Google Sheets has a neat way of storing historical versions of a document that helps you review and effortlessly restore your data if you need to. A lot of individuals, teams, and businesses take advantage of constantly connected functions to make work less cumbersome and more collaborative. This is a crucial function that sets modern spreadsheet applications apart from awkward solutions that workers used before.
However, there are times you’d rather scrub off the edit history of your Google Sheets files. For example, when sharing an internal spreadsheet to a guest or a client or a different team. Hiding your past edits simplifies documents and lets others start anew.
Why Hide Your Google Sheets Version History
Sometimes, we don’t really mind what we’re doing with our Google Sheets documents before we share or transfer them to others. This is a silly approach when protecting your information must be a paramount objective in your line of work.
Here are some reasons why you would want to hide your Google Sheets version history from others:
- Hide sensitive information. Let’s say your spreadsheet once hosted private data before you removed them from your tables. For example, this could be customer contact information, trade secrets, or anything that can be considered confidential. Deleting them from cells does not completely remove the data from your Google Sheets file. The items you manually edited out may still reside on an older version. It is in your best interest to remove older versions whenever you can if you want to stay out of possibly legal trouble.
- Simplify your copies. Sometimes your documents are getting old from being reused over and over. This creates a ton of versions baked into a single document. If you decide to collaborate with others on the same Google Docs document, you may want to clean up by starting with a fresh version history. This way, only new changes will be recorded and it’s then much easier for you or your team to trace back where new edits come from.
- Look more professional. By removing the file history, you will have the peace of mind knowing nobody else sees your clutter or even past mistakes on a file you’ve worked on for a long time. This is useful when turning over work files to bosses or clients or another department you’re going to work with. Just start fresh. It takes just a few seconds.
Accessing your Google Sheets File Version History
We have previously discussed this in our How to View File History in Google Sheets tutorial so we are going to summarize the important details here. Use this cheat sheet when troubleshooting why you’re not seeing the entirety of your file version history.
To view the version history, there are a few conditions that have to be met to access the file’s version history. You must:
- be the Owner of or have Editor permissions for the file,
- ensure you are using the original file, not a new copy,
- Use the web version of Google Sheets on your computer
You can open the version history menu using any of the following methods:
- Go to File > Version history > See version history.
- At the top of your workspace’s menu bar, there’s a Last edit button which sends you directly to the version history.
- Using the shortcut key for Windows, Ctrl+Alt+Shift+H; or for Mac, Cmd+Alt+Shift+H.
Removing File History from a Google Sheets Document
Google Sheets does not give you an option to directly delete any portion of your file’s version history. However, there are a few things you can do so you’re not sharing your original document’s history with others.
When a new Google Sheets file is duplicated using “Make a copy” within the Google Sheets web app, you’re creating a different file with a distinct file ID and URL. For all intents and purposes, this is a new file that is not associated with the original. It will have its own version history that begins at the state of the file when you duplicated it.
There is an important thing to take note of and we have to stress this enough. Your Google Sheets file version history is different and separate from your Google Drive file history. We will discuss this later but for the sake of simplicity, DO NOT use Make a Copy on your Google Drive directly as the duplicates will still have the original’s version history.
Here are the steps on how to make a copy without the older versions baked in.
Step 1. Go to File > Make a Copy
Step 2. Customize your copy options using the popup menu. Here you can change the file name, share the copy with the same people as in the original, and carry over previous comments added to it. You also may want to check that it is saved in a location you intend it to be like your Drive or a Shared Folder.
Once you have your new copy, feel free to start over or share it with others without worrying about including your older version history.
Note however that any subsequent edits you make to this copy will now show up on Show version history when Editors or a new Owner inspects the file. You may want to make another copy if you really have to send a fresh slate.
How to Hide the File Version History from Others
Let’s say you’d rather not mess up your file organization by making copies but still want to share your spreadsheet with others.
The only thing you can do in this case is give View Only or Commenter permissions to the person you’re sharing your file with. As previously mentioned, your version history is only accessible to the Owner or anyone with Editor access to the original file.
Sharing with Others and the Version History
Again, there are many legitimate reasons why you should not or do not want to share your file’s version history with others.
Here are some reminders you should take note of if you really have to be careful when sharing.
- Viewers and Commenters cannot view file version history.
- The Owner and Editors can access the file’s edit history.
- If a Viewer or Commenter is later upgraded to Editor or becomes Owner, they will then have access to older versions.
- If Editor permissions are removed from a user, they can no longer access the history.
- Other Editors may be able to provide Editor access to new users, providing the same version history access they have.
- Editors can be barred from providing access to others when the Owner disables that privilege from the Sharing settings by unticking the box Editors can change permissions and share.
- Any copy other users make based on your file will not have the original’s version history.
- On the Sharing with others menu (File > Share > Share with others), when the file has General Access to Anyone with the link enabled, the same rules apply. If set to Viewer or Commentor, they will not have access to the history. However, if General Access is set to Editor, anyone with the link can view the file’s version history.
- When Downloading a Google Sheets file as an XLSX file (Microsoft Excel) to your device using Google Sheets or Google Drive, the edit history is removed. This is the default download action when you are on Google Drive and is an alternative, albeit less elegant, method of purging your edit history. In fact, none of the default download formats are able to store or access your version history.
Conclusion on How to Remove File History in Google Sheets
Being able to purge the version history of your Google Sheets file is one of the most important procedures you have to learn. Everyone using Google Sheets on a regular basis needs to learn this not only for simplifying files and removing possibly embarrassing mistakes but also to protect sensitive information that could potentially put yourself or your organization into serious trouble.
As a very important reiteration, do not rely on your Google Drive account when using Make a Copy to remove Google Sheets file version histories. Instead, use the Make a Copy function directly on Google Sheets while understanding how Sharing with others works. Using Make a Copy on Google Drive clones the original Google Sheets file including the version history and that could make it very difficult for you to keep track of or audit.
Work Smarter on Google Sheets Using a Free Add-on
FileDrop is a powerful Google Sheets and Docs add-on that allows you to drag and drop files into spreadsheet cells with automatic linking and adds them to your Google Drive. It also has great time-saving features like PDF to Text, Image to Text, and managing your attached files using the built-in File Library. Install FileDrop for free using this link.
Learn more by visiting FileDrop.
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