Document Revision Control Part 2: Tracking Changes between Revisions

February 2, 2016 Daniela Bustamante

Document revision control involves many components such as managing document versions, creating a standard folder directory structure, tracking changes between revisions, establishing part number and file naming conventions, and managing many steps in the document creation and release workflow. In my previous blog post, I talked about the importance of managing document revisions and creating standard directory structures. In this blog post, I'll talk about:

a)            Why you should document changes

b)            Ways in which you can track changes between document revisions

c)            Saving important documents and communicating the changes

By documents, I'm referring to a collection of documents such as technical manuals, marketing collateral or training materials.

The Importance of Tracking Changes

Tracking the changes that are made between revisions is important in case there are discrepancies in content, you receive a customer complaint and need to trace the history or for legal requirements. Knowing what's changed between revisions of a document is also important from a writer's perspective, especially if a different writer will be working on the next revision and important decisions were made in previous reviews. Even if you only have one writer, it can be hard to remember what changed from revision to revision and why. Your audience, especially those internal teams who rely on your documentation like customer service, will also want to know what's new and different when a new revision is released.

Track Changes

GPI_Document_Revision_2_1

Some authoring programs like Google Docs and others have built-in features like a revision history so you can track what's been changed and by whom. Adobe FrameMaker also has some version control features, and I'll be writing a blog post specifically on these features in the future. If you aren't using one of these authoring programs, you'll probably need to come up with some type of manual process. Here are some ideas:

  • Create a short, bulleted list of changes as a document and save it in the project folder. You may want to consider doing this anyway as it'll help when it's time to communicate the new revision to your customers. If you have an intranet, you could store the changes document there for internal employees to access.
  • Create a redline highlighting the changes using Adobe Acrobat.
  • Save the current document and the one you're revising as PDFs and then use the compare feature in Adobe Acrobat. Acrobat will analyze the files and deliver a report showing the differences.

Save Feedback and Document Decisions

Regardless of the method you choose, I'd suggest saving any redlines or feedback from your reviewers and document important decisions in the project folder so you can always reference them if needed. You never know when you might have to review a document's history.

Communicate the Changes

When it's time to release a new version of a document, create an internal communication plan to let your customers know that something has been updated or created. You can store the document on your intranet or another location that your customers have access to. You can also create a notice for your external customers, whether it's web copy or part of the document itself.

Conclusion

For many reasons, it's important to capture changes made between document revisions and there are a variety of ways to do it. Look for future blog posts from me on document revision control.

Resources for Content Strategy

You may gain further insight into content strategy, document localization, translations and related topics by reviewing previous blogs written by GPI:

GPI's content strategists and localization specialists can help analyze your website and provide guidance on any localization and global digital marketing requirements. GPI also offers    Global Search Engine Marketing Services and many other Translation Services.

About the Author

Daniela Bustamante

Daniela has over 16 years experience in the translation, localization and language instruction professions. She holds a degree in Sworn, Literary, Technical, and Scientific Translation from the Instituto Nacional de Enseñanza Superior Olga Cossettini in Rosario, Argentina. Starting her career as a translator for English-Spanish/Spanish-English in 1990 over the years she has worked for several Localization Agencies as a translator, assistant project manager and senior project manager. She has completed a wide range of professional certifications in document and website localization with emphasis on translation, budgeting, quality control and project management including The Localization Institute’s Triple Certification in Localization Project Management (Localization Institute Chico, CA, USA).

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