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10.5: Find the previous version of a file in Time Machine System 10.5
Time Machine can help you easily find the place in your backups when a file was changed. Start Time Machine and select a file in the Finder whose previous version you'd like to locate. If you put the Finder in List view, then you can see the preview for the file, including modified date (and version for an application).

Click on the big "back in time" arrow once to search through the list of backups. Time Machine will automatically stop at the point where the file was last changed. If you click the back arrow again, it will stop at the next previous change point. Likewise, the forward arrow scans towards the present for changes.

As an example, I applied the 10.5.1 update today. I started Time Machine and went into my Application folder and selected the Mail program. It showed version 3.1. I clicked on the back arrow, and I was taken immediately to the point where the program version was 3.0, just before the update had been applied.

Another thing I noticed is that if you Command-click one of the arrows, it takes you only one step through the backups, overriding the "scan for changes" behavior.

[robg adds: While I somehow know this is how Time Machine works (though I wasn't aware of the Command key override), I think it's because I saw it in an Apple presentation somewhere. I can't find any reference to this behavior in the Time Machine help file, nor on Apple's list of 300 new Leopard features.]
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10.5: Find the previous version of a file in Time Machine | 4 comments | Create New Account
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10.5: Find the previous version of a file in Time Machine
Authored by: rwmitchell on Nov 30, '07 08:11:41AM

I tried the exact same example as used in the hint, having applied the system update shortly after it came out.

Looking at modified time (with Mail highlighted in the Finder), the back arrow stopped several times before getting to the file that had a noticeable timestamp change, although it was skipping many backups each time before stopping.

Am I doing it wrong or is the backup stopping on something else? Except for evil programs that force themselves into /Applications, I don't normally put anything there besides Apple supplied files. I didn't look deeply into it, but I was guessing that it was stopping on any change in the current directory.



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10.5: Find the previous version of a file in Time Machine
Authored by: mcmikemn on Nov 30, '07 08:28:40AM

I'm not sure, but my guess is that you have a folder hilited, not a file. When you click the "search back in time" arrow, it is perhaps searching for the last change to any file in the folder. Just a guess.



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10.5: Find the previous version of a file in Time Machine
Authored by: moukkis on Nov 30, '07 02:48:49PM

I wonder if this works also in the other direction, for instance naming a text file Undergradute Dissertation and then clicking the arrow into the future and Time Machine does the rest...

...time to get a life, I guess.



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10.5: Find the previous version of a file in Time Machine
Authored by: Spartacus on Dec 03, '07 01:18:56AM

It only works if you hold the Arcane key on your keyboard when clicking the arrow.



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