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Apple Mac OS X tips and tweaks

Date: 30th August 2011

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OS X Lion: Copy information using Versions

Versions is an interesting feature in OS X Lion on the Apple Mac and it stores previous versions of files such as images or documents within the same file. Instead of using Save As and saving document1.doc, document2.doc and so on as you work, you just save a version and they are all stored inside the same file.

It's quite clever, but it may be not be completely bug free because I managed to mess up every version of an image except the first and last when using Preview, but it does have quite a clever feature. Versions seems to work by opening two document windows side by side. One has the current version of a file and the other shows a previous version. These windows seem to be part of the application rather than the OS and they are real live document windows. This means that you can do some clever tricks with Versions.

For example, if you run TextEdit and select File, Revert to Saved you will enter the Versions screen and this is almost identical to Time Machine. (I'm assuming it is a file in which you have already saved some versions.) It looks straightforward, but if you click in the left window - the current version - you'll see that you can actually use it and type in text. The window on the right is also a live-ish document window and you can click in it and select some text.

Push the mouse right to the top of the screen and the menu bar appears. You can use this to select commands like copy to copy the selected text from the previous version. You can then switch to the left window, the current version, and choose Edit, Paste to paste in the text copied from the previous version. That's a neat trick.

OS X Lion Versions

Not all of TextEdit's commands work in the Versions windows, but some do. It's worth experimenting with and copying information from a previous version of a document could be useful at times.

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