Not Gone. Just Hiding.

This is for all of our friends out there who 1) use Google Drive/Google Docs and 2) don’t know much more about it than how to open a new document, write on it, and close it out. I use Google Drive for everything creative and that which wishes it was. It’s not perfect — they need to work a bit harder on that spell check feature — but it is very good at many other things, such as locating that document that you created three years and two computers ago and immediately forgot about but that you need right now. Oh. And updating. Google Drive is  really good at automatically updating your document as you move right along. That brings us to today’s helpful hint.

I recently spent several days using Google Drive while working on a legal analysis. I was putting the finishing touches on my document, which I had creatively named “Analysis for (insert client’s name here)”  when I received a long anticipated email with information which I needed for the very project on which I was working. The email also needed an immediate response from me.  Since my response was a bit involved I opened a new Google document, drafted the response, and copied and pasted it to my responding email. I returned to my blog draft in “Analysis for (insert client’s name here)” opened it, and accidentally made a click here and a click there. The several pages or so of analysis which I had painstakingly written during the previous week or so were replaced in the “Analysis for (insert client’s name here)” document by the email response which I had just written. Gone. Vanished. I clicked on the “Edit” menu and the clicked “Undo” and nothing happened. I thought that my work had possibly been moved a few pages down by my accidentally pasting my email into the document. No. That’s not what happened. I still don’t know what happened. All of my work on that analysis was gone, however. Or so I thought.

I at that point yelled “Oh shoot” (or something like that) which did very little good, other than for scaring the cat away which is never a bad thing It just wasn’t helpful. I got up, got a cup of coffee, and went through the motions of deciding whether to try to begin the analysis all over or to binge watch True Detective: Season One for the twenty-secondth time. I took a sip of coffee and thought about things, like dead pets and old girlfriends, and my brain sideloaded an idea. I went back to my computer, googled a question, and immediately received the answer I wanted, which I will now share with you.

The question which I inartfully asked was: “Can I access revisions of a document drafted in Google Drive?” The answer was a resounding “Yes!” It is easy to do. Just open the file that you have messed up and click on the pull down “File” menu. You will find an option for “See revision history”at a point about halfway down the menu  A list with the heading “Revision history” will pop up on the right side of your screen. Just go on down the list to find the revision you want. I did that. I couldn’t find the version of my document that I was looking for. I went all the way to the bottom of the list and found a  link with the title “Show more detailed revisions.” Just run through the list until you find the revised version of the document that you want.

This is a terrific feature, particularly if you’re working on a document that is getting passed back and forth among folks. It enables you to access who made what changes, and when. It settles arguments regarding which attorney used the sloppy language in the divorce agreement, or who forgot about The Lord Mansfield Rule when making provisions in the will for that red-headed stepchild.  I have also heard that teachers are having great fun with this feature. Many if not most schools are utilizing online homework submission (among other things) thanks to Google, which is providing students with their own school email and Google Drive accounts which they can utilize to complete tasks and email to their teachers. The student accounts are in the school mainframe and can be accessed by the teacher.  Mrs. Krabappel can accordingly check to see if Bart Simpson has been working on his class paper all week or simply dashed off a few sentences the morning it was due.

There is a lot more that you can with this feature. you can find a good overview of it with an understandable explanation here. Play with it if you like (try opening a new document and typing just a few sentences, just in case it’s not working when you try it, heh heh). Meanwhile…does anyone have any cautionary tales which they would like to share about accidentally erasing a creative endeavor, including what they did about it after the fact?



20 thoughts on “Not Gone. Just Hiding.

  1. Joe, I have to admit that my only acquaintance with Google Drive is when someone else sends me a multi-user document using it. Guess I’ll have to check it out further.
    Since I’m a believer in belt, suspenders, and hands in pockets, I use my Mac’s Time Machine to back up regularly on a peripheral hard drive. I also save my novels and important stuff via DropBox. Oh, yes–when I finally finish a novel, I put it on a flash drive I keep in a drawer of my desk. Anything else? Yeah, I worry a good bit about lost information.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • First! Thank you, Dr. Richard. That’s good advice all the way around. I back up religiously myself, once a week, simply because I don’t trust “the cloud” entirely. When someone mentions the cloud I picture this huge raincloud full of data that eventually bursts. I don’t want to get wet. Thanks so stopping by and sharing.

  2. Though I’m a newbie to Google Drive, I really like it. I have not used it at home but we use it at work since several files must be shared. Overall the versatility and ease of use is good. Good to know about how to find previous versions. I’ve only had that bugger happen once, but it always happens when you’re in a hurry. 😎

    I hope Google will continue to improve Google docs, sheets, and forms. Forms are great but a little maddening when you can’t customize a form and make it look as perfect as you like–example is having to place a logo about a third of the way down the page, instead of at the top where you expect it. I’ve found no way around that.

    But it’s fantastic if you need to send out event invites and the like. I look forward using it more.

  3. Wow. I didn’t realize schools used Google Drive, but it sounds like a fantastic idea. So happy you were able to resurrect your work, Joe. Happy weekend!

    • Thanks, Sue! Nice to see you this morning. Re: Google, oh, yeah, it has moved right into the schools. It’s been a seamless (well, close anyway) transformation, where the teachers, administrators, and students all have separate email addresses with the school district being the domain name and the whole kit and kaboodle being hosted by Google. No more paper notes from teacher to parent getting lost in the netherregions of backpacks, either. It’s a good thing that there wasn’t such a thing back when I was in school.

      Hope you have a good day!

  4. BK, regarding things breaking down when one is in a hurry…someone once told me that there is never time to do it right but there is always time to do it over. Just so. Re: forms, I haven’t used Drive for that, but point taken. I’d like to see Google do more with the nuts and bolts of Docs — the problem you described with forms, an improvement in the spellcheck, to name but two — instead of focusing only exclusively on what I call “the magic” like converting PDF documents to Google docs and loading Google docs to Evernote (to name but one). Thanks for sharing.

  5. I insanely hit save and email chapters to myself. I also print hard copies when I’m feeling even more insanely insane. The hubs created an automatic backup to our private cloud — can’t trust those corporate sites, don’cha’know — , and I throw everything onto a key drive at regular intervals. I probably need therapy…

  6. Actually, Paula, you don’t need therapy. You deserve a medal. When all of this goes tops up — and it’s all a matter of when, not if — you’ll be sitting there with your creations intact. In a world of grasshoppers, you are an ant. Good going! And thanks for the example of how backup is properly done.

  7. I am just beginning my journey with Google Drive and have to admit, Google Drive, like anything new regarding computers, scares me to death. But, I am facing it and just pray each time I close out the program my ms does not disappear into the computer abyss.

  8. Good morning Joe,

    Thanks for discussing this topic. I had just researched it this week. I’m collaborating on a children’s book with another writer. I have Word 2007 (PC), and she has Word 2011 (Mac). Sending files back and forth has been frustrating, because the formatting is lost, words run together, etc.

    I read that Google Docs is used by 25 million people, and the number one site for collaboration.

    So a question to you and the rest of The Kill Zone gang: How well does Google Docs work with two users, one on a PC and one on Mac? Any problems with formatting? I would assume, since the file is on the Google Drive site, that this should not be an issue. I would just like to hear from anyone who has experience with that.

    And question number 2 (Sorry I’m full of questions on this topic): For collaborators who simply want to send files back and forth, Open Office use the same file format (.odt) – I believe – as Google Docs. Has anyone sent files back and forth between computers with Mac and PC (using Open Office)? Any problems with formatting?

    Thanks for this discussion, Joe. Glad you found your file, And thanks for guiding us to the revision history on the Google Docs menu. A life saver.

    • You’re welcome, Steve. That collaboration sounds very interesting and I hope that you bring us up to date on that from time to time as things progress.

      I have noticed no problem at all with sharing Google docs in a mix of Windows 7 or 10/Apple/Chrome machines. Anyone else?

      I can’t speak to your second question regarding Open Office. Anyone?

      Steve, good luck on your creative efforts and thanks as always for stopping by!

      • “Can you see Texas up there on your high horse?”

        Steve: OpenOffice is great, and you can easily save files with the .docx extension. People not as cool as you will have no problems with lost formatting and other aggravations. OpenOffice also has an “export to docs” feature.

  9. Anon, thank you, I feel the same way even at this late date. One good suggestion from our friend Paula up above is to email your chapters/documents to yourself. Emails never seem to disappear…well, almost…anyway, good luck!

    • That’s a great suggestion. I am in the habit of emailing the entire ms to myself but chapters would be so much easier.?

    • I’ve emailed them to my daughter in Ireland. The odds of both of us having crashes at the same time are slim. I have them in Dropbox and One Drive as well.

      • Terry, it sounds like you all of the bases covered. Even if you have simultaneous crashes, as long as you save the emails you can each or both later access them from any computer. And, of course, there’s Dropbox. Thanks for the reminder.

  10. Good morning Joe. I once had a hard drive crash with several hundred digital photos on it. This was back in the beginning of the digital photography era. I was able to recover about a third of them before it died completely. Now I have an insane backup routine. As I download images from the camera cards, they are automatically saved on three different external drives, all indexed the same, and uploaded to an online backup service daily for good measure. Once a month I exchange one of the hard drives for one in my safe deposit box. An hour or so of copying brings the new drive up to speed. I have around 50,000 photos stored this way.

    I do the same with my writing projects. I save in my documents folder, then to another hard drive, then to a USB drive for each project, and my daily online backup covers documents as well.

    My desk has my laptop and a large external monitor sitting on it. But on the shelf below the laptop it looks like the computer room at the CIA with everything hooked up.

    • Yikes, Dave! That’s the cringe-inducer of the morning! There’s some recovery software that’s now generally available but it’s been my experience that it generally works for everything but the exact thing that you need to recover. I love your description of the steps you’ve taken. Note to my friends: if you think that David is engaging in overkill…he isn’t. This is particularly true if you engage in business and creative endeavors. Redundancy in such matters is never a bad thing. Thank you for sharing, Dave!

  11. This is so helpful. THANKS! I am traveling. I will edit my WIP, put in some great stuff, and then the next day continue on, not realizing I have opened a previous document. Then three days later I go — what happened to all those brilliant revisions from the beginning of the week? Did I not save? Did I mis-name? WT … Shoot! Sometimes the retrieval will take more than a day. I’m tired of wasting time.

    I will try Google Docs today.


    • You’re welcome, Nancy. Next step for me is consulting the equivalent of “Google Drive for Dummies” as there are probably a number of other time- and life-savers in there. Enjoy and happy writing!

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