Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tracking Edits in Microsoft Word

Improve Your Collaborative Process by Tracking Changes in Microsoft Word

If you're ever working collaboratively on a document or sending it through several review cycles, you should be using the Track Changes function. Not only does it show you what changes have been made, it shows you who made them and when. You can review and approve changes individually or as a group. You can even adjust the settings to conceal the identity of the person making changes.

How to Track Changes

In Word 2007, go to the Review menu and click the Track Changes button. In Word 2003 and earlier, go to the Tools menu and select Track Changes.

Keep It Clear

The Track Changes view defaults to “Final Showing Markup”:

…which means it displays your edited text, warts and all. Every deletion and insertion is there on the page. And things can get ugly fast:

If you change the view to “Final”, you’ll see nothing but the edited text.

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?


Make It Anonymous          

When you mouse over edited text, it shows you the name of the editor as well as the date and time the changes were made. This is useful if you have a number of people working on a document or if you’re trying to remember the sequence in which changes were made. Here’s an example:

If there’s ever a situation in which it’s undesirable – or maybe just irrelevant – for a reader to know who has made changes to the document, you can change your settings accordingly. Here, the name of the editor has been changed from Jessica Jones to “Editor.”

To alter this setting in Word 2003 or earlier, go to the Tools menu, choose Options, then choose the User Information tab. Change the name and initials, remove Address information, and click OK. In Word 2007, go to the Office button and select Word Options (it’s all the way down at the bottom of the menu). Under the “Popular” menu is the option to “Personalize your copy of Microsoft Office.” Change the name and initials and click OK.

Decide Which Changes to Keep and Which to Throw Out

At the end of the editing process, you accept changes (thereby making them permanent) or reject them (thereby reverting to the original) either one at a time or as a whole. If you look at the Final view of the document and decide it’s exactly what you want, select “Accept All Changes in Document.” If there are a few changes you agree with and many you don’t, select “Accept and Move to Next” for all the changes you like. Once you’ve accepted all the changes you want, you can simply select “Reject All Changes in Document.” That will reverse all the remaining changes.


This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the capabilities of Microsoft Office. If you haven’t upgraded, now might be the right time.

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