Configuring SharePoint Solutions: Document Publishing

Using major and minor versioning features in SharePoint's Document Publishing functionality help to establish a more efficient approval workflow process.

By Anthony Baratta

In this blog on Configuring SharePoint Solutions we look at major and minor versioning in your organization’s document publishing.

If you have created a new file in your document library and want to share it with your entire team—or at least with everyone who has the necessary permission to view it—you can publish the document. Document publishing in SharePoint links with numerous other features that the software provides, including document versioning and approval workflows. To understand how document publishing works, then, you first need to know the difference between major and minor versions.

A Basic Crash Course in SharePoint Versioning

Through versioning, SharePoint allows you to save a document in two different ways. These two options are known as major and minor versioning. Essentially, major versioning is the feature you will use to publish a file. Minor versioning, meanwhile, is more for saving in-progress files.

To understand the differences between these two options, let's look at a potential scenario. You and your departmental team are working on a project file that will eventually need to be viewed and used by the entire enterprise.

For now, there are only a few people who have access to the file on your SharePoint site. As you work on this file, you would save minor versions. Each time a member of your team went in and edited the document, they create a new minor version. You would also be able to go back through version history if you needed to load and revert to an earlier minor version of the file.

Eventually, your team would complete a draft of the project and be ready to share it with other members of your organization. It would be at this point that you would use the "Publish a Major Version" function of SharePoint. A major version of a document is a published version of that document and would be accessible to everyone with the necessary permissions.

Version History and Unpublishing

The above section summarizes the building blocks of document publishing in SharePoint. All of these different versions (minor and major) would appear in your version history for the file. Major versions of the file would be round whole numbers—like 1.0 or 4.0. Minor versions, meanwhile, would be non-whole numbers like 1.1 or 4.2.

The first number in the version number (e.g. the four in 4.2) signifies the major version. The second number in the version number (the two in 4.2) would signify the number of changes that had been made to the major version file so far (or the minor version number). In other words, version 4.2 of a document would be the second revision to the fourth major version of the document.

By default SharePoint only saves several historical copies of major versions and a handful of minor versions. This allows you to revert back to a previous version either while still drafting a new revisions, or rolling back to a previous major version. Rolling back a to a previous minor version (e.g. 4.5 to 4.3) only affects the current editing team. While rolling back from 4.0 to 3.0 will change the version available to the larger viewing public. 

If a person has enough permissions, they can view the version history of a file, and download historical copies of the target document. If you do not want older versions to be available to more than your editing team you need to ensure that previous major versions are unpublished when you publish the latest major version.

Approvals and Comments

SharePoint includes an out of the box workflow that allows you to require approvals on documents before you publish them. If you have this approval workflow activated, it would basically just add another step to the document publishing process. You would choose to publish a major version of your document, and it would automatically go to your list of approvers for document approval. As soon as the last person in this chain marked the file as "approved," it would be published a major version. We discuss the approval workflow in more detail here.

Even if you aren't using an approval or feedback workflow on your documents, you can still publish documents with "editor's notes" or commentary. Every time you go to publish a major version of a file, you get the option to attach a comment to the file. You might explain what the document is and why it is important, describe what has changed between this version and an earlier major version, or just say that the file is "ready for approval." How you use this particular feature of the document publishing system is entirely up to you.

To learn more about publishing or unpublishing documents in SharePoint, please do not hesitate to connect with us for a complimentary consultation. Or, if you have a few questions you need answered first, please contact us at (510) 652 7700. You can also read Microsoft's support page on the subject for more information.

Anthony Baratta
Anthony Baratta – Chief Technology Officer
Anthony helps the company realize it's mission - Real results. Every time. Fluent in technology, Anthony breaks down complex problems into scalable solutions and manageable automated tasks.
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