Don’t forget to share this post

If you use Google Sheets for daily data storage and analysis, then you may need to go back to recover information every once in a while. This becomes even more crucial if you use it for online collaboration.

Among its many collaboration features, Google Sheets offers the edit and version history tools. These allow you to browse through past versions in case you want to retrieve, restore, or make a copy of specific data.

In this article, you’ll learn what the Google Sheets edit history feature is and how to access it. Then, you’ll learn step by step how to name and make copies of different versions of your sheet, how to restore previous versions, and finally, how to delete the version history.

What is Google Sheets edit history?

Google Sheets will group edits made at a similar time and turn them into a version history. This allows you to view any edits made to your data, giving you more version control. Here are some of the key benefits of using Google Sheets edit history:

  • Fix errors automatically: Save time and manual effort by restoring to a previous version automatically. Simply make sure that there aren’t other users working on the same spreadsheet, as they may lose the data.
  • Understand data by identifying the user: Google Sheets offers the feature, “Show edit history”, which allows you to view edits, including the user responsible for the changes.
  • Manage data by accessing specific versions: Google Sheets allows you to schedule the updates on your spreadsheet. This way, you know exactly which version to access to manage your data accordingly.
  • Keep data accurate by making copies: If you want to avoid overwriting versions or simply prefer to make a separate copy of the original spreadsheet to compare for accuracy, Google Sheets makes it possible through the “Version history” pane.

Now that you know what the edit history feature is and how it can help you gain full control of your spreadsheets, let’s see how to view the version history in Google Sheets.

How to access Google Sheets version history?

There are different ways to access the version history in Google Sheets. Here are the 3 main ways to access the version history of your spreadsheet.

  1. 1. Head over to File > Version History > See version history.
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets See version history
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets - See version history
  1. 2. Use the shortcut Ctrl + Alt + Shift + H for Windows, or Cmd + Alt + Shift + H for Mac. This shortcut also appears next to the “See version history” option, in the “File” dropdown menu.
  2. 3. Click on the last edit statement to “Open version history”. It should appear next to the “Help” tab. Here, “Last edit was 14 minutes ago”.
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets Open version history
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets - Open version history

By following any of these three methods, you can access the “Version history” pane and view the edit history in Google Sheets, name or make a copy of specific versions, restore a previous version, or delete the version history.

How to view the edit history in Google Sheets?

Now that you have accessed the “Version history” pane, you can view the edits made to the spreadsheet. This is how you can view the edit history in Google Sheets for general edits.

How to view general edits?

  1. 1. In the “Version history” pane, you'll see the various versions of your spreadsheet. To view specific edits within a version, click on the dropdown arrow next to the version name”.
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets Expand detailed versions
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets - Expand detailed versions
  1. 2. Browse through the edits and click on the one you would like to view. As soon as you click on the version, Google Sheets will show that specific edit.
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets Select version
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets - Select version

As shown above, to the top-left, you have the option to “Restore this version”. As soon as you click on it, Google will ask you to confirm.

How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets Confirm restore
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets - Confirm restore

Google Sheets has also recently incorporated a feature, “Show edit history”, to view the edit history of a specific cell. This is how to view specific cell edits.

Linking Google Sheets How to Reference Another Sheet
Linking Google Sheets: How to Reference Another Sheet?

Sometimes you have to reference or merge data from multiple sheets or spreadsheets. Here's how to easily link multiple Google Sheets

READ MORE

How to view specific cell edits?

  1. 1. Right-click on a cell you would like to see the edit history on and select “Show edit history” from the dropdown menu.
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets Show edit history
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets - Show edit history
  1. 2. Select the right and left arrows to move back and forth between edits made to the cell. Note how the “Edit history” box provides information on the user, the date, the time, and the type of edit that was made.
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets Browse edits
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets - Browse edits

Viewing the edit history of a specific cell can provide more context on your data and better decide if you need to make any changes.

How to name and make a copy of versions in Google Sheets?

By default, Google Sheets timestamps all versions of automatically saved spreadsheets. However, you can rename versions for more intuitive retrieval further on. You can name versions in Google Sheets in two ways.

Naming versions in Google Sheets using “⁝”

  1. 1. Go to the version you would like to rename and click on the “⁝” icon and select “Name this version” from the dropdown menu.
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets Name this version
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets - Name this version

Naming versions in Google Sheets by double-clicking on the timestamp

  1. 1. Double-click on the timestamp name and type in the new name.
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets Select version 2
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets - Select version
  1. 2. To revert to the timestamp name, click on the “⁝” icon and select “Remove name” from the dropdown menu.
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets Remove name
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets - Remove name

Making a copy of a version in Google Sheets

Making a copy of a specific version may be the best option in case you want to secure data or avoid losing any data altogether.

  1. 1. Go to the version you wish to make a copy of and click on the “⁝” icon; then, select “Make a copy”.
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets Make a copy
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets - Make a copy
  1. 2. Under “Name”, change the name of the version or leave it as is.
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets Copy version details
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets - Copy version details
  1. 3. Under “Folder”, you can choose where to save your copy.
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets Copy version folder
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets - Copy version folder
  1. 4. Google Sheets allows for the option to “Share it with the same people”. If not, simply leave the box unticked. Once you finish, click “OK”.
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets Copy version folder 2
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets - Copy version folder

Now that you’ve seen how easy it is to access the version history and view the edit history in Google Sheets, let’s explain how to delete the version history.

Top 11 Tips for Better Excel and Google Sheets Collaboration

11 different ways to make collaboration better in Excel and Google Sheets so you can continue using spreadsheets as your go-to tool for managing your data.

READ MORE
Top 11 Tips for Better Excel and Google Sheets Collaboration

How to delete the version history in Google Sheets?

As Google Sheets doesn’t allow you to delete the version history directly, the only way of controlling what other users can access is by restricting the sharing options.

  1. 1. Open your Google Sheets file and click on the “Share” button in the top-right corner.
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets Share
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets - Share
  1. 2. You can limit the editing rights for each user. To restrict access to version history, select “Viewer” or “Commenter”. In case you want the user to stop accessing the spreadsheet altogether, select “Remove”.
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets Edit user access
How to View The Edit History in Google Sheets - Edit user access

Although the methods shown throughout this article are straightforward and intuitive, having an automation tool to perform all these actions for you will boost your team’s productivity considerably.

Layer keeps track of all edits made to your spreadsheet and allows you to download any version, without the need to make copies. Its granular access also gives you full control over what you share, down to the cell level.

How to track Google Sheets edit history with Layer?

Layer is a collaboration platform for spreadsheets that works on top of your existing Excel files and Google Sheets. Share parts of your spreadsheet, collect and consolidate data, and review changes to make collaboration seamless and more efficient while keeping full control over your data. Using Layer, you can:

  • Manage Access: Give spreadsheet access on a tab or cell level to relevant stakeholders.
  • Collaborate: Automate tasks, set deadlines, and communicate on top of your files.
  • Review & Track: Consolidate input, track changes, and restore previous versions.

Sign up to get started with Layer right now or schedule an onboarding call so we can help you set up and share your spreadsheet flows.

Conclusion

Google Sheets’ edit history feature is a great way to track, identify and manage previous versions of your dataset. As a cloud-based spreadsheet application, Google Sheets is especially useful for online collaboration that requires frequent and automatic updates.

You should now know the various methods to view the version history in Google Sheets, how to use the edit history feature to name and make copies of versions, and delete the version history for specific users.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to use Google Sheets for collaborative work, read our article on the Top 11 Tips for Better Excel and Google Sheets Collaboration.

Hady ElHady
Hady is Content Lead at Layer.

Hady has a passion for tech, marketing, and spreadsheets. Besides his Computer Science degree, he has vast experience in developing, launching, and scaling content marketing processes at SaaS startups.

Originally published May 13 2022, Updated May 30 2022