How to Use Microsoft Word 2003 Version Control

Word 2003's Version Control is useful, but it's no longer supported

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Microsoft Word 2003 provides a formal way to implement versioning for document creation. The Word 2003 version control feature lets you preserve past versions of your documents easily and efficiently. 

This versioning feature is not available in later editions of Microsoft Word, starting with Word 2007. Also, you should be aware of what happens if you open a version-controlled file in later editions of Word.

From Microsoft's support site:

If you save a document that contains versioning in the Microsoft Office Word 97-2003 file format and then open it in Office Word 2007, you will lose access to the versions.
Warning: If you open the document in Office Word 2007 and you save the document in either Word 97-2003 or Office Word 2007 file formats, you will permanently lose all versions.

Save Documents with Different Filenames

One way to save versions of a document is to save a document incrementally with different filenames. There are drawbacks to this approach, however. It can become difficult to manage all the files, so it requires diligence and planning. This method also uses a considerable amount of storage space, as each individual file contains the entire document.

Versions in Word 2003

There is a better method of Word version control that avoids these drawbacks while still preserving drafts of your work. The Word Versions feature keeps previous iterations of your work in the same file as your current document. This saves you from having to manage multiple files while also saving storage space. You won’t have multiple files, and, since it only saves the differences between the drafts, it saves some of the disk space multiple versions require.

There are two ways to use Word 2003 versioning for your document:

  • Save a version manually at any time.
  • Have Word automatically save a version of the document when you close it.

To save a version manually, make sure the document is open:

  1. Select the File menu and choose Versions.

    File menu in Word with Versions highlighted
  2. In the Versions dialog box, select Save Now. The Save Version dialog box appears.

    Save Now button in Word's Version window
  3. Select OK.

  4. The document version is saved. The next time you save a version, the previous versions you saved are listed in the Versions dialog box.

Automatically Save Versions

You can set Word 2003 to automatically store versions when you close documents by following these steps:

  1. Select the File menu and choose Versions.

    File menu in Word with Versions highlighted
  2. In the Versions dialog box, select the Automatically save a version on close check box.

    Word 2003 Versions box with the Automatically Save a Version on Close box highlighted
  3. Select Close.

    Versions window in Word 2003 with the Close button highlighted

The Versions feature does not work with web pages created in Word.

View and Delete Document Versions

When you save versions of a document, you can access those versions, delete any version, and restore a version of the document to a new file.

To view a version of a document:

  1. Select the File menu and choose Versions.

    File menu in Word with Versions highlighted
  2. Select the version you would like to open.

  3. Choose Open.

The chosen version of the document opens in a new window. You can scroll through the document and interact with it as you would a normal document.

While you can make changes to a previous version of a document, it is important to note that the version stored in the current document cannot be altered. Any changes made to a previous version creates a new document and requires a new filename.

To delete a document version:

  1. Select the File menu and choose Versions.

    File menu in Word with Versions highlighted
  2. Select the version you would like to delete.

  3. Choose Delete.

  4. In the confirmation dialog box, select Yes to confirm you want to delete the version.

  5. Select Close.

Delete previous versions of a document if you plan to distribute or share it with other users. The original versioned file includes all previous versions, and those previous versions are accessible to others with the file.