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Content Management > Revision Management

Revision Management

posted on 2:42 PM, January 8, 2009
When you update content in ExSite, a new revision is created. The previous revisions remain on file, so that you can roll back to any previous revision if you choose. The system will track an unlimited number of revisions, so the system can store the complete history of every piece of content on your site.

Note that a single page consists of numerous independent pieces of content. These include your text copy, images, multimedia files, design graphics, stylesheets, and so on. Every one of these is handled separately, and will have its own list of revisions.

For each piece of content, there are two special revisions among all the revisions on file. The newest revision is the most recently added revision (ie. your latest update), and is what administrators will see in previews. The active revision is the most recently published revision, and is what regular website users will see. These newest and active revisions will often be the same revision, if you have published recently. All other revisions are simply archived, but are not otherwise used by the system.

While you are working on revising content, your newest revision and the active revision are different. The public continues to view the active revision, while you are making changes. When you are happy with your changes, and publish them, the newest revision and active revision become the same, and the public will now see your updates.

Every revision carries a timestamp and comment describing the changes. With some simplified editing tools (such as My Website) the comment is generated automatically, but with others (such as Website Manager) you can customize the comment to include specific information about your changes. That can make it easier to find a revision of interest when browsing through the archives.

Inspecting Revisions

To see the contents of a specific revision, use the Website Manager to click into the content object. You will see a list of all the revisions on file, with dates and comments. Select one to view its contents. The revision preview shows you a representation of what is in that revision, in isolation from all other content.

If the content contains HTML, it may not render correctly if:
  • it is an incomplete HTML snippet with missing opening or closing tags
  • it includes specialized CSS or Javascript that only work correctly on its target page
  • it is affected by the Website Manager's CSS settings
  • it includes other CMS tags that are not expanded in the preview
In these cases, it may be more useful to click "View as raw HTML" to see the raw code for the revision.

Rollbacks

If you decide that an update should be reversed, you can roll back to the previous revision. This is equivalent to deleting the newest revision.

Different CMS tools have different ways of executing rollbacks:
  • In My Website, the optional functions for each page include a rollback button. This button will roll back the content of the page body.
  • In Website Manager you can roll back any content object, not just the page body. To do this, click all the way into the content object of interest. You will see a list of the revisions on file. From the Update menu, select "Rollback".
If you rolled back a revision that was published, you should republish to make sure that the public content accurately reflects the new revision state.

To undo a rollback, look for the deleted revision in the trash bin, and recover it from there.

Restoring Revisions

If there is an old revision that you want to make use of again, you do not have to roll back every intervening revision to get back to it. Instead you can restore the old revision back to the top of the heap. In the Website Manager, click all the way down to the preview of the revision that you want to restore. Then from the Revision menu, select "Restore Revision". This creates a new revision, copied from the original. It will be flagged as unpublished, even if the original was published, so you will have to republish to take this revision live, just as if it were a normal update.

Comparing Revisions

Sometimes you want to see exactly how a piece of content changed between two particular revisions. To see this, visit your reference revision in the Website Manager. Then select "View Changes" from the Revision menu. You will be presented with a list of all the other revisions on file. Select one of these to compare to. For example, to see the most recent change, visit the current (top) revision on file, then select "View changes" and choose the next (2nd) revision in the list.

In the view of changes, old deleted content (content only present in the earlier revision) is shown in red, with strikeout marks. New added content (only present in the newer revision) is shown in green, underlined. Unchanged content is shown as regular unmarked text. If the text has changed too much, the Website Manager may not be able to find much in common between the two revisions, and will tend to show a rather random selection of deletions and insertions.

Viewing changes always shows the raw HTML code because changes may have occurred in the HTML tags or attributes, not just in the visible text.  If you view changes between non-text revisions (for example, between two images) you will see the differences in their HTML representations (eg. in the IMG tags), not in the actual files.

Archive Management

If your archives are growing too long or messy, and you decide you don't need that much historical information, you can select "Clean up" from the Revisions menu. This allows you check off which revisions to discard, and which to keep. By default it selects for removal any old revisions which were never published. Deleted revisions are moved to the trash bin.

Workflows

You can implement a simple workflow system for approving revisions. Every content manager (or website administrator) has one of three CMS roles: editor, designer, or administrator. Editors are allowed to update editorial content, and designers are allowed to update design content. Only administrators are allowed to publish content.

Since unpublished content is not shown to regular users, publishing is equivalent to approving content. To restrict approval of content to a limited set of content managers, grant the "administrator" privilege only to those users who should have that power. Regular editors or designers can then make updates in the CMS without accidentally taking things live.