Version Control for Excel Spreadsheets

Track changes and manage spreadsheet versions

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: change history 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 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 PC
  • Review version log and recover any previous version at any time
  • Collaborate in a group and track who changed what and when

You can also enable versioning of VBA projects in Excel.

Main features of XLTools Version Control


Add XLTools Version Control to Excel

Works with: Microsoft Excel 2016, 2013, 2010, 2007, Office 365.

Download XLTools Add-in


Learn your way around:


How to track changes in Excel with Version Control

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

  • Open the workbook > Click the ‘Enable’ button on the XLTools ribbon.
    Or: Open XLTools Settings > Version Control tab > Enable.
  • Next, you can commit versions of the workbook and track changes from one version to another.

Enable XLTools Version Control for a spreadsheet


How to commit changes in Excel to versions history

  1. Open a workbook > Click ‘Enable’ on the XLTools ribbon.
  2. Click the ‘Commit Changes’ button > 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 primary file to versions history. This will help compare future versions to the original document.
  4. Make changes > When ready, Commit Changes > Add a descriptive comment > OK.
  5. Commit versions along the way.

Note: a version is only committed through the ‘Commit Changes’ button. If you simply save the file, the version is not committed to history.

XLTools Version Control Preview changes and Commit Version


How to diff changes before committing a version

  1. Make changes > Click ‘Commit Changes’ > Double click on the modified sheet to preview and diff changes.
  2. A new Temp workbook opens with ‘Newer’ and ‘Older’ sheets > the newer version has the changes highlighted in red.
  3. Review > Go back to editing the spreadsheet or commit the version right away.

How to store spreadsheet history to git-repository

All committed versions of a workbook 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’ will automatically appear at the same destination as your workbook.
  • Important: do not delete, rename or move this folder. It holds version history of the spreadsheet.

XLTools Version Control Git Repository


How to open version log and see who made changes and when

  1. Click the ‘Show History’ button > A version log window will open.
  2. Note that the list displays comments, author and the exact time of commit.

How to compare two versions of an Excel sheet

  1. Click the ‘Show History’ button > A version log window will open.
  2. Collapse/expand the list to find the sheets you want to compare.
  3. Select two Excel sheets holding ‘Ctrl’ key > Click the ‘Show Changes’ button.
  4. XLTools generates a new Temp workbook. The sheet with the ‘Newer’ version has the changes highlighted in red.

XLTools Compare Two Versions of Excel Sheet


How to restore and roll back to a previous version of Excel workbook

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

  1. Click the ‘Show History’ button > Select the workbook version you want to restore.
  2. Click the ‘Save’ button > Name and save as a separate Excel file.
    Or: Click the ‘Open’ button to open the version first > Name and save the file.

XLTools Restore and Roll Back To a Previous Version


How to use Version Control for a shared Excel spreadsheet

XLTools Version Control helps arrange group work and collaborate on spreadsheets effectively.

  1. Install XLTools for your colleagues. Install individually on each PC, or install on terminal server.
  2. Place the workbook in a shared folder in your network > Allow access to the group members.
    Group members should have reading and writing permissions to commit versions. This prevents anyone outside the group from tempering with the workbook under versioning.
  3. Each member can commit and compare versions. Version log displays who changed what and when.

How to enable Version Control for VBA macros in Excel

VBA developers and Excel power users can also track and compare changes in VBA scripts.

 

Any questions or suggestions? Contact us or leave your comment below.

 

23 Responses to Version Control for Excel Spreadsheets

  1. David says:

    It 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?

    • Maria Balobanova says:

      Hello 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.

  2. Filippo Bertoni says:

    Second 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?

    • Maria Balobanova says:

      Filippo, 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.

  3. Filippo Bertoni says:

    Hello. Can be this used with Office 2016 for Mac?

    • Maria Balobanova says:

      Hello Filippo, XLTools is only compatible with Windows. We do not have current plans to develop a version for Mac.

  4. John Da Silva says:

    If 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?

    • Maria Balobanova says:

      Hello 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.

  5. Erin says:

    Is 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

    • Maria Balobanova says:

      Hi 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.

  6. Oliver Brain says:

    Hey

    I was wondering if this add-in is able to track changes in the VBA script?

    Thanks for your help

    • Maria Balobanova says:

      Hi 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!

  7. Ignacio De Bustamante says:

    Quisiera 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.

  8. Jack says:

    Hi, 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?

    • KCS says:

      Would 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?

  9. Chris Price says:

    How 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?

    • Peter Liapin says:

      Dear 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.

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