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What revision control programs or methods do you guys use when writing?

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Not a real question in SE terms. –  Dmitry Selitskiy Jul 31 '11 at 23:24
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@JFW: Your question is very broad and open-ended, so users can only start reciting random programs without any indication of what would actually solve your problem. These sites work better when you ask very specific questions. What problem are you trying to solve? What have you tried? I'm sorry, but I have to close this as an overly vague poll of the users and not a good fit for this type of Q&A. –  Robert Cartaino Aug 5 '11 at 2:15
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closed as not constructive by Tom Wijsman, Robert Cartaino Aug 5 '11 at 2:16

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4 Answers

It depends on the context. SE answers and email get typed directly into the window. :)

At work, most of what I write is going to end up in a word document or (shudder) a PowerPoint chart. Neither of those programs have passable version control so I've resigned to one of two pretty lackluster solutions:

  • For minor changes I just make them and save the file, but when I want to archive something I save off a revision with the following file name convention: filename vXX YYYYMMDD.*. When files are sorted by name, this convention lists the revisions in order (up to v99). It's better than the date alone, which doesn't allow for multiple revisions a day, and it's better than a rev without a date because it allows you to see when the rev was created (the file modified metadata can be misleading for certain filetypes--or if you're storing things on a fileshare where someone else could open it up and re-save.

  • There are also often SharePoint sites that I can use to store files. These have the advantage of storing versions and allowing meta data akin to commit comments. Their main drawback is that SharePoint is slow and not nearly as low overhead as other solutions.

Needless to say, even these solutions are better than version control by email, which is what a lot of folks seem to do.

Now, when working alone (i.e. at home), I've taken to making notes in plain text files (perhaps in Markdown) and storing them in a personal Mercurial repository. That way I can get decent looking formatting when I preview the files, but I also get efficient storage of diffs and the ability to use a standard diff program to track changes.

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It depends on your environment (one machine, multiple machines, OSes, possibility of sharing, importance of security and robustness vs ease of use).

While I favor using traditional version control for most of my writing and work, I like the convenience of Dropbox for quick informal documents. It has the bonus of being cross-platform, having automatic syncing and versioning built in, as well as having the possibility to share documents or access them over the web.

That said, know that they had some security issues in the past, and I do not consider them a robust solution, just a convenient one. For my more serious documentation and articles, I write them in LaTeX and manage them using git, allowing me to have local source control as well as having the possibility to push the changes somewhere else, for external reviewers and official versions.

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It can be anything. All modern SCM programs handle binary files such as Word .doc/.docx ones. They just won't be able to diff it internally.

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It depends on the complexity. (and what I am writing.) For some things, copying the file at significant moments is enough. For others, I use the same SCM as my code (Subversion/Git). Or even the one built into my IDE (Eclipse.)

For writing type writing, sometimes the tool keeps a history including dropbox or my wordpress blog.

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