Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

This Week's Sponsor

Save 20% on the award-winning Audio Hijack with coupon code 6C20AH!

By Dan Moren

Tip: Removing previous versions of files

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

In preparing my spreadsheet for public dissemination, I knew I’d obviously have to remove all the data in the spreadsheet. But I realized that there was also a potential loophole: Numbers documents take advantage of OS X’s Versions feature, a sort of on-disk Time Machine that lets you easily jump back to a previously saved version of the file.

That previous version contains all the information I just painstakingly wiped out of the document. Could it mean that an enterprising soul could still get access to all of my personal details? (Answer: No, it doesn’t—older versions are stored locally in an invisible database!)

That solves my problem. However, if you’re sharing a local computer and don’t want someone with access to it snooping in your drafts, you can remove old versions from documents—it’s just not immediately obvious how you do so. For instance, this is the interface you see when you choose File > Revert To > Browse All Versions.


Not exactly brimming with options.

But here’s the trick: the menu bar is still accessible in this mode. Just move the cursor to the top of the screen, and it’ll pop down. Good for a first step, but what then? I ended up using the Help menu to search for “versions,” which pointed me to the correct spot…right back to File > Revert To, which in this mode contains a Delete This Version option.


You can use Versions’s arrows on the bottom right to select the version you want to remove—it doesn’t seem as though there’s a good feature for removing all previous versions, however. (Update: Reader Mike Barron points out you actually can remove all old versions: “You can remove all previous versions by simply holding the option button when navigating to File->Revert. When doing so you should see “Delete This Version…” change to “Delete Old Versions…” You will receive a confirmation before the deletions occur.”)

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at or reach him by email at His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is out now.]

If you appreciate articles like this one, support us by becoming a Six Colors subscriber. Subscribers get access to an exclusive podcast, members-only stories, and a special community.

Search Six Colors