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I'm wondering if there are any pieces of software that keep copies of revisions made on a document. So say I delete 500 words out of a document and save it. Is there a program that would realize I have changed the document and would back up the old version of the document in something like a zipped folder?

I currently use Dropbox so that I have all my writing no matter where I go but it would be nice to have a program that tracks the progress I've made. As a programmer I'm aware of Github but was wondering if there was a more elegant solution. I apologize to the mods if this is too broad a question, though I think it is specific enough.

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You are talking about a Revision Control System, and it's a principle tool among software engineers.

Using git (not github, but git on your own files) is a great idea. The thorn is that you don’t get the same benefit when using “word processor” files.

A solution is to use a system of writing using plain text files, with formatting as a separate process. Do you mind giving up wysiwyg bold/italic and having it look like a typewriter, as you work?

With text files, the version control system can store revisions compactly by only storing the differences, and more importantly can identify and present those differences to you. You can also merge, cherry pick, delete changes other than the latest, etc. git in particular is a general purpose and useful tool, which you can use by working in the format it deals with.

You can actually produce better finished documents this way, using tools that are smarter than the basic word processor.

You might also look at the way OpenDocument word processing documents are stored: inside a zip file is a xml markup file! You can unzip the saved file and then save in git.

  • In addition to git, there are a number of alternatives (cvs, svn), most with multiplatofrm support and available for free. – Catalyst May 7 '17 at 16:57
  • Source-control tools generally work fine with markup (HTML, XML, markdown, etc); where they fail is with binary formats (like native Framemaker) or tools that write noisy or bad HTML (used to be true for Word; I don't know the current state). I've used cvs, Perforce, SVN, and git with XML and HTML documents. – Monica Cellio May 8 '17 at 3:30
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Google docs has insane levels of versioning, and can compare changes since any specified version, showing additions and deletions. It's probably your best choice.

Scrivener, probably the most widely used writing-specific software, can create a backup every X saves. I set mine on 5, since I save frequently. But that might not be what you're looking for.

At first I thought you want an actual "revision" tool, for which I recommend Pro Writing Aid.

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