How to Revert to Previous Revisions of a Spreadsheet in Google Sheets

If you use the Google Docs platform (and so many people do!) then you’re aware that it’s a suite of Office-workalike products that allow you to handle spreadsheets, documents, and presentations just like Excel, Word and Powerpoint, only without having to pay anything. Google Sheets is the Excel workalike and while it doesn’t have every Excel feature, it is a powerful productivity software package that can handle just about anything you throw at it. Interestingly, Google Sheets outshines Excel in one important area: version control. Reverting to previous versions of your spreadsheet is trivially easy in Google Sheets. In this tutorial article, I’ll show you how to do it.

How to Revert to Previous Revisions of a Spreadsheet in Google Sheets

For most home or school users, version control isn’t very important. It’s critical for business users, though, both for internal tracking and internal and external auditing. It is also useful if you make changes that you need to go back and correct. (“The boss hates the new chart layout and wants it back the way it was.”)

The key to Sheets’ mastery of version control is that Excel (while having an auto-save function) depends on manual saves for normal file archiving. Google Sheets instead autosaves all the time. There’s a built-in mechanism for rolling back changes in Google Sheets, and it’s called “Version History.”

Revert to a previous version of a file in Google Sheets

You can revert to a previous version of any Google Doc through the doc itself or from Google Drive.

  1. Open the sheet you want to revert.
  2. Select the ‘All changes saved in Drive’ or ‘Last edit was..’ text link in the top menu.
  3. Select a previous version from the slide menu that appears on the right.
  4. Check the box at the bottom next to Show changes.
  5. Select the Restore this version button at the top of the screen.

Once you select a previous version with Show changes selected, Sheets will show you on the page what is different between the two versions. You can then scroll through all previous versions to find the modification you are looking to correct. Then hit the Restore this Revision button to do exactly that.

Selecting each previous version will show you exactly how that Sheet looked when saved. It makes it very simple to compare versions, identify where changes were made and revert if necessary.

Google retains all old versions of documents so the list could be long.

You can also revert to a previous version directly from Google Drive:

  1. Navigate to Google Drive and select My Drive or Recent depending on when you were last working on the document.
  2. Select the ‘i’ in the top right corner of the screen.
  3. This will show the same slide menu on the right as you see from within the Sheet.
  4. Select Activity and then a previous version of the document to load it.

If a document keeps getting changed, you can download it to your computer. Select the three dot icon in Google Drive and select Manage Versions. Then hit the three dots again and select Download. Download take the Sheet outside of version control though.

Note that if you make changes to a local copy, you will need to upload it to Google Drive to include it in the revision history of the document. It is something that needs bearing in mind if your organization uses version control or is audited.

Revert to a previous version of a file in Excel 2016

Can you do this in Microsoft Excel? Yes, you can revert to a previous version of a file in Excel but only if you are connected to SharePoint. Otherwise, Excel does not keep previous versions unless you have explicitly asked it to do so.

  1. Open the Excel workbook you want to revert.
  2. Select File and History.
  3. Select as previous version from the list that appears in the center.

If History is grayed out, it means your Excel isn’t connected to SharePoint or it is not configured for version control. You can check in SharePoint if you need to.

  1. Open the Library from the Quick Launch bar.
  2. Select the Excel document and right click between the name and date.
  3. Right click and select Version History. This might appear as a three dot icon depending on your version of SharePoint.
  4. Hover over a previous version of the file and either View, Restore or Delete as you need.

It is definitely easier to revert to a previous version of a file in Google Sheets than in Excel. Standalone instances of Excel don’t allow it anyway but if you are a SharePoint user it is possible as described. Using Sheets in this way is definitely better and makes checking older versions faster and more fluid.

Do you know of any other way to revert to a previous version of a file in Google Sheets? Tell us about it below if you do.

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