For Those Not Divinely Inspired to Produce Perfect Prose Every Time or: How to Use the WordPress Revisions Tool

While taking a look at a not-yet-published post by esteemed fellow OT Editor Will Truman, I made some level-of-the sentence revisions that were probably premature – subject verb agreement errors or merely arguably undesirable pronoun choices typical for anyone who isn’t taking dictation straight from an Angel of the Eternal.1 The work does however give me a chance to demonstrate how to use the WordPress Revisions menu to compare drafts.

To play along with or apply these instructions, go to the “Edit Post” page (i.e., your normal editing screen) on any post you’ve written that has gone through multiple drafts.

If you don’t have multiple revisions already saved, none of this will be relevant, but if, for some other reason, the Revisions menu (or Revisions “Widget”) does not show for you beneath such a post, go to the top of the screen, click “Screen Options,” and make sure that the “Revisions” option has been checked. If your’e not familiar with “Screen Options,” check it out anyway, as you may discover other options there that you never knew you had.2

In Edit Post, with Revisions showing, click on a draft of interest in the table that shows beneath the main editing box,

Revisions Widget on Edit Post Page

Revisions Widget on Edit Post Page

…then on the next screen click the “Compare any two revisions” checkbox.

comparing_revisions

Comparing Revisions on Revisions Page

You can also use Revisions to restore previous drafts of a post, or even just temporarily to grab something you want to use somewhere else, but up to this point we’ve been looking at comparing any two revisions, in this case the last one by me vs the last one by Trumwill, the objective being to get a comparison between my last, best version and his.

If you, like me, tend to do a lot of saves – not wanting ever to lose work to power failures or other mischance – the default set-up, that shows you consecutive revisions while you go looking for the one you want to restore, may not be ideal or even useful in many situations. So, when you want to see what an editor has done, or, as an editor, want to show an author what you’ve done, this screen can save you a lot of time and explanation.

Now, suppose you decide that the revisions did not actually improve the original – or, as may happen, suppose you make some major changes to a post and then decide that you’d just destroyed your best work – or suppose there’s something there in an earlier draft that you realized you’d like to be able to copy and use somewhere else…

If you want to restore a previous revision – even just temporarily – you can pick it off the menu of Drafts under Revisions in Edit or you can use the slider at the top under the Revisions page – with “compare any two revisions” unchecked – to find the draft you want to restore:

comparing_revisions_restoring

Restoring a Revision

Say you change your mind, or never really wanted actually to restore this revision: Just use the slider again, or go back to the table and select the draft you really do want to share with the outside world.

If it takes you a few tries to get handy with the thing, I for one would not be surprised: I only just recently got comfortable with it, and I’ve been using it or previous versions of it for years (as per habit, I had just been barging ahead over and over instead of taking the time, like today, to focus on it). Still, long before I got the hang of it, I was always glad it was there.

Anyway, feel free to experiment: You won’t damage anything… probably… and, unless you set out to delete them, the revisions should3 still be there if you need to revert, which’s kind of the main point…

Thanks to Will Truman for agreeing to let me use his post for this exercise.


Notes:

  1. Trumwill has effectively confessed that he is not, in his own mind, always writing as the Eternal’s infallible witness. []
  2. You can also drag-drop (point to and grab the title bar) most of the “boxes” (or “widgets”) that fill the editing screen, and move them to new positions that you find more convenient. Your choices will be remembered for next time. []
  3. …leaving room for acts of the Unnameable []

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