The Travelin' Librarian Tech Tuesday Tech Tip: Play your Google docs like a movie

Tuesday Tech Tip: Play your Google docs like a movie

If you’ve ever typed anything into a Google Doc, you can now play it back as if it were a movie — like traveling through time to look over your own shoulder as you write.

This is possible because every document written in Google Docs since about May 2010 has a revision history that tracks every change, by every user, with timestamps accurate to the microsecond; these histories are available to anyone with “Edit” permissions; and I have written a piece of software that can find, decode, and rebuild the history for any given document.

See that little gizmo above? It’s like a video player, but made especially for writing. This one’s from an Atlantic article I began work on nearly four years ago, on the day after Christmas in 2010. The article was about the first (and only) time I got to fly a small airplane. At the time, I didn’t give the slightest thought to the idea that one day I’d be able to watch the draft unfold. But since I happened to write this one in Google Docs, I can recover every keystroke. Above, you can see the first uncertain stirrings of the first paragraph.

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