Safely manage revision history and track changes in Excel spreadsheets

Some disappointments are familiar to every Excel user. You or your colleagues may enter incorrect values or even delete critical data by mistake. MS Excel Track Changes feature comes with limitations: history of changes is periodically deleted, it does not do backups and works only for shared workbooks. How can you protect data without piles of backup copies or complicated macros?

XLTools Version Control add-in solves these problems and keeps your data safe:

  • Commit versions in a click and track changes to a workbook
  • Compare versions and highlight changes
  • Store versions safely in a Git repository on your own PCReview change log and recover any previous version at any timeWrite queries in the intuitive editor with syntax highlighting
  • Collaborate in a group and track who changed what and when

How to track changes in Excel with Version Control

XLTools Version Control add-in for Excel workbooks is a revision control, or a source control tool. It helps track changes to Excel files and gives a clear picture of who, how and when modified the document.

  1. Open a workbook Click theEnablebutton on XLTools ribbon.
    Or:Open XLToolsSettings Version Control tab Enable.
  2. Next, you cancommit versionsof the workbook andcompare changesbetween versions.

How to commit a version of Excel workbook to Change Log

  1. Make sure that Version Control is enabled:

    Click theEnablebutton on XLTools tab, or openSettings Version Control tab Enable.

  2. Click theCommit Changesbutton A dialogue box will open.
  3. Add a descriptive comment to tell the versions apart, e.g. "Primary file" OK.
    Tip:before making changes, commit the original file to the Change Log. This will allow you to compare future versions with it, as well as restore the primary file if necessary.
  4. As you keep editing the workbook, keep committing versions to the Change Log as often as you find necessary:

    Make changes When ready, clickCommit Changes Add a descriptive comment OK.

Note:a version is only committed through theCommit Changesbutton. If you simply save the file, the version is not committed to Change Log.

How to preview and diff recent changes before committing a version

  1. Make changes ClickCommit Changes.
  2. To preview and diff changes, double-click on the modified worksheet.
  3. A new Temp workbook will open. The current and the newer versions are placed on separate tabs. The newer version has changes highlighted in red color.
  4. Review the result Click OK to commit this new version, or Cancel to go back to editing the workbook.

How to save Excel spreadsheet versions to Git repository

All versions of a workbook, that were committed to the Change Log, are stored to the git-repository on your computer. Being a widely adopted system for revision control, Git accurately records all changes and does not take much of your disk space.

Immediately after you enable Version Control, a new Git repository folder 'WorkbookName_Revisions' automatically appears at the same destination folder as your workbook. This is thegit-repositorythat safely stores all versions of the workbook.

Important:do NOT delete, rename or move this folder. Otherwise all versions history will be lost.

How to open Change Log and see who made changes and when

  1. Click theChange Logbutton on XLTools tab A window with all committed versions will open.
  2. Review the list of versions: it displays comments, author and the exact time of committing the version.

How to compare two versions of an Excel worksheet

  1. Click theChange Logbutton A window with all committed versions will open.
  2. Expand/collapse the list to find the versions of the worksheet you want to compare.
  3. Select two Excel sheets holdingCtrlkey Click theShow changesbutton.
  4. XLTools generates a new Temp workbook. The sheet with the 'Newer' version has the changes highlighted in red.

You can open any previously committed version of a workbook and save it as a separate file. This is a helpful Excel backup tool – at any time you can recall or roll back to an older version.

  1. Click theChange Logbutton Select the workbook version you want to restore.
  2. Click theSavebutton Name and save as a separate Excel file.
    Or:Click theOpenbutton to open the version first File Save as Name and save the file.

How to use Version Control for a shared Excel workbook

XLTools Version Control add-in helps arrange group work and collaborate on shared spreadsheets effectively.

  1. Make sure that all your team members have XLTools add-in installed on their PCs.
  2. Place the workbook in a shared folder in your network Share the workbook with the team members.
    Note:to commit versions, team members should have reading and writing permissions. This prevents anyone outside the group from editing the workbook under versioning.
  3. Each member can commit and compare versions and view the Change Log.

How to enable Version Control for Excel VBA macros

If you work with macros in Excel, you can also enableVersion Control for VBA projectsand track changes to VBA scripts.

Any questions or suggestions?
SebastianDoes this work with password protected VBA code?
March 12, 2019 at 16:49
Maria BalobanovaHi Sebastian, yes, but first you have to remove protection from the VBA code, make the changes, save the version, then apply password protection back.
March 13, 2019 at 12:41
Chuck BeauregardDoes XLTools track Userform code, modules, and formulas?  
January 16, 2018 at 07:16
Maria Balobanova

Hi Chuck, XLTools Version Control tracks changes to values in cells, i.e. the result of the formula, but not the formula itself. If by Userform code and modules you mean VBA code - then yes. Pleasesee here.

January 16, 2018 at 13:49
Dennisif the formula is subscribing to a data stream (think Bloomberg formula), then even if the workbook structure hasn't changed at all, xltools will think all the data cells have been changed - which would be a lot of noise and not so helpful
June 11, 2018 at 10:38
Maria BalobanovaYou are right, Dennis. At the moment Version Control registers changes to values. We plan to expand the comparison functionality to track changes to formulas as well. Thanks for confirming that this could be something useful!
June 13, 2018 at 12:48
ThangIf I am sharing an excel file with a team, does all team members need to have this add-in for us to see who was the last one to edit, and what was edited? Or since I am project lead, only I need to have the add-in?
August 15, 2017 at 00:32
Maria BalobanovaHello Thang! Yes, indeed, to see the change log and work with Excel files under Version Control, each team member should have an XLTools license.
August 15, 2017 at 14:51
AmsalIs it available for MAC?
June 1, 2017 at 12:54
Maria BalobanovaHello Amsal, no, XLTools is only available on Windows platform.
June 1, 2017 at 14:11
JHUnder "How to use Version Control for a shared Excel spreadsheet" is says "Place the workbook in a shared folder in your network > Allow access to the group members." Is it possible to use a git repo like GitHub or Bit-bucket?
March 5, 2017 at 20:39
Maria BalobanovaHello JH, XLTools does not have this functionality yet. We've had a few similar requests, so we will consider supporting it in the next releases. Thank you!
March 6, 2017 at 13:26
WinDoes this Add-In require that I save the file as a macro-enabled spreadsheet? (i.e. xlsm)
December 16, 2016 at 00:37
Maria BalobanovaHello Win, If you have an xlsx workbook, and then enable Version Control - the file does not change its extension. The add-in does not require you to save it as xlsm. But you can also enable Version Control for xlsm files, and starttracking changes to your custom macro.
December 16, 2016 at 17:02
DavidIt appears that the add-in will not provide the sort of history across multiple versions that Excel's native track changes provides, with notes on cells like 'Changed on [date] from [value]' since, if the add-in can only compare two versions at a time [date] would always be the date of the earlier version being compared. Is that correct?
November 12, 2015 at 04:20
Maria BalobanovaHello David, XLTools Version Control provides a different functionality compared to native Excel track changes. You can view the history of all saved versions (when and who made the changes, comments to these versions). You can compare two versions of a sheet at a time - Version Control will pull these two versions, mark them 'Newer' and 'Older', and it will highlight the cells in the Newer version that are different compared to the Older. You are most welcome to download XLTools and activate the free trial - it will take a few minutes and you can see if XLTools can be helpful with your tasks.
November 12, 2015 at 14:47
Filippo BertoniSecond question. Let's imagine this scenario: I create an excel sheet with my laptop where XLtool is installed. I then send this file to a person using a Mac who does not have XLtool on his computer. As soon as this person sends the file back to me, can I still trace every single modification he/she made to the file?
November 6, 2015 at 16:35
Maria BalobanovaFilippo, potentially this is possible. You can save the file you receive from your colleague and then save the latest version of the changes. Then you can compare the two versions - yours and the one from your colleague. Version Control will highlight the cells with changes.
November 6, 2015 at 17:26
Filippo BertoniHello. Can be this used with Office 2016 for Mac?
November 6, 2015 at 16:28
Maria BalobanovaHello Filippo, XLTools is only compatible with Windows. We do not have current plans to develop a version for Mac.
November 6, 2015 at 17:23
John Da SilvaIf I use XLTools for versioning of a workbook on one computer that is saved to a USB drive, is the workbook still accessible on another computer that does not have XLTools? I am assuming that I can still modify the latest version on the other computer, but there would be no versioning history. Is that correct?
October 25, 2015 at 02:49
Maria BalobanovaHello John, You are right. Version Control is only available if you have XLTools installed on your computer and after you activate your XLTools PRO license. You can still access your Excel workbook (with all the latest saved changes) from a computer without XLTools and work with the spreadsheet as usual, but you won't be able to save or compare versions.
October 26, 2015 at 15:48
ErinIs there a network/group floating license version of this tool? Or is there any group purchase discount? (e.g. buying 20 individual license will get some discount) Is there a distributed version control function? (e.g. central site version difference/revision check against the working copies outside of the central site) Thanks, Erin
August 25, 2015 at 20:05
Maria BalobanovaHi Erin, For now, XLTools should be installed individually on each computer. We plan to create a corporate license version in the future. One license copy is per user per computer. We do have volume discounts, I will send you the details by email. Version Control is meant for team work - just share the workbook in Excel settings, and XLTools Version Control will help you can save, comment and compare versions with the original document of with each other.
August 25, 2015 at 20:57
Oliver BrainHey I was wondering if this add-in is able to track changes in the VBA script? Thanks for your help
June 15, 2015 at 20:27
Maria BalobanovaHi Oliver, Right now we are expanding the functionality of the Version Control feature – so that it tracks macros’ history and highlights changes in VBA versions (similar logic as with spreadsheets). Oliver, we received an email request from you for a free trial - but I could not reach you (invalid email). Please provide a different email address and we will be happy to help!
June 18, 2015 at 13:42
Guido CinatoHi, I'm also interested in an add-in to track VBA code changes, please keep me informed, thanks. Guido
September 1, 2015 at 18:15
Maria BalobanovaHi Guido, we are working on it at the moment. We will let you know when it's released. Thanks for staying in touch!
September 1, 2015 at 20:46
Guido Cinatogot it, thanks
April 5, 2016 at 16:25
Ignacio De BustamanteQuisiera saber si hay una version del instalador de XLTools compatible con Excel 2013 en español ya que la version en ingles no la puedo istalar en mi sistema pues no es compatible.
March 10, 2015 at 07:24
Peter LiapinHello, yes we support Excel 2013, but unfortunately we do not have Spanish version of XLTools yet.
March 13, 2015 at 16:46
Tim MillerExcel 2013 64bit too?
March 24, 2015 at 00:39
Peter LiapinYes, x64 is also supported.
April 1, 2015 at 14:50
JackHi, I'm interested in using this for version control. Does it allow distributed revision control? Our use case is 2-3 developers working on a spreadsheet made up of several pages. Often the spreadsheet is opened from it's location on a shared network drive, minor changes made and sometimes the version number is not incremented. This makes it very hard to track changes and also who made them. Ideally we would pull the spreadsheet to a working directory, do a diff and commit changes then push them to a master repository. Would it be suitable for this kind of workflow?
November 17, 2014 at 18:30
KCSWould like to see an answer to this question. Distributed is what's really needed in a case I am considering as well. Have many people working on one spreadsheet and need to have commits with users' name and comments. Features like working copies, a central check-in site, and conflict management/resolution would be the best. A work-around might be to have users log into the same remote machine, work on the single-copy worksheet there (one at a time), and then commit changes. Would that be a license violation?
June 19, 2015 at 01:43
Chris PriceHow many licences would you need to buy - e.g. could I just buy one as the owner of the workbook or would we need a licence for everyone who accesses the sheet in order to track all changes?
September 2, 2014 at 11:44
Peter LiapinDear Chris, You will need to install XLTools Add-In for everyone who accesses the worksheet, i.e. you will need to get as many licenses as many computers you and your colleagues have. We are currently thinking about volume license discount, so please contact me if you want to buy few licenses. We can agree about special price for you depending on amount of users you have.
September 3, 2014 at 00:59
How can we help?