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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Document Management - Where is the latest version of xyz?

Not being able to find the soft copy (the latest version!) of a printed document is pretty high on the list of things at an agency that drive me nuts.


To combat the effects of short, mid and long-term memory loss - effectively saving myself from myself, I have become reliant on inserting a field that dynamically generates the filename and path in the footer of all of my Microsoft Office documents. Combined with a proper file-naming convention, a "bread-crumb" path to the exact server or local hard-drive location of a document printed on the bottom of your document is invaluable. As far as I know, this doesn't work in PowerPoint, but as a bonus, it works like a charm in Microsoft Project.

I'm not going to go into detail on how to do this. It's easy enough to find out on the Microsoft site. As an example, you can find the instructions for Microsoft Word, in the Quick Reference Card on the Microsoft site.

If you've ever had the joy of updating a document from an older version, while a deadline or your boss is looming, you will agree that taking the time to include this in your and your team's SOP is worth the effort. The job you save may be your own.


  1. Working at an agency, those filenames can get really long; perhaps too long to be on the footer. Additionaly, these documents get passed on to the client, who could care less about the Agency's server path to a document.

    But I agree with you. Getting a hard copy and not knowing where the soft copy is can be annoying.

    However, I think this only scratches the surface of document version control. Documents get passed around for comments, many times frequently during the day. So appending a date typically doesn't solve the problem. Then there's the age old problem of sending a document that is final. Anyone at an agency can agree that at that point the file gets named something like SOW_Client_Project_020609-final. And what really happens is that its not final. So we end up with final1, final2, finalfinal, and ultimately finalfinalfinal.doc.

    But when it comes down to it, its the PM that can control most of this. And the PM needs to be vigilant that document names, headers and footers stay consistent and archived appropriately. It amazes me how often this doesn't happen, but how easy it is and the value it provides.

  2. Thanks for the comment.

    You're correct - this is definitely just scratching the surface of version control. Tools like Microsoft SharePoint do a decent job of version control, with standard features like check-in/out, rollback, etc. - I'm reaching my upper limit for MS plugs.

    I'm with you on the "final2" thing. You'd think/hope that embarrassment would work to diminish repeat offenders.

    A filenaming convention can help on names that are too long. There is actually an upper limit to path length beyond which you can't retrieve a file in Windows (damn, another MS reference).

    As far as the footer being unsightly: I often turn the font gray and bring it down to 6 pts. Clients don't care about this, but they do care about lost docs. I've had clients saved by having a footer on more than one occasion. I've also used the whole topic as a selling point, which has distinguished my agency and the PM's, who you rightly identify as owning this.

  3. I'm not a fan of ever using .final in the naming convention. I prefer using .snt (for sent) or .prs (for presented) with version number.

  4. You're a wise PM. That approach provides more specific info and the states you list don't change. Thanks.

  5. Records Mgmt -

    Works like a charm on XP. I haven't found that the OS has much to do with it. Might be your version of Office. In any case, feel free to reach out to me directly via email - I'm happy to help you troubleshoot.

    - Jeff