(Part 6 of How to Use SharePoint series)

Continuing with the ongoing Blog Series of How to Use SharePoint, we are going to take a look at versioning in a SharePoint list. Versioning is a way to track all changes to a list item. Not only will you know who changed an item, but you’ll also be able to tell specifically what was changed. You also have the capability of reverting an item to a previous version, so if changes that were made are inaccurate, you won’t have to retype the correct values.

Versioning is not enabled by default. It’s something an administrator has to do.

Check if Versioning is Enabled

If you do not have access to the list settings, you are unable to turn on versioning. There’s an easy way to check if versioning is enabled on a list. Navigate to the list, highlight the item, and then click the Items in the ribbon bar. If Version History is grayed, versioning has not been enabled.

Click Items in the ribbon bar

If you are able to click Version History, versioning is enabled on the list.

version history

Versioning Options

As an end-user, you need to be aware of the type of versioning enabled in a list. SharePoint can require approval before an item becomes published. Published items always create a major version number (ex: 2.0, 3.0, 4.0). Versions that are not published are marked as a minor version (ex: 1.1, 1.2, 2.3). Most of the time, published versions are accessible only to those who reference the information, but aren’t owners of the information. The users who actually own and create the content are usually capable of seeing the drafts.

Publishing normally applies to documents in document library. There’s rarely a case where using minor versions in a list will help. This idea of publishing vs. draft will be explored in a future post when discussing Document Libraries. For now, though, we are going to assume the list is configured to only maintain major versions. This means that anytime an item is changed, a new version is created.

View Versions

To see the version history of an item, simply highlight the item, and click Items (from the ribbon bar) > Version History.

version history of an item

Because I have only created this record and not yet modified it, there is only a single version, 1.0.

Version History

V1.0 of any record in a similarly configured library will always contain the values initially saved for that specific record. I’m going to make some changes to this record and then view the Version History after the changes.

Version History after changes

From looking at the Version History, I know this record was edited twice (v2.0 and v3.0; v1.0 was the initial entry). I also know when it was changed and who changed it.

The Version History also details the specific columns that were changed. In v2.0, you can see the Vinyl Condition changed to NM, and there were also changes to the Vinyl Description and Release Number columns. In v3.0, the Cover Condition changed, as did the Vinyl Description.

If you use the context menu for a specific version, you will have the option to View that version, delete it, or restore the item back to that version.

View, Restore, or Delete

I am going to restore the initial values (v1.0). In order to do that, I use the context menu for v1.0 and then click Restore. You’ll be asked to verify the action.

You are about to replace the current version with the selected version

After you click OK, SharePoint resets the values of the selected version. It does not delete any other versions. Instead, it creates a new version that matches the restored version. In this example I had three versions. After restoring v1.0, I now have four versions.

version history with restored values

You can see the new version (v4.0) restored the values that were changed to return the item back to the same values in the version I selected (v1.0). Enabling versioning in a SharePoint list does not add too much overhead because 99% you are dealing with just text.

An administrator can restrict the number of versions SharePoint maintains. For most lists, twenty is sufficient.

To summarize, versioning doesn’t add an obscene amount of overhead or storage requirements, it’s easy to configure, it’s easy to use, and it allows you to track all changes made to the content of a list. So why aren’t you using them?

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