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One of the most critical areas of document creation and management is version control. Even when only one person is working on a document, it can be easy to lose control. Without a system in place that is used consistently, you will experience unnecessary and annoying mistakes. When more than one person is working on a document, the potential for errors multiplies exponentially.

What is version control? Version control is managing the document and all its pieces and parts so that changes are always made to the most current file. When version control is lost, changes are made to an old version of a document, causing all changes that occurred in the interim to be lost or wasted. It’s difficult for errors like this to be found because when proofing changes to a document, project managers typically only check the changes (which is totally appropriate). It is the desktop publisher’s responsibility to maintain version control of the files in their possession — but that responsibility extends to the client once they have received a draft or copies of the files and make changes to those files without communicating them to the desktop publisher.

There are many legitimate reasons why multiple versions of a document may exist. Here are some of them, and a discussion of good desktop publishing practices:.

The document may have crashed the software while doing a particularly complex task. (Don’t be scared. This happens. It’s nearly always recoverable with little loss of data.)

  • After opening the file that caused the crash, the good desktop publisher will immediately do a “Save-As” to save the file with a different name (or version number). Of course, they may not want to immediately delete the previous file until they have confirmed that the new file hasn’t been corrupted by the crash. For a period of time, multiple versions of the file may exist, but a good desktop publisher will have a file naming system that makes it obvious which file is the most current.

It is sometimes best to work on desktop publishing files on a local drive rather than over a network. This means that copies of files may exist both on a commonly accessed network drive and on a local drive.

  • The good desktop publisher implements practices that are consistently followed to ensure that the most current files are in a specific location. When changes are made to the file on a local drive, the files must immediately be copied to the network drive, updating the master files. Even if it’s the end of the day and the desktop publisher plans to work on the files first thing in the morning. Things happen, priorities change, assignments change and the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

Provisional changes have been made to a document that the desktop publisher or project manager is not confident will ultimately be kept. In other words, she is just as likely to go back to the previous version as keep the updated version. Hence, both files are kept until a decision is made.

  • The good desktop publisher names the files in such a way as to make it clear what’s happening.
  • For extra security, she puts notes on a non-printable layer in the files that help her understand the file names and serve as a reminder to all who open the file.

Files are maintained in multiple physical locations. This is especially an issue when a project has been completed and files are delivered to the client. Both the desktop publisher and the client now have copies of the final printed document.

  • The good desktop publisher provides copies of all files associated with project to their clients, but maintains an archived file copy.
  • The good project manager knows that if changes are made to the files by the client, he must provide new files to the desktop publisher when additional changes are requested.

Changes are made by the printer after the project manager reviews the printer’s proof.

  • The best policy is to have all changes made by your desktop publisher and have them provide new print files to the printer. Otherwise, changes made by your printer will not be rolled into the desktop publisher’s archived copy of the file or be reflected in the next update to the document.

Changes are requested to printed documents, either for printing an updated version or simply to maintain current information for whenever it is next printed.

  • The good desktop publisher has procedures in place that allow for such changes to be made while backing up the data regularly and keeping track of which version of the file is the most current.

Good desktop publishing procedures provide a methodology that protects users from making changes to an obsolete version of a file. Consistently using those procedures ensures good version control. Good procedures + consistent implementation = quality documents, less confusion, fewer errors, and lower costs.

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