Making macOS versions more usable

Like many other features in macOS, its versioning system can be invaluable to users. Most apps now support it, and I think that I have used it more to recover lost content from my documents than I have Time Machine.

As I have pointed out, it is marred by some serious shortcomings. Versions cannot be transferred to copies or duplicates of documents, and they seldom transfer when you move documents between different Macs, for example using iCloud Drive. So you can’t rely on the versioning system to deliver old versions when you need them.

More accurately, you couldn’t rely on it. With this new release of Revisionist, you can.

I have added new features which allow you to perform ‘deep’ copying of a document so that the copy retains all the versions of the original, and a version archiving system which allows you to move versions over iCloud Drive and any other storage system which doesn’t retain versions. If you want to, you can even move them over to Linux/Unix or Windows.

Deep copying is simple to use: open the document in Revisionist, and click on its Duplicate button. You’ll be prompted for a file to save the copy in, and Revisionist then makes a copy of the document, and copies across all the versions to that new document. It sets the datestamps on the copied document and its versions to those of the original, so you end up with a document identical to your original.

I don’t understand why Apple has never offered this as an option in the Finder.

The most common circumstances where Duplicate won’t help you are when copying to iCloud Drive for access from another system, and when copying to media formats which don’t support versioning, such as FAT variants. In those cases, you’ll need to move the document via a version-independent format, in this case a folder containing all the versions of that document.

Revisionist creates such archive folders using the Archive button. This saves the current and previous versions of a document in numbered files inside a single folder.

When you’re going to access those versions using another Mac, move them to local storage on that Mac, perhaps via iCloud Drive or any other means, then use Revisionist’s UnArchive menu command, which will use that archive folder to reconstitute the original document with all its associated versions, just like the original.


If you’re not using a Mac to access the archive folder, you can leave the documents in that folder, and access them as a serial collection of documents using any other app.

These features work with simple monolithic documents, and those in disguised folders such as RTFD.

For the moment, you’ll need to use Revisionist to perform these small miracles. Over the next few days, I will be making simpler convenience utilities that will make this portability of versions even more accessible.

This new version of Revisionist is available from here: revisionist10b6
and in Downloads above. It should work on all versions of macOS from El Capitan to High Sierra, and on HFS+ and APFS.