Dead Trees and Their Electronic Equivalent

“You can’t grep dead trees” - is an old Unix saying. It is supposed to promote the value of keeping documents electronically. Sometimes you want the unalterability of paper or its modern equivalent the PDF. However, if you produce unalterable documents it is important to remember that there will be versions.
Versioning documents is relatively straight forward but often forgotten. It can be simple or more involved, some techniques include:

  • Adding a date to the title page
  • Putting a version number in the title
  • A change log to the document

None of this is rocket science, but each measure allows the document to be identified more precisely and is useful in ensuring that users of the document can tell when they are referring to the same thing.

Change logs are particularly useful when documents are produced by a group of people and can also save considerable amounts of time for readers familiar with old versions of the document as they can direct the user to only the changed sections.