Re: What's a good versioning system for Office documents?

Subject: Re: What's a good versioning system for Office documents?
From: Lou Quillio <public -at- quillio -dot- com>
To: Edgar D' Souza <edgar -dot- b -dot- dsouza -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 12 Jul 2006 00:45:37 -0400

Edgar D' Souza wrote:
> 0. The versioning/SCS system will be used with MS Office (primarily
> Word) documents, American English only, to the best of my knowledge.

TortoiseSVN (MS Windows only) is the easiest-to-use GUI Subversion
client I've seen on any platform.

> 1. If possible, the SCS should store deltas/diffs of documents instead
> of the entire new copy of an edited document.

Subversion does binary diffs. In terms of how it stores data, the
algorithm is binary, and text and binaries are treated the same. It
stores no more than it must, considering that it's ignorant of what
keeps a private binary format whole. *Viewing* binary diffs is
another matter.

> 2. If possible, the SCS should allow users to view the differences
> between various versions of a document.

Third-party binary diff viewers for MS Office documents are cropping up:

Natch MS can change the secret file spec any time, so there's
third-party lag between versions. Then again, MS Word has a
built-in compare / merge tool, as does OpenOffice.

> 3. The SCS will also need to store images, and possibly other files,
> which are linked into the Word documents.

Image diffs?

'Course, image diffs are a straight visual thing. Open up version
26 and version 51 side by side, in something like IrfanView. No big

> 5. While our client is willing to purchase licenses as needed, they
> don't want to break the bank in doing so :-)
> 6. The client is essentially a Microsoft shop, and would prefer a
> Windows-based software, though if the price difference is compelling,
> they would also consider products that run on other OSs.

Is free cheap enough?

Throw-in something like Trac, document a workflow, and you're good.

Having said all of this, any distributed version control approach
will require learning a few things and imposing some discipline. No
product can save you from that, and each new user will have her own
idea of how it "should" work. No common, painless norm exists or is

But if you know you want to compare Jerry's version from June 15
with Tom's version from July 4, any repository viewer will let you
open 'em both up and compare them in the native app -- presuming
such app has a compare facility. There's no universal diff viewing
tool for every mysterious file format. That's the rub.



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What's a good versioning system for Office documents?: From: Edgar D' Souza

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