Home > Articles > Home & Office Computing > Microsoft Applications

Versions: Getting the Story Straight in Word 2003

How many different copies of a document can you keep around your hard drive before you accidentally delete the "real" one with the last set of changes? If you're like Laurie Rowell, that "oops" has happened once too often. Using Word's versioning, you should be able to keep better track of document changes and ensure that the final document is really final. But is the versioning feature worth the risks it poses?
Like this article? We recommend

Revisions in Word seem like such a sensible idea. My original intent in this document was to explain why you might want to use them. Now I’m not so sure you do.

A few weeks back I opened my files, ready to snail-mail a copy of my novel to the slush pile of another publisher. (an exercise about as likely to result in publication as stuffing the pages into a large bottle, tossing this container off the pier in Seattle, and wishing it well on its way to New York.) To my horror, when I checked my files, I couldn’t tell which of the many revisions I needed to send. The file with the most recent date had errors I knew I’d fixed; the one with the funny opening had a character in it that I couldn’t remember creating. In short, my data files were a wreck. At that moment, I decided it might be time to really learn the versions feature in Word, which I’d abandoned trying to use once before.

In theory, using versions saves you from filenames like these:

  • Cat story11_Rev4John_vers2.doc
  • absolutely_the_newest_resume_rev28.doc

Supposedly it prevents the clutter of Word files from being scattered all over the old hard drive, like jeans and T-shirts clumped on a dorm room floor. You can name each version something memorable and comment at length on what it contains. You save space because only the changes—not the whole document—are archived each time. As a collaborative tool, the Versions function keeps the team share tidy while allowing records of changes to be passed from writer to writer. The problem is that there are a few dark considerations in the use of versions, which I’ll address later. Let me say now, however, that versioning in Word 2003 is awkward to use, and I managed to corrupt my document with it while writing this article. Frankly, if you don’t have to use it, consider giving it a pass.

Now, if you’ve rolled up your sleeves to jump into this game of versioning with me, make sure that the feature is available to you. If you don’t see it in the File menu, as shown in Figure 1, even after you’ve clicked the double arrow at the bottom to extend the menu, you might not have versions capability. You need Word 2002 or higher, but even then, if you’re working with documents on a SharePoint site, the feature might be disabled. This can be pretty exasperating if you were planning to use versions as a productivity tool for collaboration.

This is just the first of those dark considerations I mentioned: A collaboration feature is pretty darned limited if isn’t available on the team share. Even if that’s the case, however, if you have Word 2002/2003, you should have the versions feature available for your personal use.

Happily, versioning is darned easy to implement once you’ve walked through it. So let’s take a stroll.

Implementing Versions

First, keep in mind that there’s one frustrating problem with the procedure to save a version. You click to save before you name the thing you’re saving. Let’s go through the business once; then I’ll give the steps of the procedure at the end.

Second, note that you can save versions either automatically or manually. I’ll cover both, but most of what I’ll be discussing will be manually saved versions.

Let’s say I’m writing a touching memoir called "How I spent My Summer Vacation"—a tender recital of how I spent those critical three months between high school and college. After typing the title, I save the document in a file called summervac.doc.

So far, so good.

But halfway through the first paragraph, the whole story begins going pear-shaped. I’ve started off with a hammer-smack, but for this audience I really want the powder-puff touch. Only, I hate to toss the opening. After all, whenever Fate and Stupidity have conspired to cause a power shortage when I haven’t saved, or a spate of temper has caused me to rip up some subsequently priceless manuscript, whatever text was lost was more fabulous than the mythical trout slipping from the hook.

Clearly, I need to save both openings to a version instead. On the File menu, I click Versions, as shown in Figure 1, to open the dialog box shown in Figure 2. Notice that there’s no place to type a name for this version, so click the Save Now button, which opens the dialog box shown in Figure 3.

Figure 1

Figure 1 Find the Versions feature on the File menu.

Figure 2

Figure 2 Click Save Now in the Versions dialog box.

Figure 3

Figure 3 Enter the title of the version and any comments.

Observe that there’s still no field for typing a version name. Instead, there’s a Comments field. If you think this is for entering detailed notes about this version of the document, you’re right, but the first comment line will show up as a title for that version (see Figure 4). So make sure that what you type will alert you later to the key feature(s) of this version. In other words, it makes more sense to begin with whatever you want to use as a version name, press Enter, and then type the notes.

Figure 4

Figure 4 Select a previous version from the list.

To recap, to save a version manually, follow these steps:

  1. On the File menu, click Versions and then click Save Now.
  2. In the Comments box, type a descriptive title, press Enter, type any notes you find relevant to this version, and click OK.

To save a version automatically, here’s the process:

  1. On the File menu, click Versions and then click Automatically Save a Version on Close.
  2. Click Close. Now, each time you close your document, a new version will be saved.

So what happens if I want to check out an earlier version and recover that attention-grabbing start?

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020