Home  ›   Blog   ›  How to Do Version Control for User Manuals?

How to Do Version Control for User Manuals?

User Manual for version control

It’s never a pretty sight to be lost in a sea of outdated instructions, trying to decipher an ‘ancient’  user manual. 

Version control is the magical glue that holds our technical documents together. It helps keep track of changes made to a document, allowing multiple people to work on it simultaneously. 

In this blog, we will discuss the concept of document version control and how to do version control for user manuals. Let’s go!

What Is Document Version Control?

Document version control refers to the process of managing and tracking changes to a document over time, allowing for seamless collaboration between multiple users

In document version control, each change made to a document is assigned a unique identifier, indicating the author of the change, the date and time it was made, and the nature of the change. This allows users to revert to previous versions easily, compare different versions to track changes and ensure accuracy and consistency in the final document.

Moreover, document version control systems allow multiple users to edit the same document simultaneously, merging changes made by different users into a single, up-to-date document. Document version control enhances productivity, improves communication, and facilitates efficient document management by streamlining collaboration.

For example, let’s say a team of technical writers is working on a SaaS user manual. With version control, each writer can edit the document independently, and the system will track and merge the changes seamlessly. 

If conflicts occur, the system prompts for resolution, ensuring a streamlined collaboration process. Version control also allows for easy comparison between versions, aiding in reviewing and approving changes.

Version Control vs. Version History: ‘Control’ Is Key

Both version control and version history enable collaboration but differ in their approach and capabilities. Version history, commonly used in tools like Google Docs, provides a familiar collaborative experience. Users work on the same file in real time, making changes and suggesting edits. 

The document retains a chronological record of revisions, allowing users to view and revert to previous iterations. 

However, version history lacks control and organization, as all changes become part of a single document history without precise mechanisms to manage conflicts or track contributors’ contributions.

On the other hand, version control goes beyond documenting changes by offering control and management features. With version control, teams can actively direct their work, establish processes to identify errors or conflicts, and take corrective actions to maintain quality. 

Version control systems enable efficient collaboration by allowing users to work on their copies of a document, which can be merged and compared in a controlled manner. 

This ensures that changes can be reviewed, approved, and integrated into a master document while maintaining a detailed record of who made what changes and when.

How Does Version Control Work?

At its core, version control employs a centralized database repository that stores all document versions. When a user initiates changes, the system records these modifications, creating a new version. 

This involves capturing the entire document state, including text, formatting, and any attached media. The system also records metadata such as the user responsible, the date, and a description of the changes made.

A critical feature of version control is the ability to compare different versions. This is facilitated through a differencing or delta encoding mechanism, highlighting the specific alterations between two document versions. 

Also, version control introduces the concept of branching and merging. Branching allows users to create independent lines of development, which helps work on new features or experimental changes without affecting the main document. 

Merging, on the other hand, integrates modifications made in one branch back into the main document, ensuring continuity and coherence across different development efforts.

How to Do Version Control for SaaS User Manuals

Version control for SaaS user manuals requires a structured approach to manage updates, track changes, and collaborate effectively. 

Here are steps to implement version control for SAAS user manuals:

Choose a Version Control System

You can opt for cloud-based knowledge management tools like ProProfs Knowledge Base that come with built-in version control features to manage multiple site versions and collaborate on documents. 

Git is also a widely used and versatile option if you only want version control features; however, it lacks advanced document collaboration and analytics features a knowledge base tool would provide. 

Read More: How to Create User Manual for Corporate Administrators

Establish a Clear Naming Convention

Create a structured naming convention that is easy to understand and follow. For example, consider using a combination of version numbers and release dates, such as “V1.0 – January 2024”.

Ensure that the naming convention is consistently applied to all user manual versions to avoid confusion.

Create an Initial Version

Start by creating the initial version of the user manual. This is the first iteration of the document that will serve as the baseline for future revisions.

Clearly label this version as the starting point, for example, by adding “Initial Version” or “Baseline Version” to the document.

Track Changes

Implement a system or tool to track changes made to the user manual. This can be a version control software, a document management system, or even a simple spreadsheet.

Document the changes made, including additions, deletions, and modifications, along with a brief description. Include the date of each change to establish a chronological order of the revisions.

Assign Version Numbers or Names

Allocate a unique identifier to each version of the user manual. This can be done using version numbers (e.g., V1, V2) or specific names (e.g., Basic, Advanced).

Clearly indicate the version number or name within the document, such as on the cover page, header, or footer. Keep consistency with the chosen naming or numbering convention throughout the lifespan of the user manual.

Implement a Review Process

Establish a review process to ensure the accuracy and quality of the user manual. This involves involving relevant stakeholders in the review process, such as subject matter experts and reviewers.

Provide clear guidelines and instructions to reviewers, outlining what aspects of the document they should focus on. Incorporate reviewer feedback and suggestions into the revised version of the user manual, making necessary updates and corrections.

Publish the New Version

Once all review feedback has been addressed and changes have been made, publish the updated version of the user manual.

Make the new version easily accessible to users through a centralized location, such as a company intranet, a document repository, or a dedicated website. Ensure that users can easily identify and locate the latest version of the user manual.

Collaborate With Internal Comments

If your team is working on the user manual, encourage collaboration through internal comments. 

Team members can create different versions of documents, make changes, and then submit the change requests for review. This allows others to provide feedback, discuss changes, and merge them into the main site when ready.

Maintain Version History

Keep an extensive record of all previous user manual versions for historical reference. This history will help track changes over time and understand the evolution of the document.

Archive older user manual versions in a designated repository or storage area, ensuring they are easily accessible for future reference.

 Manage Future Updates

As updates and revisions are needed, repeat the process by assigning new version numbers or names to the user manual. Continuously track changes, review, and update the document to ensure it remains accurate and up to date.

 Consider proactively implementing a regular review cycle or schedule to address any required updates.

 Ensure Version Control Integrity

Regularly review and refine the document version control process to ensure integrity and effectiveness. Conduct periodic audits to verify that the version control system is followed consistently.

Implement feedback from users and stakeholders to improve and optimize the version control process.

Take Control of Your User Manuals With Version Control 

Implementing version control for user manuals is crucial for effectively managing updates, tracking changes, and enabling team collaboration. 

By utilizing knowledge base tools with version control, you can establish a structured workflow that ensures the accuracy and organization of your user manuals throughout their evolution.

If you are looking for a comprehensive solution for creating technical documents with version control, ProProfs Knowledge Base is worth considering. 

It allows you to create and switch between different versions of your help site effortlessly. It is particularly valuable when making significant product updates, such as UI/UX changes, as it enables users to access and compare existing and latest versions easily.

Discover these features and more for creating your efficient version-controlled help site here

FREE. All Features. FOREVER!

Try our Forever FREE account with all premium features!

About the author

The ProProfs Knowledge Base Editorial Team is a passionate group of knowledge management experts dedicated to delivering top-notch content. We stay ahead of the curve on trends, tackle technical hurdles, and provide practical tips to boost your business. With our commitment to quality and integrity, you can be confident you're getting the most reliable resources to enhance your knowledge management initiatives.