Versioning in list or library

SharePoint – OneDrive O365

SharePoint O365 allows users to store, restore and prevent overwrites without a backup of the document that was overwritten.


The Short List

  • You must have permission to manage lists to turn versioning on or off.
  • This can be used with lists, library’s, calendars and issue tracking lists.
  • In O365 versioning is now turned on by default when creating a new OneDrive for Business libraries, it will save the last 10 versions of your data.
  • Preexisting OneDrive for business will not have this enabled by default. Versioning will need to be turned on.
  • Versioning is used to Track, Restore and View a previous version of an Office Document or Item.

Versions are created when:

  • A list item or file is created or uploaded.
  • When the properties of the item have been changed.
  • When checked in (if activated).
  • When a file is opened and saved – A version is created on each save. **must be saved to the same library where you accessed it. Saving it on your PC, multiple times and then uploading it to the library will only create one version, and no changes that you made while saving to your PC.
  • If the item is being co-authored and a different user begins working on the document or a user saves changes to the item in a library. The default period for creating new versions when being co-authored is 30 minutes. This can’t be changed in O365 SharePoint sites, but can be changed in a on-prem farm by the Administrator.
  • There can be up to 3 current versions of a file at any given time: The checked-out version, the latest minor or draft version, and the latest published or major version. Other versions are considered historical. There may also be versions that are restricted to the user that created them.

Major and minor versions

  • Major versions are identified by whole numbers, such as 1.0.
  • Minor versions are identified by decimal numbers, such as 1.1.
  • Minor versions can’t be viewed by anyone other than the users with the permissions to see them (usually the owner or developer). Once the version is published then others can view the item.
  • Lists allow only Major Versions, Minor versions are not available.
  • Each version in a list is identified with a whole number.
  • If an Item requires approval, the items remain in pending status until approved.
  • While in pending status they are identified by decimal numbers and left in draft/pending status.

Version numbering

  • Versioning numbers are automatically assigned when creating a new version, where versioning has been enabled.
  • Major versions will always have whole numbers such as 1.0, 2.0.
  • Minor versions will always have decimal numbers such as 1.1, 2.1.
  • You can create many Minor version under a Major version, when published as a Major version.
  • If you discard a checkout a new version will not be created.The item will keep the most recent version.
  • When a version is deleted it goes to the recycle bin and the version number goes with it. The version history will show the remaining version numbers.
  • Any other version numbers will not change after a version has been deleted.
  • Version numbers will not change, for example if you have three sequential versions 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 and delete 1.2, you will retain versions 1.1 and 1.3.

Version Limits

  • The administrator of the list/library may limit the number of versions held in the list or library.
  • If there is a limit on version, once the limit has been reached, the oldest version will be replaced with the new version.
  • Minor versions can be limited to the newest Major Versions, this is set by the administrator.
  • Minor versions can also be limited and the same rules apply as the Major Versions.
  • If minor versions are limited to a specific number of major versions. Minor versions will only be kept for the newest major versions up to the limit set by the administrator.
  • Limiting the number of versions is good practice, it will conserve space on the server and reduce clutter.

Setting Permissions for Versioning

  • Drafts (unpublished versions)
    • A minor version that is created in a library that tracks versions.
    • A list item or file is created or updated and has not been approved when approval is required.
  • Permission Levels
    • You can specify who can see, edit, and approve minor versions files before published. If permission is not granted to see minor versions, only Major versions will be available to them (this can also be controlled by list/library permissions).
    • You can also specify if pending approval documents can be viewed or read by others.
    • If both Major and Minor versions are being tracked, and approval is required, the owner must publish a major version before it can be submitted for approval.

Classic View

Select the Library Tab > Library Settings


Modern View

Select the Gear > Library Settings


In settings select “Versioning”.


Versioning Settings

  1. Content Approval is helpful if there is a concern on what is published to the library.
  2. Create a Version when editing a file. This will allow the administrator to turn versioning on or off, including minor versions. It will also allow the administrator to determine how many versions should be retained for each item in the library.
  3. Draft Item Security, sets permissions on who can access documents that are in a Draft status.
  4. Require Check Out, is important if more than one person is accessing and updating a library item. This keeps down the mistakes that can be made by one person overwriting information that should not have been edited.


Microsoft Versioning Article