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Revision Control

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Mikebits

Well-Known Member
I have this new job in a non profit cancer research institute. One of my task is to take a excel file, rewrite text in the file and resend back to sender. I envision some problems here, as I wonder how to control the files being passed back and forth.

Here is how it works. My boss sends me a file, I make an edit, send it back in the same file then await a response as if it is a go or no-go edit. This leads to problems, how do we maintain a master file with approved changes, all the while passing proposed edits back and forth?

Any thought on how this could be done?
This is for a good cause, childhood cancer, so serious replies please :)

--------------------------edit----------------------------------------

Just to clarify a bit, I am concerned about sending an updated file with changes, how do I convey the changes and how do we update our individual files when we do agree on an update. I have made a meeting with my boss about this but I thought some of your bright minds might have an enlightening idea. My boss is the most brilliant woman/geneticist I have ever met, I don't want to let her down.

Thanks
 
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dougy83

Well-Known Member
You could always just have an extra sheet that contains a history of changes and other journalling (similar to the "History" section of your C++ files).
 

Mikebits

Well-Known Member
You could always just have an extra sheet that contains a history of changes and other journalling (similar to the "History" section of your C++ files).
Not a bad suggestion, thanks doug :)
 

Tesla23

Member
I use Office 2003 and Excel has a "Track Changes" feature. This may be useful but I have never used it. The one in Word is certainly useful when negotiating documents, but I have no idea how it works in Excel.

The difficulty with spreadsheets is that the data is so obscure making it very difficult to 'see' your changes from version to version (otherwise any version control solution would do the job). I just had a quick play with the feature in Excel and it does seem to do a reasonable job for simple things. Excel doesn't seem to have a file compare facility which would be useful to you.

If you just have files of data, store them in .csv format and use any version control software (CVS, Subversion etc).
 

OutToLunch

New Member
revision control on a document that anyone can edit is problematic. i would suggest that a procedure be set up for the revision process. You control and edit the master documents and any edit recommendations come in the form of either an informal email or a "form" that you create and they submit. You need to keep these requests with the master excel document. I would also suggest that you lock the document from modification (Tools -> Protection). Protect both the sheets and the workbook so that no one can edit it when viewing. You have the password and maintain the files - keeping a copy of each revision so if necessary you can pull up the older revision for any reason (along with the edit requests). A big PITA but that's document control...
 

JimB

Super Moderator
Most Helpful Member
My boss is the most brilliant woman/geneticist I have ever met.
This could be the first part of your problem.
People who are gifted in areas other than practical engineering do not appreciate the problems which can arise due to lack of version control.
If your new boss does not appreciate the potential problems, do make sure that you explain them to her at the outset.
Devise a workable system, and get her agreement that she will rigorously work to that system.
I know that professional software departments use version control software which costs big bucks.
Have a look with google and see if you can find some low cost /shareware / freeware which will do the job for you.

JimB
 

SPDCHK

Member
One of the problems with sending files via e-mail for comments is that the filename most often stays the same. This leads to problems when saving the file in your working directory because the e-mail file wants to replace your previous versions. I use a simple method of simply adding a postfix to the filename making use of alpha-numeric characters for revision control.

Example. [Filenale].(00).xls

Numerical numbers indicate official accepted revisions. (0,1,2,3 etc)
Files being modified between revisions get numbers alphabetically from a through to z depending on the number of reworks, eg. (01a), (02c)

Lastly, all superseded files are moved to a BACKUP directory and archives to save space.

Additional, by simply using the Right-Hand-Mouse-Button on the filename (not opened) you can select Properties, and then select the Summary tab. I enter the date saved and filename in here with a brief description of the changes made. I don’t know if this can be protected from being edited by unwanted users, but in my case most of the users are not even aware of this feature and therefore no one changes this.
 

Mikebits

Well-Known Member
Thanks for all the good suggestions. We made a decision. From now on I will make my revisions in the spreadsheet and copy them to Word. I will have a was line and a to line. This should reduce any confusion. The boss will be gatekeeper of master file and is responsible for transferring my changes to the master file.
Did that make sense? :)

Thanks for the suggestions.
 

dknguyen

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
Isn't that a real hinderance? How is that any better than you attaching a list of the changes with every excel file?
 
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Mikebits

Well-Known Member
Isn't that a real hinderance? How is that any better than you attaching a list of the changes with every excel file?
Not really so bad. You have to understand the Excel file is quite complex and contains some 32 worksheets all of which are large.

When I put on my writers hat, I feel much more comfortable working in word. Not only do I think this will work out well, I will not be responsible for maintaining a revision control system. At any rate, the decision has been made and we will see how it works out. If I see a flaw in the system later on I will point them out to the person I am helping out. I say helping out as I am working pro bono if you will.
 

Torben

Well-Known Member
Hi Mike,

Might be overkill for just one document but I'd take a serious look at SVN or similar systems. CVS I wouldn't recommend for this deployment although it works well for text files. Haven't used git so I can't comment on it.

A proper revision control system like SVN deals with all the problems mentioned in the thread and additionally you can add your own filters, log messages on document commit, set up email or other kinds of notifications of updates, and easily roll back to earlier versions if needed.

The downside is that perhaps not everybody who edits the document will initially feel comfortable with a system like SVN (it might strike them as a bit technical) but there are GUI tools such as TortoiseSVN to take the edge off.

Manual revision control is a nightmare. In my experience it will work fine for a while and then people will start getting lax and then it all falls apart.


Just my $0.02 CDN,

Torben

P.S. Sorry it took so long to respond to your PM on this; I've been chasing my tail a bit recently.
 

Mikebits

Well-Known Member
Thanks Torben, I have no idea what SVN is but I will try a Google on it and see what I can find.
 

Mikebits

Well-Known Member
Since my last post on this subject, things have changed. My boss is sending me to a Grant writing seminar, and an Illumina genomic Analyzer class. Although I am working on volunteer basis, I think this opportunity may open doors to a new career.

I just spent the last few hours reading up on DNA sequencing, a new frontier is before us my friends and the implications for the future are staggering.
 
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