Tips and Tricks – Microsoft Word Track Changes and Document Comparison

Recently, the Afinety University Webinar Series looked at “tips and tricks” regarding the track changes and document comparison features in Microsoft Word. Led by Diana Baker, Afinety’s Macro Developer and Trainer, the webinar covered best practices when tracking changes, options for markup and displaying changes, printing with or without markup, and features when comparing or combining documents in MS Word. Diana’s background in the legal field allowed for great insight and practical tips that can be easily applied when working with legal documents.  Here’s an overview of a few of the key features, but you’ll want to watch the webinar for a full walkthrough.

Getting Started with Track Changes

For quick access to turning the track changes feature on or off, there is a shortcut key, “CTRL+ Shift + E”.

One of the most common complaints about track changes is many say they are unable to see changes that have been made, especially when using an upgraded version of Microsoft Word. When opening a document that contains tracked changes, the default Display for Review is set to “simple markup”. Simple markup displays a red line in the left margin, letting the author know something has changed within that paragraph, although it doesn’t show the specific changes. In order to see the specific changes, it’s really as simple as clicking the drop-down in the Display for Review field and selecting the “All Markup” option.

Track Changes with Multiple Authors

If a document has been modified by multiple people, changes will display in a different color based on which author made the changes. Selecting the option, “show revisions in balloons”, displays the name of the author together with the author’s respective changes. Users can easily display the document showing a specific author’s changes using the “Specific People” option in the Show Markup settings.

Advanced Options

The Track Changes Options dialog box contains various options that control what edits show in the document, what shows in Balloons and a choice to have the Reviewing Pane on or off.  The color and format of inserted and deleted text can also be changed in the Advanced Options.

Protecting Track Changes When Collaborating on a Document with Others

In order to make sure Track Changes is kept on when collaborating on a Word document, the document can be locked with a password.  This will prevent others from turning Track Changes off.

Warn Before Printing, Saving or Sending

Since Word allows users to view a document in original or no markup mode, in which case it does not display tracked changes, it is not uncommon for users to be unaware of the fact that they are tracking changes or that changes have not been accepted or rejected.  Alerts can also be set up when starting to save or send a document that contains tracked changes.

Printing with Track Changes On or Off

Users have the option to print with or without tracked changes on their document.  Set the Display for Review to “No Mark” to print the document as if all changes have been accepted.  Set the Display for Review to “All Markup” to print the document with the Tracked Changes.

Differentiating Between Comparing and Combining a Document

The difference between the compare and combine features has to do with the two documents being worked on. For example, the “Compare” feature would be used to compare two files that do not have track changes turned on.  The “Compare” feature will note changes between the two files as “tracked changes.”  The original document is compared to a revised version of the document.

The “Combine” feature would be used to compare two documents that do contain tracked changes.  As an example, let’s say you made some changes to a document and tracked those changes.  Then, the document is sent to another person, and that person makes changes and tracked them.  There are now two versions of the document, each with their own tracked changes.  The “Combine” feature would be used to view a document that combines all tracked changes.

Comparing a Word Doc to a PDF

Comparing a Word Document to a PDF can have some challenges. This is partly due to the styles in a particular document. Word takes the PDF and puts it into an editable Word document. The resulting comparison of the original Word document and PDF that was converted to Word, will show all styles in the original Word document as formatting changes.

For additional tips and tricks on the software programs you use most, register for an upcoming webinar.

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