots of users, a significant fraction of the largest organizations in the world. Well, of course, part of their functionality is security for the data on the projects. And they have borrowed from the ideas of the MIT Project MAC with authentication, capabilities, and attribute control lists (ACLs). Soooo, for the data for a given project, for the capability to see the project data, there is a place to indicate “ALL”. And it has been common to take this option for all. So, people take that option; the software appears to work; and people move on.But what does “ALL” mean? Or to borrow from another part of computing, what is the scope of “ALL”? All the people in the project, right? That’s what makes sense, right? Or maybe all the people in the company on all the projects using the software? That would be generous, but maybe. But in principle it could be all the people in the company, right?Of course, the one word “ALL” did not explain. Apparently neither did any documentation. So, people were to use the TIFO method.As in TIFO, recently people did “find out”: The option “ALL” meant everyone in the world with access to the Internet. Here the TIFO experiments were a bit expensive.The option “ALL”, horribly designed, at best badly documented, was a gun, loaded, cocked, no safety, with a hair trigger that when bumped would and DID fire.The ideas of user experiments and TIFO from the Xerox PARC big bean bag chairs with no good natural language technical documentation is a disaster. Computing needs good DOCUMENTATION.

  16. pointsnfigures

    FWIW:… Google isn’t playing nice. We will have to see if these allegations prove out.