Saving Versions Can Save Your Day

Today we talk about the benefits of using version numbers when naming files and what you need to keep in mind to put this concept to full use. It can literally save your whole workday!

You can always go back in time

The biggest advantage of saving versions is quite obvious – you have multiple states of your work always available.

This is not only helpful when you have to assemble making-ofs after the production, but it also helps you to avoid one very common mistake: You accidentally delete a layer or frames, precious work you have already done, without realizing. If you don’t save in a new version but save over the file you opened, all your hard work is gone.

You risk losing your entire animation if you save over your existing file
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You risk losing your entire animation if you save over your existing file

With “versions” you just need to go back to the previous file to get the part of your animation that is broken from the past and with a bit of luck those two parts will merge to one complete, fixed masterpiece (which you save as a new version – of course). It’s like a time machine!

Diagram that shows how you can always go back to the last intact version
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With versions you can only ever loose your most recent progress

And there are many more instances where a previous version will come to the rescue: For example when the software crashes while saving and therefor writes a corrupt file (this happens!) or when the director wants that nice little arc back that you had in a playblast two weeks ago.

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No more final2 or finalfinalsuperfinal

The highest number will always indicate the most recent version. No more guessing if final3 or superfinal is the version to send to the festival.

The famous human march of progress with version numbers underneath
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The higher, the finaler. Er, the more finaler?
Date vs. version number

In general, consider writing dates in the format year, month, day (example: YYMMDD = 150619). This way your files will be displayed in the correct order because most file viewers sort them alphabetically.

The problem with dates in file names is that you sometimes might want to save several versions on the same day. If you didn’t think about this, file names might get inconsistent as team members (or even just you) will mix numbers and letters. So, why not add a space for the version right away (filename150619_01).

Tip: Save a new version immediately after opening

If you make saving a new version the very first thing you do after opening a file, you can always revert things to a state before you went the wrong way or deleted something by mistake. It also prevents you from overwriting an existing version and ensures that version 14 is always version 14. This is important for backups or when you hand out files to somebody else.

Two versions with different content
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There can only be one (version with the same version number that is)
Tip: Use leading zeros

If you name your version 1 instead of 01 the alphabetical sorting in most file viewers will sort version 10 and up after version 1 (1, 10, 11, 2, 3, 4, 5). Confusing! So whenever you expect to crack the two or three digits, you should start with some leading zeros right from version 1. This way everything will stay in order: 008, 009, 010, 011, … , 099, 100, 101, …

Do you think about naming conventions for your files? What are your experiences and tricks for keeping track of versions?

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Obviously this principle applies to work you do in any software package, but if you’re working in Maya I recommend the following three-fold plan.

1) It’s easy to just turn on incremental saves in the save options. This is great because the name of the latest file never changes (it’s just “”) but a new incremental back up is saved in the a subfolder (“” “” etc.). BUT, that only backs up your work if you remember to save often. You could still lose a whole day’s work if you’re in the zone and forget to hit the save button.

2) Get a MEL/Python script to auto save. The one I use (NPautosave) triggers a backup based not on a time interval, but on a user-defined number of selections in Maya so it’s a more accurate measure of how much work I’ve done since my last save.

(Eventually storage space becomes a concern. I keep an unlimited number of manual incremental saves and only the latest 15 autosave backups since those are for immediate rescue of shorter term work loss and I should have manual saves beyond that. You can set the number of autosaves you keep to anything, but I wouldn’t recommend anything below 10 at a minimum as sometimes a script or other process can trigger a lot of selections in Maya, but not really represent a lot of manual work and can generate a few useless backups which would potentially crowd out some good ones.)

3) AAAAAnd I have a shortcut to the Temp folder in Windows where Maya will attempt to save a backup automatically in the case of a Maya crash.

So to recover after Maya crashes or some other terrible thing happens to your current file: 1) check for temp file. If none, or file is bad 2) Autosave dir should have minimal work loss 3) If incremental save has more recent timestamp than last autosave use it, if not, use autosave. 4) save over original file (which backs that file up to the incremental folder so it’s not lost) and continue with little or no re-work required.

Autosave is also handy for “You know what? This anim looked better a few minutes ago, but I forgot to save it before I started experimenting with something and my undo function isn’t getting me back to that point.”


Hi my name is Jacqueline and I wanted to say good job on this post because it is very true!


I’m excited to see how I can change to this system and I bet it works allot better.


Hello, I enjoy reading all of your articles. I like to write a little comment to support you. ^.^

Please keep up the good work!